Contraception is the use of devices, methods, or medication to prevent pregnancy. Natural contraception is defined just as easily as its name itself. It's a method of contraception without the use of any artificial internal or external birth control devices. With natural contraception, pregnancy prevention solely relies on observing the patterns of a woman's body and her menstrual cycle. In this article, we’ll discuss methods of natural contraception, their effectiveness, and how exactly they work.
How Does Natural Contraception Work?
Contrary to popular belief, women do not stand the 100% chance of getting pregnant all through their menstrual cycle. There are “safe” days, “high pregnancy risk” days, and “low risk days”. These are all connected to and revolve around the ovulation day in the cycle.
The ovulation day is the one day the ovary releases an egg for fertilization - usually 12 to 14 days before the next period. This egg is released into the fallopian tube, where it lays for about 12 to 24 hours. Within this time, unprotected sexual intercourse will introduce sperm into the uterus, allowing fertilization to happen.
Natural contraception works by targeting the days least likely to have a viable egg in the reproductive tract. This is done by closely monitoring the body’s signs and symptoms indicating the different phases of the menstrual cycle (record or monitor for at least 3-5 months to get the hang of it monitor for 12 months for your best chance of precision).
12-14 days before your next period (note that a second egg may be released within 24 hours after the first egg)
Pregnancy risk days
2 days after you ovulate
Within 7 days before ovulation (sperm can stay viable in the woman’s body for up to 7 days)
The signals you can monitor are:
1. The length of your cycle
2. Daily readings of your basal body temperature
3. Changes in your cervical mucus (discharge)
Methods of Natural Contraception
With the aforementioned signals to monitor, there are two major methods of natural contraception:
1. Withdrawal Method
2. The Basal Body Temperature Method
3. The Cervical Mucus Method
The Withdrawal Method
A tale as old as time, the withdrawal method is one of the most common means of natural contraception. The concept is pretty simple: semen carries sperm which will fertilize the egg. If the semen is prevented from entering the woman’s body during ejaculation, pregnancy is averted. As simple as it might seem, the withdrawal or pull out method is not entirely foolproof - it still has a 22% chance of resulting in a pregnancy.
The Basal Body Temperature Method
12 to 24 hours before ovulation occurs, a woman’s temperature sits between 36.2 to 36.5 degrees Celsius.
After ovulation occurs, the temperature increases slightly by at least 0.5 degrees Celsius (36.7 to 37.1 degrees Celsius). Measure your basal body temperature (orally, vaginally, or rectally) for a couple of days, noting when the highest and lowest temperatures occur - that will show the day before your ovulation and after ovulation).
This temperature is most accurate when you wake up before eating, drinking, or smoking - typically in the morning. This period poses a high chance of pregnancy - avoid intercourse during this phase. If fertilization does not occur, the basal body temperature returns to normal range (36.1 to 36.6 degrees Celsius).
The Cervical Method
The amount and texture of cervical mucus you get varies in different phases of your menstrual cycle. You can check this by gently inserting your middle finger into your vagina, up to around your middle knuckle. The normal secretions you may find are:
Dry or No mucus: First few days after your period
Moist, sticky, white or creamy mucus: Start of your fertile period
Wetter, clear, and slippery mucus (like raw egg white): Most fertile period
Thick and sticky: Start of least fertile period
Is Natural Contraception Effective?
If you follow the instructions of your chosen natural contraception, your efforts to prevent pregnancy can be successful. Natural methods are not as effective as some other forms of contraception.
Advantages of Natural Contraception:
1. No need for medication or manipulating natural hormonal changes
2. No procedures or invasive devices required
3. No external participant or physician required
Disadvantages of Natural Contraception:
1. It's difficult to estimate fertile periods accurately
2. It is not as effective as other methods
3. Ovulation test kits can be expensive
4. Prevents intercourse at certain times of the month
Contraception is a personal choice and you should always choose what works best for you. Natural conception can be a great option for many people. All you need to do is understand and follow the proper methods, record meticulously, and consciously plan sexual intercourse.