How to Avoid Pregnancy Naturally

Five Parts:Understanding Your FertilityMonitoring Your Basal Body TemperatureChecking Your Cervical MucusTracking Your Cycle on a CalendarApplying Your Findings

More and more women are looking for ways to avoid pregnancy without using the Pill or another form of chemical birth control. If you're willing to carefully monitor your body's reproductive cycle and avoid sex during times when you're fertile, you can prevent pregnancy without using other forms of contraception. Using natural birth control methods can help you understand your body better and have greater control over your sex life.

Part 1
Understanding Your Fertility

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    Learn about ovulation. Ovulation happens when one of your ovaries releases an egg cell that begins to travel down the fallopian tube. The egg is ready to be fertilized during the next 12 to 24 hours if it meets a male sperm cell. If it meets a sperm and gets fertilized, the egg implants in your uterus; in other words, you become pregnant. If the egg doesn't get fertilized during that 12 to 24-hour period, it is released along with your uterine lining, and you have your period.[1]
    • For most women, ovulation happens about halfway through the menstrual cycle. The average cycle lasts 28 days, but it can range from 24 or fewer to 32 or more. When you have your period, the cycle begins again.
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    Learn what it means to be fertile. When you have sex, sperm cells are ejaculated into the body, where they can live for up to five days.[2] You can pregnant if you have unprotected sex during the five days before ovulation and up through the day you ovulate. This is considered your fertile time, and to avoid getting pregnant, you have to avoid unprotected sex during this window.
    • It sounds simple, but it's actually quite difficult to pinpoint exactly when this window ends and begins, since every woman's cycle is different.
    • The point of using contraceptive methods, natural or not, is to prevent sperm from meeting your egg cell during your fertile window.
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    Understand how natural contraception works. Natural contraception, often called fertility awareness or natural family planning, has two parts. First, you have to track your body's reproductive cycle well enough to pinpoint when your fertile window begins and ends. Second, you have to avoid having sex during times when there's a chance you could get pregnant. When used perfectly, this method is 90 percent effective. When used typically, it is 85 percent effective (one percent less effective than condoms).[3]
    • Tracking your body's reproductive cycle involves three daily tasks: taking your basal body temperature, checking your vaginal mucus, and recording your findings on a calendar. The combination of these tracking methods is called the sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness. Over time, you can analyze this data and have a good idea of when your fertile window begins and ends.
    • The tricky part is figuring out exactly when you can and can't have sex. Most women avoid sex for a stretch that starts a few days before the fertility window begins and ends a few days after the fertility window ends to play it safe. If you want to keep having sex, you can also choose to use a condom or another contraceptive method during this stretch.
    • Tracking your cycle is not an exact science. Factors like weight gain or loss, stress, illness and aging can change your cycle drastically from month to month. For natural contraception to be effective, it's essential to use all the tracking methods as strictly as possible, and interpret the data over time.

