Natural Family Planning is an umbrella term for certain natural methods used to achieve or postpone pregnancy. It is based on scientific research and day-to-day observations of the signs and symptoms of fertility that occurs as part of each menstrual cycle.

Modern Natural Family Planning is NOT the Calendar Rhythm Method. The Rhythm Method supposes that all women have a 28-day cycle all the time. Since this is not true, the Rhythm Method did not have a high rate of effectiveness. In NFP, on the other hand, each woman charts each of her cycles to map a current and accurate picture of her fertility.

What are the signs of fertility? A woman’s body provides three basic ways to identify the fertile and infertile times of her cycle. Recognizing the pattern of one or more of those physical signs forms the basis of all methods of NFP. The primary sign of fertility is the mucus released from a woman’s cervix. A woman learns to identify the normal, healthy cervical mucus which indicates the days that intercourse is most likely to result in pregnancy. The second sign is her basal body temperature. Due to hormonal activity, a woman’s resting temperature changes during her menstrual cycle. Lower temperatures indicate ovulation has not yet occurred. Higher temperatures indicate a rise in progesterone which signals the end of the fertile time. The third sign is a change in the shape or texture of the cervix. Finally, secondary signs such as minor abdominal pain or pressure at the time of ovulation can also be observed.

The Sympto-Thermal Method is a system using the mucus and temperature signs in a cross-checking way for the highest confidence and reliability in family planning. With this method, a woman needs just a minute to take her temperature when she wakes up each morning. During the day she takes a moment now and then to become aware of her cervical mucus. Her husband records a dot for the temperature on a chart, and at night she records a symbol to describe her mucus. This simple process gives the couple an accurate, day-to-day picture of her fertility.

This particular method of NFP, presented by the diocese’s trained instructors, teaches clients to understand the signals of fertile/infertile times sent by a woman’s body during her menstrual cycle and use these signals to identify the best time to achieve or postpone a pregnancy. If a couple wishes to prevent pregnancy, they refrain from genital contact or sexual intercourse during fertile periods. If a couple wishes to achieve pregnancy, they will know when the most fertile periods are.