A lot of women aren’t sure at first whether the symptothermal method, or NFP, is a suitable alternative to the pill for them. How reliable is it as a form of contraception? Do body symptoms have to be monitored on a daily basis? What if I forget to enter data, or enter something incorrectly?
One thing should be made clear: there isn’t just the one ideal form of contraception, but rather just the one that best suits the needs and life situation of a woman. The following check list will make it clearer what requirements are important for NFP and to whom the method is suited:
Important for the correct application of NFP are ...
Discipline and personal responsibility
The documentation of body signals requires the willingness to engage with one’s own cycle and to learn to read one’s body signals. If you forget to enter any data, this can and should (if possible) be added in later. If you forget to enter several items of data on certain days, especially around the time of ovulation, it might not be possible to determine the fertile days of that cycle. There is less reliability.
Daily routine & regulated sleep patterns
To be able to make clear predictions about one’s own cycle on the basis of the basal body temperature, this should be measured around the same time every day. To make sure that this happens, your lifestyle should include a certain degree of routine, including a morning routine. If you oversleep and miss the measurement time, you can make up for it after you wake up. You need at least four hours of sleep before the measurement. This means that NFP might not be a suitable form of contraception for women who travel through different time zones, or who work shifts. Certain types of medication can also have a disruptive effect; if applicable, these women should steer clear of the symptothermal method as well.
A stable relationship is not a must, of course, but it is a good idea to involve your sexual partner, as you have to be particularly careful on fertile days. The Ovy Partner app has been developed for this very purpose, so that both can keep track of the cycle. For anyone whose (sexual) partner changes on a regular basis, it is best to always use a condom – for the sake of protection against sexually transmitted diseases, too.
Don’t be shy of your own body
Monitoring one’s own cycle and fertile days requires the willingness to engage in depth with one’s own body. After years and years of taking the pill, it might take a while at first to get used to monitoring oneself in such detail. Feelings of inhibition about one’s own bodily fluids can be a particular obstacle when it comes to evaluating cervical mucus.
Extra protection on fertile days
With the correct application, the NFP method as a natural form of contraception, with a Pearl Index of 0.6, is comparable to the pill. That means that out of 100 women who used the symptothermal method as a form of contraception for one year (= 12 months or 13 cycles), 0.6 became pregnant. However, the symptothermal method is only reliable on fertile days if combined with abstaining from intercourse, or using another form of contraception (a condom, for example). Women for whom pregnancy is life-threatening should know that NFP (like all other forms of contraception) cannot guarantee one hundred percent protection.
Watch out if you have irregular cycles
Cycles are considered to be regular, if they last between 23 and 35 days, and are followed by menstruation, which can last between three to seven days. In a regular cycle, ovulation takes place around 14 days after the start of the cycle. After stopping the pill, it often takes several months for the menstrual cycle to stabilize again. If cycles are unusually short (fewer than 16 days) or long (longer than 56 days) over several months, NFP as a form of birth control cannot be fully recommended.
Anyone wanting to use NFP as a form of contraception is making a conscious decision. When you stop taking hormones but start taking them again a few weeks or months later, this puts the body under extreme strain. If compatible with your life circumstances, and if you feel like getting to know your body in a completely new way, you should consider the symptothermal method.