Question & Answer

Is tracking my cycle (non-hormonal contraception), including tracking my temperature, an effective way to prevent pregnancy?

Click image to download

The Evidence

  • Natural contraception (also called natural family planning or fertility awareness-based methods) is a method of contraception where a woman can track her menstrual cycle and monitor different fertility signals (such as changes in vaginal discharge and basal body temperature) to identify when she is likely to get pregnant.
  • A 2018 systematic review found no high quality research and concluded that pregnancy rates varied widely across different fertility awareness-based methods. The differences among the populations examined in the studies made it impossible for this review to compare natural contraception methods.
  • A 2004 Cochrane systematic review concluded that  the effectiveness of fertility awareness-based methods of contraception remains unknown. The studies in the review identified difficulty in recruiting participants. Also, large numbers of participants dropped out before the research period was over, making the results weak.
  • A big issue with studies of natural contraceptions is that pregnancy rates or probabilities of pregnancy and how these are reported varied widely across different fertility awareness-based methods, so we cannot be certain about this type of evidence.

Guidelines and recommendations

  • According to the NHS, natural family planning  methods can be effective if the instructions are carefully followed. They say that if natural family planning methods are not followed correctly, then there is more possibility to get pregnant. Also, stress, illness, travel, lifestyle and hormonal treatments can disrupt fertility signs and natural family planning methods.
  • According to the US CDC, fertility awareness-based methods can help to avoid getting pregnant. However, they say that it may work for women with a regular menstrual cycles, and the failure rates vary across these methods.

Things to Remember


  • Drafted by: Dr. KM Saif-Ur-Rahman, Evidence Synthesis Ireland and Cochrane Ireland, University of Galway.
  • Reviewed by: Prof Declan Devane, School of Nursing and Midwifery, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, University of Galway.
  • Topic Advisor: Caroline Mc Carthy. Clinical Lecturer and Research Fellow, Department of General Practice, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences and General Practitioner, Leixlip, Co Kildare.
  • Public and patient advisor: Ms Anne Daly, Public and Patient Involvement in research (PPI) advisor, PPI Ignite, University of Galway.
  • Journalistic advisor: Claire O’Connell,Contributor to The Irish Times, writing about health, science and innovation.