Did you know that you can avoid pregnancy without using pharmaceutical contraceptive drugs, products, or devices? In this section, you can find out the basics of the different natural methods of birth control.
Natural birth control methods
Natural methods of birth control or fertility awareness are often confused with the outdated “rhythm method.” But fertility awareness and natural family planning have come a long way since the “rhythm method” was discovered. In the last 60 years, scientific research has helped doctors understand with great precision how to pinpoint the time of a woman’s ovulation even when she has variable or irregular cycles.
Based on this research, methods of tracking and charting your fertility cycle have been designed that help you know what days you could get pregnant if you have intercourse. It takes only a few minutes of daily observations to know with a high degree of accuracy where you are in your cycle. Fertility charts allow you to track one or more of the following signs of fertility:
- Cervical mucus: Also known as the “white flow,” cervical mucus is often visible in your underwear or on toilet paper after wiping. Cervical mucus can be clear, white, or yellow in appearance, and can be stretchy, tacky, or watery in texture. The amount, appearance, and textural characteristics of cervical mucus, as well as the sensation a woman feels while wiping, change throughout the month in a cyclical pattern, with the stretchiest mucus and most wet sensation occurring during the most fertile time of the month, i.e., around ovulation.
- Basal body temperature: If you take your basal body temperature every morning for a month, you will see an abrupt elevation of your body’s temperature after a certain point. That’s one sign that ovulation just happened.
- Cervix position: The cervix is positioned high, and the opening (or “os”) is open and soft around the time of ovulation, while the cervix is low, and the opening closed and firm otherwise. With a bit of guidance and practice, you can learn to tell the difference on your own.
- Urine hormone detection: Right around the time of ovulation, two key hormones are produced: luteinizing hormone and estrogen. These can be detected in your urine with a simple at-home test.
Based on these signs, several methods of charting have been developed to meet the specific needs of women:
- Cervical mucus-only methods (also known as ovulation methods) are probably the most widely used fertility awareness methods (FAMs) or methods of natural family planning (NFP). These methods of natural birth control work great for women with a fairly normal production of cervical mucus. Examples of these methods include the Billings Method or the Creighton Model.
- Sympto-thermal methods (STMs) include three signs: Cervical mucus, basal body temperature, and the position of the cervix. STMs work well for women who like the added assurance that comes with tracking more than one sign of fertility. Sympto-thermal methods also work best for women who have a reliable schedule, as basal body temperature should be taken at or around the same time every day. Examples of these methods include SymptoPro or the Couple to Couple League’s Sympto-Thermal Method.
- Sympto-hormonal methods help you detect the production of key fertility hormones with a simple at-home urine test, which can be cross checked with a cervical mucus observation. Examples of these methods include the Marquette method and FEMM.
To learn more about these methods or find a trained fertility awareness educator in any of these methods, click here.