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Avoiding (or Achieving) Pregnancy by Timing Your Cycle

Using Your Cycle to Avoid or Achieve Pregnancy

Various methods of natural family planning have been developed to help women avoid pregnancy using their cycles. In some methods, women must take their temperature ("basal body temperature") first thing in the morning every morning. Other methods rely on charting the presence or absence (and characteristics) of the cervical mucus.
These methods can be reasonably effective if done correctly, but they do require quite of bit of practice, knowledge, and self-control to avoid sex during the fertile period. These same methods can also help women achieve pregnancy, as they help women identify their fertile periods.
From a practical standpoint, many women wonder what their chance of pregnancy is from a particular occurrence of unprotected sex at a certain time in their cycle. Generally speaking, a woman with a typical cycle is less likely to get pregnant when having sex near the beginning and end of her cycle, compared to having sex during the middle of her cycle when ovulation is likely to occur. However, because the exact timing of ovulation is highly variable from woman to woman, this should not be relied upon as the only way to prevent pregnancy.
Of course, this does not apply to women on birth control pills, as they are not having normal, natural cycles. For women on the pill, the risk of pregnancy is probably greatest when the first or last of the "active" pills (the ones that contain the hormones) in a pack are missed. Missing one of these pills extends the hormone-free period, which is usually one week long for most pills.
If it is important for you to avoid pregnancy and you have had unprotected sex at any point in your cycle, you might want to consider emergency contraception, such as Plan B One-Step™, even if you think you probably have a low risk of pregnancy because of the timing.
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