Natural Family Planning vs. the Sympto-thermal Method of Fertility Awareness

wrote this on July 25, 2014

Natural Family Planning (NFP), much like the commonly‐mocked rhythm method, has been confused with just about every natural method of pregnancy prevention, even though it’s not an all‐inclusive term. NFP and a method like the sympto‐thermal method of fertility awareness (STM) have a lot in common, but there are several key differences that I’m going to discuss in this blog post.

How they’re alike

Both STM and NFP fall under the umbrella of fertility awareness‐based methods (FABMs or FAMs), which also include methods like the rhythm method, the standard days method, and the Billings method. Practicing STM or NFP requires observations of both basal body temperature (BBT) and cervical fluid. Because of this, they are highly effective at preventing pregnancy compared to other FABMs and rival hormonal contraceptives in effectiveness when practiced correctly and consistently. Since they both require BBT measurements and cervical fluid observations, it should come as no surprise that they are based on the same principles of reproductive science.

Both methods can provide you with a deep understanding of how your body works and can provide clues about the state of your reproductive health. I’ve talked to tons of women who say that STM (or NFP) has empowered them with an incredible sense of confidence, and I can personally attest to this benefit. Not just that, but many women rave that these methods greatly enhance partner communication and strengthen relationships.

How they’re different

NFP is the only method of pregnancy prevention approved by the Catholic Church, and, as such, it does not allow for the use of barrier methods (like condoms, diaphragms, or cervical caps) during the fertile phase or outside of the fertile phase. This means that for pregnancy prevention, a couple practicing NFP must abstain from sex when the woman is fertile. NFP is technically a type of “sympto‐thermal” method, but the two terms are typically not used interchangeably. STM, on the other hand, is a secular method, so unlike NFP it does allow for barrier backup use during the fertile phase. STM is essentially an evolution of NFP, so you can thank the Catholic Church for much of the research and science behind the method.

Regardless of your religious convictions or the method you use, the Groove app can help you chart your fertility signs to meet your reproductive goals.

Jennifer Aldoretta is the cofounder and CEO of Groove. She is an entrepreneur, engineer, and biohacker who is obsessed with periods, nutrition, hormones, and the microbiome.