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Economy Makes For Tough Family Planning Choices: Go Natural

Let me start this off by saying I don’t want to have a big ol’ controversy here. But when I open my big fat mouth laptop, sometimes it’s inevitable.

Looks like the crashing economy is “good” for a sector besides pawn shops: the family planning clinics.

Maybe it’s because we’re all jobless; we’re all at home with nothing better to do.  Maybe it’s because our unemployed butts have no health insurance.  Maybe it’s because we have to make a monthly choice between groceries and contraception.  Or a perfect storm of the three.

Whatever it is, for one Planned Parenthood clinic, January was the biggest month for abortions.

We’ve seen some people who said that they didn’t really think that they would ever be making this decision, but recognize that this is a time when they have to think about taking care of the families that they have.

Though the abortion thing isn’t the case everywhere, it’s one of the more difficult choices for some families.  Across the board, no matter the assumed socioeconomic status, more women are turning to Planned Parenthood, looking for some relief from the high price of birth control.  Some forms of hormonal contraception costs up to $60 per month. So some women and families have to decide whether they can afford birth control without the help of insurance.

But if they can’t, the choice gets increasingly more difficult.

Of course, the obvious answer to me would be natural family planning. This involves a combination of the rhythm method, and both the basal body temperature and cervical mucus tracking.

Rhythm/Calendar Method: The average menstrual cycle is between 28 to 32 days.  Your cycle begins on the first day of your period. From there, you ovulate, depending on the duration of your entire cycle, somewhere between Day 11 and Day 21. If you are avoiding pregnancy, you want to abstain from sex or use a barrier method during this time. This method should not be used alone, but in combination with the other two.

Basal Body Temperature: Every day, wake up and take your basal temperature before you start your day.  I know: it’s hard to set aside a few minutes of “your” time.  But do it before the kids know you’re awake. Then track it alongside the other two methods.  Watch it over the course of a few months. You’ll see that your temp drops just a bit before ovulation and rises between .4 and 1 degree after you ovulate.

Cervical Mucus Method: The consistency of your cervical mucus changes during the menstrual cycle. In the average cycle, there are 3 to 4 dry days following a 5 day menstrual flow. From the American Pregnancy Association:

The mucus wetness increases daily, lasting approximately 9 days until the wettest day. Your mucus is easily recognized at this point. It should be abundant, slippery, clear, and very stretchy. It has been described as egg whites.

That is, when you are ovulating, your body is most “ready” or “ripe”

I will say a couple of things about these methods:

First off, I am not your doctor. You must let your OB or family practitioner know that you’re giving this a whirl.  Maybe she can give you some pointers.

Second, you must not let your body fool your tracking. What I mean by this is biology is very strong.  When you ovulate, your body might be screaming, “Get me pregnant!” If you’re trying to avoid this, don’t listen to it.  For me, I’m pretty sure my exact words were

Don’t worry, Mark, I don’t think I’m ovulating anymore.

Welcome, Baby E!

Third, this takes the ability to listen to your body. It also takes work and time.  But hey! Isn’t that something that more of us have nowadays?!

Helpful tool: a personal calendar to track these three elements. Not sure you need your personal mucus tracking on the kids’ school calendar. Also, for those who like the visual aid, check out Cycle Beads, which follow the Calendar Method in bead form.

For more tips, check out the American Pregnancy Association’s Web site and again, absolutely talk to a medical professional.

Source: NPR


  1. I know you said it above, but PLEASE! do not! use the “rhythm” or calendar method without also charting your temperature AND cervical fluid (and also, possibly, position). A woman may have a dependable 28 day cycle but vary in the actual day she ovulates each month. also, ovulation is sensitive to stressors such as sleep disruptions and anxiety. If you are at all interested in natural family planning, you should absolutely read “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Wechsler. It is a science, and it can be very dependable, but you have to pay attention.

  2. You obviously miss the whole point of natural family planning, which is to regulate the spacing of children by a natural means–not to totally prevent the conception and receiving of children into the family. This is done by learning how to detect the signs of ovulation and abstain from intercourse during that time–normally only 3 to 4 days a month–but NFP recommends abstaining the few days up to and after peak ovulation times. There is never any need for barrier methods with NFP. By the way, no one has ever died from lack of sex. You just find other ways–conversation, taking a walk, doing special and creative activities to communicate your love for each other–hence, reinforcing the ideal that LOVE is not synonymous with SEX. Just as an aside, less than 5% of all couples who use NFP divorce. The primary advantage to NFP is that it strengthens your marriage and monthly reminds you of the commitment you made to each other. It epitomizes the fidelity and chastity possible within the marriage covenant.

  3. As for only abstaining (or using a barrier) for a few days before and after ovulation… I’ve heard and read that sperm can live for quite a long time, and it takes them a little while to get up to the ovary anyway. So even if you’re a week before ovulation, the timing might be ‘just right’.

    In other words, it’s not that intercourse needs to *coincide* with ovulation, it actually has to *precede* ovulation. Once you’ve ovulated, it’s “too late” — the egg will be, well, overripe by the time the little dudes get to it.

    Because of the fact that sperm can live for a few days once they’re in there, and the unpredictability of knowing *in advance* when you’re going to ovulate by more than a few days, I personally don’t feel ‘infertile’ anytime at the beginning of my cycle. Only AFTER I know I’ve ovulated. Then plus a few extra days, just in case.

    I don’t know about all of you, but that’s *way* too long to abstain (at least for most hubbies!), much more than just ‘3 or 4 days’. Not to mention the fact, like the article says, that this is the time in your cycle when your body is SCREAMING at you to get it pregnant! That’s the hardest time of them all to abstain! 😉

  4. Thank you, Heather. But may I point out that for some of us, it’s not just the hubbies who don’t want to abstain for a week and a half? 😉
    *I* just might die without sex. Sad and true. lol.

  5. Once you’ve ovulated, it’s “too late” — the egg will be, well, overripe by the time the little dudes get to it.
    Not quite. In ~10% of cycles, there is a 2nd ovulation within 24 hrs of the 1st. Each egg is fertile for 24 hours, which means a woman can get pregnant up to 48 hrs after the 1st ovulation. That’s why the NFP rule is to wait until the evening of the 3rd day of elevated BBT’s. If you don’t wait, you could very well find yourself pregnant like I did with my oldest.

    Sperm *CAN* survive up to 7 days if the woman’s internal environment is favorable. Usually, it’s a shorter time (3 to 5 days) so it really depends on how conservative the couple wants to be. If there’s a very serious reason to avoid pregnancy, they’ll want to abstain longer. If they’re okay with a higher chance of getting pregnant, they can abstain fewer days per cycle.

    There’s also a high-tech version of NFP that uses an electronic fertility monitor. It’s more expensive and not the most ecologically-friendly (since it uses disposable test sticks) but I personally find it easier than the sympto-thermal method.

  6. marianna says:

    Your wrote
    “Whatever it is, for one Planned Parenthood clinic, January was the biggest month for abortions.” That is serious information! I am really sad that people are using abortion as a means of contraception. I’ve even read that someone said on a green site that abortion was an ok means to help the planet. Don’t we have it backwards? Whatever your view on pro-life or pro-choice, abortion is certainly not green! Abortion is the opposite of gentle for the earth. We need to find a middle way to all of this. Anyone? Thank you! I really want to start a conversation on green contraception that works — and works karmically, for all.


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