The practice of natural family planning (NFP) involves a woman observing and charting multiple signs of fertility. These signs change throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle, reflecting her hormone levels on any given day. With the SymptoPro sympto-thermal method of NFP (taught by Wellspring Fertility Education), the two primary signs of fertility that one observes are basal body temperature and cervical mucus, noticed by tissue and sensation. By recording these signs on a chart, a woman can determine which days of her cycle are potentially fertile, and then either abstain from intercourse on those days if she is avoiding pregnancy, or have intercourse if she is trying to conceive. The method is free to use, has zero side effects, and is over 99% effective when practiced correctly. So what’s the catch?
Well, some women and couples are intimidated when first considering NFP. Maybe the couple is overwhelmed by the sheer amount of new information. Maybe a woman is uncertain if she will be able to correctly interpret her chart. Like any new skill, NFP does require practice and patience in order to build confidence. To help out, I’ve put together some helpful tips and tricks to give you peace of mind and success.
1. Establish a routine
Practicing NFP may seem like it involves a lot of extra work, but building fertility observation habits into your daily routine can soon make it second nature. Set your alarm for the same time every day. Leave your chart by your bedside. Check your mucus every time you use the bathroom. Notice your sensation every time you pause to eat, check your phone, or some other task you do throughout the day. Write your observations down once at the end of the night. After a week or two these once unfamiliar actions will turn into habits, and will be almost impossible to forget. You’ll soon get your stride. Remember, the total time it takes to observe your fertility signs and record them on your chart should only take about 2 minutes a day!
2. Leave the thermometer in
As I mentioned above, one of your fertility signs is your basal body temperature. This is simply your body’s resting temperature taken first thing upon waking. Charting your temperature pattern reflects your body’s progesterone levels, which allows you to confirm the end of your fertile window.
Most women are able to detect a classic bi-phasic (two level) temperature pattern after charting their very first cycle. However, for good measure and added accuracy, it’s a good idea to leave the thermometer in your mouth for an extra minute after the beep. This is because modern digital thermometers are designed for speed, but will continue reading your temperature and may even adjust a tenth of a degree or two after it’s ‘done’. This is important, since temperature shifts during your cycle are often quite slight. Letting the thermometer finish reading can help to clarify your pattern and make your chart easier to interpret.
3. Get support
I personally feel that NFP is the best form of family planning – it’s why I do what I do! No other method has such a combination of high effectiveness, low cost, no side effects and user satisfaction.
But it does involve a learning curve, and this can leave some couples afraid to try or trust the method. This is why it’s so important to have a qualified instructor leading you through the learning process. Once you learn the method and get to know your individual cycles, determining your fertile and infertile times is fairly simple. But if you have questions, concerns, or a change in circumstances (breastfeeding, perimenopause, irregular cycles), being able to ask your instructor for help can give you extra confidence and prevent you from second guessing yourself.
Another wonderful resource is to find a supportive community of other NFP users. In the Fox Cities area, Elizabeth Ministry International hosts a monthly NFP group for women to share experiences, advice and fellowship. If you don’t have something like this in your community, there are wonderful groups online and on social media that provide a safe place to find information and support.
To learn more about natural family planning and how to get started, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through this page.
photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos(photostock and khunaspix)