(originally posted on my other blog, Becoming a Midwife)

I was first interested in NFP as a way to postpone pregnancy, and the more I learned about it, the more I grew to like it. It is educational and empowering to learn about your body and to intimately understand the miraculous workings of your fertility.

As an aspiring midwife, I am interested in educating myself so I can educate the women I will work with. I also see the great potential for teaching these natural methods in developing countries (such as during my trips to Haiti).

The Benefits

There are incredible benefits to NFP – there is no costly medication or equipment (other than a simple thermometer), no harmful side effects of hormones or birth control devices, and NFP allows you to start or stop postponing pregnancy at any time. The single best benefit for me is the fact that I can know my body – when I am fertile and when I am not.

Fertility Charting The Basics

A woman is only fertile several days during each monthly cycle. The basic signs of fertility include temperature changes, observing cervical mucous/secretions, and internal changes of the cervix. A women’s temperature begins to rise slightly after ovulation, and typically continues to stay elevated until her next period. By taking her temperature before rising from bed (preferably at the same time every day), a woman can begin to recognize her typical temperature pattern. Cervical mucous gives women another way to recognize their fertility, because the cervix produces slippery secretions during the fertile days that provide a way for sperm to swim up to and fertilize an egg. Lastly, a woman can learn to feel her cervix and notice the changes in position that indicate the time of fertility. Around ovulation, the opening of the cervix (cervical os) opens slightly, the tip is softer, and the cervix rises so that it may be out of reach.

By paying attention to each of these fertility signs, it is possible to estimate the time of ovulation (although the exact day of ovulation cannot be known for sure). Sperm can live for several days if there is enough mucous to help them swim, so fertility can be either encouraged or prevented during these days. A couple can decide to practice strict NFP and abstain during these days, or may choose to use a barrier form of contraceptive when they are fertile. I have found that when a couple commits together to follow these “rules” of fertility, the NFP method is extremely successful and helpful.

Resources

Although I am a nurse and have done quite a bit of research on NFP, I am not an expert. If you are interested in learning more about your fertility and natural methods of timing pregnancy, there are excellent books and resources available (or contact me and I will help you find an answer to your question).

  • www.sheisme.com This beautiful and well-written blog is all about fertility awareness. The articles explain the basics of learning about your body and the signs of fertility.
  • www.fertlityfriend.com Designed for women who are trying to conceive, this website allows you to create computerized charts of your temperatures and other fertility signs.
  • www.cyclebeads.com This product helped me count the days of my cycle, especially when I was just beginning to learn NFP. The chain of different colored beads help women track their fertile and non-fertile days, but are most useful for women with a regular period.
  • www.pregnancy.org This bulletin board community offers forums for women to talk about fertility, pregnancy, and parenting.
  • The Art of Natural Family Planning by John F. Kippley This book includes everything there is to know about natural family planning. It is written from a Catholic perspective, so there are many sections that explain the moral and religious reasons that many people choose NFP.
  • Your Fertility Signals by Merryl Winstein This book includes simple explanations and diagrams to help women understand their fertility, without going into complex scientific or religious issues. I use it to look up a quick question or to teach someone the basics of NFP.
  • Fertility Chart. This is the chart that I use to track my cycles and temperatures. You can download it and use it yourself!
Advertisements