Fertility Awareness Birth Control Methods

I have had a couple ladies message me and ask about the different types of Fertility Awareness Methods (or FAM) for birth control, so I thought I would do a quick guide on them here.

So what is FAM??

FAM is a collection of non-hormonal birth control methods that determine which days of the month you are most fertile (or likely to get pregnant). It does not use any drugs or devices (like the IUD), but follows your menstrual cycle, while looking at your basal body temperate and cervical mucus. This method can be used for both: preventing pregnancy or planning for it. FAM method is 76-88% effective at prevent pregnancy… which means about 12-24 out of 100 women will become pregnant each year on this method. Its a great way to know your body and become more in touch with exactly what is happening through our monthly cycle.

Basal Body Temperature? What’s that?

BBT is the lowest temperature your body will be during rest. Normally the lowest it will be is during your sleep cycle. It is estimated by taking your temperature as soon as you wake up, before you undertake any activity (or drink anything, for those of you who keep a glass of water next to your bed). There are numerous thermometers that help to calculate these, like this one. You don’t have to do anything special with these thermometers, just stick them under your tongue when you wake up in the morning and record the temperature.

How do I know when I am most fertile?

Depending on which FAM method you use, there are a certain number of days in your cycle that you are that fertile myrtle. If you’re are coming off of hormonal birth control, it is essential that you give yourself a couple of months before relying on this option for sole protection. This is because your body needs to re-regulate your hormonal levels and get you back into a systematic cycle. Once a cycle has been established, there is about a week or 7-8 days you are most fertile. The five days before you ovulate, the day you ovulate, and much less likely, but a day or two after you ovulate. During this time, you can either abstain from sex or use condoms to prevent pregnancy.

OK…so how does it work?

There are three different types of FAM:

  1. Basal Body Temperature

  2. Cervical Mucus Method

  3. The Calendar Method

Basal Body Method:

This method, also known as “Temperature Method” measures your body’s basal temperature each morning before you get out of bed and tells you when you are most fertile. In order to do this method, you’ll need:

  • Basal body thermometer

  • A chart to record your temperatures

  • an alarm clock (to wake you up at the same time everyday)

Most women’s basal body temperature runs between 96-98 degrees F before you ovulate, but will increase to 97-99 degrees F after you ovulate. These changes can be incredibly small, so you will want to track every day. Here is a chart you can use to do so! Do the charting for a couple of months and you will start to see the increase during your cycle, which will allow you to plan when you have intercourse. You need to take your temperature immediately after you wake up in the morning. This means before you take a drink of water, talk to your significant other, check your phone, have sex, etc. It works best when your temperature is taken at the same time everyday (like you need to wake up to take it when you wake up for work, even on the weekends). Stress, sleepless nights, alcohol, smoking, and jet lag can alter your results for this. This method is most secure when used in conjunction with the calendar method.

Cervical Mucus Method:

Every woman has discharge throughout their menstrual cycle. These are from the same hormones that control when you have your period. In order to do the cervical mucus method, you will need:

  • Your fingers

  • a chart to record your findings

In order to do this method, you must feel the mucus produced through your cervix every day and record the thickness, color, and stickiness. It can range from being dry, cloudy and sticky, to slippery and clear. You can either wipe with white toilet paper before you pee in the morning, look at your underwear, or insert a finger into your vagina to feel the mucus. Rub the mucus between your pointer and thumb to understand the consistency. If you are interested in this method, definitely consult an OB/GYN, midwife, or WHNP as it can be tricky to learn. Usually you will have the most mucus, which is clear and slippery like egg whites, right before you ovulate. Dry is the safest time to have sex and cloudy/sticky is also safe. A great resource for this method can be found here. You need to be very comfortable with your own body to truly do this method as it involves getting really personal with yourself. Things that can change your cervical mucus are: breastfeeding, sexually transmitted infection, vaginitis, surgery on your cervix, using hormonal birth control (including the morning after pill), douching, and early menopause.

Calendar Method:

This method is best when you have tracked your cycles for at least six months. A cycle can last anywhere from 21-36 days; women whose cycles are less than 27 days- this may not be a very accurate method. what you’ll need:

  • A calendar/app to record your period

After you have recorded your periods for at least six months, find the month with the shortest period. Subtract 18 from the number of days in your cycle. So if you have a traditional 28 day cycle, you would subtract 18 from 28 for 10. Then take this number (in our example, 10) and count this number from day 1 of your cycle and mark that day with an “x”, heart, smiley/frowny face- whatever you want to signify that this is your first day that it is more likely you will get pregnant. For the next 7-8 days use alternative methods for protection against pregnancy, like abstaining or condoms. This method is tricky if your cycle varies in length and is not able to tell you exactly when you ovulate for a precise timeline on fertility. It works best when used with one of the other methods listed above.

FAM is an amazing way to track your cycle, know when you are fertile, and how to nourish your body as you need it. It can take some time to figure out exactly how long your individual cycle last, so for the first couple of months its key to track all symptoms, including moods, cravings, bloating, digestion etc as these can all give you clues to your hormonal levels.

I hope this helps! Please feel free to message me or comment any questions you may have in the comments! In the meantime, #livejoyful