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    Today's Natural Family Planning

    By Terri D'Arrigo
    WebMD Feature

    When you use natural family planning, you don’t have to worry about side effects or deal with refills or replacements. And if you decide you want to get pregnant, you can try right away.

    But does it really prevent pregnancy? And is it right for you?

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    When you choose natural family planning, you're relying on your own fertility awareness -- knowing when you’re most likely to get pregnant.

    Today, there are plenty of tools to assist you: high-tech digital thermometers, kits that measure certain hormones in your urine, and smartphone apps. Advances in science have given us a better understanding of fertility and ovulation. But it ultimately comes back to the basics.

    "The most important thing to remember is that no matter what kind of assistance or tools someone uses, you have to understand the principles behind the method,” says Kenneth E. Johnson, DO, an OB/GYN at Nova Southeastern University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

    The Basics

    Typically, an egg releases from one of your ovaries every month. If your periods come every 28 days, you’ll ovulate about 14 days before the start of each period. After you ovulate, the egg can live for about 24 hours. Sperm can live for 7 days. If sperm is alive inside you while your egg is, you can get pregnant.

    Your fertile days will most likely be from 5 days before to 3 days after ovulation.

    Methods

    You may have heard your mother or grandmother mention the rhythm or calendar method. It was created in the 1930s. With it, women chart out their periods on a calendar, and gauge which days they they're fertile using simple math.

    Today, there are several other ways to predict when you can get pregnant:

    Standard Days: This method is similar to the rhythm method. It still uses a calendar, but it relies on one basic rule: If your menstrual cycle is between 26 days and 32 days long, days 8 through 19 are your most fertile. That's when you shouldn't have sex. “It’s extremely rare that a woman always has 28- or 29-day cycles. Some variability is normal,” says Victoria H. Jennings, PhD, director of the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

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