If you have unprotected sex directly before, during, or after ovulation, the egg can become fertilized by sperm to create a baby. Usually, around the same time each month, the female’s ovaries release an egg. The unfertilized egg travels through the fallopian tubes toward the uterus where it lives for up to 12 hours. If sperm does not fertilize the egg during ovulation, the woman’s body sheds it during menstruation.

Partners and spouses alike have been using natural family planning (NFP) for decades to help get pregnant. The methods do not involve fertility devices or medication but rely on what time during the month to have sexual intercourse based on ovulation. While most couples choose natural family planning for religious or other personal reasons, there are several things to consider during this journey. Check out these ten tips for natural family planning.

Start Early

Whether you are currently married, practicing abstinence, or somewhere in between, you can start tracking your natural cycle today. After all, it will take a while for you to get the hang of the three different natural family planning methods. It might seem pretty straightforward to figure out the schedule, but it will take a little work. Think about it: filing taxes, planning a diet, or building furniture all come with instructions, but they still take a bit of effort. Since you have a limited window of opportunity to practice the methods each month, it might take several times before you find the pattern. When you are ready to actually put the methods to use for planning or preventing pregnancy, you can look back on a year of cycles. You might notice changes during stressful times such as sickness or demanding events, which will make you happy you started so soon. You will be that much closer to discovering a reliable flow and perfecting the methods.



Learn How to Chart Your Menstruation

One of the three methods for natural family planning is tracking your periods every month (or 28 days). Using a calendar, notate the day you start your cycle, which is considered day one. Ovulation happens on the 14th day of your cycle. As you continue to follow the beginning and end of menstruation, you will be able to predict what days you are most fertile. This can help in either planning or prevent a pregnancy. After understanding how to chart fertility, just start keeping track. This natural family planning is trickier than it sounds. With abnormal periods, it can be difficult to track an accurate ovulation pattern. However, just continue making notes month after month, and your descriptions will become more reliable over time.



Understand Everyone is Unique

Now take everything you just learned about charting your menstrual cycle for natural family planning and forget it. Well, not everything, but at least the numbers. Although the typical woman has her period every 28 days with ovulation on the 14th day, you might be far from average. That is why it is so important to start the process early. It may take several months or even a year, but you will be able to figure out what your normal chart looks like. After all, no two people are the same. It might be easier for you to track your menstruation using a smartphone application instead of the traditional pen and paper.

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Explore Other Charting Ideas

While most people might already know the first natural family planning method, there are other ways to track your ovulation besides the flow of menstruation. However, they both require monthly evaluations of the female body. Also referred to as the mucus method, you can track your cervical mucus changes. This bodily fluid will become clear, stretchy, and slick during ovulation. The mucus almost resembles the appearance and texture of an uncooked egg white. You should track the consistency of the mucus each day to discover your ovulation pattern.



Try the Symptothermal Method

The third natural family planning method involves taking the daily basal body temperature (BBT) using a specific thermometer. A regular BBT is around 97 to 98 degrees. However, during ovulation, it will rise between 0.5 and 1 degree. You can measure the temperature via mouth, rectum, or vagina. The best time to check the BBT is in the morning before you get out of bed. Not only should you use the thermometer, in the same way, every time, but you should aim to take the temperature at the same time, too. It might be beneficial to do the symptothermal method and the other two natural family planning methods simultaneously. Besides that, you can also follow other monthly symptoms such as bloating, tender breasts, and abdominal cramps to better track ovulation for natural family planning.



Talk to Your Gynecologist or NFP Instructor

Did you know there are natural family planning instructors that can help you and your family through the journey? You can attend teaching sessions and learn how to use the three methods already discussed accurately. The NFP instructor will also analyze your charts and help you continue to track your ovulation confidently. You can consult with your NFP instructor if you have any questions. Your gynecologist can also help talk to you about tracking your fertility.



Find Other Support

Besides medical professionals, you can also look for support from your family and close friends. It’s important, to be honest, and open with your spouse or partner as you go through natural family planning to address any concerns. However, you can talk to loved ones who have already been down this road. If you don’t have someone in your everyday life to reach out to then consider joining an online social group that was created for this specific topic. It’s always good to know you are not alone.



Make Goals With Realistic Expectations

It’s important to note that natural family planning does not always prevent or plan a pregnancy. In fact, gynecologists suggest that if you are using the methods to prevent pregnancy, the success rate is around 90%. Likewise, if you are trying to get pregnant, two out of three couples are successful at becoming fertile through natural family planning. You need to follow the methods completely to have NFP work effectively. There is no set time in which you should or should not get pregnant using natural family planning. It might take several months if you don’t have other fertility issues.



Have Backup Contraceptives

Although many couples use natural family planning to get pregnant, they also use these methods to prevent pregnancy. Since it is free, it is the cheapest form of contraceptives compared to condoms. There are no side effects as there are with other types of birth control. Nevertheless, depending on your religious beliefs, you might want to have backup contraceptives. Keep in mind that medication, breastfeeding, and other factors can offset your charts. Whether you simply cannot chart your ovulation accurately or you forget to track it, you will want to prevent pregnancy using other methods of birth control. Sometimes, lust gets the best of us; if you are ovulating and do not want to get pregnant, you will have to make a decision.



Believe in Yourself

If you have a big family in this modern world, your loved ones may not understand your decision to continue having children. Likewise, certain families beg their children to have more grandkids. People often have strong opinions about the reasoning and effectiveness of natural family planning. However, whatever you and your spouse decide is what matters. Do not feel bad for taking this opportunity to track your ovulation. Trust in yourself and your body, even if you are having trouble with the methods.



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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.