Planning one's family entails a lot of decisions to be made between couples mutually, and foremost among these is the method they would use in spacing their children. And while artificial contraceptives are readily available, some opt not to use them for a variety of reasons (among them, religion, health, finances). This is where natural methods of family planning come in. But how effective are they in preventing unplanned pregnancies?
Our trusted OB-Gyn, Dra. Maricar Meollo-Mateo, clearly defines natural birth control as methods that people can do naturally to help prevent an unintended pregnancy. “These methods often do not cost anything and usually have no side effects,” says Dra. Meollo-Mateo. Are you looking to try it? Pick the one that suits you best:
Method #1: Abstinence
What it is: It is the method that calls for partners to not have any form of sex play or intercourse with each other.
Our OB-Gyn’s take on it: “Abstinence is a decision,” Dra. Meollo-Mateo states. “You are the one in control, and you always have the choice to decide to hold off from having a sexual relationship.” This method is recommended for couples who can commit to a lifestyle or routine that abstinence requires.
Effectivity: 100% effective in preventing pregnancy, and also in acquiring sexually transmitted diseases.
How to make it work: It strongly holds that abstinence will only work when both partners agree to this decision to not practice any sexual acts together.
What it is: Withdrawal is the act of a man pulling out his penis from the woman’s vagina before he ejaculates.
Our OB-Gyn’s take on it: Dra. Meollo-Mateo states that withdrawal is not completely reliable. “There is greater risk of getting pregnant due to pre-ejaculatory sperm prior to penetration,” she stresses. Men may release pre-ejaculate fluid (that contains a lot of sperms as well) while inside the vagina. In fact, it is also said that even if a man ejaculates outside the vagina, semen near it may still cause pregnancy because sperm can swim.
Effectivity: According to Dawn Stacey Md.ED.LHMC (of about.com’s Healh section), for those who use this method consistently and correctly, withdrawal method is 96% effective. For those who do not use it consistently or always correctly, the method is 82% effective.
How to make it work: This method relies completely on a man’s self-control. If he is able to withdraw his penis before ejaculation, and is able to monitor pre-ejaculation fluid, chances are sperm cannot enter the woman’s body and will not lead to a pregnancy.
What it is: Also known as Natural Family Planning, this method speaks of a woman’s awareness of her body’s natural functioning, including her ovulation period, menstrual cycle and fertile period. There are two methods under this kind of birth control, the Billings Method and the Standard Days Method.
The Billings Method seeks for women to recognize their fertility patterns through the interpretation of their cervical mucus. Cervical mucus changes in its properties in a woman’s cycle. Observing the mucus is done by hand, and its appearance and texture may be recorded for better monitoring of the cycle. Six days before ovulation, it is clear and elastic. Ovulation occurs most likely on the last day, wherein mucus is found to display these descriptions. This ovulation period is usually a woman’s most fertile days. After ovulation, the mucus becomes sticky and opaque. Knowledge of this pattern will allow a woman and his partner to decide when to engage in sexual intercourse or when not to.
The Standard Days Method simply requires avoiding unprotected sex for 12 days of your cycle, specifically on days 8-19, since these are the days that you are supposedly most likely to be fertile. Some use cycle beads, or a string with 32 color coded beads, wherein each bead represents a day of your cycle.
This visual representation allows women and their partners to successfully monitor their cycle. It is said to be the easiest method to use, as well as the method that requires least days of abstinence from sexual intercourse.
Our OB-Gyn’s take on it: “Fertility method is the most cost effective method that couples may use,” says Dra. Meollo-Mateo. It does not require gadgets, medicine or surgical procedures to implement this method.
Effectivity: Stacey mentions that perfect and consistent use holds 95-97% effective. Inconsistent and not always correct use shows 78-88% effectivity.
How to make it work: Natural Family Planning works best for women have a regular cycle, or a cycle that has a consistent or fixed number of days. Those with 26-32 days in their cycle may make this work.
It is important to remember that monitoring menstrual cycles can be tricky, and that they may vary due to physical activity, stress and other factors. This is why the method works best with training and commitment in understanding one’s cycle. Staying monogamous will also make this method most effective.
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Method #4: Outercourse
What it is: It is a method that consists of sexual acts without penetration of the vagina or intercourse. Examples would include, foreplay, kissing, oral/anal sex, stimulating body parts using hands and sex toys, and rubbing against each other.
Our OB-Gyn’s take on it: While this method may prove to be effective, precaution must be taken because a couple is not completely protected from sexually transmitted diseases during these activities. “There is also a risk of pre-ejaculatory fluids entering near the vagina, which may lead to a pregnancy,” Dra. Meollo-Mateo says.
Effectivity: Usually 100% effectiveHow to make it work: As long as pre-ejaculated fluid or as long as a man does not ejaculate near the vagina, this method is effective.
What it is: The woman’s act of breastfeeding her baby can postpone ovulation for up to six months after giving birth. This is because the hormone needed for the production of the milk prevents the release of the hormone needed for a woman’s ovulation to take place.
Our OB-Gyn’s take on it: “Exclusive breastfeeding may be effective, but not for more than 6 months, especially to working mothers who cannot routinely feed her baby six times daily,” stresses Dra. Meollo-Mateo.
Effectivity: According to Stacey, perfect and consistent use shows 98% effectivity, while those who use the method inconsistently shows 95% effectivity.
How to make it work: This method cannot be used after 6 months of breastfeeding or if a woman’s period arrives before the six months is over. Both breasts must be used in feeding the baby at least six times a day. Mothers who want to use this method as a form of contraception must also not substitute other food for breast milk. Feeding the baby every 4 hours during the day and every 6 hours at night will also help make this method effective.
In all methods discussed, what will truly help enhance their effectivity would be the open and constant communication of a couple. Men and women must work as a team to be able to understand the ways of the methods, and also to be able to determine which method best suits them. Wise life-changing decisions can be arrived at when one has complete knowledge of her choices.