Family planning is an important element in every woman’s health care plan. If you’re sexually active, family planning puts you in control over when you choose to get pregnant.
Contraceptive birth control prevents unintended pregnancy with hormones, barrier methods, or a combination of both. While contraception like birth control pills or intrauterine devices (IUDs) are options for many women, they may not be the right choice for every woman.
Natural family planning is an alternative method that doesn’t involve taking medication or using any other type of birth control device. Instead, it allows you to tune into your body, determine your most fertile days, and avoid sexual intercourse on those days to prevent pregnancy.
At Vibrant Woman Health Center, Patricia Nevils, MD, and our team believe that you know your body best. We offer contraception counseling, and we’re here to help you understand how natural family planning works so you can decide if it’s a good option for you.
How natural family planning works
Women’s bodies follow a natural cycle each month. Your menstrual cycle begins on the first day of your menstrual period. In the middle of your cycle, one of your ovaries releases an egg during ovulation. If you have unprotected sex in the days surrounding ovulation, you can get pregnant.
Natural family planning involves identifying when you ovulate, which is the time in your menstrual cycle when you’re most fertile. Once you know when you’re ovulating, you should abstain from sexual intercourse if you don’t want to get pregnant.
There are a few different methods to help you identify when your body is ovulating, including:
Tracking your menstrual cycle
Most women have menstrual cycles that last 28-32 days. A new cycle starts on the first day of your period, and ovulation typically happens around day 14. Every woman’s menstrual cycle is slightly different, so it’s important to learn the nuances of your body.
Tracking your menstrual cycles every month is the best way to learn what’s normal for you. After a few months of keeping track, you might find that it’s easier to predict when your period will start and when you ovulate.
Consider recording ovulation on a calendar or an app on your phone, so you know when your body is most fertile.
Taking your basal body temperature
The sympto-thermal method of natural family planning includes tracking your basal body temperature and using the data to help determine when your body is ovulating.
Normal basal body temperatures range between 97°F and 98°F. But when a woman is ovulating, her basal body temperature increases slightly, up to 1°F.
Use a basal body thermometer to take your temperature every morning before you get out of bed. Record your temperature to learn what’s normal for you, then note when it’s higher than usual, as this is the time of the month when you’re most fertile.
Observing your cervical mucus
The consistency of your cervical mucus, or vaginal discharge, naturally changes as your menstrual cycle progresses. Tracking changes in cervical mucus is a type of natural family planning called the Billings method.
When you ovulate, the cervical mucus is slippery and stretchy, and it may be clear or milky white in color. When you aren’t ovulating, it’s typically drier. Observing these changes can help you identify when you’re ovulating, and it can be particularly effective when combined with menstrual tracking and sympto-thermal tracking.
The benefits of natural family planning
For many women who choose natural family planning, the biggest benefit is that it doesn’t require hormones, medication, or devices to prevent pregnancy. There’s no risk of side effects, and your menstrual cycle continues naturally as long as you choose this method.
Identifying your most fertile days puts you in control of your body. If you aren’t interested in getting pregnant, you can avoid sexual intercourse on these days. If your plans change and you want to grow your family, you can choose to have sex.
If you’re using natural family planning as your main form of birth control, it’s very important to track your fertility consistently. Natural family planning is up to 90% effective in preventing pregnancy when the method is used correctly each month.
Are you seeking a natural method of birth control that doesn’t rely on drugs or devices? Natural family planning could be a good fit for you. Schedule a consultation with our team by calling the office at (337) 234-6838, or you can request an appointment online.