If you're considering using a drug-free family planning method, you may be surprised to learn there are several methods to choose from. The right method for you will depend on a number of factors, such as whether your menstrual cycle is regular and whether you are breastfeeding. During your menstrual cycle, levels of progesterone and oestrogen fluctuate and cause observable changes just before and during ovulation. Monitoring these hormonal changes forms the basis for most natural family planning methods. Here's an overview of three natural alternatives to prescription birth control products:

Basal Body Temperature Method

Around the time of ovulation there is a spike in progesterone, which causes your body temperature to increase slightly. The basal body temperature method involves keeping track of your temperature every day and abstaining from intercourse when this temperature increase occurs. When used properly, this family planning method is 98% effective, but it does require a fair amount of commitment from you. Additionally, forgetting to track your temperature or experiencing a fever can reduce the effectiveness of this form of family planning.

Cervical Mucus Method

Changes in oestrogen levels leading up to ovulation cause an increase in cervical mucus secretions. Tracking your fertile days using the cervical mucus method involves monitoring secretions until they become thick and sticky like uncooked egg whites, which signals ovulation is about to occur and you should abstain from intercourse for a few days until secretions decrease. The cervical mucus method is 97% effective when carried out correctly, but you should be aware your cervical mucus can be altered by a number of variables, such as the presence of a vaginal infection, high levels of stress and breastfeeding.

Withdrawal Method

The withdrawal method can be used on its own or alongside the basal body temperature method. It's a traditional method that involves stopping intercourse before ejaculation. When used on its own without tracking ovulation, you'll need to employ this method every time you have intercourse, but when used at the same time as tracking your fertile days, you can engage in complete ejaculatory intercourse when you are not in the fertile period of your cycle. The withdrawal method is around 73% effective, but it does require high levels of self-control and can fail if premature ejaculation takes place.

If you'd like to find out more about the various types of natural family planning available, make an appointment with the women's health care clinic at your GP practice or local hospital.