Fertility & Natural Family Planning

Understanding natural fertility, infertility, and related moral and social issues.

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National NFP Awareness Week, July 22nd- 28th



Choosing a Method: Ovulation

The Basic Idea of Ovulation Methods

Ovulation methods are based on carefully tracking external cervical mucus throughout the day.  Generally speaking, days of no mucus or of non-fertile mucus are considered infertile.  Days where any fertile mucus is seen are considered fertile.  There are usually days of dry/non-fertile mucus following menstruation and then a cycle of fertile mucus.  Immediately following the last day of fertile mucus (peak day), there are typically about 3 days that are still considered to be fertile.  If no fertile mucus is apparent after peak day, infertility is assumed until the next cycle.

Benefits of Ovulation Methods

  • There are no internal cervical exams (can be a benefit or a challenge- especially if a woman was previously using a sympto-thermal method)
  • The system can help detect cervical issues based on certain mucus types and/or patterns.
  • No temping is required.  This makes these methods easier to implement for people who travel a lot or have irregular sleep patterns (mothers of babies, those who work night shifts, etc.).  The lack of temping also means that illness/fever won’t throw off you chart, nor will a few (or more) alcoholic drinks from the previous night.


  • Learning ovulation methods from instructors can be more expensive (but you get one on one attention- which, for most, is a definite benefit!)
  • Initially, many women have trouble getting into the mucus observation routine
  • There are no internal cervical exams (can be a benefit or a challenge- especially if a woman was previously using a sympto-thermal method)

Supplies Needed

You typically need a chart and stamps to record observations when using ovulation methods.  For couples who have learned the Billings Method, they currently have an online chart available.

Where to Learn

Upcoming Post: I will talk about what makes the Creighton FertilityCare System unique!

Disclaimer: This post provides only a general overview of the method.  It is strongly recommended that methods are learned directly from an instructor, particularly when being used with the intention of avoiding pregnancy.


Choosing a Method of Natural Family Planning

Coming up soon, I will go into detail about the different methods of NFP, but let’s start with an overview of methods:

Sympto-Thermal Methods are based on a number of signs, including a woman’s basal temperature, cervical mucus, and cervical position.  This method relies heavily on taking your temperature each day at the same time, and typically uses the other signs as supporting information.

Ovulation Methods are based solely on each day’s cervical mucus.  Making these observations regularly and accurately are critical to the success of this category of NFP.

Other Options Include:

  • Calendar Based Methods – This would be the rhythm method, or something similar, where ovulation is predicted based on past cycle lengths.  The two main detriments of the system are that, often, more days of abstinence are required and because most women will have a cycle sometime that is out of her normal range, there is a lower effectiveness rate than with more current methods.
  • Eco-logical Breastfeeding – This is total breast-feeding, where the mother feeds regularly, directly from the breast.  This essentially requires the mother to have her baby at her side at all times.  Obviously, a baby is required for this one to work!

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Top 5 Reasons to Use NFP

Why would someone who does not have moral reasons to avoid contraceptives use NFP?

1. NFP is natural; prescriptions aren’t required, hormone levels are not altered, and it doesn’t increase estrogen levels in our water system.

2. NFP is comparatively inexpensive.  It typically costs less than $200 (sometimes much less!) to learn a method from an instructor.  It costs even less if you are learning from a book.

3. It increases understanding, and appreciation, of a woman’s fertility.

4. It can help diagnose health/hormonal issues.  Numerous bio-markers are present in charting that can indicate a wide array of issues.

5. If a couple decides they want to achieve pregnancy, they can do so right away.  There is no waiting for the effects of hormonal birth control to wear off or for an appointment to have a device removed.


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What is Natural Family Planning?

Natural family planning (NFP) consists of several methods that allow a couple to either achieve or avoid pregnancy based on knowledge of a specific woman’s fertility at various times of the month.  In this way it is very similar to FAM (fertility awareness method). However, the teachings regarding NFP are supported by the Roman Catholic Church, as abstinence is used during fertile times to avoid pregnancy.