Natural family planning

Last updated:

Reviewed by:

Dr Bryony Henderson

, Lead GP, Livi

Medically reviewed

Natural family planning is when you monitor your body so you know where you are in your menstrual cycle. This tells you when you’re least likely and most likely to get pregnant.

What is natural family planning?

Natural family planning is when you monitor your body so you know where you are in your menstrual cycle. This tells you when you’re least likely and most likely to get pregnant. Natural family planning can be used by people who do and don’t want to get pregnant. If you want to avoid getting pregnant, only have sex on the days when you’re unlikely to get pregnant. 

As a contraception, natural family planning can be reliable if used correctly and according to instruction. In a year using no contraception at all, 80-90% of women would become pregnant. If natural family planning is used as taught, this falls to 1%. However, if it is used incorrectly, more pregnancies would occur. 

There are some advantages to this method as it doesn't use any medications or devices and can make you more aware of your body. However, it does take time to learn effectively and requires logs to be kept every day. Sometimes it can be difficult to identify the signs when you are unwell, travelling or busy and it doesn't protect you against sexually transmitted infections. 

How does natural family planning work?

How does natural family planning work?

There are 3 different signs that your body may give you to signal whether you are likely to be fertile or not.

1. Your menstrual cycle

The first day of your period is termed ‘day 1.’ On average there are 28 days before your next period begins. It’s normal to have longer, or shorter, cycles than this. 

An egg is released about half way through your cycle, normally on day 14 of a 28 day cycle. If your period cycles are longer, or shorter, then it generally happens 10-16 days before your next period. 

Sperm can live inside a woman’s body for a maximum of 7 days and the egg for about 2 days after ovulation before it is expelled.

By tracking your menstrual cycle, you can calculate your ‘fertile window.’ It’s important to be as accurate as you can when measuring this, so get to know your regular cycle over the last 12 months or so. 

2. Your body temperature

This method involves taking your body temperature every morning. After you ovulate, there is a very small rise in body temperature.

It is important to have an accurate thermometer to take your temperature as the changes that are detected are typically around 0.2 °C. You can buy a thermometer specially designed for this purpose.

Take your temperature every morning before getting out of bed and before eating or drinking anything. If your temperature increases by more than 0.2 °C for 3 days, chances are you are no longer fertile. 

3.  Cervical secretions

Also known as the cervical mucus method, this involves keeping a daily record of any changes to your vaginal secretions, which can include, for example, its appearance, quantity, or stickiness.

As your hormones fluctuate throughout your cycle, so does the amount and nature of your cervical mucus. Just before ovulation the mucus becomes stretchy, slippery and is often described as being like ‘egg white’. This is a sign that you are fertile.

Other forms of natural contraception

If you want to avoid pregnancy, there are some other forms of natural contraception. These include:

Withdrawal (pull-out method) 

Withdrawal involves pulling out the penis from the vagina before ejaculation. This is an unreliable method because it can be difficult for the man to pull his penis out in time. There might also be sperm in the pre-ejaculate or left inside the man’s penis if he’s ejaculated recently. This method would likely result in 27% of women becoming pregnant within 1 year. 


Breastfeeding may help prevent unwanted pregnancy if:

  • You exclusively breastfeed (your baby only has breast milk and no other liquids or food)

  • Your baby is under 6 months old

  • Your periods have not come back after giving birth

This is also called the lactational amenorrhoea method (LAM). This can be an unreliable method – the risk of pregnancy increases when you breastfeed less often or you start feeding your baby formula or food. It’s recommended that you  use another method of contraception as well, like condoms or a diaphragm.

How can Livi help?

A Livi GP can offer:

  • Advice on switching to a new contraceptive method

  • A video appointment to renew your oral contraceptive prescription. A Livi doctor can, with certain information in your medical record, write you repeat prescriptions through your GP practice for up to 3 months if you’re already on the pill.

Last updated:
Reviewed by:
Dr Bryony Henderson, Lead GP, Livi

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