Contraception is defined as the intentional prevention of pregnancy through the use of various methods, are a type of birth control that relies on observations about the woman’s body and menstrual cycle. These methods are sexual practices, chemicals, drugs, or surgical procedures. Thus, any device or act whose purpose is to prevent a woman from becoming pregnant can be considered as a contraceptive.
Natural contraceptive is a method of preventing pregnancy without the use of medications or physical devices. These concepts are based on awareness and observations about a woman’s body and menstrual cycle. Natural methods of contraception are considered “natural” because they are not mechanical and not a result of hormone manipulation. Instead, these methods to prevent pregnancy require that a man and woman not have sexual intercourse during the time when an egg is available to be fertilized by a sperm. Natural methods of contraception are considered “natural” because they are not mechanical and not a result of hormone manipulation. Instead, these methods to prevent pregnancy require that a man and woman not have sexual intercourse during the time when an egg is available to be fertilized by a sperm.
The fertility awareness methods (FAMs) are based upon knowing when a woman ovulates each month. In order to use a FAM, it is necessary to watch for the signs and symptoms that indicate ovulation has occurred or is about to occur.
On the average, the egg is released about 14 (plus or minus 2) days before a woman’s next menstrual period. But because the egg survives 3 to 4 days (6 to 24 hours after ovulation) and the sperm can live 48 to 72 hours (up to even 5 days in fertile mucus), the actual time during which a woman may become pregnant is measured not in hours, not in days, but in weeks.
FAMS can be up to 98% effective, but they require a continuous and conscious commitment with considerable monitoring and self-control. Although these methods were developed to prevent pregnancy, they can equally be well used by a couple to increase fertility and promote conception.
Birth Control Methods, Side Effects, and Effectiveness
There are a variety of birth control options, and it can be confusing when choosing the option that works best for you and your partner. Questions to ask yourself when considering birth control options are
- How important is STD (sexually transmitted diseases) protection?
- How effective is the birth control type or option?
- What are the side effects of the type of birth control?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of the type of birth control?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of natural birth control?
Natural methods are typically very inexpensive compared to other methods of birth control unless a woman chooses to purchase ovulation test kits.
Advantages of natural contraception
- A woman does not need to take medication or use hormonal manipulation.
- No procedures or fittings by a physician are required.
Disadvantages of natural contraception include
- It can be difficult to estimate or know precisely when a woman is fertile, allowing increased chances for unplanned conception.
- Natural methods are not as effective as some forms of contraception.
- Ovulation test kits are used by some couples using natural methods of contraception, and the cost of these kits is another potential disadvantage.
- Being unable to have intercourse at certain times of the month is a disadvantage for some women.
The Types of natural contraceptive methods
Calendar rhythm method
The calendar rhythm method to avoid pregnancy relies upon calculating a woman’s fertile period on the calendar. Based upon her 12 previous menstrual cycles, a woman subtracts l8 days from her shortest menstrual cycle to determine her first fertile day, and 11 days from her longest menstrual cycle to determine her last fertile day. She can then calculate the total number of days during which she may ovulate. If a woman’s menstrual cycles are quite irregular from month to month, there will be a greater number of days during which she might become pregnant.
The calendar method is only about 80% effective in preventing pregnancy and when used alone, it is considered outdated and ineffective.
Basal body temperature method
The basal body temperature (BBT) method is based upon the fact that a woman’s temperature drops 12 to 24 hours before an egg is released from her ovary and then increases again once the egg has been released. Unfortunately, this temperature difference is not very large. It is less than 1 degree F (about a half degree C) when the body is at rest.
The basal body temperature method requires that a woman take her temperature every morning before she gets out of bed. A special thermometer that is more accurate and sensitive than a typical oral thermometer must be used, and the daily temperature variations carefully noted. This must be done every month. Online calculators are available to help a woman chart her basal body temperature.
To use the basal body temperature as a birth control method, a woman should refrain from having sexual intercourse from the time her temperature drops until at least 48 to72 hours after her temperature increases again.
Mucus inspection method
The mucus inspection method depends on the presence or absence of a particular type of cervical mucus that a woman produces in response to estrogen. A woman will generate larger amounts of more watery mucus than usual (like raw egg white) just before release of an egg from her ovary. This so-called egg-white cervical mucus (EWCM) stretches for up to an inch when pulled apart. A woman can learn to recognize differences in the quantity and quality of her cervical mucus by examining its appearance on her underwear, pads, and toilet tissue; or she may gently remove a sample of mucus from the vaginal opening using two fingers.
She may choose to have intercourse between the time of her last menstrual period and the time of change in the cervical mucus. During this period, it is recommended that she have sexual intercourse only every other day because the presence of seminal fluid makes it more difficult to determine the nature of her cervical mucus. If the woman does not wish to become pregnant, she should not have sexual intercourse at all for 3 to 4 days after she notices the change in her cervical mucus.
The symptothermal method combines certain aspects of the calendar, the basal body temperature, and the mucus inspection methods. Not only are all these factors taken into consideration, but also are other symptoms such as slight cramping and breast tenderness. Some women experience lower abdominal discomfort (in the area of the ovaries) during release of an egg (ovulation).