Blog, Parenting

Natural Family Planning

Well, hello!  To add to the topics that make my family members embarrassed to call me their own and might even got some feathers ruffled, today I share with you some information on family planning.
Yes, family planning.

*waves hello to all the family members reading this post (you all can turn around now if this is TMI)*
My life has been a learning forum, and this blog, in part, is used to share useful information.

Since I share candidly on this topic with friends and have even taught courses on it overseas, this is some information I may as well publicly share with the blogosphere.

Many of you remember that I’ve never been anxious for India to sleep through the night.  In fact, many times I set my alarm and woke her up to nurse, to keep my cycles at bay. That method of family planning, falls into the category of Lactational Ammenorrhea, and I was quite successful at it!  As cute as India was, I didn’t want another little one running around.  Between nursing frequently and because I had previously tracked my cycles, I knew what signs normally meant my body was getting ready to ovulate.  I won’t be covering lactational ammenorrhea in this post, but instead will focus on others methods of natural birth control.

Natural Family Planning (NFP), as it’s most commonly known, is also known as the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), sypmtothermal method, charting method, or the Pull ‘n Pray method.  It can be a very effective tool for avoiding or achieving pregnancy.  For the ease of everyone, I’ll refer to these symptom-based methods as FAM, since that’s what method I’m familiar with.

In short, FAM is exactly what it’s called: being aware of your body and your fertility.  Through a course of monitoring your body’s signs you can know much about your body.

Some people get headaches regularly, which can often be tracked back to ovulation.  Others can easily explain how, after using FAM, they were able to figure out their luteal phase was too short.  I’ve heard several stories of women who have tried to get pregnant, but didn’t until they tracked their cycles.

How does it work?

Calendar-based: Based on the assumption that a woman’s cycle is 28 days long, ovulation is estimated at Day 14.  Days 8-19 are considered fertile days.  While this has a 95% effective rate, I personally would have been pregnant years ago had I just gone off the calendar.

Symptothermal: Using a woman’s cycle as the base of calculations, a combination of symptoms are observed: daily temperatures recorded upon waking, cervical mucous, cervical position and opening, and some consult ovulation tests for added confirmation.  It sounds like a lot of work but it really takes less than 5 minutes a day during your most fertile point.  As you approach ovulation, you either practice abstinence or take some sort of preventative measure.  Ovulation is confirmed with a rise in your basal body temperature.

Does it work?

If you do FAM guessing on dates, skip taking your temperatures and having lots of “oops” sex, the answer is: no.  There is a church in my town in which many of the newly married women practice some sort of calendar or symptoms based method.  I’m friends with several of these women and it became quite a joke as one by one, most got pregnant fairly quickly after getting married.  We’d laugh together as they would share their “oops” stories!  Many of them will tell you it doesn’t work.

However, if you are aware of your body (which after 3 – 4 months you will know your cycle VERY well), FAM can work well at preventing or achieving pregnancy.  Some studies have found that there is a 99.6% effectiveness rate!

Why not just take the pill?

Because I wanted my body to function as intended (which includes ovulation), I wasn’t comfortable taking the Pill, getting an IUD or taking any shots, and I chose FAM.  I wanted to be natural and aware of my body.  Suppressing ovulation, stopping something my body is supposed to do, didn’t seem like a great idea to me.  I also wasn’t comfortable with the fact that sometimes those methods of birth control fail and don’t suppress ovulation.  When that happens, fertilization of an egg is possible, thus creating a little life.  However, the above methods of birth control make your uterine lining inhospitable, making it very difficult for the fertilized egg, or in my opinion, a new life, to implant and therefore, greatly increases your chance of spontaneous abortion.  Of course, we all hear stories and know women who get pregnant on the pill or with an IUD, and deliver a healthy baby.  There’s a lot of ifs and thens, but because of these two reasons, I’ve decided to stick with FAM for the last 10 years.

Yes, 10 years.  So, yes, I’d say it’s been very effective at preventing and achieving pregnancy!   Perhaps I’ll post more on that in the future.  But for the people who say it’s impossible: I’m here to tell you, it’s not.

OK, so where do I start?

I think the best resource on any symptothermal method is Toni Weschler’s book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility.  It’s the most comprehensive guide and takes a very balanced approach (unlike traditional NFP which doesn’t allow for barrier methods).  Reading this post or even reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility can seem so daunting, but really, it’s not that difficult to grasp.  The first month or two, as you’re learning your body, be sure to use some sort of barrier method unless you’re absolutely positive you’re not fertile.  As you get more comfortable with the course of your cycles, you’ll quickly know, through observation and temping, when you’re ovulating.  Many women also use Fertility Friend to easily monitor their cycles and I noticed they even have an easy online primer course to get started!