Breastfeeding and Birth Control: Natural Family Planning (NFP)

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What is Natural Family Planning?

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a category of birth control that is natural, and safe. There are different methods of NFP including:

  • The Marquette Model
  • The Creighton Model
  • The Billings Ovulation Method
  • The Fertility Awareness Method
  • The Sympto-Thermal Method

Natural Family Planning teaches you about your body and your own fertility signals to help you plan sexual activity with your partner during your least fertile times.

You are most likely to get pregnant if you have intercourse in the few days before ovulation, or on the day of ovulation. But, if you avoid intercourse around the time of ovulation, then you can avoid pregnancy. So, by learning to recognize the signs of ovulation and fertility in your own body, you can naturally prevent pregnancy from occurring without the use of birth control devices, hormonal medications, or surgery.

To use these methods correctly, you will have to learn how to do some or all of the following:

When you first begin to practice NFP, it may be a little difficult and seem like a lot of work. But, as you continue the use these methods, they become easier and more routine. Once you become more familiar with the information that you're collecting each day, you will be able to use it to determine the few days each month that you are most likely to conceive.

If you avoid intercourse on these days, then you can avoid becoming pregnant.

Natural Family Planning and Breastfeeding

NFP is approximately 90% effective when followed correctly. However, when you're breastfeeding, fertility signs can be more difficult to recognize. Plus, your basal body temperature may not be accurate until your baby is sleeping through the night.

So, unless you are already familiar with NFP and your body, the level of effectiveness may not be quite that high. To increase the effectiveness of NFP, you can used it along with the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM). When these two natural methods are used together, they can be up to 99% effective.

The Advantages of NFP:

  • It is a natural method of birth control. There are no medications to take and no hormones that can affect your baby or your milk supply.
     
  • It is inexpensive. The only thing you really need to purchase is a basal body thermometer and, perhaps, a book on the topic that you can reference for the proper instructions.
     
  • It encourages you to learn about, and become more in tune with, your own body and your natural response to the hormones of your menstrual cycle.
     
  • During the first 6 months postpartum, if used along with LAM, it is up to 99% effective.

The Disadvantages of NFP:

  • This is something that you have to learn, and it may take a little time.
     
  • You have to feel comfortable checking your cervix and your cervical mucus.
     
  • There are times during your cycle when you have to avoid sexual relations with your partner.
     
  • Breastfeeding can make fertility signs more difficult to recognize. This method will be more effective if you have used it before, and you are already familiar with it and your body.
     
  • Before your baby is sleeping through the night, it can be difficult to get an accurate basal body temperature.   

 

Sources:

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Frank-Herrmann, P., et. al. The effectiveness of a fertility awareness based method to avoid pregnancy in relation to a couple's sexual behaviour during the fertile time: a prospective longitudinal study. Human Reproduction. 2007; 22(5): 1310-1319.

Smoley, B. A., and Robinson, C. M. Natural Family Planning. American Family Physician. 2012; 86(10): 924-928.

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