There are a few components that directly influence the efficacy rate of using the fertility awareness method (FAM) as birth control. These being, the ability to observe and accurately chart the primary fertility signs, the ability to apply the rules of the chosen method to open or close the fertile window, and the ability to modify one’s sexual behavior during the fertile window. In a perfect world, I would have loved to say that FAM can be practiced everywhere by everyone, and although that might be true for a lot of people, it is not applicable to many. Here are 2 reasons why FAM might not be the best fit for some:
Not ready to commit
The fertility awareness method can be used to fulfill many intentions –Body literacy, monitoring hormonal health, trying to avoid pregnancy, or even trying to conceive. You do not have to be in relationship to practice FAM and feel empowered in your own body. To learn and practice the method effectively and reach the 99.6% efficacy rate, one must commit to learning the method and fitting it into their schedules, following the rules, self-studying or attending classes, and charting on a daily basis. The biggest investment here is TIME.
From my personal experience, working with an instructor had saved me a ton of time and effort in finding the most accurate information, and practicing the method confidently. There are so many great FAM educators that teach the method with a variety of different teaching techniques. The methods you’d find educators teaching are: Cervical-mucus-only methods, the sympto thermal methods, and the sympto hormonal methods. Some educators only teach locally, while others host an online course. Some teach individuals, while others teach in groups. Some educators would prefer to meet you live, but others would develop online self-study classes for you to go through on your own time. There are a variety of options to serve you, and it is up to you find your best fit.
After taking the course, charting for at least 3 cycles, getting together with your instructor for private consultations, your time investment is going to be reduced to few minutes per day to take your basal body temperature, check your cervical mucus, and plug in your data on a paper/digital chart. If you find yourself not ready to commit to learning the method, it might not be the best fit for you at the moment.
In an abusive relationship
Practicing the fertility awareness method (FAM) is unique in which both partners are sharing the responsibility of their birth control of choice. Unlike taking the pill, a shot, or an IUD -where the responsibility of practicing the method effectively is usually put on the woman- practicing FAM would require the couple to actively modify their sexual behavior during the fertile window – the only time when pregnancy is possible. And that my friends can look different from one couple to another. Maybe you'd prefer using condoms. Or perhaps diaphragms? Maybe you'd choose a combination of a barrier method and a withdrawal. Or maybe you are content with a total abstinence during the fertile window, and opt for warm intimate acts like cuddling, or discovering new hobbies with your partner like cooking together, taking a walk, or painting. Perhaps you have an array of alternative-sex options that you and your partner would like to explore, things like oral sex, role-play, dancing and striping, self-pleasing, and using toys. No matter how you choose to manage your fertile window, know that you can always make the most of it.
“What if my partner is not willing to make those changes?” “He does not want to wear condoms!” “He wants a baby, but I don’t” “He does not understand FAM, and thinks I am only rejecting him.” “I said no, but he would not listen” “My husband thinks it’s his right to have sex with me whenever her wishes, and I have no right to say no” “He forced me to take off my IUD so that I get pregnant”
These are real stories I get in my mailbox, on a daily basis. And to those women I say, I hear you. You are not alone. And you deserve better. In many of these situations men are not fully informed. They deeply care about their partners, but they have no idea what a fertile window is, let alone the fertility awareness method as a whole. Right there, all they need is to have a real conversation or a consultation with a fertility awareness educator to fully understand the method and what is expected from them to support their partners and fulfill their health and reproductive intentions.
Practicing FAM or not, asking for consent is not up for debate. Women own the bodies they inhabit, and no relationship in the world may strip them away from that ownership. It is not the husband’s right to force his wife to get pregnant or have sex whenever he “wishes”, if she does not consent to it. This is actually called something different... oh right, Rape. If a woman is involved in an abusive relationship, where her body’s autonomy is not respected, and the couple is not on the same page on how to manage the fertile window, FAM is not going to be an effective method of birth control.
So, to practice the method effectively, you will need to be able to observe and accurately chart your primary fertility signs: Cervical mucus, and basal body temperature. Learning how to do so might take some people longer than others depending on their level of comfort with their bodies, and their learning skills. This is the reasons why some people with learning disabilities might find it challenging to practice the method if practiced independently. You will need to be able to apply the rules of your chosen method to open or close the fertile window, and modify your sexual behavior during the fertile window whichever way you may see fit.
The fertility awareness method is for everyone who is able to learn the method, and has an openness to learning about their bodies. It does not matter what religion you practice, or what does your career path look like. It does not matter whether you were 17, 25, or 37. It does not matter what your skin color is, or what is the status of your sexuality. It does not matter if you were single, engaged, married, monogamous, or polyamorous. FAM is for YOU if it is YOUR choice.
Jessie Brebner, Cert. Symptothermal Method Instructor. (Instagram)