What if birth control didn’t require any pills, patches, or injections? The fertility awareness method offers an alternative birth control option for women who want to go for an all-natural approach to pregnancy prevention. Also known as natural family planning, this birth control method requires most women to learn a bit more about their reproductive system in order to use it correctly. Find out more about fertility awareness to see if it might be a good birth control solution for you.
What Is Natural Family Planning?
Natural family planning (also known as “the rhythm method” and “fertility awareness method”) involves tracking your ovulation in an effort to prevent or plan a pregnancy.
Women are most likely to get pregnant on a select number of days near and during ovulation. Following natural family planning strategies, women can track which dates fall into that window, so they know to either abstain from sex or use a backup form of birth control (like condoms) to prevent pregnancy. Similarly, women trying to get pregnant can plan to have unprotected sex on those days to increase their chances of conceiving.
Ovulation Tracking Methods
How can women track their ovulation? There are actually three ways to do it:
- Calendar Method: This method involves tracking your menstrual cycle on a calendar. You note the first day of your period each month to determine the number of days in your cycle. Then, you can use calculations to determine when your fertile period falls each month.
- Cervical Mucus Method: With this natural family planning method, you must track the changes in your cervical mucus. Cervical mucus, which is also known as vaginal discharge, changes in color, texture, and amount throughout your menstrual cycle. The changes in the mucus can help women determine when they’re ovulating. Typically, women see an increase in mucus that is clear and slippery right before ovulating.
- Temperature Method: The temperature method requires taking your body temperature each day and noting the changes throughout your menstrual cycle. When women are ovulating, their body temperature typically increases by one or two degrees. It’s important to use a basal body temperature thermometer and take your temperature first thing in the morning every day to get an accurate reading.
While some women practice just one method for tracking ovulation, it’s actually most effective when you combine all three methods. This is known as the symptothermal method.
Fertility Awareness Method Pros and Cons
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fertility awareness methods are about 76 percent effective as birth control. In other words, approximately 24 percent of women using the natural family planning method will get pregnant within the first year. So, while it’s a relatively popular contraceptive method for women, natural family planning is not the most effective option available. Options like the pill, patch, ring, and IUD all have much higher effectiveness rates compared to the rhythm method.
If it’s less effective, why do people use natural family planning for birth control? There are multiple reasons that a woman might prefer fertility awareness over other types of contraceptives. Perhaps most significantly, it’s free of side effects. Women who have struggled with other birth control methods’ side effects, such as acne, weight gain, mood swings, nausea, headaches, and decreased sex drive, may choose to accept a higher risk level for becoming pregnant in exchange for a side effect-free contraceptive method. Natural family planning is also popular with some women who don’t want to use other forms of birth control for religious or financial reasons.
Some women have resorted to using the fertility awareness method due to limited access to other birth control options. For example, a woman might have a schedule that make it difficult to visit a doctor to get a birth control prescription. Or perhaps she lives in a rural area where the nearest pharmacy is prohibitively far away. Fortunately, newer online services like Nurx provide additional options for women who have not been able to easily access certain birth control methods in the past.
One unexpected benefit some women experience when using fertility awareness birth control methods is that they enjoy learning more about how their body works. Natural family planning allows many individuals to be more in control of their reproductive health and can lead to feeling more empowered when it comes to their sex lives.
The fertility awareness method isn’t right for everyone. However, it can be a potential alternative for women who have health concerns that make it difficult for them to take other forms of birth control. If you want to explore your birth control options, be sure to check out Nurx.
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