Fertility awareness methods have taken the fertility world by storm. From classes regarding how to implement the technique to books and phone applications to track your fertility status, there is a ton of buzz around this method of trying to conceive, or in some cases, prevent pregnancy, and rightfully so.
Many women love fertility awareness because it's a natural way of controlling conception. On top of eliminating the need for hormonal birth control (for some women), fertility awareness allows us to be more in touch with our bodies, primarily our reproductive system. It's incredibly empowering, and we'll dig into it in this article.
What is Fertility Awareness?
Fertility awareness encompasses a set of practices that naturally determine the infertile and fertile phases of a woman's menstrual cycle. Fertility awareness methods are essentially free, and you can use them to prevent and achieve pregnancy. Fertility awareness is a fantastic way to monitor gynaecological health, as well.
Fertility awareness is available to everyone, but it's not foolproof, and you must know how to identify the signs of fertility before you use it, especially if you're avoiding pregnancy at this time. Fertility awareness is a superweapon to add to your fertility arsenal for women who want to become pregnant.
Also referred to as "natural family planning" and a "calendar method to avoid pregnancy", fertility awareness is often taught at GYN offices. A few methods fall under the umbrella of fertility awareness, and you can use them separately or combine them for more effective results. Let's get into it!
What are Fertility Awareness Methods?
There are four recognized fertility awareness methods of conception. These include:
- Standard days
- Cervical Mucus
- Basal Body Temperature
- Symptothermal Method
The Standard Days Method
The Standard Days method follows the standard rule of which days women are typically most fertile during the menstrual cycle. For example, if your cycle usually falls between 26 and 32 days, then days 8 through 19 of your cycle are the most fertile. To prevent pregnancy, you'll want to avoid intercourse or use a barrier method these days.
However, if you're trying to conceive, these days would be the best time to have intercourse, either every day or every other day. The Standard Days method can be a bit inaccurate on its own, seeing as cycles vary, but combined with other components, it's very effective.
The Cervical Mucus Method
The Cervical Mucus method involves recognizing the changes in the fluid produced by the cervix to identify when you're most fertile. Before you ovulate, your body will have a noticeably more significant amount of cervical mucus, and the consistency changes to that of egg whites, thin, clear, and slippery.
When you've finished ovulating, the amount of mucus will decrease, and it will become thicker to slow down any sperm entering the body naturally. When you notice the change in your cervical mucus, you'll want to employ a barrier method or have sex more often, depending on your desired results.
Checking your mucus is easier than you might think, and often, you can find the results right on your toilet paper! If you're not coming across enough mucus to determine if you're fertile or not, you can use your finger too; ensure that your hands are clean.
The Basal Body Temperature Method
Your basal body temperature, or your BBT, is the temperature of your body when it's entirely at rest. In most women, BBT rises slightly during ovulation, and it will remain high throughout the end of the menstrual cycle. Now, your most fertile days come before this increase in body temperature, so tracking it consistently for more accurate predictions is essential.
To correctly take your BBT, you'll want to do it in bed before you've gotten up to take part in your daily activities. Record this temperature daily for the best results. To prevent or become pregnant, this method is not best when used on its own, but you can couple it with other methods.
The Symptothermal Method
The symptothermal method combines the BBT (or natural birth control temperature) and cervical mucus methods and includes an electric hormonal fertility monitor. This monitor can be purchased online and detects hormones in the urine on fertile days.
This is a fantastic addition to your fertility awareness journey, and you can use the standard days' method to double-check your fertile time. Again, these methods alone aren't so effective, but they become a powerful way to predict ovulation and times of fertility when combined.
How Does the Fertility Awareness Method Work?
This natural method of family planning typically utilizes a tracker or fertility awareness method app that allows you to see your cycle in the form of a pattern. Also, considering a calendar method of family planning, you should practice fertility awareness for a few months before removing a barrier method if trying to prevent pregnancy.
If you want to become pregnant, don't get frustrated when your first month goes by without a confirmed pregnancy. It takes time to establish how your cycle works, and patience is the key here.
Fertility awareness methods work the best when they work together, and using only one will leave you questioning whether or not you're genuinely fertile at a particular time. When you use these methods together, you always have information to fall back on. Our bodies are in a constant state of change, so natural family planning means taking every piece of information given to us, from temperature spikes to mucus.
How Effective are They?
Women everywhere consistently question the fertility awareness method effectiveness, and honestly, we can't blame you! We've been so conditioned to think we can't trust our bodies that we automatically believe relying on something outside of us is the answer to preventing or becoming pregnant. While this assumption is valid sometimes, it's not always the case.
The issue with the effectiveness of FAMs, just as with standard birth control, is that you've got to use them ideally to prevent pregnancy. Planned Parenthood reports that fertility awareness methods are around 76% to 88% effective, meaning that 12 to 14 couples that use FAMs will become pregnant each year.
However, as we've already stated, their effectiveness increases when these methods are combined. There's no denying that fertility awareness methods can be challenging to use, but this is why assistance is available.
Advantages and Disadvantages
There are plenty of pros and cons surrounding the topic of fertility awareness methods as a form of birth control or predicting fertility. Most agree that these methods are better when used to become pregnant rather than preventing pregnancy. Regardless of what you'd like to use FAMs for, it's good to explore the advantages and disadvantages, so you can get a better idea of where you stand on the topic.
There are a few undeniable advantages of fertility awareness methods, one of them being that they're free. All you need is a good thermometer, a way to track your cycle (trackers are available in PDF print files around the internet, and phone applications do the same), and your body.
Fertility awareness methods are a fantastic way to learn about your body and fertility, which are powerful sexual health tools. Also, fertility awareness methods don't have any unwanted side effects, which tend to come with traditional birth control methods. Once you get used to employing these methods, they can be a good predictor of when you're fertile.
FAMs have their disadvantages too, and one that we cannot ignore is the high failure rates when used incorrectly and inconsistently. Also, you might find that you have fewer days considered "safe" to have intercourse each month, especially in the beginning, and you'll use a barrier method anyway.
Training to use FAMs is essential, and while there are tools available on the internet and locally, not all women have access to the proper training required. Also, illness, breastfeeding, and other fertility factors may interfere with results.
Overall, if you're considering FAMs, you'll want to discuss them with your doctor. They will give you access to the information you need and let you know if this is a path you could take based on your medical history.
Frequently Asked Questions
As the demand for hormone-free birth control skyrockets, more women than ever have expressed an interest in fertility awareness methods. Here are some FAQs!
Why is fertility awareness necessary?
Even when using traditional birth control methods, such as the pill or condoms, knowing when you're fertile can help you prevent pregnancy if your primary plan fails. Also, understanding when your body is fertile is a fantastic way to speed along the conception process. It doesn't have to be your preferred method of family planning, but FAMs help us take control over our reproductive health.
How can I make FAMs more effective?
You can make FAMs more effective by using all methods at once, from standard days to BBT. If you're using natural family planning to prevent pregnancy, give yourself a couple of months to familiarize yourself with it, and use a barrier method in the meantime, or always, if that makes you more comfortable.
Consistency and knowledge are necessary when it comes to fertility awareness methods. Talking to your doctor is a great way to gain the expertise required to use FAMs to enhance your reproductive journey, no matter what that might be.