by Bridgette R. Odom
Natural family planning (known as NFP) encompasses a wide variety of methods all based on a woman's personal body cycle.
NFP can be used to achieve or avoid a pregnancy. While most of the methods can't guarantee whether you conceive or not, they are growing in popularity.
Natural family planning has increased in popularity as more women and their partners seek out safe and healthy alternatives to artificial contraception methods. As green living also grows in popularity, methods like NFP gain greater notice and acceptance.
The Rhythm Method
Modern natural family planning is not the "Rhythm Method" of old you may or may not remember. Originally, the rhythm method relied on a standard 28 day calendar cycle to predict ovulation and time of fertility. Today's methods respect the uniqueness of every woman. NFP takes into account her particular body cycle, fertility (or infertility) phase, and other pertinent criteria.
If couples practice NFP accurately, it could be 99 percent effective as a birth control method. NFP can also be effective in aiding couples trying to get pregnant. [Editor's Note: There is still no form of birth control on the market that claims a 100 percent effectiveness rating. The only way to achieve that number is to abstain from sex altogether.]
NFP in the Past
The original rhythm method was purely calendar based. Developed in the 1930's, this process involved tracking a woman's monthly cycles by the start date over a period of time to "guestimate" when ovulation was most likely to occur.
This procedure failed to take into account that many women have irregular periods or months that are longer or shorter. Not everyone has a perfect 28 day cycle.
Modern NFP incorporates scientific methods based on the unique biological markers of each woman's fertility.
When couples identify and track the key indicators used in NFP (menstrual cycle, cervical mucous, and sexual relations as examples), they are able to predict times of fertility as well as know when to avoid conceiving.
Who can benefit from using natural family planning?
- Women of all ages
- Women with irregular cycles
- Women who are breastfeeding
- Women who are pre- or post-menopausal
Benefits of Natural Family Planning
Safe and healthy: NFP is 100% natural. It's based on the study and observation of a woman's individual signs of fertility and infertility. Unlike all artificial birth control or "contraception" devices, NFP presents no side effects or health risks (other than conceiving a baby).
Natural family planning works in conjunction with the body's natural cycle and respects its functions. Artificial methods can potentially stifle or alter a woman's physiology.
High rate of effectiveness: For those wishing to avoid pregnancy, NFP if practiced correctly, can potentially offer a 99 percent rate of success as mentioned previously. The program focuses daily on a woman's signs of fertility and accurately pinpoints when ovulation is about to occur.
Easy to use: Lots of couples around the world practice natural family planning. Each has their own reasons, such as religion or lifestyle. While NFP requires an initial commitment to become familiar with your body's biological markers, it's not complicated. Another bonus is that the method is free.
Ecologically sound: Concerned about the environment? Natural family planning is "green." NFP doesn't involve harsh chemicals. It also doesn't tamper with a woman's physiology. If you're already living a green lifestyle, this method could be for you.
NFP helps support struggling couples: Couples that have lower or marginal fertility levels notice that after following NFP there are higher reports of pregnancy within a six month period. Researchers believe these couples are able to pinpoint their peak time to conceive.
An additional benefit for these couples is that they are able to track and share this information with their medical care providers. This gives their doctors important insight into potential underlying health problems.
Strengthens relationship bond: Couples practicing NFP feel that they have a stronger relationship using NFP. Since communication is a key component of this method, partners enjoy becoming more in tune with one another on a variety of levels -- physically, emotionally and sexually.
Most Popular NFP Methods
The two most popular natural family planning methods are the Sympto-Thermal Method (STM) and the Creighton Model FertilityCare System.
The Sympto-Thermal Method (STM)
The Sympto-Thermal Method uses signs of ovulation and temperature shifts. It's generally based on the observation of three key signs of fertility awareness. These include charting changes in:
- Basal body temperature
- Cervical mucus
- The cervix itself (optional)
STM can track other body signals like if you experience a headache, bloating, backache, or breast tenderness.
Creighton Model FertilityCare System
The Creighton Model FertilityCare System observes fertility as a part woman's health. The Creighton Model focuses solely on external cervical mucus, but more in-depth and specific than STM.
Creighton Model users have a "triangle of support" with research, education, and service provided. It presents detailed information which gives terrific insight for fertility awareness and a woman's overall health.
Which Method is Best for Me?
Each method has its pros and cons. What method you choose is not only a personal choice, but should work for your family.
Couples using STM might find that their temperatures are thrown off by a variety of factors such as alcohol use, illness, breastfeeding, and unusual sleep patterns. Most couples still feel empowered by being able to track multiple symptoms to discover shifts in fertility.
Couples who use the Creighton Model typically appreciate the in-depth observation and tracking changes in cervical mucus. This method is more popular with woman who have irregular periods or are breastfeeding or pre or post-menopausal.
For anyone who is concerned about infertility, the Creighton Model is at the center of the highly successful NaProTECHNOLOGY™ which treats infertility as a symptom of an underlying women's health issue.
Other natural family planning methods include: Ecological Breastfeeding, the Billings Method, Kippley-Prem Method (KPM) and the Rhythm Method. As mentioned previously, no method is 100 percent guaranteed.
You can find support in our Getting Pregnant Community. Join the Charting Your BBT and Fertility Cycle Forum and connect with other parents and parents-to-be.
Do you practice NFP? Tell us all about what works for you and your family!
- The NaProTechnology Revolution: Unleashing the Power in a Woman's Cycle (http://www.unleashingthepower.info/) : Includes an introduction to the Creighton Model, scientific information, medical risks of infertility, and more.
- "Effectiveness of the Creighton Model System"
"The effectiveness of a fertility awareness based method to avoid pregnancy in relation to a couple’s sexual behavior during the fertile time: a prospective longitudinal study" 2007 German Study finding Natural Family Planning Method Effectiveness of 99.6%
"NFP & More, Inc. : In-depth information on the Sympto-Thermal Method (STM)"
- Weschler, Toni. "Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health"