Is There a Natural Birth Control?

Reviewed on 4/13/2021

Natural birth control or family planning can be used to prevent pregnancy. These methods include withdrawal during sex, charting periods, tracking cervical mucus, and breastfeeding when there is amenorrhea (lack of a period).
Natural birth control or family planning can be used to prevent pregnancy. These methods include withdrawal during sex, charting periods, tracking cervical mucus, and breastfeeding when there is amenorrhea (lack of a period).

Birth control (contraception) describes methods used to prevent pregnancy. “Natural” birth control, also called natural family planning, is that which does not require medication, devices, or surgery. 

Natural birth control methods are the least effective in preventing pregnancy. None of these methods protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Forms of natural birth control include the following options detailed in the table below.

Natural Birth Control Options
Birth Control Method Details
Withdrawal (also called coitus interruptus)
  • In this method, the man completely removes his penis from the vagina, and away from the external genitalia of the female partner before he ejaculates to prevent sperm from entering the woman’s vagina
  • Couples who use this method should be highly motivated to use it effectively with every act of intercourse

Fertility awareness-based (FAB) methods

Symptoms-based methods: based on observation of fertility signs 

  • Cervical mucus method (also called the ovulation method or the Billings method)
    • A woman tracks her cervical mucus every day and keeps track of its consistency
    • Women usually produce the most mucus right before ovulation, when a woman is most fertile, and it may feel “slippery” 
    • “Unsafe” days start 2 or 3 days before the first signs of slippery mucus, and last for about 3 days after slippery mucus peaks

Two Day method

  • This is a simpler version of the cervical mucus method
  • It works best for women who are totally sure they can tell whether or not they have mucus every day
  • A woman asks herself: Do I have cervical mucus today? Did I have cervical mucus yesterday?
  • If the answer to BOTH questions is no, it’s safe to have vaginal sex. If the answer to EITHER question is yes, vaginal sex should be avoided
  • Symptothermal method (also called the temperature method)
    • Body temperature changes a tiny bit throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle
    • It’s lower in the first part of the cycle, and rises when a woman ovulates 
    • For most women, their temperature is 96-98° F before ovulation, and it goes up to 97-99° F after ovulation
    • Women take their temperature the same way every single day and chart it 
    • Women should wait until they have charted their temperature at least 3 months before starting to use the method for birth control

Calendar-based methods: based on calendar calculations 

  • Calendar rhythm method 
    • Women chart their periods
    • Most effective when combined with other methods
    • Before using this method, women should chart at least 6 cycles
    • The first day of a woman’s period in any given cycle is day 1
    • Count the total number of days between each cycle (the number of days between the first days of each period)
    • To predict the first fertile day (when a woman can get pregnant):
      • Find the shortest cycle in the past 6 cycles
      • Subtract 18 from the total number of days in that cycle
      • Count that number from day 1 of the current cycle, and mark that day with an X, including day 1 in the count
      • The day marked X is a woman’s first fertile day

Standard days method

  • A type of calendar method but can only be used by women whose menstrual cycles are:
    • Extremely regular (periods always come at the same time)
    • Never shorter than 26 days
    • Never longer than 32 days
  • Women must either not have vaginal sex or use other forms of birth control from day 8 through day 19 of each cycle

Breastfeeding (lactational amenorrhea method, or LAM)

In order for this method to work, women must meet three criteria:

  • They must not have a menstrual period (amenorrhea) 
  • They must be fully or nearly fully breastfeeding (not more than 4–6 hours between breastfeedings)
  • They must be less than 6 months postpartum

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Reviewed on 4/13/2021
References
https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/mmwr/mec/summary.html

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/fertility-awareness