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Natural family planning is a kind of contraception that involves monitoring and recording signs of fertility. Over time, recording these signs helps you work out your fertility patterns. This helps you determine when you’re most likely to get pregnant. This method of family planning is also called fertility awareness.
In the natural family planning method, you measure and record three fertility signs:
By recording these signs, you can learn to determine the fertile and “safe” parts of your cycle.
For some people, this method isn’t as accurate. For instance, if your periods are irregular, it’s very difficult—even impossible—to use it reliably. Talk to a natural family planning specialist to find out if this method is suitable for you.
Your menstrual cycle starts on the first day of your period, and lasts until the day before your next period starts. For most women, a menstrual cycle lasts an average of 28 days. It can be longer or shorter. A cycle of between 21 and 40 days is considered normal.
During your menstrual cycle, an egg is released 10 to 16 days before the start of a period. For pregnancy to happen, the egg must meet with a sperm within 24 hours of release. However, sperm can live inside the uterus for up to 7 days. This means pregnancy is a possible result of sex in the 7 days before ovulation.
Tracking your menstrual cycle helps you figure out when your fertile period is, according to when you ovulate.
After you ovulate, your body temperature rises slightly. Taking your basal body temperature every day is therefore a useful addition to a natural family planning strategy.
To take your temperature properly, you must use a digital thermometer or a thermometer that is designed for natural family planning. An ordinary ear or forehead thermometer isn’t accurate enough.
It’s important to take your temperature at the same time every morning. It’s also important to do it before you eat, drink, smoke, or shower. The best strategy is to do it when you wake up, before you get out of bed.
The texture of your cervical mucus changes at different times in your menstrual cycle. The amount of mucus changes too.
You can check your mucus secretions by gently inserting your middle finger into your vagina. Insert your finger to around the length of the middle knuckle.
After the end of your period, there’s little or no mucus. As you get nearer to ovulation, your hormone levels rise. This makes the mucus thicker, and it becomes white and sticky, with a creamy texture. When this happens, it signals the start of the fertile stage of your cycle. Just before ovulation, the mucus gets wetter and clearer. This is when you’re most fertile.
Next, the mucus gets thicker and sticky again. Three days after this happens, the fertile period is over.
Natural family planning can take time to master. However, if you use this method properly, it can be up to 99% effective. It’s vital to be careful and perform the method properly—failure to do so can result in an unplanned pregnancy. For this reason, it’s important to learn natural family planning from a qualified fertility awareness teacher.