Even those on the pill can benefit from knowing how Natural Family Planning works as a birth control method. Given the 8% chance of getting pregnant while on the pill, Natural Family Planning is worth looking into since research indicates it can be just as effective in avoiding pregnancy, and has less risks.
Apps for Your Phone
There are a number of apps that can be downloaded to your phone to track your menstrual cycle. Essentially, you want to know when you are going to ovulate (that is, when an egg (ovum) is produced by the ovaries and begins to move down the fallopian tubes.) When this happens (once a month), there is a 12 to 24 hour period of time when the ovum can be fertilized by a man’s sperm. If you don’t want to get pregnant, then you don’t want to have sex during this time, and you don’t want to have unprotected sex several days before this and several days following this. Each month, there are about 6 days in which you do not want to have sex if you want to avoid pregnancy. The reason is that a man’s sperm can be active in your uterus and fallopian tubes for several days.
The most popular apps are Flow Period Tracker, Life Period Tracker, and Clue Period Tracker. Of the three, Flow Period Tracker seems easiest to read and shows your ovulation timeframe very clearly (see pictures below).
For a much more accurate read on when you are about to ovulate, we recommend a fertility monitor by which you test your urine for hormones that relate to ovulation. To do this, you can buy a fertility monitor that enables you take a urine test about 10 days each month. The device will analyze your urine and give you a read-out on when you are about to ovulate, and when you are actually ovulating. One such device is Clearblue Fertility Monitor.
The Clearblue monitor costs $109, plus the cost of test sticks (about $15 a month). It is designed for women who want to get pregnant, but is also used by those who don’t want to get pregnant. Here’s a video link that explains how it works: Clearblue. The light purple and dark purple days shown on the calendar above, indicate that this particular woman was fertile on those days. There is also a simpler version called Clearblue Advanced Ovulation Test that is $39 and has 20 test sticks included.
Checking Cervical Mucus
Another way to check for your ovulation timeframe is to check the cervical mucus. Mucus is the wet substance that is present in one’s vagina for about nine days a month. Each day following your period it tends to get wetter.
Collect a sample of the mucus by wiping from front to back, or by putting your finger into your vagina. Then check both the color and the texture. Colors are: yellow, white, clear, or cloudy. Textures are dry, sticky, or stretchy. You are most likely to be ovulating when the mucus color is clear and the texture is stretchy, like egg whites. To check for stretchiness, put some between your fingers and slowly pull your fingers apart. If you don’t want to get pregnant, don’t have sex when your cervical mucus is like this. In and around these times, if you do have sex, use a condom.
There is also a monitor available that can give you a reading based on your cervical mucus. One of them is called OvaCue ($299).
OvaCue Fertility Monitor
Checking Basal Temperature
Basal body temperature is a third indicator of ovulation, since your lowest body temperature will be during ovulation. Taking your temperature is done by buying a basal thermometer (cost is about $8) and checking your temperature each morning before you get out of bed. The challenge is then having enough discipline to write down the temperature on a chart. Here is a sample chart for tracking basal temperature:
The Marquette Method
University of Marquette, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
At the University of Marquette, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, they have combined the methods above and obtained a 98% percent non-pregnancy rate. They use the Clearblue Fertility Monitor, checking cervical mucus, and tracking temperature. They call it the Marquette Method.
Natural Family Planning is now an easier form of birth control and more accurate than in the past, due to the availability of apps, urine testing devices, and mucus testing devices. It also has the benefit of not having the side-effects of the pill, and therefore decreases your risk of breast cancer, stroke and heart attack.
For a blank basal temperature chart click here: Blank Chart.