Natural family planning refers to birth control methods that don’t rely on pills or prophylactics; and through which, couples may exercise more of an active role in controlling family size or the age gap of siblings. Natural methods of family planning focuses on a woman’s ovulation times and intercourse as it is this time of her cycle that maximizes the likelihood of pregnancy.
“Ovulation” refers to the time period in which an egg is released from the ovaries into the Fallopian tubes, where it waits to be fertilized. Natural family planning is all about timing, and is performed through an evidence-based process of charting and observation.
When a couple plans intercourse around the female cycle, the point is to target the time of ovulation, as to achieve or avoid possible fertilization at that time. Avoiding sex during the ovulation phase is a common practice for married couples that don’t want to use prophylactic birth control, but want to continue to be intimate together.
Family Planning Methods
The Rhythm Method
In this method, the days of a cycle are projected on a 28-day chart. Days are counted, starting from the first day of the female’s menstrual cycle. On the twelve to-fourteen day mark, the chart is notated to reflect the time in which ovulation should take place. Physical changes,(such as the appearance of the female mucosa) are observed as they may provide evidence of ovulation. If the timing is right, and the female mucosa has an egg-white texture to it, she is most likely ovulating at this time.
The Symptothermal Method
The symptothermal natural family planning method involves daily temperature checks, during the week ovulation is expected. A woman’s temperature will be slightly higher-about one degree- on the day ovulation takes place. The couple may also observe the cervicalmucous for for changes in texture and appearance; which can confirm ovulation.
When done correctly, the natural family planning methods can work well and have an accuracy rate of 90 to 100%. However, this is the percentage of success determining ovulation for those that desire pregnancy. These methods are less effective as a form of birth control when pregnancy is not desired due to human error or cyclic irregularity.
Couples with certain religious affiliations (such as Catholics) may find natural methods an ideal solution, due to belief systems around sex and procreation.