Natural family planning help (NFP) offers an alternative approach to preventing pregnancy without the use of hormonal or barrier contraceptives. If you’re considering NFP, it’s essential to understand the different methods, how they work, and their effectiveness. Let’s explore the main types of natural family planning help, their effectiveness, and how to get started.

What is Natural Family Planning?

Natural family planning involves using your body’s natural signals to determine fertile and infertile times in your menstrual cycle. By tracking these signals, you can avoid pregnancy by abstaining from intercourse or using condoms during your most fertile days. The two primary methods of NFP are the fertility awareness method (FAM) and the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM).

Types of Natural Family Planning

Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)

The fertility awareness method requires you to monitor and record various bodily signs to identify your fertile window. Here’s what you need to track:

  • Body Temperature: Measure your basal body temperature daily. A slight increase indicates ovulation.
  • Vaginal Discharge: Note changes in your cervical mucus, which becomes clearer and more slippery around ovulation.
  • Menstrual Cycle: Keep a detailed record of your menstrual cycle to predict your fertile days.

On days when you’re most fertile, avoid sex or use a condom. This method can take a few menstrual cycles to master, so using additional contraception during this learning period is recommended.

Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM)

The lactational amenorrhea method is a temporary form of contraception that relies on exclusive breastfeeding to delay ovulation. For LAM to be effective, you must:

  • Breastfeed at least every four hours during the day.
  • Breastfeed at least every six hours during the night.
  • Avoid giving your baby formula milk or solid food.

This method is effective only for the first six months postpartum and as long as you haven’t resumed menstruating. If you begin to menstruate or supplement breastfeeding with other foods or formula, LAM may no longer be reliable.

Effectiveness of Natural Family Planning

Fertility Awareness Method

When practiced perfectly, FAM is 91% to 99% effective. However, typical use, which might include occasional mistakes or inconsistent tracking, reduces effectiveness to about 76%. This means that out of 100 women using FAM for a year, 24 might become pregnant.

Lactational Amenorrhea Method

LAM can be more than 99% effective if followed correctly. If the guidelines are not strictly adhered to, its effectiveness drops slightly to 98%, meaning 2 out of 100 women might become pregnant within the first six months postpartum.

Limitations and Considerations

Natural family planning might not be suitable for everyone. Here are some scenarios where NFP might not be ideal:

  • Irregular Periods: If your menstrual cycle is irregular, predicting fertile days becomes challenging.
  • Inability to Breastfeed: For LAM, consistent breastfeeding is crucial.
  • Health Conditions: If you need to avoid pregnancy due to a medical condition, NFP might not be reliable enough.
  • Medications: Some medications, like those for bipolar disorder, migraines, or epilepsy, may not be safe for breastfeeding.

How to Get Started

Getting started with natural family planning involves seeking guidance from a professional. Here’s how you can learn more and get support:

Finding a Practitioner

Consult with a fertility awareness practitioner or a midwife trained in NFP. You can find practitioners through:

  • Sexual Health Clinics: Often called family planning or contraception clinics.
  • GP Surgeries: Some general practitioners offer NFP services.
  • Online Resources: The Fertility website provides a directory of practitioners.

Learning the Methods

A healthcare professional will teach you how to track your menstrual cycle and interpret the signs accurately. This training is crucial for the effectiveness of NFP methods. Use this time to ask questions and get comfortable with the process.

Practical Tips for Using FAM

  • Daily Tracking: Make it a habit to track your body temperature, cervical mucus, and menstrual cycle daily.
  • Use Apps Cautiously: There are various apps and devices to help track your cycle, but none are officially recommended by the NHS. Ensure you understand the basics before relying on technology.
  • Consistent Monitoring: For the best results, be consistent with your monitoring and recording.

Practical Tips for Using LAM

  • Strict Feeding Schedule: Adhere strictly to the breastfeeding schedule to maintain the method’s effectiveness.
  • Monitor Changes: Be aware of any changes in your menstrual cycle or feeding patterns that might affect the reliability of LAM.

Talking to Your Healthcare Provider

Discuss your interest in natural family planning with your doctor, nurse, or midwife. They can help you determine if NFP is suitable for you and provide the necessary training. They can also advise on alternative contraception methods if NFP isn’t a good fit.

Final Thoughts

Natural family planning can be an effective way to prevent pregnancy when used correctly. Understanding fertility awareness and lactational amenorrhea methods, tracking your body’s signals, and seeking professional guidance are key steps. While NFP requires commitment and consistency, it offers a natural alternative to traditional contraceptives. If you’re considering NFP, let’s discuss any questions or concerns you might have to ensure you make an informed decision.

Related Post Here: The Importance of Family Planning: A Pathway to Healthier Families and Communities