Family planning refers to birth control methods to control the size of the family and to maintain gap between children. These methods are either artificial or natural. From days immemorial, people have successfully applied natural birth control techniques. Natural family planning also known as NFP, has zero side effects and does not involve any cost as opposed to artificial birth control methods. Natural family planning is nothing but fertility awareness.\r\n\r\nThis includes tracking and monitoring a woman’s body to predict her fertile period. This method does not require devices, surgeries or medicine to prevent pregnancy. However, using this approach requires discipline and determination by both the partners. Physical intolerance to artificial birth control methods as well as religious reasons form basis for some couples to try natural family planning approach. Success rate is high if the couple is committed in recording the fertility information. With a typical use of these methods, chances of success are about 77-87 percent. When diligently used, there is an increased chance of success up to ninety eight percent. Read to know about the methods of natural family planning.\r\n\r\nA. Calendar Method\r\n\r\nYour past twelve menstrual cycles will provide the basis for estimating your fertile times. Identify your expected ovulation time by making simple calculation:\r\n\r\na. Track your menstrual cycle for nine to twelve months diligently.\r\n\r\nb. “First day” is when you start menstruation.\r\n\r\nc. Track your shortest and longest menstrual cycle from your monthly tracking.\r\n\r\nd. Deduct or subtract 18 days from your shortest menstruation cycle. This will help you to pick your most fertile day. Example: If 26 days was your shortest cycle, subtract 18 from 26 which will result in 8. This indicates that you are fertile from the 8th day of your cycle.\r\n\r\ne. Subtract 11 days from your longest menstruation cycle to find out your last fertile day. Example: Say, 32 days was your longest cycle, deduct 11 from 32 to get a result of 21. This means that your fertility window closes on the 21st day of your cycle.\r\n\r\nIn the above example, your fertility window is between 8th and 21st day of your cycle. Chances of getting pregnant are high if you are sexually active during this period. You can avoid getting pregnant, by abstaining from sexual intercourse during this time frame.\r\n\r\nThis approach can get tricky if a woman’s menstrual cycles are irregular. Surveys show about 80 percent effectiveness using this approach of NFP.\r\n\r\nB. Basal Body Temperature\r\n\r\nMonitoring your body temperature on a daily basis can help to indicate when you ovulate. The body temperature is low during the first few days of your cycle. After ovulation, body increases the temperature. The rise of temperature is between 0.4 and 1 degree Fahrenheit. You can use a basal thermometer that gives easier and accurate readings. To avoid getting pregnant, you should not have unprotected sexual intercourse three days after you ovulate or 48 to 72 hours after the temperature has increased. Temperature should be checked daily before getting out of the bed.\r\n\r\nC. Standard Days Method\r\n\r\nStandard Days Method or SDM is also a method that uses calendar. As long as you have a standard menstruation cycle of 26 to 32 days, you can use the Standard Days Method. This method requires least days of abstinence. To avoid pregnancy, you should refrain from sexual intercourse on the 8th day through the 19th day of your cycle. Most women use Cycle Beads, a string of beads that help to track a menstruation cycle. There are 33 beads on which, you can move the rubber ring. The rubber ring is put on the red bead and moves to another bead each day following the arrow’s direction on the string. Brown colored beads indicate safe days when you can have unprotected sexual intercourse. White beads are unsafe days when you should refrain from having sexual intercourse. This method, when used with due diligence has 95 percent effectiveness.\r\n\r\nD. Mucus Inspection\r\n\r\nA woman’s body produces cervical mucus in response to estrogen hormone. The quantity and the quality of the mucus determines the ovulation time in a woman. Greater amount of mucus production happens just before ovulation. This indicates your peak fertile time. With this birth control method, you should not have intercourse for three to four days after you notice a change in the cervical mucus to avoid pregnancy. It is safe to have intercourse between the time of your LMP and the time you notice change in mucus.\r\n\r\nE. Symptothermal Method\r\n\r\nIt is a combination of temperature, mucus inspection and calendar method. This helps in greater accuracy to predict the safe and unsafe days of your menstrual cycle. It also uses menstruation symptoms such as cramps and breast tenderness to determine fertile period. If used properly, this method has a success rate of 98 percent.\r\n\r\nF. Abstinence\r\n\r\nThis is 100% effective since intercourse is totally avoided with the opposite sex. It also greatly reduces the risk of getting infected with STDs.\r\n\r\nG. Ovulation Testing Kits\r\n\r\nThis kit is designed to measure the amount of Luteinizing hormone in the urine. The amount of hormone increases in the body 48 hours before ovulation. The amount of Luteinizing hormone is indicated by the color of the urinated stick. Stronger the color more is the amount of hormone in the urine. Based on the past menstruation cycles, a woman can use the kit to test her urine two to three days before the estimated ovulation period. With this method, safe days are two days before ovulation. Unsafe days are 24 hours after the hormonal surge.\r\n\r\nH. Lactational Amenorrhea Method\r\n\r\nA woman does not ovulate immediately after delivery. Studies show that women who breast feed are not fertile for more than six months. Ovulation and menstruation resumes after the baby nurses less often. This lowers the levels of prolactin hormone in the body. This is known as Lactational Amenorrhea method and is as an effective natural birth control method. It has a success rate of about 99.5 percent. It can be effective only when it meets certain criteria such as:\r\n\r\n•Baby should be less than six months old\r\n•Baby is actively breastfeeding both day and night.\r\n•Your menstruation cycle has not resumed.\r\nThese fertility awareness methods use your body to determine your fertile days of the month. Being aware of your menstrual cycle and its pattern is the key to use natural birth control methods effectively. It also depends on the discipline and diligence shown in tracking the fertility pattern. You should abstain from having an intercourse during unsafe days of your fertility window.