Is Natural Family Planning Effective Birth Control?

Natural family planning is a method of birth control using natural signs to show when a woman is least and most fertile during her menstrual cycle. Also known as fertility awareness, natural family planning is practised by couples who don’t want to use artificial contraception when they have sex.

This method, one of the oldest used by humankind to prevent unwanted pregnancy, requires careful observation and planning over the course of a woman’s menstrual cycle, counting the days since the end of your last period. You will learn to recognise the signs of fertility and carefully note those times when you are most or least fertile. Obvious signs are body temperature and the consistency of the fluids in the cervix, and it’s important to note more than one signal at a time to get a true picture of your fertility at any point.

As natural family planning is a complex method of birth control, specialist teachers are used to teach the practice. Your GP can probably recommend a teacher or you can find one local to you through the Family Planning Association.

To ensure that the natural family planning method you use is most effective, you will have to follow the instructions to the letter. It can be 98% effective but those who use it must be prepared to commit time and effort into the practice.

Natural family planning is not only used for birth control but to plan when the best time to conceive is. It can take anything from three to six months to learn how to recognise the signals of fertility and to practise the method most effectively, whether to prevent conception or to promote it.

Unlike artificial methods of contraception, there are no physical side effects to using natural family planning. A woman will be fertile for around eight days each month and those who don’t abstain from sexual intercourse during that time should use a condom to prevent pregnancy.

New mothers who are breastfeeding do not have periods and so the usual fertility signals are not visible. You can use breastfeeding as natural family planning and this is known as lactational amenorrhoea. It can be effective for six months or until your periods return.

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