With the heightened awareness of the dangers of prescription birth control, more women are looking into natural methods of birth control. Although no method of contraception prevention is 100% guaranteed, aside from abstinence, but natural methods are much safer and healthier for a woman’s body.
Natural Methods of Birth Control
Natural methods of contraception do not include any mechanical method and are not the result of hormone manipulation. Instead, a natural method relies on fertility awareness, or the knowledge of when a woman ovulates each month. Based on her ovulation cycle, a couple can then determine when abstaining from sexual activity is necessary.
Understanding the Ovulation Cycle
The female body releases an egg approximately 14 days (plus or minus two) before the next menstrual cycle begins. Generally, one egg is released each month. Does this mean there is only one day that a woman can become pregnant? Actually, no. The egg survives and is able to be fertilized for 3-4 days after ovulation. Also, the sperm can live anywhere from 48 hours to 5 days. With that information, we can see that pregnancy can actually occur at any time during an entire week long span. Of course, there are variables, such as the strength of the sperm, but generally speaking, it’s important to understand that avoiding pregnancy is more than simply abstaining from sexual intercourse for one or two days per month.
Methods of Natural Birth Control
There are several methods of birth control that are 100% natural. The most popular are the Calendar Rhythm Method and the Basal Body Temperature Method.
- Calendar Rhythm – This method relies on calculating a woman’s period of fertility on the calendar. In order to begin this method, you’ll need to first track your last twelve menstrual cycles. Based on these twelve previous cycles, this method involves subtracting 18 days from the shortest menstrual cycle to determine the first fertile day. The next step is to subtract 11 days from the longest menstrual cycle. This will provide the last fertile day. Once this math is completed, you have the information to calculate the total number of days, or time period in which ovulation is expected. How effective is this method? Studies have shown it to be about 80% effective in preventing pregnancy, although many consider this method to be outdated.
- Basal Body Temperature – This birth control method, also known as BBT, is based on the fact that between 12 and 24 hours before ovulation occurs, a woman’s body temperature will drop. How much will it drop? About 1 degree.
How does it work? You’ll need to take your temperature every morning at approximately the same time and record the results. There are special thermometers that can be purchased for the BBT method that are more sensitive. To use this method, a woman should abstain from intercourse from the time her temperature drops, until it returns to normal.
Many women choose to combine the BBT and the Calendar Method. Combining the information of both can be a better idea than using one method alone.
Other Natural Birth Control Methods
The mucus inspection method can be used along with the Calendar Method and the BBT. It depends on looking for the presence of a certain type of mucus or discharge that is produced due to the presence of estrogen.
Larger amounts of watery mucus (which can be compared in appearance to a raw egg white) is released just before ovulation occurs. This cervical mucus stretches for about an inch when pulled. A woman who wishes to use this as a sign of ovulation will need to become familiar with, and recognize the differences in the appearance of her discharge throughout the month. This can be done by regularly examining its appearance on underwear or toilet tissue. Once a woman learns to recognize the changes, she should refrain from intercourse during the time period when the mucus is thicker and more elastic in nature.
Ovulation test kits can be purchased which measure the amount of LH (luteinizing hormone) present in a woman’s body. Because this hormone promotes an egg in the ovary to mature, LH generally increases 20-48 hours just before ovulation. The test kit measures LH through a urine test and displays the strength or increase in LH by changing to certain color levels. Once the LH hormone is detected, a woman should refrain from sexual intercourse. Once the ovulation period is complete, LH will no longer be detected.
A word should be said about the Withdrawal Method, which is also called coitus interruptus. Although many couples practice this method, which requires the man to withdraw his penis from the woman’s vagina just before he ejaculates, it is generally not recommended. The withdrawal method is best used in conjunction with one of the other methods described above. One of the reasons for the failure of this method is due to the fact that a small amount of sperm can be released from the penis during sexual intercourse, before ejaculation actually occurs.
Methods that are Actually Myths
A couple of methods, which are not methods at all (but should be referred to as myths) involve douching and urination after intercourse. Neither of these will prevent pregnancy. Another myth is that a woman cannot become pregnant while lactating or breastfeeding. While a nursing woman may not ovulate as often, she still can become pregnant. Nursing doesn’t prevent ovulation.
Whichever method above you choose, remember, there is always a chance that natural birth control methods may not work as you would like. The only 100% proven way to prevent pregnancy is by abstinence.