Natural Birth Control – Natural Family Planning

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Yep, there is natural birth control out there. Most importantly, it is reliable. And free. Maybe that is why it hasn’t taken off. Really the only investment you have to make is in a $9 thermometer and then you’re done. Hard for any company to really mass market that type of birth control, therefore they don’t.

I’m talking about Natural Family Planning, specifically Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. Before you stop reading I am not talking about the rhythm method or pull-out method which should really be called the pull-and-pray method.

TCOYF is completely natural and completely without side effects because you’re not taking anything and you’re not permanenlty inserting anything inside you either. TCOYF is about monitoring your fertility and understanding your body and your cycles in order to reliably and predictably prevent or achieve pregnancy. It has about a 90% effectiveness rate when used properly which is the same rate of the male condom. For comparison rate the birth control pill has an effectiveness rate of 97% (keep in mind that assumes you take the pill every day at the same time each day and follow any other instructions set forth in the manufacturer’s pamphlet). So, yes its effectiveness rate is lower compared to birth control pills but you also don’t have any exposure to the known risks of birth controll pills as well as any of the unknown risks.

So what exactly is involved with Natural Family Planning? Using TCOYF you monitor your basal body temperature, cervical fluid and cervical position (monitoring c.p. is optional).

  1. Monitoring Basal Body Temperature: This is achieved by taking your temperature at the same time each morning with at least 3 consecutive hours of sleep. With my toddler I had a hard time making sure I was taking my temp at the same time each morning when I woke up since she wakes up anytime from 6am-8am. So instead, I set an alarm on my phone for 4 in the morning. When my alarm goes off I stick the digital thermometer in my mouth. Hold it there for one minute until it beeps at me and then toss it back to the floor when it beeps its “all done” beep. My thermometer has a memory function so I don’t need to worry about writing it down right away.
  2. Monitoring Cervical Fluid: Your Cervical fluid is the secretions produced by your body throughout the month that help to identify your window of fertility. It typically follows a pattern of dry/sticky (with this being infertile fluid) to increasingly wet/lotiony until reaching its peak fertility at stretchy/lubricative and then returning back to a dry/sticky non-fertile secretion after ovulation. In lamens terms you will be monitoring the fluid that is typically on your underwear. Did you know that stuff has a purpose? I didn’t until I read Toni’s book and then I was completely frustrated that this type of information isn’t taught to us as young women going through puberty. You can check your fluid at your vaginal opening after peeing with toilet paper or your fingers. If you are like me and don’t have much cervical fluid then you will need to check at your cervical opening. Some of you might be squeemishly wriggling in your chairs now. Relax. It’s your body. You should know what is going on inside of it. You should be the authority on what your body is doing and why. Besides, if you check your cervical fluid in the bathroom no one has to know and you can wash your hands afterward. Trust me, it’s worth it to understand your body and to reconnect with your cycles.
  3. Monitoring Cervical Position: Monitoring Cervical Position is an optional but very helpful step. It is just one additional factor to confirm the status of your fertility. It will take some practice and a few cycles to get the hang of but is worth the time. Typically, your cervix moves from a low and closed position when you are infertile to an open and high position when you are at the peak of your fertility (right before ovulation). After ovulation your cervical position will begin to lower and close again. I decided to monitor all 3 things when using FAM. It took me a few weeks to understand the process but after a few cycles I was very familiar with my cervix and what it did during my cycles. To check your cervix you insert a clean finger (probably index or middle) while sitting on the toilet or standing with one leg elevated. You will want to check your cervix in the same position every time. I found it was necessary for me to pee first before checking my cervix otherwise my bladder pushed it out of place.
  4. Putting It All Together: You then track your temperature, cervical fluid and cervical position on a chart. You can do this on the pre-made forms that you can find in the book (if you don’t want to buy the book, borrow it from your local library and photocopy the charts). You could also make your own charts or easiest of all you can use the software that TCOYF provides for $30 (it has a 15 day free trial). The software is awesome and makes the whole process exceptionally simple. It also provides you with an excellent online support group of women using the method for either birth control or for achieving pregnancy. You will wind up making a coverline for your daily temperature. By drawing this coverline and monitoring your cervical fluid (and cervical position) you will be able to determine what days you are infertile (capable of having unprotected intercourse without risk of pregnancy) what days you are likely infertile but must be cautious (can have intercourse but should use a barrier method – condom) and what days you are fertile (either abstain from intercourse or use a barrier method). You will also be able to pinpoint the day that you ovulated and you will also know how long your luteal phase and complete cycle are. And no, not all women have a 28 day cycle and not all women ovulate on day 14 – those are misconceptions.

