I’d like to try natural family planning for birth control. But does it work?
Also called fertility awareness, natural family planning (NFP) is an umbrella term for various ways to forecast the time in your cycle when you are most likely to get pregnant—such as monitoring your daily temperature, checking for changes in cervical mucus and counting the days since your last period. When practiced perfectly, it can work nearly as well as medical birth control, according to some studies.
But the key word here is perfectly. Many women find that painstakingly tracking their periods, their temperature and the consistency of their cervical mucus is quite time-consuming. And unless you’re going to use condoms during your fertile days, you may need to remain abstinent for up to two weeks out of the month. That’s why the research also shows a very high dropout rate.
Don’t even attempt NFP for birth control if you have irregular periods, or if you’re taking antibiotics or antihistamines—these drugs can lead to changes in your cervical mucus, making it difficult to tell if you’re on a fertile day or not.
Health‘s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and co-founder of Tula Skincare.