Natural family planning also known as fertility awareness is a method of contraception where through becoming aware of the menstrual cycle and fertility signals, a woman calculates when she is most and least likely to get pregnant.
She can then avoid having sex during the periods when she is more likely to get pregant, or use contraception during those periods.
Like all contraceptive methods other than condoms, natural family planning does not protect against sexually transmitted infections.
The effectiveness of natural family planning depends entirely on how much effort you put into monitoring signs of fertility and how strict you are about avoiding sex during the fertile days. If you have an irregular cycle however, it may not be suitable for you. It is also possible for your temperature to be affected by other factors (such as illness) and your cervical mucus may change due to infection (for example cystitis or an STI).
If you suffer from any medical conditions (or take certain medications) which affect your signs of fertility, your doctor will advise you to choose an alternative method. Before you start using this method, you should consult a doctor or nurse who will assess whether this method is right for you and give you the required training.
Natural family planning involves becoming aware of natural fertility signs and signals in yourself.
This means you can understand where you are in your menstrual cycle.
To learn this method properly you should seek the advice of a qualified fertility awareness teacher. It can take several menstrual cycles to learn these methods and requires daily monitoring of your own fertility signals.
There are 3 main signs of fertility that you can monitor, these are:
- Daily readings of body temperature
- The length of your menstrual cycle
- Changes to your cervical secretions
Important: Illness, stress, travel, lifestyle and hormonal treatments can disturb the above fertility signs meaning that this method becomes less effective.
It can be effective only if your signs of fertility are regular, and you have no medical conditions which may affect your cycle.
Always consult a nurse or doctor before choosing this method. And if in any doubt either abstain or use another form of contraception.
Here are some useful links for if you would like to learn how to do natural family planning.
- Zero side effects
- Acceptable to all faiths and cultures
- Most women have the ability to learn the method - but should seek a professionally trained fertility awareness teacher
- Can be used to both avoid pregnancy and to become pregnant
- Doesn’t involve taking medicine or using physical products
- It helps you become aware of your own body, which may help you notice unusual symptoms in the future
- Must avoid sex or use other contraception during times of higher likeihood of falling pregnant, which can be up to 16 days
- Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- If not followed accurately it is much less effective than other methods of contraception
- Requires commitment and practice
- Illness, stress, travel, lifestyle and hormonal treatments can disrupt the fertility signs
- If using the emergency contraceptive pill this method can not be used until after 2 full menstrual cycles since you stopped taking the pill