Natural Family Planning Methods and How They Work

March 26, 2021


Natural family planning refers to a birth control method that helps you avoid or achieve conception without contraception like pills and condoms. You avoid potentially adverse effects of incompatible pills and contraceptive devices when you choose natural family planning. But if you use this, you need to know the menstrual cycle and how it works.

The main focus of natural family planning is identifying a person’s fertility period, so you know the days to avoid having intercourse. To help you get started, here are some of the most common methods you can use for natural family planning.

Calendar Method

The calendar method is one of the oldest known ways of natural birth control. You make an educational guess about your fertility period by determining the patterns and “schedule” of your menstrual cycle. That is why it is also called the rhythm method.

The guessing game, if you will, begins by trying an ovulation calendar for a rough estimate. You can also study the pattern yourself by noting down the days of your period.

To use the calendar method, keep in mind that the average monthly cycle usually spans 28 to 32 days. You also need to first record your own cycle for 6 to 12 cycles as a baseline. After tracking these, do the following steps:

  1. Subtract 18 days from the end of the shortest of your previous cycles.

  2. Subtract 11 days from the longest of your previous cycles.

  3. Determine the gap between these two gets the estimated span of your fertility period.

Remember, the calendar method does not apply to all women, especially if you do not have a regular menstrual cycle. It is difficult to follow a pattern when there is no pattern to determine.

Illnesses, stress, medications, and other health conditions can also affect your cycle, making it difficult to predict when you ovulate. Hence, it is not uncommon for people to use the calendar method with other approaches.

Basal Body Temperature

Basal body temperature (BBT) refers to the temperature you have when you are fully at rest. During ovulation, this temperature increases by 0.2°C (0.4°F). Hence, when you notice this shift in BBT, you can identify the day that you ovulate.

To practice this method, you need a digital oral thermometer or acquire one specially designed to take BBT. Take your temperature each morning at the same time, just as you have woken up. This will help you determine your average BBT. An increase in temperature may signify ovulation, and you should continue to monitor it over three consecutive days.

The key drawback to the BBT method is it does not tell you when you are about to ovulate. It only shows you when you have most likely already ovulated. Hence, it becomes significantly useful for couples trying to conceive and not so much for those trying to avoid a pregnancy.

Cervical Mucus Tracking

In the span of a menstrual cycle, the cervix produces mucus. It refers to the gooey substance of the cervix that comes out as vaginal discharge. The mucus changes throughout the cycle, especially during ovulation. By tracking its changes in color, texture, amount, and consistency, you can gauge when you are fertile.

Here are the general observations on mucus after a person’s period:

  • Day 1-4 — no noticeable secretions

  • Day 5-9 — cloudy, sticky

  • Day 10-13 — abundant, clear, wet

When the mucus is abundant, clear, and wet, you are or are close to ovulating.

Similar to the previous methods, cervical mucus tracking comes with its pitfalls. Firstly, cervical mucus can vary significantly from one person to another. It is difficult to say for sure that a set of characteristics can pinpoint where you are at in your menstrual cycle.

Secondly, this method requires you to be consistent and diligent. You need to check your cervical mucus every day and jot it down in your menstrual chart. Because it is difficult to predict without practice, you cannot rely on this method alone if you are trying to avoid a pregnancy.

Symptothermal Method

The symptothermal method is, simply put, a combination of different approaches to natural family planning. It uses BBT, cervical mucus tracking, and the calendar method—among other approaches and devices—to help you gauge your fertility period.

In this method, you use cervical mucus tracking as a baseline and double-check the results with other methods. If all the results correspond to each other, you can make an educated guess when you are ovulating or if your ovulation is imminent.

Symptothermal method can help you more accurately determine the state of your body. Hence, it is often the go-to approach that a lot of people use for natural birth control.

Natural family planning is not easy, but it is can be accomplished. Make sure to do your due research and consult with your doctor to find the best method for your family planning needs.

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