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NATURAL METHODS

There are four methods of natural birth control (also called fertility awareness) that are practiced. These methods may be used to either prevent or plan a pregnancy:

* Basal temperature method
* Cervical mucus monitoring (Billings) method
* Rhythm method
* Sympto-thermal method

The effectiveness of the above methods is approximately 80%. The degree of effectiveness may be higher or lower, and is highly dependent on the commitment level of the couple to practice the specific regimen.

Advantages
* Natural methods provide an effective means of contraception for women who are concerned about the risks associated with artificial birth control. By learning about your cycles, you can become more aware of the events that occur naturally in a woman's body. Natural methods can, in combination with other methods (example: barrier, IUD), offer a high degree of effectiveness and therefore reduce one's risk of becoming pregnant.
* There are also religious factors that play a role in women choosing a natural method as opposed to an artificial one, and these factors can aid in one's comfort level when it comes to dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.

Disadvantages
* Use of natural methods offers no protection from sexually transmitted diseases or infections.
* Both partners need to commit some time in order to learn the methods properly. Cooperation, compliance and patience are also a must for any couples considering these methods.
* Abstinence from intercourse during fertile periods may be very frustrating.
* Professional guidance is required in order to learn how to use these methods successfully, and therefore the couple needs to have an established comfort level with their health care provider.
* These methods are not suggested for women with irregular or unpredictable menstrual periods or for women who have persistent or frequent vaginal or cervical infections.
* If you have frequent illnesses, or you are unable to keep records, these methods might not be the right choice for you.


Basal Body Temperature Method
A basal thermometer is used to take an early morning temperature each day, prior to rising. The temperature is charted on a graph. A rise in basal body temperature by one degree indicates ovulation has occurred. Abstinence from intercourse must be from the start of the menstrual period until three days following the rise in basal body temperature.

Cervical Mucus Monitoring (Billings) Method
The amounts and consistency of cervical mucus changes throughout the fertility cycle. Observing these changes in vaginal/cervical mucus may help to determine the peak fertile days of your cycle. Mucus will become increasingly wet and slippery, leading up to ovulation. It will be clearer and stretchy, similar to egg whites. This type of mucus is produced by our bodies to enhance sperm mobility through the cervix, into the uterus and towards the egg. The dryer, thicker, stickier mucus is prevalent during non-fertile days, inhibiting the mobility of sperm through the cervix. Abstinence from intercourse must be up to four days following the peak of fertile mucus being observed.

Rhythm (Calendar) Method
Careful plotting of your menstrual period can give you an idea of your fertile days. An average menstrual cycle is twenty-eight days long. Ovulation occurs approximately fourteen days before the start of your next menstrual period, plus or minus one to two days. Day one of your menstrual cycle is the day that you begin your period. A day of light spotting is also considered day one. As sperm will live for upwards of five to seven days inside a woman's body, a pregnancy can arise from intercourse that occurs seven days prior to ovulation. The egg lives for up to twenty-four hours once released. This means that intercourse must not occur for the seven days prior to ovulation, as well as for the twenty-four hours past ovulation.

Sympto-Thermal Method
This is a combination of the Billings method and the Basal Body Temperature method. As temperature and mucus changes are noted on the chart, fertile days are easier to predict, as peaks and valleys are readily noticed on the graft.

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