Birth Control Options
Natural Family Planning
What is it?
Natural family planning methods rely on a woman's knowledge and awareness of her body and menstrual cycle to avoid pregnancy. They do not rely on contraceptive devices, hormones or barrier methods to provide birth control.
There are many variations of natural family planning methods including: Calendar, Ovulation, Sympto-Thermal, Post-Ovulation, and Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM). For more detailed information on these methods and how they work, visit any of the following websites:
- Serena Canada - Serena is Canadian organization of people who use and promote the Sympto-Thermal method of natural family planning.
- Billings Ovulation Method - The Billings Ovulation Method is a natural method of fertility regulation that teaches couples when intercourse can result in conception and when it cannot.
- Justisse - The goal of Justisse is to teach every woman how to observe, chart and make sense of her menstrual cycle events, thereby giving women the skills to use fertility awareness methods of natural birth control.
- The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) – WABA fosters a strong and cohesive breastfeeding movement including support for LAM when appropriate.
How does it work?
A woman learns how to monitor her monthly cycle by tracking the days on a calendar and/or by taking her temperature and/or by monitoring changes to her cervical mucus. This information helps her determine when her body releases an egg (ovulates). Ovulation is when a woman is most likely to become pregnant from intercourse. Couples wishing to avoid pregnancy should then abstain from intercourse during those fertile days.
LAM works when the female hormone, prolactin, is at a level high enough to stop ovulation. LAM can only be relied upon as an effective method of birth control for postpartum women when: 1. the baby is less than 6 months old 2. the mother’s menstrual periods have not returned and 3. the baby is fully or nearly fully breast fed meaning the baby breastfeeds at least every four hours during the day and at least every six hours at night.
How effective is it?
The effectiveness of natural family planning varies depending on the method used, the ability of the couple to identify the woman's actual fertile window, and the couple's ability to follow the instructions of the method they are using.
The Sympto-Thermal method is 95-98% effective when it is used perfectly. With typical use it is 75-88% effective; when the couple doesn't follow the rules of the method perfectly all the time.
LAM can be up to 98% effective when it is used exactly as directed.
What are the advantages?
- The woman will become familiar with her body and menstrual cycles
- The information collected can be used later to plan a pregnancy
- No negative health side effects
- An alternative method for women who cannot or do not want to use hormonal methods of birth control
- Fosters communication between partners
- Consistent with many religious beliefs and lifestyles
- LAM does not interfere with the production of breast milk
What are the disadvantages?
- Requires willpower, periodic abstinence, and motivation
- Takes time and effort to learn to use the method properly
- Does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases
- Reduces spontaneity
- Not an option for women who have irregular menstrual cycles or who are post-partum (calendar method)
- LAM can only be used by postpartum women who are exclusively breastfeeding and only for up to six months