About Natural Family Planning

Overview

Avoiding pregnancy doesn’t have to involve drugs or contraceptive devices. Natural family planning allows a couple to decide when to have sex based on changes in the woman’s body. In addition to pregnancy prevention, natural family planning is also used to plan a pregnancy. Learning how to successfully practice natural family planning does take commitment and the willingness to abstain from sex during fertile times if the practice is being used to prevent pregnancy.

Identification

During ovulation, an egg is released from a woman’s ovary. If the woman has unprotected sex, a pregnancy can occur. Women can determine when ovulation occurs by tracking changes in the body, such as increased mucus production or higher body temperature. When ovulation is occurring or likely to occur soon, sex is avoided if the woman is attempting to prevent pregnancy. If the woman is trying to become pregnant, the ovulation signs are used to determine the optimum days to have sex.

Types

Women who use the cervical mucus method of natural family planning look for changes in their vaginal mucus. When the mucus becomes slippery and wet, ovulation is about to occur. The basal body temperature method relies on daily charting of the woman’s temperature. An increase in temperature indicates ovulation. The calendar method, also called the rhythm method, tracks the woman’s monthly cycle and calculates ovulation based on the length of the average cycle. The symptothermal method combines both the cervical mucus and basal body temperature methods. Women who use this method also look for other ovulation signs, including spotting, abdominal pain and changes in the firmness or position of the cervix, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

Considerations

Some women rely on breastfeeding to prevent pregnancy. While this method can work due to the hormonal changes that breastfeeding causes, it may not be possible to accurately gauge when ovulation occurs, particularly after the first six months of breastfeeding.

Risk Factors

Natural family planning may not be as effective in women who aren’t committed to daily tracking of the menstrual cycle or ovulation signs. Women who have irregular periods and want to prevent pregnancy may wish to use another means of birth control, as the irregularity of their cycles can make it hard to determine when ovulation will occur in a given month. Women who have infections of the vagina or cervix or abnormal bleeding should not rely on natural family planning, as these conditions can also make it difficult to correctly determine when ovulation occurs.

Warning

While natural family planning is a cheap method of birth control with no side effects, it might not be the best choice for a woman who does not want to risk pregnancy. One in four women who use natural family planning for birth control eventually becomes pregnant, according to ACOG. Variations in the menstrual cycle from month to month can make it difficult for even the most diligent couple to completely avoid pregnancy.

About this Author

Jill Leviticus has been a writer for 20 years. She writes business, health and travel articles for several online publications and worked as a writer for a hospital and a nonprofit research foundation. Leviticus has a degree in journalism from Lock Haven University and works as a public relations writer.