Natural family planning
Natural family planning involves identifying the signs and symptoms of fertility during your or your partner’s menstrual cycle so you can plan or avoid pregnancy.
In order to become pregnant, a sperm must fertilise an egg within 24 hours of ovulation (when the egg is released from the ovary). Sperm can survive in the woman and still fertilise an egg up to 7 days after sex. This means the fertile time can be anything from 7 days prior to ovulation and for one day afterwards. Pregnancy can be prevented by avoiding having sex or using alternative forms of contraception during this fertile time.
How effective is natural family planning?
The success, or failure, of natural family planning is dependent on accurately monitoring fertility signals during a woman’s menstrual cycle in order to identify the fertile time. It is also dependent on there being no disruption to that cycle so that the fertile time can be clearly identified. Changes to the menstrual cycle and fertility indicators can occur due to exercise, travel, illness, drinking alcohol, weight gain and weight loss. Sometimes women’s menstrual cycles vary naturally as well. It can therefore be difficult to accurately predict the fertile time.
Who can use natural family planning?
If you are healthy, don’t have any medical conditions and have consistently regular periods then you may be able to use natural family planning as a method of preventing pregnancy. There are many natural family planning apps that are designed to support observing the menstrual cycle and body changes. However, these tend to focus on monitoring only basic indicators of fertility, so they are not always reliable, especially in women with irregular menstrual cycles. We would strongly recommend that you come and visit us before trying this as a method of contraception.
We can help you select the best form of contraception for you based on your sexual history and lifestyle. Book an appointment at a Devon Sexual Health clinic and come and have a chat with us.
If it is hormonal methods of contraception you are concerned about using please be aware that the copper IUD is a very reliable method of contraception which is hormone free and is freely available at all our clinics.
Are there any side effects to natural family planning?
There are no side effects to natural family planning, although it is important to remember that it will not prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Pros and cons
- It doesn’t involve any chemicals or hormones
- It doesn’t cause any side effects.
- It doesn’t protect you against STI’s
- You need to use an alternative form of contraception when your risk of pregnancy is highest.
- Travel, stress, illness or changes in your weight can disrupt your usual cycle.
- It needs commitment and practice in order to be effective.
- It is not an easy method of contraception to use.