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How to use Natural Family Planning

Natural family planning is a hormone free contraceptive option. If you are someone who doesn’t respond well to hormones and you don’t fancy the coil or barrier methods, then it could be worth looking into.

When might you choose natural family planning?

  • You are sensitive to hormones
  • You want something natural
  • You like the idea of getting to know your body
  • When you don’t want any side effects

What is the success rate of natural family planning? 

When natural family planning is followed consistently and correctly then it can be up to 99% effective (according to the NHS). If you make mistakes or misread signs from your body, then it may be less effective. You can read more about the effectiveness of natural family planning (fertility awareness) on the NHS website.

How does natural family planning work?

Natural family planning works by you getting to see fertility signs and symptoms. There are a few signs that when put together show a picture of your fertility at certain times of the month.

The three main fertility signals are:

  • The length of your cycle
  • Body temperature
  • Cervical mucus 

When you put the three signals together you should get an accurate picture of your fertile days. 

I know when I was younger I thought you could get pregnant any time of the month. When I started trying for a baby, I realised that this isn’t actually right. It took me until I was 28 to find that out!

If you aren’t trying for a baby then there are variables that you need to consider to avoid pregnancy. These include:

  • Sperm can live inside your vagina for up to 5 days
  • Sometimes you may ovulate late (particularly when you are stressed, dieting or started a new exercise regime)
  • You may also ovulate earlier than expected

How to start natural family planning

  1. Start tracking on the first day of your period to mark the start of your cycle
  2. Buy a basal body temperature (BBT) thermometer 
  3. Download an app such as Glow, Clue, Flo, Ovia, Natural Cycles (there are loads! Try a few and see which you like best)
  4. Take your body temperature every morning at roughly the same time before you get out of bed or move too much
  5. Record your body temperature in the app 
  6. Over the course of the month, notice how your cervical mucus changes from dry to creamy to slippery to egg whites
  7. Egg white cervical mucus (CM) is the most fertile, but track any CM in your app to help it build a picture
  8. Record the first day of your period 

Over a few months your app will start to guess when your ovulation days are based on your cycle length, body temperature and CM. This may take a few months to get right, particularly if your cycles are quite varied.

My cycle varies from 30 days to as many as 50 days. This can make ovulation later for me some months than others, so I don’t always trust the app 100%.  It is a case of putting the whole puzzle together, not just one part of it. You can get multiple days of fertile CM, even when you are not ovulating. 

A rise in your body temperature will confirm when you have ovulated. This slight spike will stay up for the remainder of the cycle and drop back down the day your period starts. I found this really helpful as it told me my period would start in the next day or two, so there were no surprises! 

You can even track your moods as part of learning your cycle. You might find certain times of the month you feel happier and more confident and other times more anti social and a little moody. This wouldn’t help with family planning, however it would help you to make plans based on your moods. 

Best thing to do is get really clued up and confident with the fertility awareness method by finding a fertility awareness practitioner offering advice. Find your nearest clinic here.

Check out other contraception methods in our blog pros and cons of different types of contraception where we ask real women about their real experiences.

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