While a few years ago the pill was used almost exclus­ively as a hor­monal con­tra­cept­ive, body aware­ness has changed con­sid­er­ably recently. The trend is now that more and more people want to use con­tra­cep­tion without hor­mones and stop tak­ing the pill after years of use. This is because hor­monal con­tra­cept­ive meth­ods influ­ence the hor­mone bal­ance and can have vari­ous side effects. But what safe altern­at­ives are there to tak­ing the pill? Con­dom, which is one of the bar­rier meth­ods, is also widely used. How­ever, if you want it to be even more nat­ural, Nat­ural Fam­ily Plan­ning can teach you to inter­pret vari­ous body sig­nals cor­rectly and to use addi­tional con­tra­cept­ives only on the fer­tile days. 

Con­tra­cep­tion without hormones

Nat­ural Fam­ily Plan­ning (NFP) includes all con­tra­cept­ive meth­ods that do not influ­ence hor­mones or the body in gen­eral. There­fore, there are no phys­ical side effects. Although fam­ily plan­ning is included in the name of these hor­mone-free meth­ods, they are suit­able for both plan­ning and avoid­ing preg­nancy. How­ever, suc­cess­ful applic­a­tion requires prac­tice and time, strong body aware­ness and a con­scious exam­in­a­tion of one’s own body. The hor­mone-free con­tra­cept­ive meth­ods are based on the nat­ural men­strual cycle and use vari­ous cri­teria to determ­ine when ovu­la­tion occurs. This makes it pos­sible to determ­ine both the approx­im­ately five to six fer­tile and the remain­ing infer­tile days in the men­strual cycle of a men­stru­at­ing per­son. If there is no desire to have chil­dren, addi­tional con­tra­cep­tion is used on the fer­tile days using bar­rier meth­ods such as con­doms. By con­sciously observing the cycle, a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the own body is developed.

What meth­ods of nat­ural fam­ily plan­ning are used? 

Hor­mone-free con­tra­cep­tion as part of nat­ural fam­ily plan­ning includes the Billings method, the tem­per­at­ure method and the symp­to­thermal method. 

1. Billings method

With this method the change in the nature of the cer­vical mucus is observed every day dur­ing the men­strual cycle. Shortly before and around ovu­la­tion, the con­sist­ency of the mucus changes. This allows the fer­tile days of the cycle to be determ­ined. On the fer­tile days, the cer­vical mucus tends to be rather thin and more abund­ant. This has nat­ural advant­ages. It is a nat­ural lub­ric­ant so that the sperm are optim­ally trans­ferred to the uterus. On infer­tile days, the cer­vical mucus tends to be thick, inelastic or not present at all. In any case, it takes prac­tice to cor­rectly cat­egor­ize the cer­vical mucus and to determ­ine the dif­fer­ences. The ana­lysis of the cer­vical mucus can be done dur­ing a nor­mal visit to the toi­let and will hap­pen nat­ur­ally over time. 

2. Tem­per­at­ure method

With this method, the basal body tem­per­at­ure is meas­ured orally every day. The basal tem­per­at­ure is the body tem­per­at­ure meas­ured for three minutes imme­di­ately after wak­ing up in the morn­ing and before get­ting up. The basal body tem­per­at­ure changes dur­ing the men­strual cycle. Shortly after ovu­la­tion it rises by a few tenths of a degree for at least three days in a row. Con­sequently ovu­la­tion and the fer­tile days can be determ­ined ret­ro­spect­ively. In this way, the fol­low­ing infer­tile days can be con­cluded as well. Since the basal body tem­per­at­ure changes only very slightly, it is import­ant to use a ther­mo­meter with two decimal places. 

3. Symp­to­thermal method

With this method, both the changes in basal body tem­per­at­ure and the changes in cer­vical mucus are doc­u­mented and inter­preted together. It is thus a com­bin­a­tion of the tem­per­at­ure method with the Billings method. There­fore this mixed method is best suited for Nat­ural Fam­ily Planning.

How do I keep track of Nat­ural Fam­ily Planning?

For Nat­ural Fam­ily Plan­ning vari­ous char­ac­ter­ist­ics, such as basal body tem­per­at­ure and the com­pos­i­tion of the cer­vical mucus, must be observed daily. Addi­tion­ally the first and last day of men­stru­ation are also doc­u­mented. In the course of the men­strual cycle, other para­met­ers, such as mood swings, can be recor­ded as well. This requires dis­cip­line, because only with con­tinu­ous and con­scien­tious doc­u­ment­a­tion can these meth­ods provide certainty.

The greater the period of time when data is recor­ded for nat­ural fam­ily plan­ning, the greater the cer­tainty of avoid­ing an unwanted pregnancy.

The ana­lysis and doc­u­ment­a­tion of the data can be done either ana­log or digital. For example, a men­strual cal­en­dar, a cycle app or a cycle com­puter can be used for this. How­ever, it is advis­able to start by record­ing the data in a men­strual cal­en­dar in the tra­di­tional way and to learn to eval­u­ate the char­ac­ter­ist­ics independently.

Learn­ing how to use the Nat­ural Fam­ily Plan­ning method

In order to learn NFP cor­rectly, con­scious obser­va­tion of one’s own body is very import­ant. There are for example trained NFP con­sult­ants to provide indi­vidual advice and inform­a­tion. Of course there are also good books to read about the topic inde­pend­ently. Here are two recom­men­ded readings:

And what kind of con­tra­cep­tion are you using?

Feel free to tell us about your per­sonal exper­i­ences with dif­fer­ent con­tra­cept­ive meth­ods in the com­ments or in a private mes­sage. What is your favour­ite method of con­tra­cep­tion? What works well for you? And which meth­ods have you already tried? We look for­ward to hear­ing from you!

Hin­weis: Wie auch die hor­mon­el­len Ver­hü­tungs­mit­tel, schützen auch die Meth­oden der natür­lichen Fam­i­li­en­planung nicht vor sexuell über­trag­baren Krankheiten.

Britta Wiebe, period education, Vulvani
Co-Founder Vul­vani | britta@vulvani.com | Web­site | + posts

Britta Wiebe is the co-founder of Vul­vani. She loves research­ing, writ­ing and design­ing new art­icles or innov­at­ive edu­ca­tional con­cepts about men­stru­ation all day long. When she is not trav­el­ling the world, she enjoys spend­ing time with her loved ones in the beau­ti­ful city of Ham­burg in Germany.