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Traditional Methods of Family Planning

author image Juniper Russo
Juniper Russo, an eclectic autodidact, has been writing professionally since 2008. Her work has appeared in several online and print-based publications, including Animal Wellness. Russo regularly publishes health-related content and advocates an evidence-based, naturopathic approach to health care.
Traditional Methods of Family Planning
A young couple are happy having just discovered they are pregnant. Photo Credit: michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images

Several family planning methods pre-date the emergence of modern birth control. Before the advent of condoms and hormone-altering drugs, men and women utilized primitive methods for preventing conception. Although some of these techniques are surprisingly effective, they require diligence and careful planning. Consult your gynecologist, obstetrician, midwife or other health care provider for more information about these traditional contraceptive techniques.

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The most effective method of contraception is complete abstinence from heterosexual intercourse. As a contraceptive technique, abstinence is ultimately 100 percent effective and offers additional protection against sexually transmitted infections. Although couples using this family planning technique may engage in other forms of sexual contact, most find it challenging to abstain from intercourse entirely.

Withdrawal Method

Also known as coitus interruptus or "pulling out," the withdrawal method is one of the world's oldest family planning techniques. According to, withdrawal prevents conception by preventing sperm from entering the vagina. For withdrawal to work effectively, the man must fully withdraw his penis from his partner's vagina before he ejaculates. However, this method is not completely effective; sperm may leak if withdrawal is improperly timed. In some cases, viable sperm may also appear in pre-ejaculatory fluid, leading to an unplanned pregnancy.

Rhythm Method

The rhythm method is also known as the calendar method; it works by predicting the days in which a woman is most fertile. To use this technique, a woman must chart her menstrual history for several months in order to anticipate the dates in which she is ovulating. According to, women using this technique must abstain from unprotected sex on the days during which she is most fertile. The rhythm method can be somewhat effective, but it requires careful record-keeping and diligent adherence to the technique.

Cervical Mucus Method

Like the rhythm method, the cervical mucus method of family planning works by predicting the days in which a woman is most fertile. During ovulation, the consistency of cervical secretions will change to accommodate conception. A woman can determine her level of fertility by consistently documenting the color, texture and consistency of her vaginal mucus. The cervical mucus method is reliable only if a woman is intimately familiar with her own body and if the couple consistently uses other contraceptive techniques during fertile days.

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