Part 2
Monitoring Your Basal Body Temperature

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    Buy a basal thermometer. Your basal body temperature is your lowest temperature over a period of 24 hours. Your body experiences a slight rise in temperature just after ovulation. Monitoring your basal body temperature over time can give you an indication of when your peak fertility time is about to begin. Basal body thermometers are available in drugstores, and should come with a chart to help you track your temperature every day.
    • It's important to get a basal body thermometer, which measures your temperature's changes in small increments. A regular thermometer that you might use to check for a fever will not give you exact enough measurements to be helpful.[4]
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    Take and record your basal body temperature every morning. To accurately track your basal body temperature, you must take your temperature at the same time every day. The most accurate way to do this is to take your temperature right when you wake up, before you get out of bed and start moving around. Keep the thermometer by your bed and get in the habit of taking your temperature first thing in the morning.
    • Basal body temperature can be taken in your vagina or in your mouth. Taking your temperature in your vagina will give you the most accurate reading from day to day. Whether you take your temperature orally or vaginally, do it the same way every day to ensure your readings are as consistent as possible.[5]
    • To take your temperature, follow the instructions that came with your thermometer to set the thermometer and then insert it in your vagina. When you hear it beep after about thirty seconds to a minute, write down the exact temperature on the chart that came with your thermometer or in a diary. Make sure you record the date along with the temperature.
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    Look for a temperature spike that lasts between seven and twelve days. Before you ovulate, your average body temperature will range between 97.2 and 97.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Two to three days after ovulation, your body temperature will sharply rise between 0.4 and 1.0 degrees. This higher temperature usually lasts between seven and twelve days before dropping back to the lower temperature.[6] Tracking this temperature spike from month to month will reveal a pattern, allowing you to begin anticipating when your body will next ovulate.
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    Track your temperature every day for at least three months. You cannot rely on this method for accurate information about your reproductive cycle until you've taken your temperature for three months or more. If your cycle is regular, three months' worth of data should be enough to help you predict when your fertility will peak in the following months.[7]
    • If your cycle tends to be irregular, you may need to take your temperature for six months or more before you can rely on the patterns that emerge.
    • Note that illness, stress, drinking alcohol and other factors can also affect your body temperature. That's why it's important to use this method with other tracking methods to back yourself up in case the basal body temperature pattern is thrown off for any reason.
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    Interpret the pattern to anticipate ovulation. After three or more months of tracking your temperature every day, use your findings to try to anticipate when you'll ovulate next. It will be difficult to know exactly when you're going to ovulate, but several months' worth of data can help you find a general window during which you will be fertile. Interpret the data in this way:
    • Look at your chart and find the day when your regular spike in temperature occurs each month.
    • On a calendar, mark the two or three days before this temperature spike as the days when you are likely to ovulate. Remember, your temperature doesn't spike until two to three days after ovulation.
    • To practice natural contraception, avoid unprotected sex for at least five days before ovulation is supposed to begin, up through ovulation day.
    • Using the temperature method with other methods will give you a more accurate idea of when you'll be fertile.

Part 3
Checking Your Cervical Mucus

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    Examine your cervical mucus every morning. Begin checking after your period begins to taper off. Cervical mucus, which leaves your body as vaginal discharge, changes in texture, color and smell throughout your cycle. By checking it every day, you can use the patterns you find to predict when your body is fertile.[8]
    • To check your mucus, wash your hands, then insert two fingers into your vagina and swipe.
    • Or you can use a cotton swab to swab a bit of mucus; however, you'll still need to touch it to examine the texture.
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    Asses the texture and color. These characteristics of mucus change from day to day as your hormone levels fluctuate. The presence of certain types of mucus will indicate that your body is about to ovulate or has ovulated. Here are the qualities mucus has at different times in the cycle:
    • During the three to five days after your period ends, you'll probably have little to no discharge. It's highly unlikely you'll get pregnant during this time.
    • After the dry period, mucus will be cloudy and a little tacky. It's improbable (but not impossible) that you'll get pregnant if you have sex during this time.
    • Following the tacky discharge, it will start to become white or yellowish and creamy, similar to lotion. You are more likely to become pregnant if you have sex during this time, but your fertility has not yet peaked.
    • Following the creamy discharge, you'll notice thin, stretchy mucus with the consistency of egg whites. It might stretch between your fingers without breaking. Ovulation occurs on or after the last day this mucus is produced. When you see this kind of mucus, you are extremely fertile, and the likelihood of getting pregnant is high.
    • Afterward, it will return to the cloudy, tacky stage for several days.
    • The cycle ends when your period comes.
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    Keep a careful record of your mucus' characteristics. Write down the color and texture of your mucus every day. You may want to use the same chart you're using to track your temperature, so you have all the data in the same place. Remember to record the date as well. Here are examples of some detailed entries you might write:
    • 4/22: Mucus is tacky and white.
    • 4/26: Mucus is whitish and runny, like egg whites.
    • 4/31: Period started; heavy flow.
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    Record and interpret your cervical mucus patterns.Your cervical mucus data will become more meaningful if you track your patterns over several months, preferably three or more. Start looking for a regular pattern so you can try to predict when you will be fertile in the coming months.
    • You are most fertile when your mucus has the consistency of stretchy egg whites. Err on the safe side by avoiding sex for a few days before and after your mucus takes on these qualities each month. You might want to stop having sex when your mucus changes from tacky to creamy.
    • Compare the data to your basal body temperature patterns. Your mucus will probably turn stretchy and wet several days before your body temperature spikes. Ovulation will typically happen between the change in mucus and the temperature spike.

