Big: No, it isn't. When on birth control pills you technically don't have a cycle. There is a steady flow of hormones administered, which you interrupt to cause a bleed. There is no ovulation. The body is fooled to be pregnant. The NFP-method is about observing your natural cycle. That is your method of contraception.
The natural cycle
The average cycle is between 23-35 days. Many women experience a slight change in the number of days each cycle (for example: 24-26 days). The cycle is basically a game of estrogen en progesterone:
Before ovulation: A cycle starts every first day of a menstruation. At the first stage of the cycle the level of FSH rises. This means that the vesicles holding the eggcells in her ovaries are being stimulated to grow. The more they grow, the more the level of the hormone estrogen rises. This hormone is causing the lining of the womb to rebuild. Basically; the body is getting ready for ovulation. The more oestrogen, the more the cervical mucus increases in quantity. This mucus can be felt by women at the entrance of their vagina. As Brandye explained: the cervix is blocked by a mucuous plug except during our periods (so we can drain) and right after ovulation (to allow sperm entry).
Around ovulation: As the level of LH rises, this stimulates the growing vesicles that hold the eggcells to produce progesterone. The lining of the womb is getting ready for a fertilized egg to implant itself in. Eventually one eggcell lets go of the ovary and "jumps" into the oviduct. Which is known as: ovulation. In rare cases; there are two eggcells. As the estrogen levels are still fairly high and progesterone is building, the quality of the cervical mucus changes into very fluid. The body is making the cervix into a more happy place for sperm. And the bodytemperature rises a little.
After ovulation; the vesicle where the eggcell came from shrinks into a little yellow gland. It continues to produce progesterone. The levels peak. And the cervical mucus becomes more tough again. If not fertilized, the eggcell dies about 12-24 hours after ovulation. If the eggcell wasn't fertilized, the yellow gland disappears 14-16 days after ovulation. The drop of progesterone makes the lining of the womb more lose. Menstruation occurs, a new cycle has begun.
Using Natural Family Planning
As you can see, these hormones influence certain symptoms. What a woman observes in NFP, is basically:
1. basal temperature, each morning, before getting up, preferably at the same time, you note this directly.
Once the temperature is higher than the highest prior 6 measures within this cycle, this could be a sign ovulation is occuring. It needs to stay higher the second day. If the third day the measurement is a least 0.2 degrees Celsius higher than the highest of the prior 6, then this is the first indication ovulation has occurred.
2. the cervical mucus, each day you observe how the mucus feels and looks at each toilet visit and you remain conscious of what you experience during the day. You note the best quality at the end of the day.
The cervical mucus changes in quality and quantity. What the highest quality is, may differ each woman. But generally; it will be dry or a bit moist at the beginning of the cycle. Then mucus becomes visible. The mucus will increase in quantity, be a bit yellow/white colored and clotty. Closer to ovulation it feels very wet and looks watery and/or you can make long elastic-like thin threads out of it when you hold it between thumb and index fingers. Than it returns to a lesser quality.
Basically: when the highest quality is observed, you wait until a lesser quality occurs. When there is no higher quality during the next 3 days, then this is the second indication ovulation has occurred.
3. the positioning of the cervix each day at the same time you check to positioning and note how
The position of the cervix also changes during the cycle. It gets higher and you can feel how the cervix becomes soft and opens a little. Around ovulation it feels as soft as an earlobe, while before and after; more like the tip of your nose. When the cervix is closed again and doesn't change within 3 days, this is the third indication ovulation has occurred.
4. anything particular that can be associated with ovulation Note this if it occurs.
This differs each woman, could be: enhanced libido, a certain smell, tender breasts, ovulation pain (aka mittelschmertz)
5. anything that could have disturbed your findings. Note this if it occurs. This is highly important!
Alcohol, sleeping late, emotional outbursts, sports, measuring your temperature late, medication, illness, etc. Over time you know which ones influence your cycle most. If you see findings out of the ordinary, such as a sudden rise in temperature, and you know you had a fight the evening prior, the elevated temperature could be influenced by this. If you're not sure; best to skip a certain finding out of your calculation
Adding calculations together:
You skip the disturbed findings. You always use 2 indicators for ovulation: temperature+cervical mucus OR temperature+ cervix position. I personally use all 3, the cervical positioning as my back-up data.
And whatever comes last; determines whether ovulation has occurred. So if you haven't determined your elevated temperature, but have had 3 days after the highest mucus quality, you will wait till you can interpret the temperature. Or vice versa. You can then have unprotected sex till the first day of the next cycle. You'll have about 10-14 days on the average.
Some extend this period, until the first few days of the next cycle. This could be done, depending on how long the cycle is. A woman with an average 35 day cycle will generally be more "safe" to practice this, than a woman with an average 24 day cycle. A sperm cell will survive 3-4 days inside a woman, some even 7 days. So if ovulation occurs early, you could still become pregnant!
NFP & your (sex)life
Advantages of this method is that there are no side-effects. You don't use anything "foreign" in your body; you're allowed to respect it's natural state. Which can be very freeing to many women. You don't need any preparation for intercourse. It's cheap. It is highly reliable, when used in the correct way. Anyone wanting to learn should seek an NFP-counselor.
It encourages to respect your body and be conscious about your lifestyle. It is beneficial for your relationship. Women generally feel much respected by their men. It encourages a couple to talk about sex and pregnancy in a conscious way. And it encourages you to be creative with sex in the days penetrative sex is off the menu.
You'll have about 10-14 days at the second stage of each cycle to have unprotected penetrative sex. But; strictly NFP-users statistically have just as much sex as others do. They just have it at different times. To add extra time; you could use condoms in the more fertile periods. But mind you that a condom could fail! Other types of contraceptives are not possible to combine with NFP, as it influences your findings.
When you do decide it's time for children; couples using NFP become pregnant quicker than others. Because the method can be used for conceiving as well. Recent German research has found that couples who were trying to conceive between 1-3 years, half of them had become pregnant within 8 months using the method. There are couples that learn the method explicitly to conceive.
I have explained some basics here. Mind you: the above is not a complete overview! And: it takes a woman about 3 cycles to get to know her own cycle and learn how to use it. It is strongly recommendable to ask for a NFP-counselor to guide you through this. Also: NFP does not protect you from HIV/STD's!
I am currently taking classes to become a NFP-counselor. And I've used the method myself for nearly 4 years now. I've made this summary based on Dutch and German information. If some words seem oddly translated, please ask. Or correct me if you think something is wrong. Esp Brandye, you're most welcome!
Any questions? I'd be happy to answer! :)
Posted: 30 Sep 02:53