Natural family planning

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?

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?

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?

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).

Where can I get advice about natural family planning?

Where can I get advice about natural family planning?

You can find out more, including how to talk to a fertility awareness practitioner at

Pros and cons

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.
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Accessing our service during the COVID pandemic

How to access our service:

We have now implemented a telephone triage system for all of our clinics. This system will be in place for the duration of the pandemic. Please contact our services to access this triage system. Our central telephone number is 0300 303 3989.

If you are experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus please do not attend the clinic. Clear advice for people with symptoms of coronavirus is available at .

Advice from our service:

We have updated information on the provision of routine contraception during this pandemic here.

If you need the combined contraceptive pill please try (if you can) to get updated measurements of your height, weight and blood pressure before calling us.

We are currently prioritising these groups for coil and implant (LARC) fits:

  • Those with vulnerabilities including but not limited to those who are: <18, attending abortion and maternity services, homeless, sex workers, victims of sexual assault, people with language barriers, drug and alcohol problems, learning disability, serious mental illness
  • Those aged <30 years

More details on LARC fittings at our service are found here

There is also specific advice on coronavirus available for People Living with HIV here, and for pregnant women here

Self-requested Sexual Health screening by post is available for for under 25s only - more info here

For others with testing requirements please contact the service on 0300 303 3989.

Information is now also available to advise on sexual contact during a time of social distancing here.

Alternative provision:

Please be aware that we may have to cancel, rearrange or shut clinical services in response to changing clinical and staffing pressures created by the Coronavirus pandemic. 

If you are struggling to access sexual health services, alternatives may be available:

  • Emergency Contraception - at your local pharmacy - more info
  • Contraceptive pills and LARC procedures - obtained from your GP
  • HIV postal testing - available to at-risk groups for a small fee -  more info
  • HIV PEPSE - available via A+E departments - more info
  • Condoms by post (for gay and bisexual men only) - more info