Natural family planning - The symptothermal method

   Other natural methods - in the past and present

   The idea that a woman's fertility is something cyclical is very outdated. The first mention of natural planning methods dates back to famous ancient philosophers and Jewish texts.

   Nowadays, there is a plethora of methods out there, but the symptothermal method is the most reliable. Others, are of debateable safety, and yet they are still used.

   Calendar or Ogino-Kraus method

   The first scientific research on the fertile period of the menstrual cycle, was carried out by the gynaecologists Ogino (Japanese) and Knaus (Austrian). Independently, they found out that ovulation takes place around 12 to 16 days before menstruation. The rules derived by Ogino and Knaus, determine the infertile period depending on the duration of the previous menstrual cycles (calendar method). At this point, the method was ahead of its time. But it is not reliable at all, and therefore today its usage is discouraged.

   The temperature method

   Is based on the variation of the basal temperature ( taken before getting up in the morning) and the temperature taken during the menstrual cycle. It was the Dutchman, Van de Helde, who for the first time linked temperature to ovulation. Y el primero que decidió emplear este conocimiento para la planificación familiar fue el párroco Wilhelm Hillebrand, en 1953.
   In 1954 the German gynaecologist Gerhard Döring published an easy-to-understand brochure for the general public, in order to promote the method.
   The method is much more reliable than the calendar method, yet not as reliable as the symptothermal or Billings method, because it only takes temperature into account, the only thing the method can anticipate, are the infertile days after ovulation.
   This means that this method is even better than the symptothermal method in terms of determining the fertile days post-ovulation. It should be used if the woman is not allowed to get pregnant due to medical reasons, such as serious congenital illnesses, or heart problems. In those cases, couples should refrain from sex before ovulation or use additional contraceptives.

   Ovulation or Billings method

   It was Australian neurologist John Billings, who around 1960, started to develop this method. The current version though, solely relies on the examination of cervical discharge. It is not as reliable as the symptothermal method, as its assessment only takes the mucus into account.    Mucothermal method

   Like the symptothermal method, this method takes discharge and temperature into account, but not the examination of the cervix.

   The Cyclo-thermal method

   Assesses fertility before ovulation using a calculator. And fertility after ovulation by taking the temperature.

   LAM (Lactational amenorrhea Method)

   The lactational amenorrhea method, specifies that under two conditions, a woman can be infertile for the 6 months after pregnancy:
- the child has to be fed exclusively on breast milk
- and that there has not been any menstrual bleeding since childbirth

   If one of these rules is not followed, the woman becomes fertile and the other factors have to be taken into account (discharge, temperature, cervix) in order to determine infertile days.

   The symptothermal method

   The symptothermal method basically combines examining body temperature and cervical discharge or the cervix. Out of the natural family planning methods, the symptothermal method is considered the most reliable, as the examination of various symptoms allows a woman to determine exactly, when the fertile and infertile days are.

   It was publicised for the first time in 1965 by the Austrian doctor, Josef Rötzer.

   In 1977 and 1978, research on the subject was carried out in Calcutta, with the help of Mother Teresa's 'Missionaries of Charity' and the Indian Council of Medical Research. The study revealed the wide acceptance and popularity of the method, with the local population, due to its efficiency (Pearl Index between 0.2 and 0.3).

   In 1981 the working group NFP (Natural Family Planning) was founded in Germany, from 1984 to 1991 the group worked on a project, supported by the German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth determining the rules of the symptothermal method, as they are widely available in Germany, today.
An interdisciplinary scientific working group approved of the medical, pedagogical, and psychological advice given as part of these guidelines. The group was made up of members of the University of Düsseldorf and other institutions of higher education.

   The method, as explained on this web site, was elaborated by the German working group NFP.

   Recognized, by the WHO, as one of the natural family planning methods, the symptothermal method has been subject of many guidelines published by the organisation, which are all very similar to those published by the German working group.