Natural Family Planning –

Natural family planning (NFP) is a form of pregnancy planning. These are not medications or devices. NFP helps people watch their body’s signs of fertility to know when to have sex. It can be used if you are trying to achieve or avoid pregnancy. It involves tracking a person’s body changes throughout the menstrual cycle. People may choose NFP for religious or personal reasons, or because they are concerned about the side effects of artificial means of achieving or avoiding pregnancy.

Path to better health

Pregnancy can occur if sexual intercourse takes place just before or after ovulation. Ovulation is when the ovaries release an egg. It usually occurs at around the same time each month. The egg moves to the uterus through the fallopian tubes. This is where conception takes place. An unfertilized egg can live up to 12 hours. The body will shed the egg during the menstrual period if it is not fertilized.

There are several methods of natural family planning.

The mucus or ovulation method. A woman monitors and tracks her cervical mucus. During ovulation, cervical mucus is stretchy, clear, and slippery. It looks and feels like a raw egg white. You will note the consistency of your mucus each day.

The symptothermal method. A woman takes her daily basal body temperature (BBT) using a BBT-specific thermometer. She can take it in the mouth, vagina, or rectum. A normal BBT is between 97° and 98°F. At the time of ovulation, her BBT will increase by 0.5 to 1 degree. She should take her BBT in the morning before getting out of bed. Ideally, it should be at the same time of day. You should use the thermometer the same way every day to get accurate results.

The symptohormonal method. This planning method relies on home urine tests to monitor hormone levels that can predict fertility. An electronic fertility monitor measures the hormone level in the urine. When combined with observations of cervical mucus, this method can indicate 94 to 98% fertility.

The rhythm method. It is based on the calendar dates of a person’s previous menstrual cycles. This method may be more difficult and not as reliable. It does not allow changes in the menstrual cycle, which are common. A normal menstrual cycle lasts between 28 and 32 days. The day a person starts their period is considered day 1 of the cycle. Ovulation usually occurs around day 14 of the menstrual cycle.

The standard days method. It is similar to the rhythm method, but covers a longer period of fertility. The standard days method assumes fertility between days 8 to 19 of each menstrual cycle. This means that to avoid pregnancy, you would not have sex on those days.

The lactational amenorrhea method. This method is for people who are still breastfeeding a baby under 6 months. Sometimes it can be used for more than 6 months, but it is less reliable. For this method to work, the mother must not have had her period since she gave birth and is not supplementing her baby’s feeding (feeding only breast/breast milk).

Sometimes people combine approaches. In all methods, it is recommended that you use a calendar or chart to track data and changes. This predicts when you ovulate, so you can have or avoid sex. You may notice other symptoms that you can track. These include bloating, back pain, breast tenderness, or ovarian pain. It usually takes 3 to 6 chart cycles to get an accurate idea of ​​your ovulation pattern.

Things to consider

You may choose to find someone who teaches NFP methods. You can ask your doctor for a recommendation. When NFP methods are followed to prevent pregnancy, the success rate is approximately 90%. When NFP methods are followed to conceive, on average, 2 out of 3 couples who do not have fertility problems become pregnant. If you do not follow the instructions completely, NFP will be less effective.

There are benefits and risks of NFP. It is free or less expensive compared to using contraceptives or condoms, which can be expensive. NFP has no side effects. Comply with certain religious guidelines. You can stop NFP at any time and it will not affect your menstrual cycle. On the other hand, NFP requires you to maintain a consistent schedule. If you deviate from it or are not careful, you may not be successful. You may need to use back-up contraception. NFP can be difficult if you have abnormal menstrual cycles or are breastfeeding. It’s also worth noting that other birth control methods (pills, condoms, an intrauterine device), when used as directed, tend to offer more protection against pregnancy than NFP.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Are there any health conditions that could prevent me from using natural family planning?
  • What should my cervical mucus look and feel like when I’m not ovulating compared to when I am?
  • How long should I take to rely on NFP?
  • Do you recommend working with an NFP teacher?


American Pregnancy Association: Fertility Awareness

National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus: Pregnancy: Identifying Fertile Days

Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your primary care doctor to find out if this information applies to you and for more information on this topic.

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