I suppose I could go on and on about Natural Family Planning. I love it. Since I’ve read the book and began implementing the method I have become much more knowledgeable and aware of my own body. I feel empowered. I feel happy to know that I am not messing with how my body was intended to work by stuffing it with chemicals designed to alter it’s natural course of fertility. I feel happier not having an artificial device stuck into my uterus to prevent pregnancy. I have been using Natural Family Planning for 9 months now with success. I was on birth control for about 6 years before learning about Natural Family Planning and was very happy to find something natural I could switch to. The only times we have had any pregnancy “scares” is when we have lazily had intercourse during my fertile days without taking the precautions we knew we were supposed to take. This is because we are only lazily preventing pregnancy and would be happy with a new addition to our family.

TCOYF is also a wonderful method to use for achieving pregnancy. It helps you to zone in on the days that you are most fertile and also helps you to identify if you may encounter difficulties in getting pregnant because of irregular cycles or short luteal phases. By knowing the day that you ovulate you can also experiment with gender selection methods.

Either way it is a wondeful thing to learn. It is a wonderful knowledge and tool to pass down to our daughter and to their daughters. To take back the understanding of our bodies and to release the need for drugs or other invasive tools in designing our families.

UPDATE: Once we were ready to grow our family we switched from using Natural Family Planning as a preventative and used it to our advantage to achieve pregnancy. We got pregnant the 2nd month of trying. Unfortunately, that pregnancy ended in miscarriage because of an emergency appendectomy. However, we were able to get pregnant again within the first month of trying for another baby. It is wonderful to know the exact day that I conceived and to know exactly how far along I was. I had an ultrasound and the u/s tech was shocked when I told her I’d be 10 weeks 5 days and I was measuring exactly that! :) We are now 16 1/2 weeks along.

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11 comments

  1. Kay · November 23, 2009

    I recently heard about this. My bf is the reason i looked it up. He says he doesnt want me on chemical bc anymore cause it causing me a lot of problems :( So i looked for a natural method and came across Toni’s book, i have it saved in the closest Barnes and Noble so i can pick it up soon :)

  2. Dustmite · September 25, 2009

    NFP has worked well for my wife and I. For us, we only use a software calendar and monitor cervical fluid – my wife hates and won’t do the temp check. We have only ever had one unexpected surprise and that was because we took some short cuts and on top of that my wife was under massive stress at the time. Sadly we lost the little one 3 months into the PG. Even then, we stuck with NFP and had no unexpected surprises. When we were ready we used it to become PG.

  3. fightingwindmills · January 17, 2008

    This is a great book. I, too, felt empowered after reading it. I didn’t know the purpose of cervical fluid either. I thought it was gross until I read this book and I began to respect my body so much more!

  4. journeytocrunchville · December 19, 2007

    I am getting the 90% effectiveness rate straight from the Taking Charge of Your Fertility Software to be used in conjunction with Toni’s book. It is from “A Primer on the Fertility Awareness Method” and says the following:
    “All birth control methods are evaluated based upon their use- and method-effectiveness. Method-effectiveness assumes “perfect use” and isn’t quoted here because it only serves to confuse. For comparison’s sake, the birth control pill has a use effectiveness of 97%. FAM, on the other hand, has a use-effectiveness of up to 90%, which is about the same as that of the male condom. What this 90% use-effectiveness figure means is that 1 out of 10 women who use this as their only method of birth control will experience an unintended pregnancy during the course of a year. If you were to use it as your only form of birth control for 10 years, you could expect one unintended pregnancy.”

  5. Michael · December 19, 2007

    “It has about a 90% effectiveness rate when used properly which is the same rate of the male condom.”

    Where do you get your information? 90% is the lowest effectively I’ve found listed on several websites for NFP when properly used. When improperly used, your statistic is reasonable, but your numbers are not consistent with an overwhelming preponderance of data.

  6. Amy · September 4, 2007

    We used this method for 3 years to avoid pregnancy and then used it to conceive our daughter! So great!!

  7. Beth · August 23, 2007

    So what are you looking fo with the temp? I know you have told me before – but hey – i have 2 kids and a short memory..LOL

  8. journeytocrunchville · August 21, 2007

    Thanks for the information Sheila. I’d also heard that the numbers were potentially higher. The stats that I have were taken directly from Toni’s TCOYF software. Thanks so much for the link! :)

  9. Sheila Kippley · August 21, 2007

    Research shows NFP can be 99% effective. We have taught NFP for 38 years. The general rule is that you only need one hour of rest before taking your temperature. The most important rule is to take it at the same time each morning. For instruction on all the fertility awareness signs (as mentioned in the article) plus the Seven Standards of eco-breastfeeding to space babies, go to http://www.nfpandmore.org for a free, short “How-To” NFP manual. This manual is in an easy-to-understand, question-and-answer format and can be self-taught by most couples. It’s in 4 parts and a total of 84 pages. Sheila Kippley

  10. journeytocrunchville · August 21, 2007

    I love it too! I wish it was standard education available in public schools during the puberty classes. There’s no reason why women shouldn’t know how to calculate when they ovulate if they want to. I can’t wait to use TCOYF to conceive our next child. Hopefully soon! Still trying to convince hubby.

  11. Laini · August 20, 2007

    I love Taking charge of your fertility. I wish more people knew about it. It helped us to conceive our DD.

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