Although these days it is increasingly being seen and used as such, termination of a pregnancy is not technically a form of contraception so I have not included it here. This topic is discussed in greater detail in the section dealing with “Unplanned Conceptions” on page 135.
And last but not least – my very favourite! By using the system of Natural Fertility Management as developed by Francesca Naish (described previously on page 95), we have a fully natural and nearly perfect contraception method. The only variable error is you! It involves combining the lunar cycle method with temperature measurement and all those personal observances which change throughout the month such as: the vaginal mucus changes, mood fluctuations, libido levels, bowel activity, skin and hair condition, appetite, energy levels, sleep patterns, concentra-tion and others. In combination with that, it requires that you share open communication with your sexual partner and that both of you use awareness, respect and a small amount of self discipline not to engage in (genital) union during the few days immediately preceding your ovulation or during your lunar fertile times.
At first it can take a bit of mental energy, daily effort and slightly longer times of abstinence to be really free of mistakes, but over time, the whole process will become quick, easy and intuitive. As well as the contraceptive benefits, this system puts you intimately back in touch with your body, thoughts and feelings, always feeling safe in the knowledge that you are not doing anything which could disturb your natural hormonal function, inhibit your fertility for a later date or damage your reproductive organs. It allows full tactile appreciation, is 95 - 99% reliable, and, the very best thing is that it shares the responsibility for contraception equally with the male. This last point might sound silly since it is the woman doing all the self observation, but I have found that when using this method, men actually like to become aware of your cycle so they can time their own desires and needs for intimacy to fit in with it. More than the obvious self interest, this can also be a gesture of considerateness.
The downsides of this method are that it offers no protection against sexually transmitted diseases for those who like to have sex with men whose sexual histories they do not know or trust, and that there is a period of abstinence which can block the spontaneous flow of penetrative sex at certain opportunities. In these regards you could summarise that natural fertility management is probably a system best employed for those in a steady sexual relationship. However, for women who like to sleep with unattached men occasionally, the combination of this system (for their own reproductive awareness) and a barrier method (for their peace of mind) would give the most natural and reliable all round protection against pregnancy and STDs.
A woman is only fertile for between 12 and 24 hours of each cycle. That’s such a short time it’s a wonder anyone ever becomes pregnant! The egg, once released from the ovary, quickly deteriorates and many ova fail to fertilise if they do not meet strong and healthy sperm within that limited time period. The fertility of a man is another matter altogether. A healthy man makes sperm constantly from about the age of twelve until well into old age. Once ejaculated, sperm can live for up to 6 days in the right situation which is the pre-ovulatory environment of a woman’s uterus and fallopian tubes. But for successful fertilisation and implantation to occur, both sperm and egg need to be young and healthy. Therefore sperm even 5 days old, are unlikely to successfully fertilise a newly released egg.
So in the natural fertility management system the time frame that a couple need to refrain from full intercourse is 5 days prior to ovulation. Once a woman is sure ovulation has passed she is free to have sex again. Observing the build up to ovulation is the easy part, confirmation of that ovulation is the tricky part, and for the novice is best confirmed by basal body temperature measurement.
The issue of 4, 5, 6 days a month abstinence being a great imposition, I think, is so over-blown. One particular Bible passage I have always remembered (due to its popularity in an old pop song) is this:
“To everything there is a season
And a time for every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born, a time to die,
A time to plant, a time to reap,
A time to embrace
And a time to refrain from embracing”