Natural Birth Control

Natural birth control, also called natural family planning, is a common method of birth control that has been used for many years. Today it's still popular with those whose cultural or religious beliefs don't allow drugs or devices for birth control, or with those who simply don't wish to alter their body chemistry with hormones or internal devices. Natural birth control involves periodic abstinence around the time a woman is most fertile to reduce the chance of conception. There are a few methods to figure out a woman's most fertile time.

Symptothermal Method

The symptothermal method is the term used when women monitor their basal body temperature (waking temperature), cervical mucus signs and changes in the cervix, and personal cycle history. With this natural birth control method, a woman's cycle in broken down into three phases. The first phase is the pre-ovulation phase which starts the first day of menstruation. The second phase is the fertile period where the likelihood of conception is higher. The third phase the infertile time just after ovulation.

According to this method, the first day of the period or the first day mucus is detected is Phase I for approximately seven days. Figuring out the end of Phase II, the fertile period, is determined by basal body temperature which is taken before getting out of bed first thing in the morning. During the first half of a woman's period, the temperature is low indicating low fertility. As fertility increases, so does the basal body temperature. Highest temperatures begin one or two days after ovulation and according to this method, it's safe to resume intercourse three days after the temperature rise.

The symptothermal method also involves cervical mucus monitoring, which requires a woman to examine her mucus with her fingers. The more mucus there is and the stretchier indicates higher fertility. It becomes dry and scant during the infertile period which makes intercourse allowable four days after maximal cervical mucus is detected and until menstruation.


Natural birth control, also called periodic abstinence, works well with women who are dedicated to following the rules and keeping track of their body signs, with some studies indicating a 99% level of effectiveness. But in order to achieve this effectiveness, abstinence must be complete during the fertile phase. If a woman does not follow the method strictly, the couple risks intercourse during the fertile period, and so the failure rate of this type of birth control can be as high as 25%.

The symptothermal method of natural family planning requires high levels of discipline and the ability and patience to continue systematic charting for all the years a couple wishes not to have children.


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