What is the fertility awareness method? - Mediatrix Womens Wellness

What is the fertility awareness method? – An Introduction

In this post, I’m going to give you the rundown on:

  • An introduction to what the fertility awareness method is.
  • What types of fertility awareness methods exist.
  • The benefits of using the method as natural birth control or natural conception.
  • Some juicy statistics (its success rate + failure rate).

Part 1: The Fertility Awareness Method Education Series

Welcome, sister! It’s exciting that you’re here because you’re about to dip into a world that you may possibly have never been before and will likely say at the end ‘why the heck did I not learn this at school??’.

I’m very excited to share this old and new knowledge with you. It has changed my life and has transformed the way that I practice as a naturopath. We are in exciting times for women. A lot of knowledge is being reclaimed about the menstrual cycle. There is a rising in women world over who are learning to understand their menstrual cycles to give them full agency over their bodies and fertility as well as to help them tap into the power of their menstrual cycles and foster a deeper flow in their lives.

The fertility awareness method is a golden tool of sovereignty for women. Imagine knowing exactly when you’re fertile and when you’re not. Knowing when is the optimal time to have a baby or when you need to take precautions to not.

Imagine you’re sitting on my couch, we’re drinking tulsi tea and nibbling on some rose and cardamon oat cookies, and I’m going to explain the basics to you in this education series…

What is the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)?

In a nutshell, the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM for short) is a natural, hormone-free method of birth control.

It involves learning to observe and understand the changes in your fertile signs, so you know what days of your cycle you are fertile and which you are not. One common misunderstanding that we were led to believe as teenagers is that we are not fertile every single day. Perhaps the school nurse thought it was easier to give us the hard word on being careful with boys rather than explain mucus to a group of giggling teenagers. A more likely tale is because she was not taught it in her nursing training.

The good news is, we’re only able to get pregnant for about 5–7 days each cycle. Not what you were taught right?

FAM is based on observing the changes in your cervical mucus and your temperature. Mucus is going to take on a whole new meaning for you. It is the gatekeeper of ALL fertility. Here’s why:

Cervical mucus can keep sperm alive for up to 5 days (6–7 days in some instances).

Without mucus, the sperm will die within 2 hours.

Have a look at the diagram. The cervix is the neck of the uterus that leads down to the vagina. Within the cervix are a series of glands that are mucus producing machines. When there is no egg around, a thick mucus is formed that creates a plug that closes off the vagina to the uterus. For 3/4 of our cycle, the sperm simply has a no access and are killed (sorry guys!).

Ovulation & Fertile Mucus – the cervix is open and the sperm has free passage up into the uterus. This is your fertile window – the time you can get pregnant.
Ovulation & Fertile Mucus – the cervix is open and the sperm has free passage up into the uterus. This is your fertile window – the time you can get pregnant.
Infertile phase – there is a mucus plug formed at the cervix which is impenetrable to sperm. They have no access and will die within 2 hours. This is the time that you cannot get pregnant.
Infertile phase – there is a mucus plug formed at the cervix which is impenetrable to sperm. They have no access and will die within 2 hours. This is the time that you cannot get pregnant.

Ovulation & Fertile Mucus – the cervix is open and the sperm has free passage up into the uterus. This is your fertile window – the time you can get pregnant.

Infertile phase – there is a mucus plug formed at the cervix which is impenetrable to sperm. They have no access and will die within 2 hours. This is the time that you cannot get pregnant.

As ovulation approaches, cervical mucus is produced.

Ovulation only occurs once each cycle, and if the egg is not fertilised, it dies within 12–24 hours. It is impossible to ovulate twice in a cycle. More than one egg can be released – in the instance of fraternal twins – but this will happen in the same 12 – 24 hour period.

You can not get pregnant unless you have unprotected sex during your fertile window.

Printable moon map and fertility chart by Clara Bitcon Bailey Naturopath

What are some types of Fertility Awareness Methods?

There are a couple of different methods out there. Some of them grounded in science, others are not. So before using any Fertility Awareness Method, make sure you’ve got all the facts first.

FAM (Symptothermal)

The symptothermal method is the type that I teach. This method uses a combination of cervical mucus observation and temperature to identify fertile times. When in the fertile window, if trying to get pregnant this is the optimal time to have sex. If using for birth control, sex must be protected (i.e. condoms, diaphragm etc.) or abstained.

Natural family planning (NFP)

Natural family planning is the same principles as FAM. The one difference is during the fertile window; sex is avoided. It is the method backed by the Catholic Church, as this system of faith does not believe in using barriers to conception.

Rhythm method

User beware, the rhythm method is what gives FAM a bad name. Please note, this is NOT a reliable form of birth control.

It was introduced in the 1930s following the discovery of the timing of ovulation in the menstrual cycle, usually around day 10 – 14 based on a 28-day cycle. In other words, this method would be useful for a textbook. Or a Barbie doll.

It does not give you real-time information about your unique cycle. Ovulation can occur at completely different times for different women. Even though the rhythm method has been outdated for around five decades, many couples still rely upon it, and this is the method many apps are based upon.

What are the benefits of FAM for natural birth control?

FAM is an effective alternative to hormonal birth control without any side effects or impacts on long-term fertility. It is free, and it empowers women to tune in to their bodies and their wombs. And it is a method that provides you with ‘live information’.

There are many factors (which I’ll discuss in future posts) that can affect our cycles. By knowing how to interpret your mucus, you will know exactly how these factors are impacting your fertility.

How reliable is the Fertility Awareness Method for natural birth control?

When used accurately, the symptothermal based FAM when combined with barrier methods during the fertile window is 99.4% effective “provided the appropriate guidelines are consistently adhered to” (Frank-Herrmann et al., 2007).

Knowing how to use this method correctly and confidently is the key. There have been excellent studies that have looked into what conditions are needed for women gain full confidence and competence in the method. These factors are:

  • skillful teaching – an educator that is thorough, concise, relevant and uses everyday language
  • the teacher uses the method herself
  • regular review, support and supervision
  • using barrier methods consistently through the learning phase
  • continuous and complete charting
  • reinforcement from partners, book, friends and community
    (Hampton, Mazza, & Newton, 2013; World Health Organisation, 1981)

Essentially, get a good teacher, be very careful in the beginning, have good resources, get your partner on board and chart every day.

Every. Day.

Next week I’m going to talk about one of the first questions most women ask: “How does the Natural Fertility Method Work”.  If you’d like to subscribe and never miss a post, you are very welcome to subscribe yourself to the blog.

References

Frank-Herrmann, P., Heil, J., Gnoth, C., Toledo, E., Baur, S., Pyper, C., … Freundl, G. (2007). The effectiveness of a fertility awareness based method to avoid pregnancy in relation to a couple’s sexual behaviour during the fertile time: a prospective longitudinal study. Human Reproduction (Oxford, England), 22(5), 1310–1319.

Hampton, K. D., Mazza, D., & Newton, J. M. (2013). Fertility-awareness knowledge, attitudes, and practices of women seeking fertility assistance.Journal of Advanced Nursing, 69(5), 1076–1084.

World Health Organisation. (1981). A prospective multicentre trial of the ovulation method of natural family planning. I. the teaching phase**Supported by the Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland. Fertility and Sterility, 36(2), 152–158.

What is the fertility awareness method? - An Introduction

Women's Health Issues & Conditions

October 31, 2017

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