What is Natural Family Planning?

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Want to get off of hormonal birth control while still preventing pregnancy? Or would you like to get better insight into your fertility while trying to conceive? Natural Family Planning may be right for you.

Natural Family Planning 

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is tracking your cycles to increase or decrease your chances of becoming pregnant. As with anything in life, there are pros and cons.

Pros-

  • You get to have a great understanding of your own body.
  • While you may end up purchasing a thermometer or notebook to help keep track of everything, the cost is practically zero.
  • Easy to switch from avoiding pregnancy to trying to conceive- all it takes is a change of mindset.
  • When using NFP as a method of birth control and monitored correctly it is 99% accurate.

Cons-

  • NFP requires time and dedication. You will need to track your cycles for at least a couple of months to get an accurate representation.
  • During your fertile days, you’ll need to abstain from sex, or use back up contraception if you’re trying to avoid pregnancy. 
  • If not followed and tracked carefully, the accuracy rate for preventing pregnancy decreases. 

There are a few different ways to track your cycles and it is suggested to use all of these to help get a clearer picture. 

Tracking the Days 

NFP works best when you have a regular cycle, as it is easier to predict fertile windows. With each cycle you will have a fertile window. Because sperm can survive for up to five days in the vaginal canal, you will have a total of six days in which you will be fertile. If you are trying to avoid pregnancy, you will either want to abstain from sex during your fertile window, or use back up contraceptives like condoms. 

If you are trying to conceive, you do not have to have sex everyday since sperm can survive for up to five days. Instead, try every other day during your fertile window. This can help keep you from feeling burnt out while trying to conceive, and less like a chore.

Your cycle begins with the first day of menstruation and ends on the day just before your next period. So if you start your period on the 1st, then get your next period on the 29th, your cycle is 28 days. Keep in mind that while one cycle may be 28 days, the next might be 26 days or 30 days. Your body does not always work on a strict schedule. 

Ovulation occurs 12-16 days just before your next period. So by tracking your cycle with a calendar, you can work backwards to find out when you ovulated and help predict when your next ovulation will be. 

If you have irregular cycles, you may still be able to use NFP as a birth control option, although you may have to be more careful and use condoms frequently.

Factors that can affect your menstrual cycles are:

Cervical Mucus Monitoring

Throughout your cycle, your cervical mucus will change in consistency and abundance. As you approach ovulation, you may notice your cervical mucus becoming more stretchy, slippery, and similar to the consistency of egg whites. You will probably notice an increase in discharge. Before and after ovulation, when you are less fertile, your cervical mucus will be sticky, or pasty. 

To check the consistency, you may be able to notice the differences on your underwear or you can insert your index finger into the vaginal canal just an inch or two to get enough mucus on your finger. Be sure to wash your hands first. After insertion, rub your finger and thumb together for a couple of seconds then separate them. Note the consistency. Does it stretch with your fingers when you open them? Is it creamy, slippery, or dry? How much is there?

These factors can affect the texture and amount of cervical mucus:

  • Recent sex or use of lubrication 
  • Medications
  • Hydration levels 
  • Illness or stress

Basal Body Temperature 

Just before ovulation, your body temperature will rise slightly. After ovulation you will either see your temperature decrease if you are not pregnant, or your temperature will stay slightly elevated if you are pregnant. This could be an early sign of pregnancy. You can use a basal thermometer to get the most accurate results, as they use two decimals points and can detect smaller temperature rises. Test your temperature first thing in the morning, even before picking up your phone or getting up to use the bathroom.

A few things that can make your temperature less accurate are:

  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Being hungover
  • Illness

Ovulation Testing (Optional)

If you would like an even more accurate picture of your fertile windows, you may choose to use ovulation strips. These test for levels of luteinizing hormone (LH). Dilution may make the tests less accurate, so try limiting your liquid intake 2 hours prior to testing. 

You will want to start testing a couple days before your predicted ovulation. As you get closer to ovulation, the test line will become darker and be darkest at the time of ovulation. After ovulation, you will notice the test line begin to fade. 

You may want to keep your tests to compare to previous days. Taping the tests to a piece of paper then noting the time and date will help keep them organized. 

Takeaway

With all these factors at play, you really need to put them all together to get the full picture. Our midwives can help you understand the in’s and out’s of Natural Family Planning in depth and discuss whether it is right for you. If you would like to know more, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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