Part 4
Tracking Your Cycle on a Calendar

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    Know your period cycle. Aside from taking your temperature and testing your mucus, you can use a calendar to track your cycle and help inform your predictions about when you're fertile. Most women with regular periods have a cycle that lasts between 26 and 32 days, although there are some women with shorter or longer cycles. The first day of your cycle is the first day your period starts, and the last day is the beginning of your next period.[9]
    • For many women, the cycle changes a little from month to month. Stress, illness, weight loss or gain, and other factors can change your cycle.
    • In order for the calendar method to be useful, it should be used in conjunction with the other tracking methods.
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    Track your cycle on a calendar. You can circle the first day your cycle starts each month, mark it with a dot, or use another way of identifying the first day of your period. At the end of each cycle, count the number of days your cycle lasted.
    • Track your cycle for at least eight cycles to start gaining accurate data about the length of your cycle.[10]
    • Keep a total of the number of days in each cycle and look for patterns.
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    Use the patterns to predict when you will be fertile. First, find the shortest cycle you've ever tracked. Subtract 18 from the number of days the cycle lasted, and write down the number. Next, find day one of your current cycle on your calendar. Use the number you wrote down to count forward from the first day of your current cycle. The day you land on should be your first fertile day.
    • To find your last fertile day, find the longest cycle among all the cycles you've tracked. Subtract eleven from that number of days, and write down the number. Find day one of your current cycle, and use the number you wrote down to count forward that number of days. The day you land on should be your last fertile day.
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    Don't rely on this method without the others. You might be tempted to skip taking your temperature and checking your mucus, but the calendar method alone is not reliable enough to accurately predict when you'll be fertile. Use the calendar method to help reinforce the patterns you recognize from the other methods.[11]
    • There are too many factors that can affect the length of your cycle for this method to be completely reliable on its own.
    • If you experience irregular periods, this method may not provide useful information.

Part 5
Applying Your Findings

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    Figure out when you're most likely to be fertile. Your window of fertility begins at the time when all the patterns align to indicate that you are about to ovulate. After using each tracking method for a period of several months, you should be able to have a pretty good picture of when your body will be fertile. You are probably fertile when:[12]
    • Your records indicate that your basal body temperature will spike in three to five days, when you will ovulate.
    • Your cervical mucus is white or yellow and creamy, just before it becomes wet, stretchy and similar to egg whites in texture.
    • Your calendar shows that your first fertile day has begun.
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    Make smart decisions about when to have sex. For most women the window technically lasts for about six days: the day of ovulation and the five days before it.[13] Some people prefer to play it safe by avoiding sex for at least a week before they predict ovulation will occur, and several days afterward. Others stop exactly five days before they think they'll ovulate. Once you have enough data at your disposal, the choice is yours to make.
    • You might want to be very cautious at first, as you are getting used to using natural contraceptive methods. Give yourself time to get to know your body before taking risks.
    • After using the symptothermal method for six months or a year, you may feel you understand your reproductive cycle very well. You can then narrow the time during which you avoid sex, resting easy that you can rely on your meticulous records.
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    Rely on other forms of contraception if your tracking falls behind. If you forget to track your temperature while on vacation, or haven't checked your vaginal mucus this month, do not rely on natural contraception to prevent pregnancy until you have at least two or three months' worth of careful records to fall back on again. In the meantime, use condoms or another form of contraception to prevent pregnancy.


  • These methods do not protect against STDs. For STD protection, use condoms.
  • No method of birth control is completely effective, other than abstinence.

Article Info

Categories: Birth Control and Contraceptives | Pregnancy