What Is It?
Fertility awareness is a way to prevent pregnancy by not having
sex around the time of ovulation (the release of an egg during a
girl's monthly cycle). Couples who do want to have a baby can
also use this method to have sex during the time that they are most
likely to conceive. It is sometimes called natural family planning,
periodic abstinence, or the rhythm method.
How Does It Work?
If a couple doesn't have sex around the time of ovulation,
the girl can't get pregnant. The trick is knowing when
ovulation happens. Couples use a calendar, a thermometer to measure
body temperature, a kit that tests the thickness of cervical mucus,
or a kit that tests for ovulation. The ovulation kits are more
useful for couples who are trying to get pregnant. The fertile
period around ovulation lasts 6 to 9 days and during this time the
couple who does not want to get pregnant should not have
How Well Does It Work?
Fertility awareness is
a reliable way to prevent pregnancy for most teens. Over the course
of 1 year, as many as 25 out of 100 typical couples who rely on
fertility awareness to prevent pregnancy will have an accidental
pregnancy. Of course, this is an average figure, and the chance of
getting pregnant depends on whether a couple uses one or more of
the fertility awareness tools correctly and consistently and that
they do not have unprotected sex during the fertile period.
In general, how well each type of birth control method works
depends on a lot of things. These include whether a person has any
health conditions, is taking any medications that might interfere
with its use, whether the method chosen is convenient - and whether
it is used correctly
all the time
. In the case of fertility awareness, it also depends on how
consistent a woman's ovulatory cycle is and how accurately a
couple keeps track of when she could be ovulating.
Protection Against STDs
sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
. Couples having sex must always use
along with their chosen method of birth control to protect against
Abstinence (not having sex) is the only method that always
prevents pregnancy and STDs.
Who Uses It?
Fertility awareness is
a reliable way to prevent pregnancy for most teens. It is often
very difficult to tell when a girl is fertile, and she can conceive
for up to 6 days before she ovulates to 1 or 2 days after. Because
teens often have
irregular menstrual cycles
, it makes predicting ovulation much more difficult. Fertility
awareness requires a commitment to monitoring body changes, keeping
daily records, and above all not having sex during the fertile
period. Couples often need to practice for months to get this
How Do You Get It?
For couples interested in this method, it is best to talk to a
doctor or counselor who is trained in fertility awareness. He or
she can then teach the couple the skills they need to know to
practice this birth control method accurately.
How Much Does It Cost?
The tools needed for fertility awareness - such as ovulation
detection kits and thermometers, for example - are available in
drugstores. But they can be expensive. Again, it's best to talk
to a doctor for advice on using this method.
Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: February 2007
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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