missfreezy: Answers to this are going to vary a LOT, depending on which NFP method is being used, how regular your cycles are, how long a couple has been charting (aka, how much data you have from the past), individual preferences, business trips, luteal phase length, whether you’re comfortable with sex during menstruation, etc., etc.
We’ve been using the CCLI method (sympto-thermal) for years (both to avoid pregnancy and to achieve pregnancy… currently TTC #2), and I can tell you my experience, but it’s probably not going to be exactly the same as yours, or anyone else’s! I have very irregular cycles (vary from 27-50 days), and sometimes they’re annovulatory or I have multiple periods of “fertile signs” before actually ovulating, so NFP is theoretically more challenging for us than many couples. Prior to my first pregnancy, I also had a LPD (luteal phase defect… aka the time between ovulation and your period is too short), so that complicated things even further.
In the beginning, we abstained completely between my period and when we were sure I had already ovulated (that’s what we were most comfortable with, since we were really not prepared for a pregnancy and were still figuring out charting, plus I was dealing with some medicaly issues that really needed to get under control before I could have a baby, etc.). So basically we had less than two weeks per cycle (closer to just one week when I was dealing with the LPD) that were “safe.” During that time though, we were never worried about being cautious or whatever, because the method makes it pretty clear that you’re no longer fertile.
Later on (after 6-12 cycles… can’t remember how many), we were more knowledgeable about my cycle, so we began to have some “safe” days in between my period ending and my fertile period as well. It could be anywhere from just 1-2 days to a week or more, depending on mucus observations, etc. So that ended up often being a total of 2 weeks or more of “safe” days during each cycle, excluding period days (we never actually had sex on every one of those days though… that would be exhausting!). Also, as time went on we became less and less strict with ourselves because we were more and more comfortable with the idea of having a baby. We never actually conceived until we were actively trying to though.
NFP during the post-partum/breastfeeding period is totally crazy, and there would’ve been a LOT of abstaining had we been actively avoiding a second pregnancy. But you can cross that bridge when you come to it. 🙂
Feel free to PM me if you have further questions or anything! NFP’s a tricky thing to get the hang of, but it does work (and you do get to have sex. haha).