Natural Family Planning: How Does It Work?

Natural family planning is a popular option for women who want to be in control of their bodies. It’s a natural method of preventing pregnancy that doesn’t involve taking medication or using devices.

Instead, it involves listening to your body to learn when you’re most fertile, and avoiding sexual intercourse on those days. When you use natural family planning, your menstrual cycle continues naturally. There aren’t any side effects, and you can instead have sex during ovulation any time if you decide you want to get pregnant.

Daniel McDonald, MD, Marc Wilson, MD, and our team at OB/GYN Specialists provide expert counsel when it comes to contraception and natural family planning. If you’re interested in family planning without hormones or drugs, we’re here to help you make the right choice for yourself, your partner, and your family.

The elements of natural family planning

Your body naturally follows a cycle each month. Ovulation occurs when one of your ovaries releases an egg to be fertilized. If you have unprotected sex within a few days of ovulation, it’s possible to get pregnant. 

Natural family planning works by identifying when your body ovulates so you know when to abstain from sexual intercourse and prevent pregnancy. The most common methods of natural family planning are:

Tracking your menstrual cycle

While every woman’s menstrual cycle is slightly different, most normal cycles last between 28-32 days. The first day is the first day of your period, and ovulation usually happens in the middle of your cycle, around day 14.

You can track your menstrual cycles every month to learn what’s normal for you. After several months, you might begin to predict when your period will start and when you’re ovulating. By recording ovulation on the calendar, you know when your body is most fertile.

Basal body temperature readings

The sympto thermal method of natural family planning involves tracking your body temperature to identify when you’re ovulating and at your most fertile. Take your temperature with a basal body temperature thermometer every morning before you get out of bed.

Record your basal body temperature each day to learn what’s normal for your body. Normal basal body temperature should be between 97°F and 98°F. But when you’re ovulating, your basal body temperature increases by 0.5°F to 1°F. 

Checking cervical mucus

As you move through your menstrual cycle, the consistency and appearance of your cervical mucus and vaginal discharge changes. Cervical mucus is slippery, stretchy, and clear or cloudy white when you’re ovulating, and drier during the rest of the month.

Track details about how your vulva feels and what your cervical mucus looks like to determine when you’re ovulating. This method, also called the Billings method, can be combined with calendar tracking and sympto thermal tracking to make natural family planning more effective. 

The benefits of natural family planning

One of the main reasons women choose to use natural family planning is that it doesn’t require hormones, drugs, or devices to prevent pregnancy. It doesn’t have any negative side effects, and it can be more affordable than other forms of contraception.

Natural family planning puts you in control of your body. By monitoring changes in your basal body temperature and cervical mucus, you can learn when you’re most fertile and either avoid sex or try to get pregnant, depending on your plans.

You must consistently track your fertility for as long as you use natural family planning as your main form of contraception. Avoid sex or use a barrier method, like a condom, during your most fertile days. When used correctly, natural family planning is about 90% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Natural family planning may not be right for every woman. If you have irregular periods, you might find that tracking ovulation and fertility is harder. Breastfeeding also causes hormonal changes that may make natural family planning more of a challenge.

Do you want to learn more about natural family planning? Find out if it could be right for you by talking to Dr. McDonald or Dr. Wilson. Call our Denton, Texas, office at 940-202-0566 to book your appointment today. You can also send a message to the OB/GYN Specialists team here on our website.

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