Natural family planning (NFP) or fertility awareness relies on a woman’s fertility awareness of her body's natural functioning to determine the timing of her ovulation and her fertile period. NFP methods include monitoring and tracking certain changes that occur in a woman’s body in order to try to predict her most fertile time.
Oldest natural birth control method; "Rhythm Method” or calendar calculations is based on three ideas. Firstly, that women ovulate 14 days before menstruation begins, give or take two days. Secondly, that sperm can survive inside a woman for three days. And lastly, that an egg can only be fertilized within 24 hours of being released from the ovaries.
For about one-quarter of the menstrual cycle, woman are potentially fertile. Understanding when, in your cycle, you are fertile is a natural, reliable way for a woman to avoid (or increase) her chances of getting pregnant, while reducing or eliminating use of contraceptives
Based on these assumptions, the rhythm method requires a woman to count back 14 days from the first day of her period. This will presumably be the day on which she ovulated and will ovulate the following month. In order to avoid pregnancy, she will need to abstain from sex or use another form of birth control, like condoms, around this time. Unfortunately, it is not necessarily the most reliable method of preventing a pregnancy.
Temperature method involves charting your daily basal body temperature. Since your body temperature rises slightly when you ovulate, charting your body temperature can help you better identify when you are ovulating. There are many devices available that can make tracking your temperature easier. Some women avoid having sex when they are ovulating (periodic abstinence) in order to prevent a pregnancy while others use another form of birth control, like condoms.
Lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) is based on the natural postpartum infertility that occurs when a woman is amenorrheic and fully breastfeeding. After the birth of a child, certain hormones prevent a woman from ovulating and releasing eggs if she is breastfeeding. The length of time hormones are suppressed varies. It depends on how often the woman breastfeeds and the length of time since the baby’s birth. Ovulation usually returns after 6 months despite continuous nursing.
Some women feel this is an adequate form of birth control. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reports this method to be 98% effective in the first 6 months after delivery if the above criteria are met. Once menstrual bleeding resumes, the risk of pregnancy increases greatly. ACOG recommends that for best impact on fertility, women should breastfeed at least every 4 hours during the day and every 6 hours at night. Any feedings the infant is given aside from breastfeeding should not be more than 5-10% of the total the child consumes. The pill is often used because it is easy for the physician and too often the needs of the couple are not taken into account or even discussed.
A "natural family planning method" in which women use a set of beads to keep track of their fertile days is effective and widely acceptable to women and their partners, according to a new study conducted at 14 sites in six countries.
"I'm really convinced that this is a method that needs to be part of an informed choice approach to family planning," Dr. Victoria Jennings, director of the Georgetown University Institute for Reproductive Health in Washington, DC, told Reuters Health. "Women have lots of options and they need to be aware of this one."
Jennings and her colleagues developed the Standard Days Method (SDM), in which women with menstrual cycles between 26 to 32 days long are instructed that they may become pregnant if they have sex on days 8 to 19 of their cycle. Women using the SDM can use a set of beads the Georgetown team designed, known as CycleBeads, to keep track of their fertile days, and may abstain from sex on those days if they don't want to get pregnant.
In the current study, Rebecka I. Lundgren of Georgetown and colleagues from the Population Reference Bureau in Washington, DC, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine conducted a "real world" test of the method.
Tested by more than 1,600 women:
Family planning groups, health ministries and community development organizations introduced SDM at 14 different sites in Latin America, Africa and Asia. A total of 1,646 women who chose to try the SDM were recruited into the study.
Age, education, and past use of modern contraceptives varied widely among the sites. The study participants typically abstained or used condoms during the fertile days of their cycle.
There were 14.1 pregnancies for every 100 women per year of use of the method, which was comparable to the 12 pregnancies per 100 woman years found in a 2002 clinical trial of the method. The main reason women got pregnant, the researchers found, was that couples "knowingly took the risk" of having unprotected sex on fertile days.
While people often associate natural family planning techniques like the "rhythm method" with religious beliefs, most women in the study who chose to use the SDM said they did so because it was side-effect free, didn't affect women's health and was inexpensive, the researchers note in the March issue of Contraception.
Men didn't mind method:
Jennings said that the degree of involvement with the method among women's partners in the study was surprising. "Men reported being very satisfied with the method, and a significant number of men reported being involved in some way in helping their partner to use this method," she noted, for example reminding a woman to move the marker on the beads or making sure to have condoms available on a woman's fertile days.
Ninety percent of both men and women in the study said they felt the SDM was easy to use, and that they would recommend it to others. When used properly, Jennings added, the SDM is nearly as effective as the Pill and more effective than the diaphragm or condoms.