When practicing "natural birth planning," a couple prevents pregnancy by avoiding sexual intercourse when the woman is fertile (near the time when her ovary releases an egg). By having sex at the right time, sperm can't fertilize the egg, and pregnancy doesn't occur. However, there is a significant risk of pregnancy if this family planning method is used incorrectly.
Many religious groups endorse the natural method of family planning. It is also relatively low-cost or no-cost to perform.
To use this natural method effectively, some couples may want to be taught by a health care provider or licensed counselor, who may charge money. Once learned, however, a couple can practice the natural birth planning method with no additional costs. Another benefit is that there are no hormonal side effects.
The greatest risk of the natural method of family planning is unintended pregnancy. Also, natural family planning also doesn't protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
In order to use the family planning method, a woman must know when she is fertile. There are two main ways to notice these changes:
Women naturally produce cervical mucus throughout the month. Hormones cause the color and consistency of the mucus to change. When a woman ovulates, her cervical mucus will be clear and sticky, like uncooked egg white.
You can take your basal body temperature (the temperature when you're awake) with a basal body temperature thermometer. This device is available in the family planning aisle of most drug stores. When you're ovulating, your temperature will tend to be about .9 degrees Fahrenheit higher than when you're not fertile, or between 97.6 and 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. A chart will help keep track of these temperature changes for planning purposes.
Statistics about the effectiveness of NFP vary. The average participant can expect about a 25 percent chance of pregnancy when using this method, according to experts from the American Pregnancy Association. If a couple doesn't follow instructions completely, natural family planning is less effective than chemical methods of contraception, such as the birth control pill, and barrier methods, such as condoms.
Couples whose religious beliefs discourage them from using other methods of contraception can use the natural method of family planning. Women who have irregular periods can still use this method, though special instructions have been developed for women who are breastfeeding. If you're breastfeeding, see your healthcare provider to learn about these special methods.
Couples who are unwilling to avoid intercourse and genital contact during the woman's fertile times should consider other methods of contraception.
Emedicine Health Staff. (n.d.). Birth control behavioral methods. Retrieved February 12, 2010, from the Emedicine Health Web site: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/birth_control_behavioral_methods/article_em.htm.
Family Doctor Staff. (2008). Natural family planning. Retrieved February 12, 2010, from the Family Doctor Web site: http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/women/contraceptive/126.html.
Nelson, A. and Russo, J. (n.d.). Behavioral methods of contraception. Retrieved February 12, 2010, from the Springer Link Web site: http://www.springerlink.com/content/l3nl7h10t1u220v2/.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Staff. (n.d.). Basic information on natural family planning. Retrieved February 12, 2010, from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Web site: http://www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/nfp/information.shtmll.
information on health-related topics, not medical advice, diagnosis or
treatment recommendations. Please consult your physician if you have questions