Whether you're trying to get pregnant, or avoiding it all together, methods and practices used for fertility and contraception differ vastly. There are more modern methods, like birth control and in-vitro fertilization, and more conventional approaches, including natural family planning. Many women follow this approach, but what is the natural family planning method?
The American Pregnancy Association explained that the Natural Family Planning Method (NFP) falls under the umbrella of the Fertility Awareness Method, which uses your observance of your body and menstrual cycles as indicators of fertility.
According to Family Doctor, NFP is an approach to pregnancy planning that includes no medicines or devices, and is used to either help achieve or avoid pregnancy. The website further explained that through monitoring cycles, women can know when to have intercourse, depending on whether they want to get pregnant or not. So instead of using a condom or birth control pills, a woman would avoid sex on her fertile days if she's avoiding a pregnancy, and have more sex on those days if she's trying to conceive.
NFP also involves the use of the Sympto-Thermal Method, explained Couple To Couple League International (CCLI), in which two main methods — checking cervical mucus and tracking basal body temperature — are used to identify fertile and infertile days.
According to Contracept, when it comes to checking and tracking cervical mucus, you're looking for changes in consistency throughout your cycle — when the cervical mucus is like an uncooked egg white (clear, slick, and stretchy), it is an indication that ovulation is occurring. It also involves the practice of checking and tracking your Basal Body Temperature (BBT), and Contracept further noted that your BBT will increase by about one degree when you ovulate, so checking it regularly can help you see when ovulation is occurring.
Another central part of NFP is using the calendar rhythm method, which according to the Mayo Clinic, involves tracking the length and dates of your menstrual periods over time to predict ovulation. The Mayo Clinic further noted that while this method can be somewhat effective in helping you get pregnant, it is not a reliable way to avoid pregnancy.
While it is very similar to the Fertility Awareness Method, according to Flowers Fertility, the Natural Family Planning Method is sometimes viewed as having more of an emphasis on morality that is based in faith and religion, but it doesn't mean that you have to be religious to choose this approach. The reasons for using any method are always based on an individual's personal choice and motivations, so you should always do what is right for you.