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GB-NON-02457 | Date of Preparation: April 2020


Natural method

Natural methods of birth control rely on fertility awareness rather than hormones or a barrier method. Fertility awareness is when you learn to recognise the signs of fertility during your monthly cycle, so you know when not to have sex and can avoid getting pregnant.1


Natural method key facts

There are three ways that may help you determine when you’re fertile:

  • Recording the length of your menstrual cycle
  • Taking daily readings of your body temperature
  • Noting changes to your cervical secretions (cervical mucus)

To be most effective, all of these methods should be used together. There are charts and smartphone apps available to help record this information.1


Natural family planning does not require you to take hormones1


Requires time and effort to learn, so cannot be used immediately1


You have to avoid having sex during the time when you’re fertile – some couples may find this restricts their sex life1

  • May be useful to those who wish to avoid taking hormones1
  • When followed correctly, natural methods can be up to 99% effective1
  • If you don’t follow the method carefully, it can be much less effective1,2 (around 1 in 4 women will become pregnant within the first year)*2
  • Can take up to 6 months to learn effectively1
  • Stress or illness can make the method unreliable1
  • You’ll need to avoid sex at certain times of the month, which can take a lot of willpower1

The pros and cons listed are not exhaustive. Talk to your doctor or nurse for more information.

*These are "typical" effectiveness rates, which is how effective the method is with an average person. Typical rates tend to reflect real life usage (including inconsistent and incorrect use). "Perfect" effectiveness rates are how effective the method is when used perfectly. Refer to the patient information leaflet for "perfect" use.

Common questions

Who can’t use fertility awareness for contraception?

Nearly anyone can use this method but there are a few things that can make natural methods unreliable. For example, having irregular periods or an infection can mask fertility signs. Personal factors, such as heavy consumption of alcohol or regular travel through time zones could also make this method difficult – it’s worth discussing with your doctor or nurse.1

How and why does this method work?

By tracking changes in your body throughout your monthly cycle you can figure out when you’re going to ovulate.1 If you know when you’re going to ovulate, you know when you will be able to get pregnant.1 You then have to avoid having sex in that time. It might sound simple in principle, but it needs a lot of practice to get right. To be accurate, you should track your cycle over 12 months.1

So what do I do now?

Now you have a few options for types of contraception that might be right for you, you should have a chat with a GP/doctor or nurse.


Sexual health clinic

Find and visit a contraception clinic near you for information about your available choices.

Find out more


Pop into your local pharmacy and ask about your options.

Find a pharmacy

GP clinic

Make an appointment with your nurse or doctor so you can chat about what options are best for you.

Find a GP

You may want to download information on your options to help with your discussion.

Download now

PDF - 0.5MB

Reporting of Side Effects: If you get any side effects, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse. This includes any possible side effects not listed in the package leaflet. You can also report side effects directly via the Yellow Card Scheme at By reporting side effects you can help provide more information on the safety of this medicine.


  1. NHS contraception guide: Natural family planning.
    Available at: (Last accessed May 2019).
  2. Trussell J. Contraception 2011;83:397–404.
  1. Merriam-Webster medical dictionary. Available at: (Last accessed September 2019).
  2. Healthline. Guide to cervical mucus. Available at: (Last accessed September 2019).

Contraceptive Match is an awareness campaign which has been fully funded and developed by MSD.

Images on this site are for illustrative purposes only.