With some of the side effects that come with hormonal birth control, fertility awareness-based methods are gaining more traction and are becoming an option for more women as natural birth control. The fertility awareness method (FAM) is a daily practice of charting our daily fertility biomarkers to identify when pregnancy is possible and when it’s not. It’s a really empowering practice that gives you insight into your overall health, and helps you avoid pregnancy naturally and effectively! There are many misconceptions and many questions when it comes to FAM, and I’m going to try to break some of those down in today’s blog post!
This is a guest blog post written by fertility awareness educator Nathalie Daudet. Learn more about her below!
What is Fertility Awareness?
Fertility awareness is the practice of charting your hormonal biomarkers to identify your fertile time. Biomarkers are signs that your body is giving you to let you know that you are fertile, and the possibility of pregnancy is there. Contrary to popular belief, women can only get pregnant 5-7 days per cycle! This takes into account the 24-48 hours that the egg lives for and the 5 days that sperm can stay alive in cervical mucus. Because we don’t know when ovulation will happen before the fact, our fertile window may be longer than that.
Contrary to popular belief, women can only get pregnant 5-7 days per cycle!
The two signs that we track with symptothermal fertility awareness are basal body temperature (BBT) and cervical fluid. A woman will chart these signs, briefly each day, and either avoid unprotected sex if your goal is to not get pregnant or to optimize sex in order to increase the chances of getting pregnant.
Basal body temperature is our lowest body temperature attained during rest. We measure this with a specific basal body thermometer, one that goes to two decimal places, and we take our temperature at the same time every day, before getting out of bed. After ovulation, progesterone causes the body to warm very slightly (about .2 degrees Celsius and .4 degrees Fahrenheit).
How do you know ovulation has taken place?
We can identify when ovulation has taken place by observing this slight rise in temperature. Other factors can influence our daily basal body temperature, like sleeping in a colder or warmer room than usual, drinking alcohol the night before, travel, or poor sleep. We can track these factors in our chart, and observe whether the fluctuations in temperature are due to ovulation, or other influences.
Cervical mucus is a healthy indicator of our fertility!
Cervical mucus is a hydrogel secreted by our cervix, and is a healthy indicator of our fertility! Cervical mucus changes during our cycle due to the cyclical fluctuation of hormones. Estrogen is a hormone that facilitates the release of an egg, and it peaks at ovulation. Estrogen creates a type of cervical mucus that nourishes and keeps sperm alive long enough to reach the egg. We track several different types of cervical mucus, and they’re usually categorized into dry, non-peak, and peak. These types of mucus will let us know when ovulation is approaching.
With these indicators, we are able to chart and implement certain rules in order to avoid pregnancy or get pregnant. We can also track our health through normal cycle parameters and observe whether we can see lifestyle changes come through in our charts.
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So you want to learn FAM. What’s next?
I’d really recommend getting in touch with a fertility awareness educator to help you learn the ropes. FAM isn’t complicated, but if you want to use FAM for birth control, an educator can help you feel really confident in the method. It is also recommended that you wait at least three ovulatory cycles before relying on FAM for birth control.
You can find a thermometer that goes to two decimal places and something to chart with. Many women love the ease of apps like Kindara, Femometer, Fertility Friend, or Read Your Body. Or you can use paper charts.
And the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility is a really in-depth overview of what’s all involved in using FAM.
As I said, FAM isn’t complicated, but there can be a learning curve to taking some of the information in and applying it to our lives. This is because a lot of the knowledge gained in FAM isn’t something we learn growing up. I find that most people only really try to understand their fertility when they want to get pregnant. The truth is, fertility is SO much more than getting pregnant. Our hormones and our cycles are a beautiful part of who we are. When we live in line with the ebb and flow of our cycles we can find a whole lot more ease and flow in our own life.
Here is another blog post with more in-depth info about FAM!
Written by: Nathalie Daudet
Nathalie Daudet is a fertility awareness educator (FEMM) and social worker based in Winnipeg, Canada. You can learn more about her FAM courses and read blog posts about FAM at fertilityawarenessproject.ca or on Instagram @fertilityawarenessproject.