Fertility Awareness Methods

I’m curious about natural contraception methods, but it seems like there are many different approaches and I’m overwhelmed trying to pick one. Is there one you suggest?
—Only Natural

Natural contraception methods, more commonly known as fertility awareness-based methods (FAMs), are a great alternative for people who want a hormone-free contraception option.

They can be challenging at first since they require more consistent awareness and work than hormonal or barrier methods, but they also offer great benefits by allowing you to be more aware of and fully experience your body’s natural cycles since they don’t involve introducing hormones that alter these cycles.

FAMs are symptom-based methods that rely on tracking bodily changes to predict when you’re ovulating.

Once you know when you’re ovulating you can avoid having unprotected sex on days surrounding ovulation to prevent pregnancy.

Several methods exist and involve daily tracking of one or more of the following: your cycle, your cervical mucus and cervical positioning, and your temperature.

I’ll provide some basic information on these methods but this should not be used as more than an introduction.

The calendar method involves tracking the number of days in your menstrual cycle, starting with the first day of your period as day 1, in order to determine when you ovulate.

This should be done for a minimum of 8 cycles, meaning it takes a full 8 months before you can reliably use this method as contraception.

This method should also only be used if most of your cycles are 27 days or longer. Once you know the number of days in your cycles, you can predict your first and last fertile days.

For the first fertile day, subtract 18 from the number of days in your shortest cycle (ex: 27-18=9).

Then, starting with the first day of your current cycle (your period start date), count that number of days and mark the last day with an x. That is your first fertile day.

For the last fertile day, subtract 11 days from the number of days in your longest cycle (ex: 30-11= 19).

Starting with the first day of your current cycle, count that number of days and mark it with an x for your last fertile day.

This would mean that you’re fertile from day 9 to 19 of your cycle and would want to use a backup method of protection during sex.

The next method involves tracking changes in your cervical mucus and cervical positioning.

Throughout your cycle, the quality and quantity of your cervical mucus changes. Some days you won’t have any, other days it might be yellow, white, clear, cloudy, sticky or slippery.

The clear, slippery days are typically the fertile ones, but getting to know your own personal fluctuations is the key. The second component to this method is cervical positioning.

Throughout your cycle, your cervix also changes and you can track these changes by checking your cervix daily.

When you’re fertile the cervix rests higher up in the vaginal canal, is more open and softer to allow sperm to travel through more easily. When you’re not fertile the cervix rests lower, is more closed, hard and dry.

The basal body temperature method involves tracking your daily temperatures when your body is at rest.

This must be done first thing in the morning while still lying in bed. There is a very slight rise in temperature after ovulation, and a slight drop right before your period, and these can be identified and then used to predict ovulation.

The most effective and only FAM I recommend looking into is the sympto-thermal method, which combines all three of the previously mentioned methods. Combining them yields the most accurate results, making the prediction of ovulation more precise and reliable.

FAMs require commitment and consistency. Without sticking to the tracking schedule, it’s impossible for this method to become reliable, because it is based on identifying patterns that emerge over several months.

It’s very important to educate yourself on proper use and techniques before attempting to use these natural methods since the failure rate with improper use is high.

There are group and individual trainings available that I highly recommend checking out for detailed information before giving FAMs a try.

For more on fertility awareness-based methods, check out Planned Parenthood’s great article here.

For more on the sympto-thermal FAM and workshops in Montreal, check out serena.ca.

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