What is Natural Family Planning?
In simple terms, NFP is planning a family in a natural way by using women signs, symptoms and hormones to monitor their fertility. Knowing when women are fertile, they can intend to achieve a pregnancy, or, knowing when they are infertile, they can use those days to postpone a pregnancy, naturally without the use of artificial hormones or devices. NFP also refers to abstaining from intercourse and any genital activity (including withdrawal or condoms) during the fertile time of the menstrual cycle if avoiding pregnancy.
NFP works by learning the following aspects:
Awareness of the fertile phase by common signs as (1):
- Observed cervical mucus
- Temperature and
- Testing hormones such as estrogen, LH and progesterone in urine using fertility monitors
It can be used to effectively achieve or postpone pregnancy, since women pinpoint their fertile window (six days per month) of the cycle.
Awareness of a normal ovulatory cycle by common signs as (2):
- The presence of mucus at the vulva primarily by perceiving the progression from dryness to stickiness, wetness and ultimate lubrication
- The detection of estrogen level in urine, which is the responsible of the wetness at the vulva. High levels of estrogen trigger the release of Luteinizing hormone (LH)
- The detection of LH level in urine to predict the approaching release of the egg from the ovary.
- LH peak and estrogen decrease
- The dramatic change of sensation from lubricate to dryness at the level of the vulva Progesterone has been produced by the luteal corpus
- Menstruation will come 11 to 16 days after ovulation
It can be used to understand if you are struggling to conceive.
Awareness of hormonal patters to understand a normal ovulatory cycle as (3):
- A rapid rise of estrogen in a variable number of days, triggers LH surge
- A rapid rise of LH in hours, triggers ovulation
- Ovulation, triggers corpus luteum formation
- Corpus luteum produces progesterone
- Estrogen and progesterone decreases
- Menstruation occurs
It can be used to better understand your cycle by measuring your actual hormone concentration and define the patter on your hormones especially if you have any health conditions such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or irregular cycles. Some irregularities caused by hormonal imbalances need to be recognized and treated. In this way, women can advocate for themselves to look for medical advice.
Understanding the common signs of fertility and hormonal patters in a menstrual cycle and confirmed are important skills, which should be available for every woman, and everywoman should be aware of them to avoid or postpone pregnancy naturally.
By Monica Rincon, BSc, MSc
NFP Health professional
World Health O. Natural family planning : a guide to provision of services. Geneva: World Health Organization; 1988.
Vigil P, Ceric F, Cortés ME, Klaus H. Usefulness of Monitoring Fertility from Menarche. Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology. 2006;19(3):173-9.
Vigil P, Blackwell LF, Cortés ME. The importance of fertility awareness in the assessment of a woman’s health: A review. Linacre Quarterly. 2012;79(4):426-50.