Natural Family Planning

Frequently Asked Natural Family Planning Questions

What is natural family planning?


Natural family planning methods involve the use of 1 of 3 methods to determine when ovulation (the release of the egg) occurs and avoiding intercourse during the ovulation period.

How do you use natural family planning?


The calendar method involves figuring out how long the time is between your periods so you can predict when next period will start. 2 weeks before the day your period should begin is the time that ovulation occurs. Intercourse should be avoided 5 days before and 3 days after the estimated day of ovulation which, to repeat, is 2 weeks before period is due. This method is effective only in women who have periods that are always on time.

The basal body temperature method is usually done along with the calendar method. Your temperature is taken the same time each morning before you get out of bed. If the temperature goes up by 1⁄2 to 1 degree you may be ovulating. You will need a special basal thermometer to take your temperature. You cannot have sex during the 3 days your temperature is up.

The ovulation method, often called the vaginal mucus method, relies on detecting changes in the vaginal mucus. When the vaginal mucus becomes thin and clear, ovulation is occurring and intercourse should be avoided for 3 days.

Experience has shown that of these 3 methods, the ovulation method is the easiest and most reliable. However, its effective use depends upon a couple having read in detail one of the standard references describing this method and, whenever possible, receiving instruction from a person experienced in the use of the method.

How effective is natural family planning?


When used exactly as directed, the best possible pregnancy rates for the ovulation or the basal temperature methods have been estimated as 2-3% per year. The actual pregnancy rate in ordinary use is usually higher, approximately 20% per year. These “best possible” and “actual” pregnancy rates are very close to those for barrier methods of contraception.

Who should use natural family planning?


Women should consider these methods if they can’t use any other form of birth control.

What are the risks of using a natural family planning method?


The natural family planning methods are not as reliable in preventing pregnancy as are the use of hormones (estrogen and/or progesterone) taken in a pill or by injection or the use of an intrauterine device. Also, natural family planning methods do not provide any protection against the transmission of HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. Therefore, the natural family planning methods should be use only in a long-term monogamous relationship.

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