Let talk about the methods, types, practices and the history of traditional family planning in Nigeria. It is probably best I start with these important questions my lady: how long is your menstrual cycle? Do you know when you are ovulating? How do you know you are ovulating? How many days in a month is your safe period? How long is your safe period? Can you calculate your safe period? The natural/traditional family planning methods which is still the most popular practice of preventing unwanted pregnancies among Nigerians and perhaps Africans helps you know when you are ovulating(unsafe period) and calculate your safe period. Though, it does not protect you from sexually transmitted infections.

Let us discuss the natural method of family planning in Nigeria in the headers below:

History of traditional family planning in Nigeria

If not until the 20th century that ushered in the modern era of family planning in Nigeria- the President Ibrahim Babagida policy of one woman to four children era, the desire to control our fertility dates back to ancient times and throughout the world for thousands of years, child spacing has been practised using various traditional methods. In the African and Nigerian settings, culture and traditional practices were very strong in the past in most societies to enforce child spacing in order to improve the health of mothers and children and NOT for limiting family size- our fore parents needed the large families then for their farmwork.

However, in the past two decades most African countries especially Nigeria have changed in favour of family planning to check population growth and family size for health reasons and more recently, family planning (contraception) is now a fundamental human right of every girl, lady and woman that must be respected.

The high cost, technique, side effects and government lip service to modern family planning in Nigeria has made many Nigerian woman stick to the traditional method of birth spacing and preventing unwanted pregnancies.

What is traditional family planning?

Also known as natural family planning, it is a form of contraception in Nigeria and in African societies that involves no pills, no injection, no barrier (condom, cervical cap, sponge), no IUCD. It only involves the girl, lady, woman understanding her menstrual cycle, knowing when she is ovulating (fertile period) and abstaining from sexual intercourse in a bid to avoid getting pregnant.

The natural/traditional family planning in Nigeria and other African countries is favoured by most couples because of religious (especially the catholics) or cultural reasons. It requires a great deal of discipline and full commitment of both partners.

Types of traditional methods of family planning in Nigeria/ traditional birth control methods in Nigeria

The traditional family planning is a fertility awareness based method. Here, the woman is expected to understand her menstrual cycle, know her safe and unsafe periods (fertile period or when she is ovulating) and avoid sexual intercourse during the unsafe period of her menstrual cycle.

In simpler terms, traditional family planning involves periodic abstinence from sex.

To this end, the couples especially the woman needs to be educated or aware of the methods she can use to determine her ovulation period.

The methods/types of traditional family planning in Nigeria includes:

1. Calendar calculation/Rhythm method

This is practicable in women with relatively regular cycles. You will avoid sexual intercourse 3 days from your estimated ovulation date up to 3 days after the said date (a total of 7 days). The estimated date of ovulation is usually (not always) 14 days from the date of her expected next period.

Alternative to calendar calculation is the rhythm method, which requires the woman to know her menstrual calendar for the past 6 months. Subtracting 18 from yourshortestrecorded cycle determines your estimated first day of your fertile time (unsafe period). Subtracting 11 from the length of your longest cycle will determine the last day of your fertile period.

For example, if your recorded menstrual cycle is 28 days, let us do some counting:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

11 12 13 14 16 17 18

19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

To get the first day of your fertile (unsafe) period, count 18 backwards (starting from 28 and ending @ 11). And to get the last day of your fertile period, count 11 backwards (starting from 28 and ending @ 18). So you should abstain from sex between day 11 to day 18 (9 days) because these days are your fertile period and your chances of getting pregnant is high.

You can also used the billings method (calendar method) if your cycle is 29-30, 31, 32, 33, 34 or 35 days.

traditional family planning in Nigeria
Family planning: Obama and his lovely family

2. Cervical secretions

A woman using the traditional method of family planning in Nigeria must know how to check for daily cervical mucus, and softness. Immediately after your last flow, your cervix may be dry or the mucus will be scanty, cloudy and sticky for the first 3, 4, 5, 6 or even 7 days depending on the length of your menstrual cycle. These days are safe. Your body makes more mucus when an egg starts to ripen and ovulation is about to happen. This mucus will be yellow, white, or cloudy and it feels sticky or tacky. Ovulation starts when the mucus becomes slippery and looks like egg white and can be stretched between your fingers. These “slippery days” are your fertile(unsafe) days when you are most likely going to get pregnant. After about 4 slippery days, the mucus reduces and gets cloudy and sticky or even dry- this is another safe period. It will be best you have a chart to record your daily dry days, wet days, sticky days, cloudy days and slippery days. Cervical mucus is best tested between the thumb and the index finger.

3. Basal body Temperature

This is based on the principle that during ovulation,progesterone increases your body temperature by 0.2-0.5°C. You will take your temperature (orally, rectally, or vaginally) daily at the same time of the day. Avoid sex when your body temperature raises by 0.2-0.5°C and may be resumed when the temperature goes back to baseline and remains so for 3 days.

4. Sympto-thermal method

It is a combination of at least 2 of the above methods. For example, a woman that combines the calendar method, cervical mucus method and basal body temperature for contraception will be less likely to get pregnant compared to a woman that uses only one of the above methods.


5. Withdrawal method

Also known as coitus interruptus, it is the oldest known contraceptive method dating back to the Old Testament of the Bible. Coitus unterruptus refers to the withdrawal of the penis from the vagina before the release of ejaculate. Because it requires a strong degree of male motivation especially at the height of his (and perhaps also the partner’s) orgasm, it is associated with high failure rates. Moreover, the pre-ejaculatory secretions can contain millions of spermatozoa that can cause pregnancy. Perhaps for the above reasons, coitus interruptus is not regarded as a reliable form of contraception in Nigeria. Nevertheless, withdrawal method is one of the most commonly used contraceptive methods amongst Nigerian males.

6. Lactational amenorrhea methods

Also known as the breastfeeding method of contraception. Lactational amenorrhoea method refers to a contraceptive method that is dependent on exclusive breastfeeding. LAM is based on the physiological concept that breast feeding women have amenorrhea and are therefore not ovulating. For it to be successful, the baby must be fully on breast milk (day and night), and the periods should not have resumed. Finally, because the chances of spontaneous resumption of periods increase significantly after 6 months (it may be up to 1 year) after delivery, it therefore can only be regarded as a temporary form of contraception. Advantages of LAM include the numerous benefits breastfeeding confers to baby and mother, its cheapness and its strong cultural appeal. It must be remembered that in most Nigerian cultures, women traditionally breast feed for up to 12 months. This practice amongst others helped in family spacing. LAM in the first six months has a low failure rate of 5 per 100 woman years. That is, it is only 5 out of 100 women will get pregnant.

Advantages of traditional family planning in Nigeria

  • It is cheap
  • Require no medical supervision
  • No side effects
  • The traditional family planning in Nigeria is culture based
  • Easy to understand
  • The only form of family planning acceptable to some religious groups

Disadvantages of natural family planning/birth spacing in Nigeria

  • High failure rate of 25 per 100 women
  • The traditional method of family planning does not protect against sexually transmitted infections
  • Requires discipline and full commitment of both partners
  • May not be helpful during stress or at the peri-menopausal period
  • Girls, ladies, or women with irregular menstrual period cannot use it.
  • Not reliable for birth spacing.

I will appreciate your suggestions on other traditional family planning in Nigeria.

Read more on planned parenthood



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here