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Can Natural Birth Control Methods Really Prevent Pregnancy?

Natural forms of contraception
A contraceptive like condoms can be used both for protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and to prevent unwanted pregnancy. However, natural forms of birth control can be used only to prevent pregnancy (if at all).

Most people tout “natural” methods because there are no pills or devices and they seem convenient or easy. However, some of these methods involve a lot of effort and may not be very effective.

Before adopting these methods, understand how these traditional methods work so you can make an informed choice.

Natural birth control methods are:

Withdrawal

In this method the man pulls out or withdraws before ejaculation. Withdrawal method depends entirely on the man’s ability to withdraw before spilling even a drop and also there is no guarantee that no sperm is present in the pre-ejaculate.

All of the gynaecologists, I have spoken to, do not recommend this method because chances of getting pregnant are high during penetrative intercourse as there is always possibility that the sperm can get inside.

Fertility awareness

A woman needs to keep track of her  menstrual cycle so she can predict her most fertile period or when she is most likely to get pregnant each month. People usually track their fertility when they are trying to conceive, however, some like to use contraceptives or abstain only during this period to prevent pregnancy.

What is this window of fertility? If the menstrual cycle is 28 days and the ovulation is halfway between that is on day 14, then days 10 to 14 are your most fertile.

There are ovulation charts you can use to track your cycle and this method depends on your periods arriving like clockwork and the assumption that there is no sperm living inside your body during ovulation. As sperm can live for upto 5 days, this is not a failsafe method.

Other related methods like charting your basal body temperature and inspecting the mucus also require you to know your body intimately and your ability to gauge when you are ready to ovulate.

An ovulation kit can help track the luteinizing hormone (LH) in the urine to know when there is an increase in this hormone. This can help predict when you are likely to ovulate. However, all these techniques can only help track ovulation but not successfully guarantee that you can’t get pregnant before or after this window.

Breastfeeding

Many couples regard the period free, breastfeeding phase as nature’s own birth control method. Medically this is known as “lactational amenorrhea method,” or “LAM” and it can be used if the baby is being exclusively breast fed till the baby is six months or till the periods start again.  

According to the World Health Organisation fact sheets it is 98% effective as a family planning method in cases where the baby’s only food is breast milk. Any change in that can affect the success of this method.

If you decide to try this method or any of the other methods listed here, please discuss it with your doctor first.

Abstinence

Complete abstinence from any sexual activity is the only 100% safe natural birth control method. However, if there is any kind of sexual contact such as heavy foreplay or ejaculaton on thighs or stomach and just abstinence from penetrative intercourse, then you still have a low but real possibility of getting pregnant.

No birth control method comes with a 100% guarantee and the chances of failure with natural family planning methods are high if the person is not an expert. So choose your contraception method after discussing your needs with your doctor.

(The article has been reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, Consultant Pharmacologist)

Reference:

http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/family-planning-contraception

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