What is the symptothermal method?
The symptothermal method involves the combination of several natural contraceptive practices:
- Practice Billings
- Basal temperature method
- Analysis of changes in the uterine cervix (by self-examination)
- Assessment of pre / post-menstrual symptoms (e.g. breast tenderness, abdominal pain, etc.)
Similarly to the Ogino-Knaus method, the symptothermal one is also considered a method of birth control and of natural regulation of fertility. This is because it is up to the couple to decide whether to plan a pregnancy (thus consuming sexual intercourse during the potentially fertile days) or to avoid it (refraining from unprotected intercourse in the same period).
Married couples are the category of people best suited to practice the symptothermal method as a first choice strategy to avoid pregnancy, in full compliance with the rules of the Religion and the Church. However, it should be stressed that the symptothermal method - like all other natural contraceptive strategies - can be used both to prevent pregnancy and to plan it. In fact, when a man and a woman want children, the symptothermal method identifies the most fruitful days for the woman, or the period in which she is most predisposed to conception.
Typical course of the menstrual cycle during the various phases of the menstrual cycle
The philosophy of the method
By jointly assessing the cervical mucus (Billings method) and body temperature variations during the menstrual cycle, the symptothermal method makes it possible to recognize the woman's potentially fertile days. According to this contraceptive philosophy, the couple who does not wish to become pregnant should abstain from unprotected intercourse 3 days before and 3 days after the maximum peak of the basal temperature. During this period, the cervical mucus is particularly stringy and fluid, and the woman perceives a sensation of "wet".
In addition to these factors, the symptothermal method provides for the careful evaluation of the physiological changes of the uterine cervix (detectable by self-examination of the cervix) and of the symptoms (premenstrual syndrome).
For maximum contraceptive efficacy, the woman who follows the symptothermal method should record the temperature changes, changes in cervical mucus, changes in the cervix and all other symptoms that occur during the menstrual cycle DAILY. For this reason, Special registration forms have been designed, the purpose of which is to note all these aspects in order to detect with (almost) absolute certainty the fertile days of the woman.
Interpretation of signals
We see, in the table, some indications that help the woman to interpret the different signs sent by the organism.
(*) a woman's basal temperature is best measured in the morning as soon as she wakes up, using a special thermometer to be inserted into the vagina. The temperature increase that characterizes the period immediately following ovulation does not generally exceed one degree Celsius. The basal temperature of the woman tends to present lower levels immediately after menstruation, and then increases by 0.5-0.9 ° C in the hours following ovulation. Then, in the next phase of the cycle, called luteal, the temperature is it maintains high levels, although undergoing a slight and almost constant reduction.
By carefully interpreting all these signs and symptoms together, the woman can understand which days she is most at risk of becoming pregnant.
Symptothermal method and reliability
Some authors venture to affirm that the "reliability of the symptothermal method is almost comparable to those of the latest generation hormonal contraceptives, such as the estrogen-progestin pill, contraceptive ring / patch and IUD spiral. In reality, however, the contraceptive efficacy of the symptothermal method must to deal with the influence of numerous factors (stress, environmental factors, nutritional status, etc.), which could deceive the woman, generating thermal fluctuations very similar to those of the ovulatory period. Just think that the Pearl index assigned to the symptothermal method fluctuates from a very low value, up to 2.6.
The Pearl Index is a standard method indicated for evaluating the efficacy of all contraceptive methods. The Pearl index is indirectly proportional to the contraceptive efficacy (the higher the value, the lower its efficacy). For a practical comparison, remember that the Pearl index of contraceptive pills is around 0.1.
The symptothermal method requires a "high mastery of one's own body and an extreme commitment on the part of the woman. For this reason, in terms of contraception, the symptothermal method is now rarely used by young couples who want to minimize the risk of unwanted pregnancies; instead, space in stable relationships between adult and consenting people, ready to accept any failure of the contraceptive protection guaranteed by the symptothermal method.