What is fertility awareness?
As the term suggests, fertility awareness means being aware of the different stages of your menstrual cycle to avoid unintended pregnancy or plan one. The various methods a woman can use to track her menstrual cycle are called the Fertility Awareness Methods (FAMs).
If you are looking for a natural family planning approach, you may consider the fertility awareness method (FAM). However, before you implement this strategy, it would be better to learn more about what it is, how it works, and the other crucial aspects surrounding it.
We have come up with five critical things you should know about fertility awareness methods. Read on to learn more.
Different types of the Fertility Awareness Method
Fertility awareness methods help you monitor your menstrual cycle and ovulation (when your ovaries release the egg). The dates near your ovulation window mark your fertile days, i.e., the days when your chances of pregnancy are high. So when you know your fertile window, you can prevent pregnancy by abstaining from vaginal sex during that period. Alternatively, you can use various birth control options, such as condoms, contraceptive pills, diaphragms, patches, among others.
There are different types of fertility awareness methods (FAMS)-you can use to understand the signs of fertility. By using a combination of FAMs, you are likely to succeed in preventing unplanned pregnancies or time intercourse properly in case you are trying to conceive . Here are the three most commonly used FAMs:
The Temperature Method
Body temperature dips a bit just before the ovary releases an egg. Later, 24 hours after the release of the egg, the temperature rises and stays up for many days.To record your basal body temperature or BBT, you will need a regular digital thermometer or a basal thermometer uniquely designed for women trying to get pregnant. You need to check your temperature before getting out of bed every morning for several days.
Record your BBT for at least three days and study the pattern. So when you see your BBT rise, you can assume you are ovulating. Before ovulation, BBT of a woman averages between 97°F (36.1°C) and 97.5°F (36.4°C). After ovulation, it rises to 97.6°F (36.4°C) to 98.6°F (37°C)
The Cervical Mucus Method
Also known as Billings Ovulation Method, it is yet another fertility awareness-based method. This method involves careful observation of your cervical mucus (secretions from your cervix) throughout your menstrual cycle.
Before you ovulate, your cervical fluid happens to change to create a suitable environment for the sperm to travel to the egg via your cervix. If you can recognize the changing feature of your cervical secretion, you can predict ovulation.
After your period ends , start observing and recording the characteristics of your cervical mucus. Track its colour, feel, and consistency.
When you are in your fertile window, your cervical mucus is likely to be clear, wet, and slippery (much like the white portion of a raw egg). So if you want to prevent pregnancy, make sure not to have unprotected sex when your cervical mucus indicates fertile days ahead.
The Calendar Method
This fertility awareness method allows you to predict your fertility phase by keeping track of your menstrual cycles for at least six cycles.
Take a calendar and highlight the first day of your menstrual period. Then, check the first day of the next menstrual period. Now, it is time to calculate the total number of days between each period. If your period cycles are less than 27 days or more than 32 days, the calendar method is less likely to be effective.
This method can help you find the safest and the most unsafe days in your cycle. Moreover, the calendar method is most likely to be effective when coupled with other FAMs.
Standard Days Method (SDM)
This is a fertility awareness-based family planning method which identifies a 12-day fertile window during which women with regular menstrual cycles (26–32 days long) should refrain from sex or use any barrier method to prevent pregnancy.
The Concept Behind Fertility Awareness Methods
Natural fertility awareness methods entail recognizing the signs of fertility in the course of your menstrual cycle. These methods help you avoid or plan pregnancy. If you want to learn how it works, make sure to seek professional assistance.
There are three aspects of fertility that you need to track and record to implement FAMs effectively. It includes the following:
- Changes in the cervical mucus throughout your menstrual cycle.
- The number of days in each cycle.
- Your basal body temperature (daily reading).
Experts recommend using a combination of these methods for accuracy. Using fertility charts to keep a record is a good idea.
Factors That Make Fertility Awareness Methods Effective
The effectiveness of fertility awareness methods depends on various factors. It includes the following:
- Which fertility monitoring technique do you use?
- What is the length of your menstrual cycles, and how regular are they?
- How careful were you while tracking your menstrual periods?
- For how long do you avoid sex surrounding your ovulation window?
If you follow the fertility awareness method carefully, its efficacy can be around 76% to 88%. And, if you can manage to combine various FAMs, you are likely to get better results. However, if you cannot track and understand the signs of fertility and cannot abstain from unprotected intercourse during your fertile days, FAMs are not for you. Moreover, if your menstrual cycles are irregular, these methods might not work for you. Therefore, it is highly advisable to seek expert assistance from medical professionals.
Advantages of Fertility Awareness Method
The advantages of the fertility awareness method include the following:
- Fertility awareness methods do not harm your health. These are free of any side effects.
- These do not involve the use of medications or other chemical-based products. You can use them without hesitation.
- You can use these natural family planning methods to get pregnant or prevent it.
- Most women can implement FAMs, provided they know how it is properly done.
- These methods can help you understand your body by observing your vaginal secretions. They can help you additionally identify infections or other health conditions.
- All cultures and faiths accept natural family planning methods.
- As fertility awareness methods also involve your partner, they can help develop better bonding and trust.
The Disadvantages of Fertility Awareness Methods
Some disadvantages of the fertility awareness methods are:
- Natural fertility awareness methods do not safeguard you against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and chlamydia.
- As you will have to avoid having sex or use contraceptive measures during your fertile days, it can be difficult for some couples.
- Depending on the length of your menstrual cycle, you might have to abstain from having sex for up to 16 days.
- You will have to practice FAM with dedication and commitment to make it work.
- If you fail to follow FAMs accurately, they are less likely to work compared to other contraceptive methods.
- It is more likely to take a couple of menstrual cycles before you get used to these methods. Until you are confident and can correctly identify your fertile days, you will have to use protection, such as condoms.
- Tracking and recording the signs of fertility can be a bothersome task for many women.
- Factors like underlying health conditions, lifestyle, stress, and hormonal treatments are likely to interfere with your signs of fertility.
- If you take an emergency contraceptive pill, you will likely need to wait for at least two complete menstrual cycles before incorporating natural fertility awareness methods.
More questions on Fertility Awareness Methods
How many fertile days do you have in your menstrual cycle?
Most women have a 28-day cycle. It means your fertility window for each menstrual cycle is likely to be six days. It is the time when you can conceive. However, no two women are the same, and neither are their menstrual cycles and fertile windows. Therefore, it is advisable to talk to your doctor before starting with natural family planning.
Can you ovulate twice in one menstrual cycle?
A woman can ovulate once per menstrual cycle. However, a woman can ovulate (release) two or more eggs simultaneously. In such cases, there are possibilities of conceiving twins if both the eggs are fertilized.
Are fertility awareness methods suitable for all women?
FAMs are less likely to be suitable for all women because of certain factors associated with these methods. However, as they do not involve any medication or physical device, these are safe and do not have any side effects.
Can you become pregnant when you are already pregnant?
Although it is an extremely rare scenario, you can conceive when you are already pregnant. Generally, when a woman becomes pregnant, her ovaries stop releasing eggs. However, in rare cases (superfetation), one of the ovaries releases another egg. This egg, when it meets the sperm, fertilizes and joins the uterine wall. As a result of which, you can have two babies.