Heather Franke, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, wanted to find a better form of birth control, one that wouldn't fill her body with chemicals or hormones and one that wouldn't send her searching for contraptions in the middle of making love. Most of all, she wanted to find something that was natural. For many couples like the Frankes, pills and condoms are not the answer to controlling family size. Instead, they turn to an often-misunderstood method called natural family planning (NFP).
Natural Family Planning Methods
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), there are two methods of natural family planning. The first method is based on ovulation. A woman practicing this method of natural family planning examines her cervical mucous every day in order to discover changes that are indicative of ovulation. When those changes occur, the couple knows to avoid intercourse.
The second method is called the symptothermal method and is arguably the more effective method. Here, a woman checks and records her temperature every morning, looking for the slight rise that occurs at ovulation. She also examines and notes any changes in cervical mucous.
Both methods are effective at preventing pregnancy. The AAFP places that effectiveness at as high as 98 percent. But it is important to stress that to achieve this level of pregnancy prevention, natural family planning must be learned from an experienced instructor and must be done properly.
According to Dr. Susan Dantoni, an OB-GYN in Geneva, New York, "properly" means correctly figuring out the most fertile times and then avoiding intercourse during those days.
The Pros of NFP
Kathy McConnell, of Baltimore, Maryland, and her husband chose natural family planning, in part because of their religious beliefs. Once they received instruction, McConnell, who had irregular menstrual cycles, enjoyed more benefits than simply pregnancy protection. "I can be absolutely clear when I will get my period," she says. "Counting from ovulation is exact once you figure out your own body's cycle."
Not only was McConnell satisfying her religious beliefs, she was also keeping her body free from hormones and chemicals. Most of all, McConnell was learning valuable information about her body—information that actually helped her get pregnant."We conceived our first child using NFP," McConnell says. "I knew that if we had sex on a certain night, the likelihood [of getting pregnant] was great."
Another advantage is that natural family planning opens the doors of communication. Birth control becomes the responsibility of both partners, since the results of charting must be discussed, and the couple must decide whether or not to engage in romantic encounters at that time.
Natural family planning is economical, too. Instruction is available through local churches, and fees are usually negotiable if money is tight. The special thermometers can be purchased online for $10. After that, an inexpensive book of charts is all you need to follow the program.