Natural family planning (or 'fertility awareness') is the term used to describe monitoring and measuring a woman’s fertility by using natural signs shown by the body.
Natural family planning is quite complex, and requires a lot of commitment to make sure that it is being done correctly.
How does it work?
Natural family planning works by recording the details of three main fertility indicators throughout your menstrual cycle:
- your temperature is taken and recorded each morning
- the appearance of your cervical mucous is inspected daily
- the length of your menstrual cycle is recorded each month.
It can take three to six months before you have a clear idea of how your menstrual cycle works and what times of the month you are fertile.
How effective is it?
When carried out carefully and correctly, natural family planning can be up to 98% effective in preventing pregnancy, though it needs careful precision and commitment.
Advantages of natural contraception:
There are no side effects with natural family planning, and it helps you to learn more about your menstrual cycle and fertility.
It can also be used to help plan pregnancy if you are thinking about having a baby.
Disadvantages of natural contraception:
Natural family planning needs a lot of dedication and commitment from both partners. It is a method that works best if you learn it from a specially trained nurse or doctor, or other healthcare professional.
Monitoring needs to take place every day, so it is not something that you can dip in and out of.
You can’t have unprotected sex during fertile periods, so it can make sex less spontaneous or mean that you need to use a barrier method, such as condoms, at that time.
Most importantly, natural family planning does not provide any protection against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, like a condom does.
Things to bear in mind:
If you are going to use natural family planning, it is important to consider what you might do if you do get pregnant. For this reason, it may be for women who feel able to cope with a potential unplanned pregnancy.
Where can I get it from and how much does it cost?
Being taught well and getting good instruction for natural family planning is important, so if you are thinking of using this method you should speak to a doctor or nurse with specialist training in the field.
To take your temperature daily you will need a special mercury fertility thermometer or a digital thermometer, which start at approximately £5. It is also possible to buy fertility monitoring kits from pharmacies, which cost from around £80.