Natural Family Planning: Be Empowered in Your Fertility

by Rebecca S on July 19, 2020 in Healthy LivingPregnancy

Natural Family Planning:: Be Empowered in Your Fertility

My husband and I don’t use birth control. 

In a world where hormonal birth control and other contraceptives are a hot topic, I always feel a little vulnerable in telling people that. What? You don’t use contraception? Like at all? And when I go on to tell them we use Natural Family Planning, I feel even more self-conscious. Umm, you know the rhythm method doesn’t work, right?

Natural Family Planning {NFP}, also known as Fertility Based Awareness Method {FBAM}, is commonly misunderstood. So, I wanted to set the record straight.

First, it is not the Rhythm Method. That “method” is outdated and scientifically incorrect. Women’s bodies function in a myriad of unique ways, and NFP recognizes that. Second, NFP works by looking at a woman’s fertility signs each month to know when she is fertile or infertile; that is, when she is mostly likely or unlikely to conceive. The science- yes, science- behind reading and charting these signs can help a couple successfully achieve or avoid pregnancy through natural means.

Natural Family Planning Methods

This week is NFP Awareness Week, so I thought it would be a good time to share my journey with NFP with you. There are several available options to practice NFP. This list is certainly not comprehensive, but these are probably the most utilized. Here is a brief rundown::

I am not a doctor or medical professional. I am merely an advocate and supporter for Natural Family Planning and its many benefits. If you are interested in practicing NFP, PLEASE consult a doctor or NFP practitioner.

1.  Sympto-Thermal Method This method is based on observing a variety of fertility biomarkers:: basal body temperature {BBT}, cervical mucus, and cervical position. This is the first method my husband and I learned. Basically, I took my temperature every morning at the same time before I got out of bed and observed any cervical mucus present when I used the restroom. Based on these fertility signs, I could tell when my cycle was about to start, when I had ovulated, and when was a “safe” time to have sex {we were not trying to conceive at that time}. This method was very effective pre-children, when I was less likely to fall ill, wake up at all different times, or be under a large amount of stress. Changes in these factors can affect fertility signs, especially BBT.

2. Creighton Model This method relies on observing changes in cervical mucus, such as color, sensation, stretchiness, quantity, ect. I observe any cervical mucus present throughout the day and charts the most fertile sign; if mucus is present, I finger test it to determine its quality. During a woman’s cycle, the quality of the cervical mucus will change based on whether or not she is fertile at the time. This method utilizes a standardized system of coded numbers to represent the observations. This is helpful when sharing the chart with my doctor, who is a Creighton trained physician, as it gives her a systematic way to help evaluate my cycle {this was especially helpful after my miscarriage}. Creighton doctors are trained in Natural Procreative Technology {NaPro}, an approach that cooperates with a woman’s natural body cycle and can help address issues such as polycystic ovary syndrome {PCOS} and endometriosis.

We currently use Creighton. I know this method sounds incredibly complicated, but once you’ve learned how to read your fertility signs, the process becomes second nature. Bonus:: this is a great method to teach young girls to know and understand their bodies. Regular charting helps women to know what is “normal” for their bodies and can help catch irregularities or problems {such as certain gynecological cancers} early.

3.  Marquette Method This method utilizes an electronic fertility monitor {EFM} with ovulation strips to measure hormone levels in the urine. Using the monitor, a woman can test her urine daily to determine the level of two main fertility hormones, estrogen and luteinizing hormone {LH}, which will indicate whether or not a woman is in her fertile window. This method also teaches a couple to utilize another fertility sign, such as BBT or changes in cervical mucus, in combination with the reading from the EFM, giving them more confidence in identifying their fertile or infertile periods. While I do not have experience in this method, I have friends who enthusiastically endorse Marquette, especially for the post-partum woman. 

4.  Billings Ovulation Method This method also relies on observing cervical mucus. However, unlike Creighton, this method focuses on changes in sensation as a woman wipes, as opposed to the various observations and finger testing, and it does not utilize a standardized system of coding. However, that does not make the method any less effective, though it might be a bit more difficult to discuss a chart with a doctor, as observations are recorded in a way that makes the most sense to the individual woman. While I also do not have experience with his method, I have friends who endorse it for being easy {and free} to learn.

