Updated Feb 2, 2022
Natural Family Planning is also called “fertility awareness”. It is a method of targeting the most fertile time for getting pregnant and is also used as a natural birth control without drugs or devices. It combines the calendar/rhythm method, the basal body temperature method, and the cervical mucus method.
1. Period Tracking (the Calendar/Rhythm Method)
Period calculators that predict your next period and period trackers that log your period are the first step to natural family planning -- the period is the foundation of all other natural cycles in the female body, including ovulation. In order to use period tracking as a natural ovulation predictor, it is first important to understand the four phases of the ovarian cycle: the Luteal Phase, the Follicular Phase, Menstruation (which is included within the Follicular Phase), and Ovulation Day. Both the ovulation day and the period day can vary from cycle to cycle. However, the Luteal Phase length -- the day after ovulation day until the day before your next period -- is usually a fixed length, and does not fluctuate by even one day.
Therefore, if you have a regular period and regularly ovulate, you can predict ovulation easily with a period calculator. However, even if you have irregular periods, you can still predict ovulation, because the Luteal Phase is the same amount of days every single cycle. Being able to predict ovulation through this way is very useful to getting pregnant, because the five days before ovulation is your fertile window. Knowing when you will ovulate allows you to plan for intercourse during those days.
2. Basal Body Temperature Charting
Your body’s basal body temperature will spike 0.5-1ºF 24-36 hours after you ovulate and remain elevated until your next period, where it dips again. (See the blue line in the sample Premom graph above.)
For BBT Charting, you need to take your temperature every morning with a basal body temperature thermometer before you get out of bed. Once you have been consistently tracking these temperatures for a couple of cycles, you will be able to see when ovulation occurs, due to identifying the BBT spikes.
BBT Charting is important to confirming that ovulation has occurred. This allows users to know that their bodies are ovulating properly and regularly. When used in combination with period tracking, this method can also confirm that the period calculator you are using is accurate.
3. Cervical Mucus Tracking
Your cervical mucus is the visible discharge that changes in consistency throughout your menstrual cycle.
You can check the color, texture, and quantity of this mucus through 3 easy ways:
1) Using white toilet paper, wipe the opening of your vagina before peeing and check the color and texture of the cervical mucus on the paper; 2) Be aware of the color and texture of the cervical mucus on your underwear; and 3) Put clean fingers into your vagina and checking the color and texture of the discharge on your fingers.
In the average cycle length of 28 days, there are about 3 to 4 dry days following a 5 day flow. After these dry days, the body will begin to make more mucus as an egg begins to ripen, making the discharge yellow, white, or cloudy, and it feels sticky or tacky. Closer to ovulation is when your cervical mucus will turn clear and slippery – this signals that your body is the most fertile, and it is the best time to have sex to get pregnant. After approximately 4 days of clear, slippery mucus, you will see mucus of a cloudy and sticky consistency in smaller quantities, followed by a few dry days. Then, your period begins and the cycle starts over again. Cervical mucus stages may vary by cycle day and person, but the trend is constant for a healthy ovulation cycle. Below is an example of a cervical mucus cycle.
Recording the color and texture of your discharge to follow your cervical mucus stages allows you to plan the best times to have intercourse because it makes you more aware of when your body is the most fertile.