Top Natural Family Planning Methods
What is natural family planning?
As the name suggests, natural family planning, or NFP, is a form of family planning that does not use medicine or devices. Instead, NFP involves reading the body’s signs of fertility to determine the days of the month you are most likely to get pregnant.
Natural family planning is also known as fertility awareness. This method utilizes biologic markers to identify the fertile days of a woman’s reproductive cycle. Using natural family planning methods is usually the first step in trying to conceive.
Natural family planning effectiveness
The effectiveness of natural family planning heavily relies on the couple’s diligence in following the instructions. It also relies on how regular a woman’s cycle is. This family planning option may not be the best option for you if you have irregular periods or if you are currently breastfeeding.
Fertility awareness can also be used as a form of birth control. For those who are not looking to get pregnant, natural family planning isn’t as effective as other methods of birth control. According to the CDC, NFP has a failure rate of 24%.
Natural family planning methods
The rhythm method is one of the oldest methods of natural family planning. This method is based on the calendar, as a woman’s cycle typically lasts between 28 and 32 days. To figure out how long your menstrual cycle is, you will need to keep track of the length of your period for at least 6 months. While you can use a regular calendar, there are many apps designed to help you keep track of your menstrual cycle.
To track your cycle, day 1 will be the first day of your period. You will also mark the first day of your next period. From there, you will count the number of days between the first days of each period.
To find the first fertile day where you can get pregnant, you will look at the shortest cycle in your period record and subtract 18 from the total number of days in that cycle. You will then count that number from day 1 of your current cycle. That will be your first fertile day of the month. To predict the last day of fertility in your current cycle, find the longest cycle in your period record and subtract 11 from the total number of days in that cycle. Count that number from day 1 of your current cycle.
Basal Body Temperature Charting
This method of family planning utilizes the fact that your natural body temperature slightly changes throughout your menstrual cycle. In the first part of your cycle, your body temperature is slightly lower, typically around 96-98 degrees, and then it rises when you ovulate, typically around 97-99 degrees. While the rhythm method requires about 6 months of data (6 periods), using your body temperature only requires 3 months. The more data you have, though, the better you can increase your chance of pregnancy!
To use the temperature method, you must take your temperature the same way and around the same time every day. Dr. Quartell recommends taking your temperature as soon as you wake up, before talking, eating, drinking, or any other activity. The best results will be if you take your temperature before you get out of bed! You will record your temperature within a fertility awareness chart. The changes in your temperature will only be fractions of a degree, so it’s important to get as accurate of a reading as possible.
Be sure to keep in mind that there are many things that can change your internal temperature. These include sleep deprivation, smoking, drinking, alcohol, jet lag, and stress. Dr. Quartell recommends that you also keep track of these factors in your fertility log to ensure you know when the changes in your temperature aren’t part of your natural menstrual cycle.
Cervical Mucus Monitoring
This method requires you to track the changes in your cervical mucus, or vaginal discharge, throughout your menstrual cycle. The hormones that control your menstrual cycle are also responsible for making your cervix produces mucus. This mucus changes in color, texture, and amount during your menstrual cycle. This is especially true around ovulation. Cervical mucus monitoring is the basis for more modern NFP methods.
To track your cervical mucus, you are required to feel and look at your discharge every day. You will then record what you notice on a special chart or app. You can check your discharge by using one of the following methods:
- Using white toilet paper, wipe the opening of your vagina prior to urination.
- Look at the discharge on your underwear.
- Insert clean fingers into the vagina to check the color and texture.
Depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle, you will notice the following:
- During your period: You will not notice any, as your blood flow covers your mucus.
- After your period: Known as “dry days,” you typically do not have mucus or discharge in the first couple of days following your period.
- Before ovulation: Typically, you have the most mucus right before ovulation. It is usually clear and feels slippery. These are the days you are most likely to become pregnant.
Top OB/GYN in New Jersey
If you have followed our tips and have successfully conceived, congratulations! This is an exciting time. Anthony C. Quartell, MD. and Associates have been treating patients for over 40 years in the field of Obstetrics and Gynecology, specializing in family planning. Dr. Quartell is here to guide you during every step of pregnancy. For more information about family planning, pregnancy and the various services we provide, and conditions we treat, be sure to contact us today to schedule an appointment today!