Fertility Awareness Methods umbrella the ways you can identify your fertility and understand your cycle. Many women use FAM to manage their fertility, plan and prevent pregnancy.
There is so much information out there, it can be quite overwhelming. As a mom to four little ones currently, my husband and I are pretty sure that we are done, BUT we do not want to take any permanent measures yet. I am against hormonal birth control, and we do not use condoms. Due to breastfeeding on demand, I do not see any signs of fertility returning after birth until about 14 months postpartum. This has been the case for each child. That means, I have about 8 months before I’ll be regularly practicing FAM, but I have already begun paying attention because the body will always ovulate before the first period occurs.
I must say though, that if we were 100% sure we were done having children, we would not rely on FAM alone until I have had my cycle back for about 6 months, and I was getting uninterrupted sleep, as both are crucial for correct observations. We would not be upset with another pregnancy, so for us, FAM is ok throughout my postpartum period.
If you are interested in tracking your fertility and better understanding your body, I hope this can be of some help. I’ve collected, and simplified it all here in thinking that you may use this article as a starting point.
Utilizing FAM includes observing one or more of the following:
- Basal Body Temperature
- Cervical Mucus
- Cervix Position
When followed correctly, FAM has been found to be 98.2% effective against preventing pregnancy. Fewer than 1–5 women out of 100 will become pregnant during the first year of perfect use. Perfect use means using the method correctly and consistently throughout the menstrual cycle. With typical use—meaning that you use the method the way the average person does, which is sometimes incorrectly or inconsistently—pregnancy rates increase. In the first year of typical use, 12–24 women out of 100 will become pregnant.
There are programs that are taught which will help you feel confident in your fertility tracking method, and this is the best way to jump into FAM. Some programs include a combination of the above mentioned observation items, and others specialize in just one. The following are methods that utilize FAM:
- Standard Days method: The Standard Days method follows a standard rule of what days during the menstrual cycle are the most fertile. If your cycle is between 26 and 32 days long, the Standard Days method considers days 8–19 to be the most fertile days. This method works best if your cycles are regular.
- Cervical mucous method: Just before ovulation, the amount of mucus made by the cervix noticeably increases, and the mucus becomes thin and slippery. It turns into an egg white consistency and just after ovulation, the amount of mucus decreases, and it becomes thicker and less noticeable.
- Basal body temperature (BBT) method: The body’s normal temperature increases slightly during ovulation (0.5–1°F) and remains high until the end of the menstrual cycle. The most fertile days are the 2–3 days before this increase in temperature. To monitor your BBT, take your temperature with a basal body thermometer (measuring to the nearest hundredth of a degree) every morning at the same time after waking up and before any activity, getting out of bed, or having anything to eat or drink. Record these temperatures daily. This method only shows only when ovulation has already occurred, not when it is going to occur.
- Sympto-thermal method: The symptothermal method is a combination of methods. The two most commonly used are the BBT method and the cervical mucus method. Other methods or signs can be used, such as the Standard Days method, as a double check to identify when the fertile time begins and ends.
One thing you will find that all FAM programs have in common is the ‘double barrier’ plan during any fertile window. This means that when the body is showing signs of fertility, you will use two methods of protection to prevent pregnancy, if you are trying to prevent. These can include pulling out before ejaculation, condoms, diaphragm, lubrication that kills sperm, etc.
FAM is not recommended to be used to prevent pregnancy if:
- You are not able to avoid sex or use a barrier method during your fertile days.
- Pregnancy is not recommended for you because of medical risks.
- You have bleeding between menstrual periods that is difficult to distinguish from your normal menstrual period or that makes assessing your cervical mucus difficult.
If you are trying to get pregnant, knowing your fertile days is important. They will not be found on a calendar, but by being in-tune with your body. Having sex every day or every other day throughout your fertile window is ideal. Your chance of pregnancy is highest when live sperm are present in the fallopian tubes when ovulation occurs. An egg can survive in the fallopian tube for about 24 hours after ovulation. Sperm can survive inside a woman’s body for about 3 - 5 days after sex. You can become pregnant if you have sex anywhere from 5 days before ovulation until 1 day after ovulation.
For detailed instructions on practicing fertility awareness methods:
- Temperature Method - http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control/temperature-method-22143.htm
- Cervical Mucus Method - http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control/fam-cervical-mucus-method-22140.htm
- TwoDay Method – http://irh.org/projects/fam_project/twoday-method/
- Standard Days Method - www.cyclebeads.com