Birth Control Overview (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
What is the effectiveness of natural or behavioral methods of birth control?
There are a variety of options when choosing a natural or behavioral type of birth control. These include:
Continuous abstinence: Continuous abstinence implies completely refraining from sexual intercourse.
Withdrawal method (coitus interruptus intimate): The withdrawal method involves withdrawal of the entire penis from the vagina before ejaculation (before sperm leaves the penis). Fertilization is prevented because sperm does not contact the female partner's egg. This method remains a significant means of fertility control in less advantaged countries.
Natural Family Planning: Natural Family Planning (NFP), endorsed by the Couple to Couple League, is one of the most widely used methods of fertility regulation, particularly for those whose religious or cultural beliefs do not permit using devices or drugs to prevent pregnancy. This method involves periodic abstinence (no sexual intercourse), with couples attempting to avoid intercourse during a woman's fertile period-around the time of ovulation. Ovulation refers to the release of an egg by one the ovaries during a woman's menstrual cycle. The current method of NFP taught by the Couple to Couple League and other organizations is called the symptothermal method. NFP has advantages and disadvantages:
Fertility Awareness Method: Women who use the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) monitor body temperature and characteristics of cervical mucus similar to those who practice NFP. However, women using FAM may either avoid intercourse or use a backup non-hormonal method of birth control, such as a condom, during the fertile period. Women using the FAM monitor 3 primary fertility signs: basal body (waking) temperature, cervical mucus, and cervical position. Intercourse is not considered "safe" unless all of these conditions are satisfied. It is recommended that 2 full cycles be charted before this method can be relied upon. FAM has advantages and disadvantages.
Rhythm method: Couples who practice the rhythm method, also called the calendar method, decide when to abstain from intercourse based on calendar calculations of the previous 6 menstrual cycles. However, allowances are not made for the normal variations in the menstrual cycle which many women experience. This method is not as reliable as the symptothermal method of NFP or FAM.
Cervical mucus method: Also called the ovulation method, the cervical mucus method involves monitoring changes in cervical mucus, but without also recording basal body temperature and/or menstrual history. The safe period is considered to be any dry mucus days following menstruation, as well as the 10 or 11 days at the end of the cycle. Days of menstrual bleeding are deemed to be safe, but pregnancy has been reported following intercourse during menstruation. Vaginal infections, sexual excitement, lubricants, and certain medications can significantly affect the accuracy of cervical mucus assessment.
Basal body temperature method: This method involves monitoring basal body temperature only, without also observing changes in cervical mucus or other signs. Sex is avoided from the end of the menstrual period until 3 days after the increase in temperature.
Breastfeeding and birth control: After the birth of a child, certain hormones prevent a woman from ovulating if she is breastfeeding. The length of time ovulation is suppressed varies. It depends on how often the woman breastfeeds and the length of time since the baby's birth. Ovulation usually returns after 6 months despite continuous nursing.
Breastfeeding used for birth control is also called the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM). When menstrual period resume following pregnancy, another form of birth control is needed.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/26/2016
Wayne Blocker, MD
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