Natural family planning

Natural family planning is a method that teaches you at what time during the month you can have sex without contraception and with a reduced risk of pregnancy.

It works by plotting the times of the month when you’re fertile and when you’re not. You learn how to record fertility signals, such as your body temperature and cervical secretions (fluids or mucus), to identify when it’s safer to have sex..

You can't learn natural family planning from a book. It has to be learned from a specialist clinician.

What are the benefits of natural family planning?

  • Natural family planning methods can be up to 99 per cent effective, depending on what methods are used.
  • There are no physical side effects.
  • It's acceptable to all faiths and cultures.
  • Most women can use natural family planning, providing they are properly trained by a teacher in fertility awareness, and keep accurate records.
  • It can be used to avoid pregnancy or to become pregnant, according to your wishes.
  • It does not involve chemicals or physical products.
  • It can help you recognise normal and abnormal vaginal secretions..
  • It involves your partner in the process..

Things to consider

  • It will be less effective if it's not used according to the instructions – estimates suggest that it may only be around 75 per cent effective because of mistakes.
  • It does not protect against sexually transmitted infections.
  • You have to keep a daily record of your fertility signals and can take three to six menstrual (monthly) cycles to learn the method.
  • If you want to have sex during the time when you might get pregnant you need to use a condom or cap.
  • If you decide to abstain there can sometimes be up to 16 days during which you cannot have sex.
  • It can be much less effective than other methods of contraception.
  • It will not work without the continuing commitment and co-operation of both you and your partner.
  • It is not suitable if you have persistent irregular periods.
  • Factors such as stress, illness, travel, lifestyle and use of hormonal treatments can disrupt your fertility signs. 

Where can I get more information?

The Family Planning Association provides a range of helpful information.

My contraception tool

The FPA has developed an interactive tool that can help you find out which methods of contraception may be best for you.

The tool asks questions about your health, lifestyle and contraceptive preferences. All your answers are completely confidential and can't be linked back to you. The tool is available on their website.

Find out more