Fertility Awareness Method
The Fertility Awareness Method (F.A.M.) is a combination of practices that can help a woman understand which days of the month she is mostly likely to become pregnant. With that information she can intentionally avoid or encourage pregnancy. There are several different techniques that will help her better understand when she is the most fertile, using a combination of these techniques will provide the greatest fertility awareness.
Fertility Awareness is approximately 80% effective as a birth control method without the use of hormones, medications or other physical prophylactics. The Fertility Awareness Method can also help women who are trying to become pregnant by knowing what days they are most likely to conceive.
- How Does F.A.M. Work?
- What Are The Different Techniques Used To Determine Fertility?
- Who Should Use F.A.M.?
- Who Should NOT Use F.A.M?
- What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of F.A.M.?
How Does F.A.M. Work?
DA woman typically ovulates once per cycle. After ovulation the egg (or ovum) is ready for fertilization for 12-24 hours. It is possible for a woman to ovulate twice so there is a calculated 48 hour time period where an egg may be available for fertilization. Sperm can live in the body for up to 5 days. If a woman can determine when she is ovulating she can know to avoid vaginal sex 5 days before that time. It’s a good idea to add a few days on both ends of this time frame just to be sure, so there are a total of 7 days where vaginal intercourse may result in a pregnancy. Avoiding sex during these seven days can help prevent pregnancy. If a woman is trying to become pregnant these 7 days are when she is more likely to become pregnant. The tricky part is learning how to expect when you will ovulate. The next paragraph will teach you some techniques that will help you better understand your cycle and predict when you will ovulate. Using these techniques in combination will help you best determine your fertile and infertile times.
What Are The Different Techniques Used To Determine Fertility?
Calendar Method - The Calendar method uses a woman’s previous cycles as a guide to help predict ovulation and know the times she is most fertile. Start by keeping a written record of your menstrual cycles for 8-12 months. The first day of menstruation (the first day of bleeding) is counted as “Day 1”.
After you have compiled a record of your cycle lengths, isolate the longest and shortest cycles. Take the days of the shortest cycle (for example say the shortest cycle was 26 days) and subtract 18 from it, (26-18=8) this means that day 8 is the first day it is unsafe to have sex if you are trying to avoid pregnancy. Then take the longest cycle (for example say the longest cycle was 31 days) and subtract 11 from that number to get the last unsafe day, (31-11=20) so this means, if you are trying to avoid pregnancy, you avoid having sex during the time between the 8th day of your cycle and the 20th day of your cycle.
Cervical Mucous Monitoring - Cervical mucous is more present in the days preceding ovulation as the mucous helps draw sperm up into the uterus and fallopian tubes. Tracking the changes in consistency and amount of cervical mucous can help you better understand when you are most likely to be ovulating. With this information you will know when you are the most or least fertile.
Counting the first day of menstruation (first bleeding) as Day 1, chart your cervical mucous secretion by observing and recording the general consistency and amount of mucous present. Ovulation typically happens sometime between two days before and two days after the day when cervical mucous is at its peak (the wettest day is when mucous is quite distinctive, abundant, clear, very slippery and “stretchy”).
Those four days around the wettest day are when you are most likely to conceive.
Basal Body Temperature (BBT) - Using an easy to read basal body thermometer, take your temperature every morning immediately upon waking before you do ANY activity and record it on graph paper. Immediately before ovulation the body temperature drops briefly. Within 12 hours of ovulation the body temperature raises several tenths of a degree and stays that high until the next menstrual period. When your body temperature has been high for 3 consecutive days the fertile period is over.
Chart your Basal Body Temperature for 8-12 months to get a better idea of when you will ovulate each month.
Keep in mind there are lots of things that can affect body temperature (illness, sleep deprivation, drugs and alcohol, etc.) that can make tracking your BBT difficult.
Cervical Observation - The Cervix moves and changes slightly throughout a woman’s cycle, by tracking these changes, a woman can determine when she is mostly fertile.
Typically the cervix is fairly low and firm, as ovulation approaches the cervix moves higher up, becomes soft, wet with mucous, and opens slightly. During ovulation the cervix is at its highest, the most soft, wet and open. By tracking the changes of the cervix over several months you will become more familiar with the changes of your cervix and better able to determine when ovulation is approaching.
Who Should Use F.A.M.?
FAM is a good method for women who may not be able to use other forms of birth control. FAM requires little more than an understanding of your cycle and the changes that occur in your body during your most fertile times. It doesn’t cost anything and doesn’t require a prescription or the use of any medications or other forms of birth control. FAM can also be a great tool for women who are trying to conceive to better know when they are the most likely to become pregnant.
Who Should NOT Use F.A.M?
FAM requires that women track changes in their bodies diligently over time. If you are unable to dedicate the time and effort to track these changes during each cycle, FAM becomes less effective. Also many women cannot use FAM because their cycles might not be consistent enough. Changes in work schedule, a new exercise regimen, the use of drugs and other medications, and even stress can throw off a woman’s cycle making ovulation difficult to predict.
What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of F.A.M.?
- No health risks or side effects
- Can be used to plan OR prevent pregnancy
- Relatively effective if used properly and consistently
- Acceptable for women who have religious concerns about contraception
- Increases a woman’s awareness of her body
- Learning to use method takes considerable time and effort
- Requires dedication, calculation and self-control on behalf of a woman and her partner
- May be less effective for woman with irregular cycles
- FAM does NOT protect against sexually transmitted infections. If infections are something you believe you may be at risk for, learn to avoid them by checking out our STDs page.