Natural Family Planning – Reliable Form of Contraception?

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Birth control is a subject that is of central importance to a lot of people. An unplanned pregnancy can be a major difficulty in any relationship, and people go to great lengths to avoid them. Birth control pills and condoms are the two most commonly used kinds of birth control devices around, but there are other forms of contraception out there. One, which many people may have heard of but may not be familiar with the ins and outs of, is natural family planning. Can this non-invasive form of birth control be a good answer for you?

There are many reasons why natural family planning appeals to a lot of people. First and foremost, for some people, the choice to use natural family planning as contraception is a religious one. Some religions teach that other forms of birth control are incompatible with religious doctrine. However, non-religious people do turn to natural family planning as well. With natural family planning, there is no concern about the effect of on the body of the hormones in traditional birth control pills (which can be dangerous for some women, especially smokers), and there is no hassle of always making sure you have a condom on hand (and further, some people prefer to have sex without a condom within a relationship). Natural family planning offers an alternative to these birth control methods that may appeal to some people.

The problem, of course, is gauging the reliability of natural family planning methods of birth control as opposed to these other methods. Is natural family planning really a reliable form of contraception? The clue to the answer to this question really lies in the name natural family “planning.” This method of controlling pregnancy can be more effective when used as a way to plan intercourse around a menstrual cycle to achieve pregnancy than it can be to prevent pregnancy. While most doctors agree that in theory, if practiced strictly according to guidelines, natural family planning can prevent pregnancy around 98% of the time, in actual practice it is almost impossible for a couple to follow natural planning in this way.

The main thing that makes natural family planning so difficult as a contraception method is the irregularity of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Even if you have a period like clockwork every 28 days, there can be variations every month in exact timing of ovulation. If your egg is released a day or two early or later than you expect, and your practice this method, that could mean a pregnancy for you. Further, if you have other health concerns, like a thyroid problem, diabetes, or even if you get a virus, your monthly cycle can be difficult to predict. It is possible to narrow down your ovulation period by checking your cervical mucus (called the ovulation method) or by monitoring your body’s temperature (called the symptothermal method), but neither of these techniques is exact. A miscalculation of your ovulation time is not only possible, but likely the longer you practice natural family planning as your sole source of contraception.

The bottom line here is that natural family planning can be a helpful tool if you are trying to get pregnant – keeping an eye on your cycle to determine when you are most fertile can be a good way to increase your odds of getting pregnant, and if you miscalculate, then the scales are not so high. Using this method as birth control, however, can be risky. Any couple interested in practicing this method should consult a doctor first to make sure they understand how to properly track the menstrual cycle and identify signs of ovulation.

Posted by Andrew
on Feb 5 2011. Filed under Women.
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