|What Does Natural Birth Control Mean?
Natural in this instance refers to precautions taken to prevent pregnancy which do not involve hormone manipulation (such as contraceptive pills, IUD device, birth control injections and implants) or artificial contraceptive devices (such as condoms, female condoms, contraceptive sponge and spermicides). There are two main types of natural birth control that are practiced by couples, these are:
Withdrawal: where the man withdraws from the woman before ejaculation.
Periodic abstinence: avoiding intercourse when the woman is at her most fertile.
Sometimes these methods are assisted by fertility observation in the form of monitoring cervical mucus or charting the woman's basal body temperature (BBT). This will highlight a woman's most fertile days when she is ovulating (releasing an egg) and most likely to become pregnant.
Also called coitus interruptus, this is where the man withdraws his penis just before ejaculation so that sperm does not enter the vagina. There are two problems with this method. First, small amounts of sperm may be released before actual ejaculation. And secondly it requires good timing, an enormous amount of self control on the man's part, trust between the couple and probably good luck. Despite these limitations the withdrawal method has the same failure rate as barrier methods of contraception. If performed perfectly all the time, it has a failure rate of just 4 percent, but in practice (who's perfect?), it is typically 18 percent. The risk of pregnancy can be reduced by abstaining from intercourse when the woman is ovulating.
This practice means avoiding intercourse when the woman is at her most fertile. It encompasses several methods which are used to judge when she is most likely to be fertile. These include:
Calendar Rhythm Method
Also known as simply the rhythm method, this involves tracking your menstrual history to predict when you will ovulate. This helps you to work out when you are most likely to conceive. The information can be used both to prevent or promote pregnancy, depending on your wishes. Based on your previous 12 menstrual cycles, you subtract 18 days from your shortest cycle to determine your first fertile day; and subtract 11 days from your longest menstrual cycle to determine your last fertile day. If you periods are irregular it will mean that there will be a greater number of days in which you could become pregnant. Although effectiveness varies, in the first year of practice between 13 and 25 women in every 100 will become pregnant. To improve the effectiveness the rhythm method should be combined with another method such as BBT or cervix mucus monitoring.
Basal Body temperature (BBT)
Tracking the body basal temperature (BBT) every morning is one of the oldest methods of predicting ovulation. A BBT is your normal body temperature. Using a special BBT thermometer, the woman takes her temperature first thing in the morning before getting out of bed. She then records the result on a chart. Usually the temperature will climb on the day of ovulation. Using BBT as a method of birth control, you should refrain from intercourse from the time your temperature drops to at least 48 or 72 hours after it increases again.
As you approach ovulation you may notice that you develop a thin, watery vaginal discharge. This discharge comes from the cervix and is slippery, allowing sperm to glide more easily through the cervix (see diagram of the female body). At other times in the month it is thick and cloudy and protects foreign bodies (like bacteria) from entering the vagina. You can learn to recognize the difference in your cervical mucus by studying its appearance on your underwear and toilet tissue. If you wish to avoid pregnancy, you should avoid intercourse for 3 to 4 days after you notice the change in your cervical mucus.
Ovulation Predictor Kits
Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPK's) are typically marketed at women who wish to become pregnant, but they can equally be used to know when to avoid it. OPK's look like home pregnancy tests; you pee on a stick to check for signs of ovulation. Usually you start testing about day 16 before your next period, but if you have irregular periods you may need to test earlier to make sure you don't miss the day of ovulation. OPK kits measure the amount of luteinizing hormone (LH) in your body. The amounts of LH surges 20 to 48 hours before you ovulate. To reduce the risk of pregnancy you need to avoid intercourse when the LH surges (the day before ovulation) and for 2 days after.
This involves tracking your fertility by combining fertility awareness methods. Most commonly it combines BBT and cervical monitoring with the calendar method. The signs of one method can be used to confirm the results the other. If used correctly only 2 women in every 100 will become pregnant within a year.
Can I Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding?
Lactational infertility is based on the idea that breastfeeding women cannot become pregnant. While it is true that breastfeeding women do not ovulate as quickly after childbirth as women who choose not to breastfeed - most women who breastfeed start ovulating within 10 to 12 weeks. If you do not wish to become pregnant, you should consider using an appropriate form of contraception, such as the IUD device, birth control implant or birth control injections. Or you may prefer more natural methods.
Will Douching Prevent Pregnancy?
Douching is the use of squirting a liquid solution into the vagina to clean it. Many women choose to douche as part of routine vaginal hygiene (although the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists do not recommend the practice). There is a myth that douching can also help prevent pregnancy by washing sperm out of the vagina. Unfortunately this is not true. Active sperm can swim through the cervix and reach the womb within 5 minutes of ejaculation. Douching cannot be performed quickly enough to have any contraceptive benefits. In fact, it might do the opposite and force sperm even higher into the womb. Additionally, if you douche within 6 to 8 hours of using a spermicide you can reduce the effectiveness of this contraception.
Will Standing Up After Intercourse Prevent Pregnancy?
No, it will not. Although some women think that standing up and urinating immediately after intercourse will prevent sperm from traveling 'uphill', it is as ineffective as douching.
Natural Birth Control Pills
Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals recently launched the world's first 'natural' birth control pill called Qlaira. Rather than containing man-made synthetic hormones (as regular pills do), it contains bioidentical hormones from natural plant sources. It has been launched in Europe and has not yet been approved by the FDA in America.
Contraceptive pills side effects.
Women have used herbs for thousands of years to naturally reduce fertility. While herbal remedies will never offer the same protection as medical contraception, it may offer an alternative to some women who simply wish to be more natural. That said, most herbalists will not recommend herbs for contraception because of their potential unreliability and unresearched side effects. The following is a list of herbs which are used by some women:
Wild Yam: Taken daily, women report mixed results.
Neem Oil: Used by Indian women it comes in a commercial preparation which is used by both men and women for contraception. Men take it orally as a daily male contraception (induces sterility) and women use it vaginally like a spermicide.
Queen Anne's Lace Seeds (Wild Carrot): These seeds are a popular form of contraception in India. They are taken on a need-only basis in liquid form or as edible seeds. The first dose is taken within 8 hours of intercourse, followed by another dose as needed. It may also help reduce vaginal dryness.
Rutin (vitamin P): This remedy can be bought in many health stores. It may help prevent pregnancy when taken in tablet form (500mg) daily for several days before ovulation. Or you can take it after intercourse and continue until your period.
Remember: Herbal remedies are medicines. As with any other medication you should use care in ensuring they are the correct product for you. Don't forget the phrases natural, herbal and derived from plants do not necessarily mean safe. Many plants can be poisonous and many herbal remedies have been developed from plants using the powerful compounds they contain.