Natural Methods of Birth Control
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
- Introduction to birth control
- "Natural" methods of contraception
- Calendar rhythm method
- Basal body temperature method
- Mucous inspection method
- Symptothermal method
- Ovulation indicator testing kits
- Withdrawal method
- Lactational infertility
- Douching and urination
- Find a local Obstetrician-Gynecologist in your town
Introduction to birth control
If a woman is sexually active and she is fertile and physically able to become pregnant, she needs to ask herself, "Do I want to become pregnant now?" If her answer is "No," she must use some method of birth control (contraception).
Words used to describe birth control methods include contraception, pregnancy prevention, fertility control, and family planning. But no matter what the terminology, sexually active people can choose from a variety of methods to reduce the possibility of their becoming pregnant. Nevertheless, no method of birth control available today offers perfect protection against sexually transmitted infections (sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs), except abstinence.
In simple terms, all methods of birth control are based on either preventing a man's sperm from reaching and entering a woman's egg (fertilization) or preventing the fertilized egg from implanting in the woman's uterus (her womb) and starting to grow. New methods of birth control are being developed and tested all the time. And what is appropriate for a couple at one point may change with time and circumstances.
Unfortunately, no birth control method, except abstinence, is considered to be 100% effective.
"Natural" methods of contraception
Natural methods of contraception are considered "natural" because they are not mechanical and not a result of hormone manipulation. Instead, these methods require that a man and woman not have sexual intercourse during the time when an egg is available to be fertilized by a sperm.
The fertility awareness methods (FAMs) are based upon knowing when a woman ovulates each month. In order to use a FAM, it is necessary to watch for the signs and symptoms that indicate ovulation has occurred or is about to occur.
On the average, the egg is released about 14 (plus or minus 2) days before a woman's next menstrual period. But because the egg survives 3 to 4 days (6 to 24 hours after ovulation) and the sperm can live 48 to 72 hours (up to even 5 days in fertile mucous), the actual time during which a woman may become pregnant is measured not in hours, not in days, but in weeks.
FAMS can be up to 98% effective, but they require a continuous and conscious commitment with considerable monitoring and self-control. Although these methods were developed to prevent pregnancy, they can equally be well used by a couple to increase fertility and promote conception.
Next: Calendar rhythm method
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