Not all women are comfortable with using birth control methods that involve hormones, like the birth control pill, or like the feel of using barrier contraceptives, such as the sponge. Whether for personal or religious reasons, numerous women opt for natural family planning (NFP) as their contraceptive of choice. Though not the most reliable or effective birth control around, the rhythm method is one that has long been used by women all over the world.
This method is also known as fertility awareness, periodic abstinence or the calendar method. It is a way of avoiding pregnancy by simply not having intercourse during the days when you ovulate. Many couples wishing to have a child also use this method to time intercourse during the time of ovulation in order to improve their chances of conception.
If you wish to use this method of birth control, you will need to track your menstrual cycle to understand your body’s pattern and know precisely the days when you are most fertile. Then, by avoiding intercourse on those days or using other birth control options, such as condoms, it may be possible to prevent pregnancy.
How Does it Work?
This method of natural birth control is based on an individual’s menstrual cycle. Typically, sperm can survive inside the female reproductive system for around 5 to 7 days, but an egg can only live for 24 hours. Therefore, it is possible that your egg may get fertilised even 2 or 3 days after intercourse when ovulation occurs and sperm is already present in the body. However, 24 hours after you have ovulated, it is fairly safe to say that pregnancy will not occur until your next menstrual cycle. But how can you know just when you are most fertile?
Most menstrual cycles can be divided into three phases:
- Pre-ovulatory infertility phase
- Fertility phase
- Post-ovulatory infertility phase
The first day of your period is considered to be the first day of your cycle. In order to determine the pre-ovulatory infertility phase, you will need to track your menstrual cycles for at least six months. After this time, take your shortest cycle and subtract 19. For example, if your shortest cycle was 26 days, then you would subtract 19 from 26. This would leave you with 7; you will remain infertile until the 7th day of your cycle.