Family planning is a term used to denote controlling of a family size by using abstinence or various different kinds of contraception, to limit and spacing of pregnancies and the number of children born.
The term “Natural Family Planning” is a term that is generally deemed to denote the methods of family planning that use no external forms of contraception.
Natural family planning is a term generally used to describe methods of limiting or planning a family that are approved by the Roman Catholic Church, that follow the Church’s requirements for sexual behavior in keeping with its philosophy of “the dignity of the human person”.
The natural form of family planning is differentiated from other kinds by the fact that it is different from contraception and that it does not use any artificial or external form of birth control.
There are three basic forms of natural family planning or NFP, which are described below-
Fertility Awareness – This is the symptom based form of family planning. A couple gets educated about recognizing the symptoms of ovulation so that sexual intercourse can be refrained on the days when a woman is most fertile.
A woman’s basal temperature rises when she ovulates; the cervical mucus discharged at this time is clear and stretchy (rather like raw egg whites) and other symptoms such as abdominal or back ache, breast tenderness can indicate ovulation, which a couple have to become well informed about.
Computerized fertility can also be used to track other bodily changes that denote ovulation. This method of planning a family naturally is thought to be as much as 98% effective.
Calendar based Methods – Rather than actual symptoms of ovulation, this method looks at previous menstrual cycles to predict when ovulation takes place. The Standard Days Method and the Rhythm Method fall within this form of natural family planning.
These methods are rather less reliable than using fertility awareness since it does not take into account changes that may occur in a menstrual cycle of a woman; particularly women who have irregular menstrual cycles.
However this form of family planning is also seen to have a high degree of success. This method of family planning can be assisted by technology such as an iPhone app called iCycleBeads which helps to plan or prevent a pregnancy in a natural way.
Lactational amenorrhea – This form of planning the family naturally bases itself on the natural infertility that follows childbirth and continues while a woman is breast feeding.
Following childbirth, many women who breast feed, experience lack of normal menstrual periods, and so do not get pregnant during this time.
It is the natural postnatal infertility that occurs in the absence of periods, when a woman is fully breastfeeding that is a form of natural family planning.
This is a limited form of family planning however since it is only effective in some women (many women start their periods soon after childbirth) and even then for only a limited period until the baby is being regularly and exclusively breast fed.