Photo Credit: Mariette Nadine (@mariettenadine on Instagram)
This guest blog post was written by social worker and fertility awareness educator, Nathalie Daudet, BSW.
Disclaimer: the information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not designed to replace individualized recommendations from a practitioner. Always check with your doctor before adding supplements or making changes to your treatment plan.
I recently received an email from a period app company wanting to let me know about a recent study that had been completed on their app. The study claimed that the app had a very high effectiveness rate of pregnancy prevention, so of course, I was intrigued. After doing some digging, I noticed that the app was simply an algorithm which takes into account what days you get your period and uses that to estimate the time of ovulation, also known as the Rhythm Method. While charting your cycle with an app is fantastic, strictly basing your method of contraception on a guess of when ovulation will take place is not effective!
That’s where the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) comes into play. Read on to learn more about FAM, its efficacy, and some pointers on how to get started!
Photo Credit: Mariette Nadine (@mariettenadine on Instagram)
What is the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)?
The rhythm method and the fertility awareness method are two very different things. While the rhythm method predicts when ovulation will happen based on the idea that all women ovulate around the same time each month and have a 28 day cycle (which is not always the case), the fertility awareness method actually confirms that ovulation has taken place by tracking your own unique fertility signs. We can’t actually predict when ovulation will happen, but we can confirm when it has taken place.
The rise in fertility charting apps and devices tells me that more women are looking for alternatives to hormonal contraceptives, but we need to have some understanding of our menstrual cycles and our fertility to weed out which devices and apps are stretching the truth on how effective they are at preventing pregnancy.
The fertility awareness method is one of those methods that women are turning to instead of hormonal contraceptives. Fertility awareness is a practice in which a woman, or menstruator, charts her menstrual cycle and fertility signs to identify her fertile window.
Two Common Fertility Signs:
Different fertility awareness-based methods measure different fertility signs, but the most common are basal body temperature and cervical mucus. These two signs will tell you when ovulation is about to happen, and when it has for sure happened.
Women can only get pregnant for a short window each month, because the egg only lives for 24-48 hours, and sperm can stay alive for a maximum of 5-7 days. We use this information to avoid unprotected sex during the fertile time of the cycle if we are avoiding pregnancy, or to time intercourse if we are wanting to get pregnant.
Why Use the Fertility Awareness Method?
Fertility awareness has been shown to be 99.4% effective at preventing pregnancy, depending on the method you use. Learning from a certified instructor and charting for three cycles before you use the method for birth control will ensure you maximize effectiveness.
The wonderful thing about FAM is that its success is completely in your hands! You are in control of following the rules for FAM and ensuring that you don’t have unprotected sex on “risky” days. It is a peace-of-mind that you don’t necessarily have when using hormonal contraceptives, where failures can happen because your device or medication fails without you necessarily knowing.
Hormonal contraceptives, like any medication, come with their own set of side effects, including low libido, increased risk of deep-vein thrombosis, mood disruptions, risk of breast, cervical and liver cancer, nutrient deficiencies and lowered bone density. This is concerning not only because of the life-threatening and life-altering potential of these medications, but because we’ve been told they are the only option if we want to be responsible sexual humans.
The only side effect of fertility awareness is a deep respect and understanding of your body and cyclical nature. As you begin to pay attention to your cycles, you will soon realize the ebb and flow of your being. Things like motivation, energy, sex drive and creativity will rise and fall with your menstrual cycle. With fertility awareness, you will begin to notice patterns in your chart, which can shed light on possible hormonal imbalances. This is why working with a trained fertility awareness instructor is so important.
Ready to Get Started?
If you’re interested in using FAM for birth control, you will want to chart three cycles and learn the “rules” for avoiding pregnancy before you can rely on it for birth control. FAM is virtually cost-free, aside from the cost of hiring an instructor (or joining a group) and buying a thermometer. After that, you have the skill set to use this method of birth control for the rest of your fertile life. You can start charting your cycle without any classes or fancy devices, all you need is something to chart on!
Some Quick Pointers:
Paper vs App
I recommend a paper chart like Pen and Paper Fertility’s charting journal or printable chart. For apps, I recommend an app like Kindara or Ovuview. Whatever your preference, there is an app for you!
Instead of paying attention to days of the month, you will become familiar with keeping track of your “cycle days.” This means you will have a sense of where you are in your cycle. Your cycle begins on the first day of full menstrual bleeding, you can mark that as cycle day 1. The last day of your cycle is the last day before your next period.
There are increasingly more choices for basal body thermometers. If you’re just starting, you can get away with a basic drugstore version. Just make sure your thermometer goes to 2 decimal places and is digital.
IMPORTANT NOTE: A basal body thermometer is not the same as a fever thermometer!
Good luck, and happy charting!
Nathalie Daudet (BSW) is a social worker and fertility awareness educator based in Canada. She has a desire to share the knowledge of fertility awareness with women looking for a natural birth control option who are open to learning more about their cycles. She discovered fertility awareness after searching high and low for a non-hormonal method of birth control. After learning the magic of fertility awareness and the gift of body literacy, she decided to pursue formal fertility awareness training. She now teaches women to love their cycles + live with more ease and flow through charting and the fertility awareness method.
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