Natural family planning

The pros and cons of natural family planning birth control

Natural family planning, also known as fertility awareness, involves monitoring the different stages of the menstrual cycle to determine when you are ovulating- which is the period when you are fertile. This can be for the purpose of trying to have a baby, or as a natural method of contraception so that you can prevent pregnancy.

 

How does natural family planning work? 

The NHS provides a brief guide on how to follow this practice, but in order to do it effectively, you will need to attend specialised classes at a family planning clinic. It can take 2-3 months to get the hang of it. In general, you monitor when you are fertile so that you can avoid having sex during this time. 

The optimal time for pregnancy is the 24 hours directly after an egg is released from the ovary. However, sperm can survive inside your body for up to 7 days. So if you’ve had unprotected sex in the days leading up to ovulation, then you are also at risk of pregnancy. 

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How do you know when you are fertile?

Natural family planning is all about learning to monitor your cycle and recognise signs of fertility. One way of doing this is by taking your temperature daily, which rises slightly after ovulation. You can also monitor any changes in vaginal discharge, which tends to be moist and whiter during periods of fertility and also calculate the length of your menstrual cycle so you can predict when ovulation will occur. 

 

What are the advantages of natural family planning?

There are many advantages to this method and it can be up to 99% effective as a method of contraception if it’s followed absolutely correctly. The advantages include: 

  • It doesn’t go against religious beliefs
  • There are no side effects such as those experienced with hormonal contraception 
  • There is no interruption to sex
  • It doesn’t pose a health risk
  • You’re not having to put something in your body
  • You don’t need to remember to take a pill or change a patch or ring regularly 
  • If you want to become pregnant, there are no obstacles 

 

What are the disadvantages of natural family planning? 

While there are some great benefits to this method, it’s not the most convenient form of contraception and requires a lot of work: 

  • If you don’t follow it exactly, you are at risk of pregnancy
  • You will have to avoid sex or use condoms while you are fertile
  • You won’t be protected against STIs
  • It takes several cycles before you can do it properly 

External factors can have an effect on your menstrual cycle which can make it harder to track fertility signs. For example: 

  • Stress
  • Illness
  • Hormonal treatments 
  • Travelling 
  • Excessive exercise

There are mobile apps available which allow you to record your temperature and track your cycle, such as Natural Cycles. These should complement the lessons you take from a family planning clinic to help monitor your symptoms and fertile days. 

 

Sources

NHS> Natural Family Planning: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/natural-family-planning/

Natural Cycles: https://www.naturalcycles.com/

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