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I have enjoyed sharing my experience with natural family planning and fertility awareness with you over the past few months. I’ve seen a lot of questions about this topic, so today I’m answering some of the most common ones. Do you have more? Let me know in the comments!
Fertility Awareness FAQ
How can I use FAM?
For achieving pregnancy, avoiding pregnancy, or simply monitoring cycles for period predication and to be aware of any potential health problems.
Does it really work?
Yes! The effectiveness of fertility awareness will depend on how you practice it. Perfect use has a success rate for avoiding pregnancy of over 99% (source). Perfect use means that you chart all your symptoms and are able to follow the rules to determine your fertile and infertile days. It means that you practice abstinence on fertile days. You can also choose to use a barrier method, like condoms or a diaphragm, on fertile days, but this decreases the effectiveness. After all, if your secondary method fails, you just had sex during the phase of your cycle when you have a 25% chance of getting pregnant every time you have sex! Typical use effectiveness is still in the mid to high 90’s, making FAM/NFP as effective or more effective than hormonal methods. (more sources)
Fertility awareness can also be used in reverse to achieve pregnancy. By using fertility signs to time intercourse rather than simply guessing, a couple is able to significantly increase their chance of conceiving in a given month.
Which charting method is right for me?
This entirely depends on your personality and phase of life. Read my blog post for more information.
Where can I learn more?
If you know which charting method you would like to learn, I recommend starting with their website, resources and classes. Your local Catholic Church will also have information available for learning about Natural Family Planning. I recommend Taking Charge of Your Fertility to get an extensive overview from a secular point of view. Every woman should own this book!
I have irregular cycles/PCOS/ am breastfeeding. Can I use FAM?
Yes! If you follow this blog, you know I have been battling irregular and anovulatory cycles for 2 years now. I am to even predict my periods because half the time they come after an anovulatory cycle. However, I am still able to reap all the benefits of fertility awareness. In fact, if you struggle with fertility problems or are breastfeeding, it is even more crucial that you learn about and are aware of your cycles. It will allow you to keep an eye on how your health is doing and if your fertility is returning. If you do ovulate, you will be able to detect this and be prepared for your next period. Charting your cervical mucus will tell you if you are fertile and your body is gearing up to ovulate, while tracking temperatures will let you know if the ovulation was successful. Not only can you use FAM with less than perfect cycles, but you will benefit the most from it!
What do I need to practice FAM?
You need a method to learn and a way to chart. This can be as cheap as buying a copy of Taking Charge of Your Fertility and asking questions on their forums, or you can find a private instructor to teach you. Some insurances cover classes, classes are often have sliding scale financing, and you may even be able to find free classes through your church. Other tools needed are charts for your given method and a basal thermometer if you are tracking temperatures. Some methods will also require fertility monitors, but there is no need to use these methods if on a budget.
How to do get my partner on board?
This of course is only going to be an issue if you are using FAM to avoid pregnancy. And it’s a tricky one, and will entirely depend on your relationship dynamic and your partner. Explain to them why this is important to you, and also listen to their concerns about it. Have them read the literature you have been reading, particularly science-based books and articles. Actively involve them in the learning process so that they feel comfortable with using this new method of family planning that we have been brain washed our whole lives to think doesn’t work. Let them be as involved or uninvolved as they want when it comes to charting. Make sure to give them plenty of input about what secondary birth control you use, whether that is abstinence, condoms, withdrawal, diaphragms, or something else.
I’m really disorganized. How can I do this?
(note: personally, I’m super organized, so I’m just giving whatever ideas come to me) Using FAM to strictly avoid pregnancy (or achieve pregnancy while struggling with infertility) requires daily tracking and the ability to accurately record fertility signs. If your partner is more organized than you, consider having them do your charting. Set an alarm to wake you up each morning to take your temperature, or choose a mucus only method if you would like less things to chart. You can even purchase a fancy thermometer like the Wink that automatically imports your temperature to your charting app.
You may find charting apps helpful, as you can enter symptoms when you think of them and it is always right there on your phone. The app Glow even has reminders that you can set. Learn more about fertility apps here.
Where can I find support?
If you don’t have enough support in real life, there are many resources online. The TCOYF forums are amazing for support. They have many different boards to ask questions about charting, avoiding pregnancy, achieving pregnancy, dealing with infertility, and buddy groups for different stages of life. Facebook also has a wide variety of groups for whatever your brand and use of fertility awareness.
How to I check my cervix?
I got asked this by a few people who practice fertility awareness. To be honest, I have never been able to find my cervix and I know a lot of women who have experienced the same. Yet it can be a great extra piece of information, especially if you are having trouble with your other signs. For example, when my cycles are anovulatory and my mucus is all over the place, we use cervical checks for an extra layer of data and security before deciding if we are safe or not. Taking Charge of Your Fertility gives instructions for how to locate your cervix. If this doesn’t work for you or you are feeling squeamish, there’s another valid options that many women I know use: have your partner check it for you.
What questions do you have about fertility awareness? I will keep updating this post as I get more!
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