An Introduction to Natural Family Planning

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Natural Family Planning (NFP) is something that has been around the centuries. Evidence shows people have been using this form of family planning for more than 2,000 years, and it is possible it could have been a long time prior to that.

In the traditional sense natural Family Planning simple involves a man withdrawing his penis prior ejaculation during sexual intercourse, and pulling it away from the area of a woman vagina. This prevents semen from entering the vagina therefore preventing the possibility of pregnancy. The official name for this is Coitus Interruptus. It is the earliest known form of family planning or contraception, having been used way before more modern forms of contraception had been thought of. People believed that simply preventing semen from entering the vagina would prevent pregnancy, something that proved to be correct.

With this type of family planning it is all about timing. If the penis is withdrawn before ejaculation then a potential pregnancy is usually avoided. The only way it cannot be is if pre-ejaculation fluid contains sperm, although this is thought to be a rare occurrence. The problem may come if the penis is not withdrawn in time. Self control is obviously a quality that is required when using this to avoid pregnancy. Coitus Interruptus does not prevent sexually transmitted infections from being contracted.

An upside to NFP is that it can be used even by those unable to access other types on contraception. However studies show it is significantly more widely used in the United States and Europe, and rarely in areas such as Africa, where contraception is less readily available.

As well as Coitus Interruptus there is also another form of natural family planning. This is where a couples work out a woman's fertility cycle to plan when to have intercourse. This can be used either to avoid a pregnancy or to become pregnant. Details such as body temperature, mucus observations and cervical state are used to work out at which point in the fertility cycle pregnancy is more and less likely to occur. These variables can be charted, so a pattern of fertility can be worked out. A couple can then decide to have or abstain from intercourse accordingly. This obviously required the necessary knowledge. It is recommended that couples discuss this with specialists before choosing this option. There is obviously a risk with this if a couple are trying to avoid pregnancy. It is far less affective than other forms of contraception.

Some religions, such as the Catholic Church, believe that unnatural methods of contraception (condom, pills etc) are morally wrong, but believe NFP is acceptable. Therefore many who share these opinions use one of these forms of natural family planning.

Anne Heywood ©

For information on International Family Planning visit the Marie Stopes International website.

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