Women monitoring their menstrual cycles for natural family planning is a method many couples often use. As technology advanced and people learned more about how the human body works, researchers have discovered other natural approaches for determining the fertility period.
However, with the rise of several forms of contraception, you might be wondering if natural family planning is still helpful and effective in reaching its goals.
What Is Natural Family Planning?
Natural family planning is a form of contraception where a person observes biological markers of fertility to determine when she is most likely to become pregnant. By approximating when the person’s fertility period occurs, the couple or individual can either achieve or avoid conception.
The three primary biological markers that people using this method use are:
- Menstrual cycle
- Changes in cervical mucus
- Daily readings of basal body temperature (BBT)
Practitioners of this method can use a wide variety of tools to chart these fertility signals. Some opt for using an ovulation calendar, also called the calendar method. Some prefer to use BBT as their baseline, also called the BBT method. Others prefer to track all three fertility markers to raise the accuracy of readings. This multifaceted process is called the symptothermal method.
Whichever method you use, the key thing to remember is consistency. You need to keep track of these markers daily or risk misreading your fertility window.
What the Numbers Say
The effectiveness of the natural family planning method has been of continuous interest to research for many years.
In 2012, a review of studies conducted from 1981 to 2011 tackling natural family planning reported a high effectivity rate on the natural method. The research revealed that the reported failure rate on the method’s effectiveness ranged from less than 1 percent to around 5 percent. Meanwhile, if the symptothermal method was used incorrectly, the reported failure rate ranged from 2 to 25 percent.
A 2007 study released by the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology suggested that the effectiveness of the symptothermal method was comparable to hormonal pills. The study gathered data from 900 women, of which 1.8 out of 100 women unintentionally conceived.
Furthermore, only 0.4 percent of the women who used the symptothermal method correctly conceived. This translated to only one pregnancy in 250 women per year, comparable to the effectiveness rates of oral contraceptives and other modern contraceptive methods.
As effective as the natural planning method is, not everyone was convinced nor aware of this contraceptive option. In 2012, researchers from the University of Virginia suggested that the physicians’ lack of understanding of natural family planning methods could be a significant contributor to why several people underestimate its effectiveness.
This mindset is quickly changing. Currently, the consensus in the medical community is that, if practiced correctly, fertility awareness methods are up to 99 percent effective. Hence, natural family planning is a viable option to look into for individuals who prefer a nonintrusive way to conceive or avoid pregnancy.
Pros and Cons of Natural Family Planning
Like any other family planning method, fertility awareness comes with its pros and cons. Before you try and implement it in your lifestyle, make sure to consider the following.
Some of the advantages of using natural family planning are:
- It does not use chemical or physical products to put into you.
- It does not require surgery, which can have lasting effects on your body.
- It helps you understand your body better.
- It has no side effects (e.g., feelings of nausea or dizziness from contraceptive pills).
- It helps you save money since you do not need to invest in medicinal pills and contraceptive devices.
- It is acceptable (and even promoted) to all religions, cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds.
On the other hand, the downsides of using natural family planning include:
- It does not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like HIV.
- It requires a lot of planning, practice, and commitment to keep a close watch on your fertility signs.
- Some factors can disrupt biological markers, such as illness, stress, lifestyle changes, and hormonal treatments.
- You have to practice it accurately for it to become effective.
- It is only applicable to people who have regular cycles.
Overall, despite existing for thousands of years, the fertility awareness method remains a practical and helpful way to do family planning. Find out more about this process by doing your homework and consulting with a doctor on your contraceptive goals.
Whether you aim to conceive or avoid a pregnancy, you still reap the reward of learning more about your body and may even discover ways to improve your health.