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Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP

Updated on February 18, 2014

What is NFP?

NFP, or natural family planning, is a reliable and safe way to prevent pregnancy. It empowers women to take charge of their own fertility by learning to identify their fertile and infertile periods each month and using that information to decide to either engage in or abstain from sexual intercourse during the fertile days of her cycle. Natural Family planning offers several benefits that other methods of contraception do not offer.

  • NFP has NO side effects and there are no known associated risks associated with using NFP.
  • NFP does NOT involve the use of chemicals or hormones.
  • NFP users are empowered to take complete control if their body and their fertility by learning and respecting how their body works.
  • NFP encourages couples to talk more and be more open about their sexual relationship.
  • NFP is completely in-line with Christian teaching on right-to-life issues.

What is the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP?

The Sympto-thermal method of Natural Family Planning involves observing multiple fertility markers, making it the most reliable form of NFP and also the method which restricts sexual activity the least number of days each month. It also takes the longest to learn and requires the use of a basil body thermometer, which can be purchased for under $10.00 at your local pharmacy.

By tracking both primary fertility signs--including basil body temperature, cervical mucus, and calendar calculations--and secondary signs, such as a change in cervical position, breast tenderness, abdominal pain, a woman can tell with over 99.5% reliability whether or not she is fertile. She does not have to track every sign, but the two or three she feels most comfortable with. The most common approach is to combine the BBT or Basil body temperature and cervical mucus signs.

Please Note: This hub is not a substitute for taking a NFP class, or NFP book designed for learning NFP at home. Therefore, I have links to both a website where you can download an NFP pamphlet for free and NFP books that you can purchase from Amazon.

Fertility Marker #1: Basil Body Temperature (BBT)

A women's Basil Body Temperature fluctuates as she moves through the phases of fertility each month. BBT readings are taking each morning immediately upon awakening at approximately the same time each morning (within 30 minutes) and can be taken orally, vaginally, or rectally. (You must stick with the same method throughout the month) A woman's temperature remains low before ovulation, after which, it jumps about .4 degree F. After her BBT has remained elevated (above the pervious 6 days') for 3 days, the fertile phase of her cycle has passed and she can again consider herself infertile.

After the first 3 months, during which you should use the ovulation method conservatively, you will notice an emerging pattern, which you will use to determine your fertility window. You can use this information to avoid pregnancy, which would require you to abstain just 8-9 days a month. or to achieve pregnancy. Couples using the symptom-thermal method to achieve pregnancy often do so within just 3-6 months.

fertile-type mucus
fertile-type mucus

Fertility Marker #2: Cervical Mucus Sign

Cervical mucus can be observed externally or internally, although interal observations may be more accurate. If at any time you notice cervical mucus, you should consider yourself fertile. When cervical mucus is first present it will be tacky and whitish in color. As you approach ovulation, this mucus will increase and become stretchy and clear. After ovulation, cervical mucus becomes tacky and white in color again and begins to dry up, so you will notice less each day. After 3 days of drying up, you are infertile again.

This method is especially helpful after childbirth, when new mothers are often up for long periods of time during the night, making BBT reading inaccurate. This sign alone can be used to determine fertility, but when used in conjunction with the temperature sign, it reduces the number of abstinence days each month.

Fertility Marker # 3: Cervix Signs

A closed, firm, and low cervix usually indicates infertility; a cervix that is high, slightly open and soft always indicates fertility. Therefore, this sign should not be used alone as a means to avoid pregnancy, however it can be very helpful in reducing the number of abstinence days or in acheiving pregnancy.

Fertility Marker # 4: Calendar Calculations

Calendar Calculation is a more modern and more reliable form of the Rhythm Method. To use this method, a woman must know the longest and shortest monthly cycle of her last 6-12 cycles.

If her shortest cycle was:

  • 26-28 days, she can consider herself infertile until day 6
  • 23-25 days, she can consider herself infertile until day 5
  • 22 days, she can consider herself infertile until day 3

By subtracting 11 days from her longest cycle, she can determine when she will for sure be infertile again. For example:

  • Jane's longest cycle was 30 days and her shortest cycle was 26 days. Her fertile window would be day-6 through day-19.
  • Dawn's longest cycle was 28 days and her shortest cycle was 23 days. Her fertility window would be day-5 through day-17.

This method, when calculated correctly is very reliable (99.8%) and can be used by NFP couples while they are learning the other methods. Of course, this method requires the most number of abstinence days and is usually not used as a long term method of NFP. If a woman does not know her cycle history, she should assume a short cycle of 22 and a long cycle of 32 to be safe, so she would assume her fertility window to be day-3 to day-21. While she is not actually infertile during this entire period, it is impossible to reliably narrow down fertile days any further using the Calendar method alone.

Secondary Signs

Secondary signs cannot be used alone, but are indicators that ovulation has occurred. Some women may experience all of these signs, while others may notice only 1 or 2. You may never have noticed any before. When you start charting, watch for these signs:

  • mid-cycle spotting
  • Pain or achiness near the ovaries
  • increased sexual feelings
  • fuller vaginal lips or swollen vulva
  • abdominal bloating
  • water retention
  • increased energy level
  • heightened sense of vision, smell and taste
  • increased sensitivity in breasts and skins
  • breast tenderness

Learn NFP at Home with these Books


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