Occasionally I write posts that I worry will be too ‘alternative’ or ‘out there’, but all I ask is that you read them with an open mind and you might just be surprised. I’ve had messages from many moon cup sceptics who have been convinced to give them a try after reading my post about how they changed my life, so I’m hoping this may have the same effect on a few of you.
Fertility Awareness Method
I have been using the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM – also sometimes known as Natural Family Planning) for over a year now, and it really is one of the best things I’ve ever done for my body. Previously I’ve spent over 10 years on the contraceptive pill and then had a Mirena coil fitted, and I know that those options are not for me. I don’t like the idea of putting extra hormones into my body, and relying on these methods meant I knew next to nothing about my own cycle and my own body. When I began reading about FAM, and about temping and learning to read cervical mucous – I was really intrigued, and really impressed at how incredible a woman’s body really is.
What Fertility Awareness Method Is
The Fertility Awareness Method involves charting multiple fertility signals daily, and interpreting this data to understand when your body is ovulating and therefore fertile. It can be used both whilst trying to conceive (TTC) and trying to avoid pregnancy (TTA), although it really is essential that you learn how to properly read these signals before you rely on it as a method of contraception.
Using either a paper chart or one of the various apps available you chart your basal body temperature (BBT) each morning, as well as your cervical mucous and often your cervical position and any other symptoms you experience during your cycle. This chart will then allow you to accurately pinpoint when your body ovulates, and therefore work out when you are fertile (and should abstain/use another form of contraception) and when you are no longer fertile and safe to continue sex as normal with no risk of pregnancy.
What Fertility Awareness Method Isn’t
Whenever I mention this to friends they often immediately assume I mean the rhythm method, which is definitely NOT what FAM is. The rhythm method basically involves you averaging out the length of your previous cycles and using this information to guess when you might ovulate. This, in my opinion, is a risky way to avoid pregnancy and not something that is found to be particularly successful. It doesn’t take into account early or late ovulation which means you could end up being caught out if your periods are even slightly irregular.
How Fertility Awareness Method Works
I find FAM fascinating, because I love understanding how my cycle works and what’s going on within my own body. I’m certainly not an expert on the subject so I really urge you to do some further reading before you try it for yourself (I’ll link to some great resources below) but here’s a quick over view of how it works.
Firstly it’s important to understand that there are actually only a limited amount of days each cycle that you can get pregnant, which isn’t something I had any idea of for most of my teenage years. Once your body ovulates the egg can be fertilised for around 12-48 hours, and this is the point at which your body could conceive. Due to sperm being able to survive for up to about a week your fertile window is usually just over a week long. Once this time has passed (as long as you have confirmed ovulation reliably) you will be infertile and free to have unprotected sex.
During ovulation your BBT will rise due to the progesterone levels, referred to as a temperature shift, and it will stay at a higher point for your entire luteal phase (until your period arrives). By recording your temperature every morning you will see this shift in temperatures and be able to confirm that your body has ovulated.
Your cervical mucous will also change considerably both before and after ovulation, and once you learn to read this you can really get an idea of where in your cycle you are. I’ll leave the detail out on this one for now, because I don’t want to put anyone off – but it’s not as gross as it might sound.
Benefits of Fertility Awareness Method
There are so many benefits to this method, especially compared with other contraception options out there like the pill. What I really love about Fertility Awareness Method is how much I’ve learnt about my body; how much I’ve learnt abut fertility and about my cycle, and how empowered I feel by knowing exactly what’s going on. Here are just a few other reasons why I love using FAM:
- Hormone free
- No side effects
- Effective – up to 99% efficacy with perfect use (condoms are 98%)
- A greater understanding of your body and your cycle
- Able to immediately switch from TTA to TTC
- Limited need for condoms – during fertile period only, unless abstaining
Drawbacks of Fertility Awareness Method
As with anything there are of course drawbacks to the method. In my opinion these are overshadowed by the benefits but here are a few:
- Requires research and learning – this really is essential and in the beginning it can be a lot to get your head around. Having said that, once you’ve understood the method it becomes pretty simple to continue with
- Temping every morning – it’s really important that you take your temperature at rest, as soon as you wake up. This can be tricky, especially with children and if you’re up often in the night you could find you experience deviating temperatures when you get less sleep than you usually would
- No STD protection – obviously FAM does not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases
- You must either abstain or use another method of contraception during the fertile period
How to Get Started With Fertility Awareness Method
The key things you’ll need once you understand the method are a BBT thermometer that gives your temperature to two decimals (this is really important) and a way to chart your fertility signals. You can use a paper charting method or you can use one of the apps now available. I highly recommend using Kindara, which also gives great instructions by breaking FAM down into 4 basic rules, and will help you to understand the method more, but there are other free apps out there also.
I have deliberately left out a lot of the science and the detail of FAM, because I’m not an expert and it’s really important to research and understand the method for yourself. If this has peaked your interest at all then I would strongly encourage you to do some more reading and maybe give it a go. Taking Charge of Your Fertility is a brilliant book, and is known as the FAM bible for a lot of users. There’s also a great FAM Facebook group which provides great support and great resources to get your head around understanding your chart.
You may have heard of Natural Cycles, a new app on the market which has been certified as a method of contraception. The idea behind Natural Cycles is very similar to FAM, but the app does all the calculating and analysing of the data for you. I have been using the app for three months now, so check out my Natural Cycles review for all the information.