WHAT IS IT?
FAM (Fertility Awareness Method) allows you to use your bodies’ clues to tell you where you are in your cycle. This method is entirely based on science and is not The Rhythm Method, which guesses when you will ovulate based on past patterns. The Rhythm Method is not backed by science.
According to the American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists, when used correctly (emphasis on used correctly), FAM is 95-99% effective.
HOW IT WORKS
FAM takes the quality of your CERVICAL FLUID (which shows your fertile window) and your BASAL BODY TEMPERATURE (which indicates when you’ve ovulated) into account to help you conceive or prevent pregnancy. You can also track your CERVICAL POSITION for added reassurance as to where in your cycle you are.
Following your period and leading up to ovulation, your body produces discharge that changes in quality and consistency. Here’s how the consistency typically flows from post-bleeding through ovulation:
Scant/Sticky—Creamy—Watery—Stretchy Like Egg-Whites
This egg-white discharge indicates your peak fertility as its consistency best protects sperm from the acidity of the vagina and helps sperm swim up to the fallopian tubes, increasing your chance of pregnancy. You are also considered fertile if your fluid is in that watery stage.
Everyone’s discharge is different, so if you are having trouble finding your consistency, be sure to work with a practitioner that can help!
After you ovulate (and you are sure you have), you are no longer fertile. FAM recommends waiting 48 hours before having unprotected intercourse post-ovulation if you are trying to prevent pregnancy as the egg can live for 24 hours post-ovulation, and 48 hours is a precaution in case you dropped two eggs.
Post-ovulation your fluid will become dry and sticky again, though it is also possible for your fluid to remain watery. If you are certain you have ovulated, and it has been 48 hours since, it is not fertile fluid.
Not only does knowing your cervical fluid help you detect your fertile window, but it can also alert you to when things aren’t quite right—like a yeast infection or BV.
Basal Body Temp
Due to a rise in progesterone post ovulation, your temperature will rise once you have ovulated. Your Basal Body Temperature is the lowest body temperature attained during rest and can be found by taking your temp immediately after awakening and before any physical activity has been undertaken (and we mean any– even peeing!) You should take your temp at approx. the same time each morning to find your thermal shift, which indicates ovulation has occurred. Check out this smart thermometer and app to help you!
WHY WE LOVE IT
- It puts you in total control of your body! It requires no synthetic hormones (which means no side effects), is free (after purchasing a thermometer, which costs $8) and doesn’t require a prescription. No matter who is in control of the government, this method is available.
- It allows you to get familiar with your own unique body, cycle and patterns as well as detect potential imbalances and health concerns early on.
- If you are trying to get pregnant, this is a great way to get a sense of your true fertile window, as most people don’t actually ovulate on Day 14!
- It can show you where your hormonal imbalances may lie so that you can work on correcting these before resorting to Artificial Reproductive Technologies.
WORDS TO THE WISE
- If you are using this as birth control, don’t solely rely on this method as birth control until you have a solid handle on how it works and your own bodies’ cycle. We recommend working with a FAM practitioner and always using a condom or cervical barrier while you learn.
- Those with irregular cycles need to be especially diligent and should work with a FAM practitioner if you are opting for this method. Your practitioner (or acupuncturist) may even be able to help you get a more regular cycle!
- There is no “typical” cycle. So the whole ovulating on Day 14 thang is not accurate. Be aware of fertility monitors or trackers using this as a base. Each individual’s cycle is different, which is why it’s important to know your indicators to get a real sense of your fertile window. It is also possible to get pregnant while you are bleeding, if you have a short cycle and ovulate early- so really take the time to get to know your self!
- Period apps are a great way to log and track your temperature and cervical fluid, and help you learn your fertile window. But reminder- just taking your temperature is not enough info to go on. You must also track your cervical fluid. (And tracking the changes in your cervix can also be good reassurance).
- If you are coming off of any other form of birth control, breast or chest feeding, or entering menopause, special rules apply. Work with a FAM practitioner.
FIND A PRACTITIONER TO HELP!
Research + Contributions by: Jacqueline Gunning, Researcher, Veggie Lover and Women’s Health Advocate, CA