Which natural family planning methods can I use?

I fear the side effects associated with a number of family planning methods. Are there any natural methods I can use? Isabella

Dear Isabella,
Many women claim that family planning devices or even chemical substances (hormones) make them fat and hence avoid using them. However, only a few may get this problem and in most cases, the weight gain is temporary. Infact, some women may even lose weight when they are using the hormones, meaning that the rewards from using these contraceptives if not advised against by doctors far outweigh the problem of weight gain.

Natural family planning is practiced without using devices or drugs in form of hormones. This involves avoiding sex when one is most likely to get pregnant or using condoms during the fertile times. To avoid getting pregnant after delivery, a mother can breastfeed exclusively for six months apart from using the temperature, mucus and rhythm methods to detect when she is likely to be fertile and avoid sex or have protected sex.

These kinds of family planning methods are not as reliable as the conventional family planning ones with devices and hormones and do not protect one from STDs and HIV infection.

Also, natural family planning is unlikely to work if both sex partners have no control over their sexual urge, if a mother has irregular periods or has just had a miscarriage or delivered and her time of ovulation cannot easily be determined.

Some people practice traditional methods of family planning including withdrawal before ejaculation (coitus interruptus), which if you have the know how is useful, having sexual intercourse while standing as well as washing or urinating after sexual intercourse. These, however, are not guaranteed to protect against pregnancy.

The temperature, mucus and rhythm methods are sometimes called fertility awareness methods where a woman will have to avoid sex or practice protected sex when she is most likely to be ovulating. To work best, these methods can be used together for best awareness.

In the mucus method, one should look for when she is producing copious amounts of mucus instead of the usual vaginal discharge. When the vaginal discharge is sticky and slippery, a mother should avoid sex then and up to four days after the mucus has cleared. With the temperature method, one should chart her body temperature everyday for at least three months. Usually, at the time of ovulation, the temperature rises a bit (say by 0.3°C) hence requiring a more sensitive thermometer to help chart accurately.

A rhythm method requires one to observe the days taken to have another period and use the longest cycle to subtract 18 days or shortest to subtract 11 days to find the days one should avoid unprotected sex.