Contraception Behavioral Methods

Behavioral methods of avoiding pregnancy don’t use hormones (such as the birth control pill), or physical methods (such as condoms). Behavioral methods of contraception include:

  • Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM)
  • Natural method of family planning (NFP)
  • Sexual abstinence
  • Sexual outercourse and withdrawal.

Behavioral Methods Effectiveness

Compared to other methods of avoiding pregnancy, behavioral methods (aside from sexual abstinence) aren’t considered particularly effective. Women who use behavioral methods still have a relatively high rate of pregnancy. Should these behavioral methods fail, women may want to be prepared with a method of emergency contraception.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Behavioral Methods

The benefits of using behavioral methods to prevent pregnancy include:

  • They are endorsed by many religious groups
  • They don’t cost anything
  • They don’t have hormonal side effects.

However, behavioral methods have drawbacks when actually trying to avoid pregnancy. The natural method of family planning is only effective for women who have regular, timely menstrual cycles. Some couples also find it hard to maintain behavioral methods, such as sexual abstinence or withdrawal, as these tend to detract from sexual pleasure.

Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM)

After a woman has a baby, her hormones prevent her from ovulating as long as she is breastfeeding, or nursing, her baby. However, after six months, women typically start ovulating again. To use the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) effectively, you should breastfeed your baby at least four hours every day and six hours every night. During this postpartum period, this behavioral method’s success rate is approximately 98 percent.

Natural Method of Family Planning

The natural method of family planning involves planned, periodic sexual abstinence. The couple refrains from having sexual intercourse when the woman is likely to be fertile, or when she is ovulating.

There are several ways to tell if you are fertile or not, including monitoring the consistency of your cervical mucus and your body temperature. The method of monitoring and charting both cervical mucus and body temperature is called FAM, or the fertility awareness method. However, not all women are alike, and these factors can be highly variable.

Behavioral Methods of Contraception Planning-Cervical Mucous

Because of the relatively high failure rate of this natural method of family planning, check with a health practitioner or a trained counselor to make sure you understand how to use this method most effectively. In fact, you may want to use this method as a backup, along with another type of contraception (such as spermicide or condoms).

Sexual Abstinence

Complete sexual abstinence, when employed faithfully and continuously, has a 100 percent prevention rate of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. However, some couples find behavioral methods such as sexual abstinence unrealistic and difficult to follow.

Sexual Outercourse and Withdrawal

Sexual outercourse refers to sexual activities, such as mutual masturbation, which create sexual pleasure without inserting the penis into the vagina. Sexual outercourse is fairly effective at preventing pregnancy. However, depending on the sexual practices performed, pregnancy may occur if any semen, such as in pre-ejaculatory fluid, inadvertently enters the vagina.

Withdrawal (also called “coitus interruptus”) involves removal of the entire penis from the vagina during intercourse before the man ejaculates. This behavioral method is typically difficult for a man who is emotionally engaged in the act of intercourse, resulting in a 20 percent failure rate. Also, pre-ejaculatory fluid may be expressed during an erection, allowing sperm to enter the vagina and have a chance to fertilize the egg.


Emedicinehealth Staff. (2010). Birth control behavioral methods. Retrieved February 8, 2010, from the Emedicinehealth Web site:

Nelson, A. and Russo, J. (2006). Behavioral methods of contraception. Retrieved February 12, 2010, from the Springerlink Web site: