Natural Methods of Birth Control (cont.)
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.
In this Article
- 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
Calendar rhythm method
The calendar rhythm method to avoid pregnancy relies upon calculating a woman's fertile period on the calendar. Based upon her 12 previous menstrual cycles, a woman subtracts l8 days from her shortest menstrual cycle to determine her first fertile day, and 11 days from her longest menstrual cycle to determine her last fertile day. She can then calculate the total number of days during which she may ovulate. If a woman's menstrual cycles are quite irregular from month to month, there will be a greater number of days during which she might become pregnant.
The calendar method is only about 80% effective in preventing pregnancy and when used alone, it is considered outdated and ineffective.
Basal body temperature method
The basal body temperature (BBT) method is based upon the fact that a woman's temperature drops 12 to 24 hours before an egg is released from her ovary and then increases again once the egg has been released. Unfortunately, this temperature difference is not very large. It is less than 1 degree F (about a half degree C) when the body is at rest.
The basal body temperature method requires that a woman take her temperature every morning before she gets out of bed. A special thermometer that is more accurate and sensitive than a typical oral thermometer must be used, and the daily temperature variations carefully noted. This must be done every month. Online calculators are available to help a woman chart her basal body temperature.
To use the basal body temperature as a birth control method, a woman should refrain from having sexual intercourse from the time her temperature drops until at least 48 to72 hours after her temperature increases again.
Mucous inspection method
The mucous inspection method depends on the presence or absence of a particular type of cervical mucous that a woman produces in response to estrogen. A woman will generate larger amounts of more watery mucous than usual (like raw egg white) just before release of an egg from her ovary. This so-called egg-white cervical mucous (EWCM) stretches for up to an inch when pulled apart. A woman can learn to recognize differences in the quantity and quality of her cervical mucous by examining its appearance on her underwear, pads, and toilet tissue; or she may gently remove a sample of mucous from the vaginal opening using two fingers.
She may choose to have intercourse between the time of her last menstrual period and the time of change in the cervical mucous. During this period, it is recommended that she have sexual intercourse only every other day because the presence of seminal fluid makes it more difficult to determine the nature of her cervical mucous. If the woman does not wish to become pregnant, she should not have sexual intercourse at all for 3 to 4 days after she notices the change in her cervical mucous.
The symptothermal method combines certain aspects of the calendar, the basal body temperature, and the mucous inspection methods. Not only are all these factors taken into consideration, but so are other symptoms such as slight cramping and breast tenderness. Some women experience lower abdominal discomfort (in the area of the ovaries) during release of an egg (ovulation).
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