Natural family planning

Words: Nicci Talbot

I’ve been researching natural family planning this week for an article. According to studies at the University of Heidelberg it’s as effective as the pill if taught and followed properly. I find that astonishing. Why aren’t more of us using it? As I’ve explained in the article, it’s probably because it’s *free* so there are no drugs involved and therefore no profit for drug companies. It’s also not as accessible as regular contraception in that there aren’t that many NFP teachers in the UK compared to the number of NHS sexual health clinics. From the list of teachers on Fertility UK’s website, my nearest is in Brighton, which is 30 miles away. I have to be dedicated or else why bother? It’s easier to pop a (free) pill..

But I’ve done that several times with different brands of pill and I didn’t like the side effects so it’s not a long-term option for me. I prefer to keep things natural and stay in tune with my body, interrupting my hormones as little as possible. The pill also affected my libido and I found myself bursting into tears at the slightest thing. I once spent five minutes trying to jam my key into the lock of my neighbour’s flat because I was too upset to realise I was on the wrong floor. That’s not normal behaviour for me and it’s interesting to see the effect artificial hormones have on me.

So I’m using the sympto-thermal method along with Persona for a few months and we’ll see how it goes. Persona is a hand-held contraceptive monitor that measures the levels of luteinising hormone in your urine to tell you if you are ovulating and need to avoid having unprotected sex. It does the work for you so there’s no need to take your temperature every morning if this seems like too much effort. You simply pee on the test sticks at various times of the month to build up a picture of your fertility cycle. It’s a great piece of kit but it retails at £71.49 in Boots pharmacy plus a tenner a month for the test sticks. Shame these are not free via NHS sexual health clinics as I think this would encourage more women to give it a try.

NFP is empowering and great for intimacy and talking about sex with your partner. It will also put you in touch with your body and fertility cycle so you’ll automatically know the best times to have sex if you want to get pregnant. If you have the discipline to avoid having sex (or use a barrier method) for the 8 days of your cycle when you’re able to get pregnant then it’s as effective as the pill. No side effects. No plummeting libido (shouting it from the rooftops now). It also enables you to share the responsibility for contraception and stops any unconscious resentment that a woman may feel if she is the one who takes responsibility for the contraception.

Let me know how you are getting on with NFP – and Persona – if you are using either of them.

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