All of these methods are 98-99% effective in avoiding pregnancy, if used correctly. They can each be used to help achieve pregnancy as well. Additionally, all of these methods are effective for post-partum and breastfeeding women, though each method has different protocols for these time periods. I cannot emphasize enough that it is crucial to find a doctor or consultant who can train a couple to use these methods correctly and successfully. As I stated above, we started out using the Sympto-Thermal Method and later switched to Creighton. The method used depends completely on the couple and what works best for them.

Knowledge is Power

These Natural Family Planning methods DO require a certain amount of understanding and knowledge to practice them. It certainly is not as simple as popping a pill every day. I get that. So, why go through the stress of learning one of these methods? I will share our story and experience with you.

Originally, I wanted to practice NFP because of the higher risk of cancer that is associated with hormonal birth control. My mom had breast cancer, so I was cautious about putting unnecessary hormones into my body. In addition, my husband and I are practicing Catholics, and the Catholic Church teaches against separating the procreative and unitive aspects of sex. So, we started to learn about Natural Family Planning.

And what I’ve come to learn about my own body through the practice of NFP is incredible. Women’s bodies are amazing. They are capable of so much. My body has been through two full term pregnancies, childbirth, post-partum, and breastfeeding. My body has been through miscarriage, a D&C, and another, albeit different, post-partum. My body has been through illness, stress, and lack of sleep. And all the while, my body has shown me how it is functioning. I know when I am ovulating. I know when my cycle is about to start. I know if there is something “off” with my body {stress, illness, ect.}. I know if I’m more or less likely to conceive at any given time. And that knowledge is so empowering.

While I have been lucky enough to have a very respectful doctor in regards to women’s health, I know that is not the case for everyone. I’ve read countless stories of women who experience endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome {PCOS}, and a myriad of other gynecological issues, who have gone to the doctor for excruciating pain or hormonal issues, and been summarily dismissed for “female problems”. When a woman is familiar with her body’s cycle and fertility patterns, she can more confidently advocate for herself when it comes to reproductive concerns and questions with her doctor.

Ready to Try Natural Family Planning?

Have I convinced you to try NFP/FBAM? Even if it is not right for your family as a family planning method, I heartily recommend learning about and utilizing one of these methods for women to become familiar with their body’s cycle and patterns. I plan to teach {or have someone teach} my daughter when she starts her cycle, obviously not as a family planning method, but as a way for her to begin recognizing the way her body works. Knowledge is power, and I want her to be knowledgeable and confident about her body. I want her to feel empowered to speak up and advocate for herself if she notices something is off. And mostly, in a world that often looks at women’s bodies as “less than” men’s bodies, I want her to be secure in the knowledge that her body is good and that it functions as it does for a reason.

If you’re interested in learning more about NFP/FBAM, check out the following websites::

FACTS:: Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science

Managing Your Fertility

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Rebecca S

About Rebecca S

Rebecca S. is a born and raised Houstonian; she grew up in Katy, graduated with a BS in Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of Houston {go Coogs!}, and made a home in West Houston with her native Houstonian husband. She quickly realized that the chaotic lifestyle of the hospitality industry was not for her and soon found her calling in education. She taught while earning her masters in Library Science from the University of North Texas. Currently, she is staying home with her son, Thomas {2016}. In her free time, she loves to read, write, run, and roam the world. While her roots are firmly planted in H-town, she takes every available opportunity to go on an adventure and explore historic cities, hike and run new trails, and, of course, try beers from every country. Follow her on Twitter @bcslocum.

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Make sure you grab a copy of my FREE guide Trying To Conceive Language & my FREE Self-Care Mini Course. You can access either one by clicking on the title. These are packed full of information that you can begin implementing today to put yourself one step closer to getting pregnant, naturally.

If you’re looking for a group of like-minded women with which to share your fertility wellness journey, be sure to check out my Whole Body Fertility & Wellness Facebook group today!

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