I went on “the pill” 18 years ago.
It seemed like a sure fire way to prevent pregnancy. Of course, at age 16 I really had no business having sex to begin with, but that’s another story.
Fast forward 5 years and this newlywed was terrified of having children so the pill still seemed like the thing to do.
Then I read some interesting findings that the pill was actually dangerous to a woman’s health and long-term use was no longer highly recommended. Other forms of chemical birth control carry their own set of risks so what is a couple to do if they want to space out their children or feel a need to hold off on having babies after they are married.? Let’s explore some alternative options.
What is Natural Family Planning?
In doing some research, this term seems to be coined mostly in the Catholic faith. I’m not sure why though, as that is what many of us aim for even if we are not Catholic, a natural way to prevent pregnancy until the timing is right for us.
Natural family planning is a broad term used for methods of observing a woman’s menstrual cycle in order to avoid pregnancy. All methods under this blanket are 100% natural with no physical alterations, drugs or devices used.
These methods can have effective rates of anywhere from 95-98% accuracy when used properly.
You may be thinking “Rhythm Method” but that is not what Natural Family Planning (NFP) is.
NFP is much more accurate than the Rhythm Method of the 1930’s.
Some components of NFP are measuring Basal Temperature and Mucus Observation. When combined, these two methods can achieve 98% effectiveness.
Basal Body Temperature
Your basal body temperature is the lowest temperature your body reaches during sleep. To get an accurate measurement you should record your basal temperature immediately after you wake up before you get up, move (much), talk or eat.
Since your basal temperature will rise as much as 1 degree when you are ovulating, after a month or so of tracking accurate numbers you will have a very good idea of when ovulation has occurred. Keep in mind, sperm can live up to five days in the body so just avoiding sex on the day your temperature is higher is not going to be effective.
I recommend you chart your basal temperature for at least two months before relying on this method alone. Once you’ve charted for two months you’ll know the time frame you can expect your highest basal body temperature and you can avoid sex for the week prior.
Combining basal body temperaturewith mucus observation is another way to increase your effectiveness and also allow for less abstinence time.
First, let’s remember that our bodies were created by God and the process of mucus discharge, periods, and the female anatomy are glorious creations. They aren’t gross or nasty even if they make us a bit uncomfortable sometimes.
Every fertile, normally ovulating woman produces cervical mucus. Understanding and observing your mucus is a key tool in natural family planning as your mucus changes over the course of your monthly cycle. (Not your actual period but the entire month of cycling).
There are typically four stages of mucus production and quality that occur.
No and Low Production – This is the time of the month many woman may feel “dry”. This is the time immediately following your period. Over the next few days your body will start to produce sticky yellow or cloudy white mucus.
Ramping Up – As your body approaches ovulation your mucus will increase and may be a creamy white color.
Approaching O-Day – As you approach ovulation your mucus production will be at its highest. Some women report even needing to wear a panty shield to keep them dry and fresh during this time. Your mucus will be thin, sticky and clearer, sometimes similar to an egg white. You are now entering your most fertile time.
Slowin’ Down – After you ovulate your mucus will become thicker and less pronounced.
As you can see, by being aware of you basal body temperature and your mucus production you can tell when you are the most fertile and when to avoid sex if you’re looking to not get pregnant. The bonus, when you are ready to get pregnant you’ll have a great leg up on the time time of month when you’re most likely to conceive.
You may be wondering, what do you do during the month(s) that you are tracking your basal body temperature and mucus. Here are a few other suggestions for natural, or more natural birth control that may help you.
Condoms – Both female and male condoms reach 95-98% effectiveness when used properly.
Vaginal Contraceptive Film – Vaginal contraceptive film is a thin film of spermicidal contraceptive that is inserted into the vagina up to three hours before intercourse. It dissolves with your body’s natural heat and does not need removed. It doesn’t run, it isn’t sticky and you really don’t know it is there. My husband and I used this for three years with 100% effectiveness. For more information on vaginal contraceptive film visit their website.
Sometimes family planning is necessary but you can be successful without using chemical contraceptives that have long-lasting side effects.
Have you tried natural family planning or other natural birth control methods?
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