Is Natural Family Planning Right For You?

An all-natural form of birth control.

What Is Family Planning?

Family planning, also known as the "rhythm method" or "safe period," is the oldest method of birth control. It involves abstaining from intercourse during a woman's fertile period each month, usually beginning around the third day after menstruation ends and lasting for about 12 consecutive days.

There are several ways to determine when a woman is ovulating -- where she is in her cycle, body temperature, and vaginal secretions. Using these elements as a guide to determine when a woman is fertile, a couple can prevent pregnancy. Similarly, when the couple decides it's time to have another child, it provides them with the information about when is the best time to get pregnant.

The benefits: Family planning through abstinence is a drug-free, device-free method of birth control. It is especially attractive to couples who, for whatever reason, don't want to interfere with reproduction in an artificial way. For a breastfeeding new mom, it also has no effect on breast milk.

The drawbacks: Using family planning by periodic abstinence as a method of contraception (to prevent pregnancy) means a couple can't have intercourse during a certain period every month. Some couples find that this lessens the spontaneity of sex. Also, this is generally not as effective a method as others, such as barrier methods, intrauterine devices, or oral contraceptives.

If you decide to use the family planning method of birth control, two things are essential:

  • Training by a qualified counselor or a medical professional
  • Consistent use of the method

Periodic abstinence as a method of birth control can only work when it is followed diligently. Unless you are confident that you can recognize the signs of impending ovulation and abstain from intercourse during the fertile period, this is probably not the right choice for you.

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