Natural Family Planning Methods
One of the biggest benefits of using natural family planning methods is that you are able to tune into your own body and learn to read the signs that identify which stage you are in your cycle. With this knowledge, you can decide if you want to conceive or avoid pregnancy.
The following article focuses on trying to conceive, but can easily be tailored to those who are using natural family planning as a form of birth control by using these same methods to see when conception is likely to occur.
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Tools for Following Your Cycle
There are many ways to track your cycle naturally. Below are just some of the few natural family planning methods available.
"CycleBeads® is a color-coded string of beads that represent a woman's menstrual cycle and can help her plan or prevent pregnancy by tracking her cycle. Each bead represents a day of the cycle and the color helps a woman determine if she is likely to be fertile that day." - CycleBeads.com
CycleBeads also as has an app for iPhone and Android smartphones called iCycleBeads.
Period Tracker is an app available through iTunes that allows you to follow you cycle in a calendar form and identify days of fertility. This app also allows you to add your weight, temperature, moods and days of (ahem) "intimacy" as well as a space for your own notes.
Tools for Assessing Fertility
Basal Body Temperature (BBT) - A women's temperature is cyclical with her menstrual cycle, so determining and recording BBT is an accurate way to determine the onset of ovulation.
BBT should be performed at the same time every morning before getting out of bed. This form of natural family planning can be performed with a standard oral or tympanic thermometer or with a specialized BBT thermometer.
- During the first half of your menstrual cycle, your period until ovulation (preovulation or Follicular phase) your temperature should remain slightly below 98° F.
- As ovulation approaches a slight drop in temperature may be noted - this is the probable time of ovulation.
- Following ovulation until the onset of your period is the Luteal phase. An increase in temperature may be noted during this time.
Urine testing is a way to determine ovulation based on the levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) in the urine. There is a surge of luteinizing hormone released by the ruptured follicle when the egg is released from the ovary. This day is considered to be the day of maximum fertility with ovulation occurring 24 to 36 hours after the surge.
Depending on the manufacturer, the test stick turns a certain color or a symbol is displayed when the surge in luteinizing hormone is detected in the urine. It is recommended to test urine during the latter half of the day, usually from around noon to 8 pm. You can find LH test strip kits online.
One of the more intimate methods of natural family planning is by determining fertility through the examination of cervical mucus.
During ovulation cervical mucous takes on a stringy egg white consistency than can be stretched between your fingers. This consistency allows for the sperm to pass easily through the mucus. You can visually examine your cervical mucous or you can check for the presence of "ferning" using a microscope. Small at home microscope kits are sold specifically for this purpose.
When cervical mucus is examined under a microscope the presence of ferns indicates ovulation. The image below is an example of what ferning cervical mucous looks like. Saliva can also be checked this way.
Getting Down to Business
A few other things to know about natural family planning methods:
- Avoid douching and lubricants, even natural ones, which may alter the pH of the vagina making it a hostile environment for sperm if you are in fact trying to conceive.
- The missionary position and rear entry position allow the maximum amount of sperm to reach the cervix. Keep this in mind when trying to conceive or avoid pregnancy.
- After intercourse, if you are trying to conceive, you should remain on your back with hips elevated for 20 to 30 minutes to allow the best chance for the maximum amount of sperm to reach the cervix.
- After intercourse, if you're NOT trying to conceive, it's helpful to immediately go to the bathroom.
- Having sex every other day during ovulation is considered a sufficient amount for pregnancy.
Check out these popular books on natural family planning methods for more information.
Taking Charge of your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health by Toni Weschler - This book is considered the gold standard for natural family planning and includes in depth information on the above topics.
Your Fertility Signals: Use them to Achieve or Avoid Pregnancy Naturally by Merryl Winstein - A question and answer book about how to achieve or avoid pregnancy without the use of contraceptives and an explanation of common fertility problems.
Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach by John & Sheila Kippley - A book with a more religious approach, this is a good resource for natural family planning as well as a focus on the importance of marriage.
Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck - Includes information about nutrition for fertility, during pregnancy, as well as nutrition for babies and children.
Amy Burton is a nursing student with an interest in natural family planning methods, childbirth and midwifery. She writes about natural living, fashion, home design, food and family over at Domestic Observances.