Your guide to natural family planning

Preventing pregnancy and controlling family size is a concern for many women across the world. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to, or education on, using contraceptives. Additionally, some couples abstain from using birth control for cultural or religious reasons. Natural family planning can offer an alternative option to birth control, without using any hormonal medication or barrier methods.

What is natural family planning?

Natural family planning are methods that tells you at what time during the month you can have sex while significantly reducing your risk of pregnancy. When followed correctly, natural family planning is up to 99% effective meaning that only one woman in 100 should get pregnant.

How do you use natural family planning?

Natural family planning works by marking down the times of the month when a woman is most and least fertile. Couples take note of important fertility signals, such as the woman’s body temperature, cervical secretions and ovulation time, to work out when it’s safer to have sex with a reduced risk of pregnancy. This method is most effective when multiple fertility signals are taken into consideration, and it can take three to six menstrual (monthly) cycles to spot the patterns.

Method one: The temperature method

Following ovulation, there is a small rise in body temperature. To track this, women should use either a digital thermometer or a thermometer specifically designed for natural family planning. For an accurate reading, women should use the thermometer each morning before getting out of bed and consuming any food or drink.  Couples should look out for three days in a row when their temperature is higher (less fertile) than all of the previous six days. However, the increase in temperature is very slight – around 0.2C (0.4F) – so couples will need to be precise in their markings.

Method two: The cervical secretion methods

During different times in a woman’s menstrual cycle there is a change in the amount and thickness of the mucus that comes from a woman’s cervix. Mucus can be checked by inserting the middle finger into the vagina and pushing it up to around the middle knuckle. For the first few days after a woman’s period, the vagina will dry as it is preparing for ovulation. However, the cervix will produce moist, sticky or creamy mucus, marking the start of the most fertile period of the menstrual cycle. Immediately before ovulation, the mucus will get wetter, clearer and more slippery – this is the most fertile time. Fertility decreases once the mucus returns to being thicker and sticky.

Method three: Calculating ovulation time

Calculating the length of a woman’s cycle can help reduce her chance of falling pregnant, but it should not be used in isolation as it not reliable enough.
A woman’s menstrual cycle lasts from the first day of her period until the day before the next one starts (a cycle can last anything from 24 to 35 days). Ovulation occurs when the ovaries release an egg and travel down the fallopian tube. This process happens roughly halfway through the menstrual cycle, (usually around 10 to 16 days before a woman’s period). Couples should track these dates, to understand the best times to have sex.

The uncertainty and variation of the length of a cycle should be taken into consideration, and a woman’s menstrual cycle should be measured over the course of 12 months.

How can I make the natural family planning method most effective?

Combining all three aspects of the natural family planning will decrease your likelihood of falling pregnant. Download fertility charts from the Fertility Education and Training site and see a suitable teacher to improve effectiveness. Also check the Fertility UK website or the NHS website for more tips.

For information on contraceptive options or sexual health advice visit Lloyds Online Doctor for a consultation.




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