About natural family planning
Natural family planning teaches you when you can have sex every month without contraception with a reduced risk of pregnancy. It is sometimes called fertility awareness.
Depending on how accurately it is used, up to one in four women using natural family planning may get pregnant. This is why you must make sure you speak to a specialist rather than reading and learning about the method from a book.
How it works
You are taught to look out for certain body signs and symptoms that indicate fertility so you can work out when you’re likely to be fertile and likely to get pregnant if you have sex.
Three things you will need to monitor are:
- Your body temperature (daily readings)
- Changes to your vaginal discharge
- The length of your menstrual cycle
The average menstrual cycle length is 28 days but some women have longer or shorter cycles. Your menstrual cycle begins on the first day of your period (bleed) to the day before your next period starts.
How to use it
A qualified teacher will show you how to spot signs to predict your fertile time of the month. During this fertile time, you will avoid sex or use a barrier method of contraception like a condom.
To find out more about the fertility signs and to download fertility charts see the recommended links at the end of this page.
If you have used the morning after pill (emergency contraceptive pill), you need to wait for two complete menstrual cycles before relying on natural family planning again.
Who can use it
Most women can use natural family planning if they have regular cycles and if they are properly trained by a teacher in fertility awareness and keep accurate records.
However, it is not recommended as contraception, or as your only method of contraception, if you:
- Have a medical condition that makes becoming pregnant dangerous for you
- Have a temporary or long-term condition that disrupts the normal fertility signs
- Have irregular periods, which makes predicting your fertile time hard or impossible
- Take medication known to disrupt fertility signs
- Have a higher risk of catching an STI – e.g. if you have lots of sexual partners
There are many advantages to using natural family planning:
- No side effects, chemicals or physical products
- Acceptable to all faiths and cultures
- Once you have learned the techniques, there should be no further need for input from health professionals
- Increases your body awareness so you know what’s normal. This helps you to avoid pregnancy and to become pregnant
- Your partner can be involved, which can help feelings of closeness and trust
It’s also worth bearing in mind that natural family planning:
- Does not protect against STIs
- Can be much less effective than other methods of contraception
- Requires you and your partner to avoid sex or use contraception during your fertile period which can be up to 16 days per month
- Can take a while to be confident identifying your fertile time, putting you at risk while you’re learning
- Requires you to insert a finger into your vagina at certain times of the month, which some people may feel uncomfortable with
- Relies on you keeping a daily record of your fertility signs which can be disrupted by lots of things including stress, travel and illness
- Is not suitable if you usually have irregular periods
Where to get it
Natural Family planning is something you must learn from a qualified teacher.
GP surgeries, sexual health and contraception clinics often don’t teach this, but should be able to signpost you in the right direction. You may need to find your own teacher and some charge a fee. Check out the useful links below for more information.
- Fertility UK has lots information on all aspects of fertility awareness and instructors in your local area as well as Fertility education and training charts
- The Family Planning Association’s has an excellent Guide to Natural Family Planning. This contains more information on the menstrual cycle, recording signs of fertility and frequently asked questions
- NHS Choices provide information on all the different contraceptive methods including natural family planning