As someone who doesn’t want children, preventing conception is important to me.
Being freaked out by pharmaceutical birth control and terrified of getting pregnant, I sought another way to prevent conception—naturally.
What I found was the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) after stumbling upon a woman who coaches the technique—a woman who is now my herbalist—and learning the method from her. I had heard about fertility awareness before but mostly heard negative things, like it wasn’t reliable and had a much lower success rate than birth control.
Turns out, this just isn’t true. The FAM is actually more effective than the pill when done correctly. Here’s how it actually works.
Know When You Are Fertile
Of course, it makes sense given that this method is actually called the fertility awareness method, so it would help if you were aware of when you were fertile.
But how do you do this?
By observing your primary fertility signs, you can identify when you’re fertile. These signs are cervical fluid and basal body temperature (BBT).
Beginners can and should use a chart when starting to track your cycle and record your primary and secondary fertility signs. Secondary signs include cervical position, cervical texture, vulva sensation, and mood, among other things.
It sounds like a lot of work, right?
I was overwhelmed with the FAM at first. I was on the verge of deciding to get my tubes tied, and while I balked at the idea of surgery, it just seemed easier. Maybe it would have been, but with patience and practice, I learned the FAM in just a couple months and now rely on it as my primary form of birth control.
Avoid Intercourse on Fertile Days
Yes, it is that easy, and no, it’s not that easy.
Let me explain.
Your basal body temperature and cervical fluid will tell you when you’re fertile. Throughout your cycle—which begins on the first day of your period—your cervical fluid will shift from non-fertile (dry, sticky, or creamy) to fertile (wet, slippery, or egg white texture), and then back to non-fertile.
A corresponding temperature spike will happen on the day after ovulation takes place. So you can look at your chart and see that your cervical fluid combined with the temperature spike indicates exactly what day ovulation happened.
So of course, you don’t have vaginal intercourse that day if you want to avoid pregnancy. However, it’s not quite that simple.
Since cervical fluid is fertile about 2-3 days prior to ovulation, intercourse should be avoided on these days as well. This is because the fertile fluid can nourish and protect the sperm until ovulation happens. Intercourse should also be avoided for 3 days after ovulation takes place just to be safe.
This gives you a 6-7 day period in which vaginal intercourse is out of the question unless you want to risk pregnancy.
What this means is that whenever your cervical fluid is fertile, you avoid intercourse. Since the only way to know whether or not ovulation happened is after the fact, you should never try to predict ovulation and instead observe your body’s signs telling you that you’re fertile.
How It’s Worked Out for Me
Honestly, the FAM has been challenging to learn. However, this is coming from someone who wasn’t very aware of their cycles or their body before diving into this method.
I worked with a professional who has worked with the method for years both to help couples conceive and avoid conception. Under her guidance, I gained confidence enough to use the method on my own.
Using the method is actually really simple once you get the hang of it. Yes, you do have to take your temperature every morning and check your cervical fluid at least once a day. But this seems a small price to pay for the peace of knowing when it’s safe to have sex with your partner and not freaking out if your period is late.
I know that ovulation typically happens for women around Day 14 of their cycle, so during this time I’m hyperaware of what my body is doing, including my temperature and my cervical fluid. There are months when I don’t ovulate until Day 18 or 19, so it really does all depend on your fertility signs.
My partner and I both enjoy using the FAM as opposed to pharmaceutical birth control or condoms. We feel confident using it and have a back-up herbal method of birth control (wild carrot, also known at Queen Anne’s Lace) in the event that we accidentally have intercourse too close to ovulation.
What’s Great About the FAM
The FAM has been great for me because it’s enabled me to get to know my body that much better and also has given me a deeper understanding of how my cycles work.
I also have much more peace in my life not having to worry about getting pregnant or feeling burdened by the confusion and mystery that surrounded my uterus’ plans for getting me knocked up. Not only can I pinpoint when ovulation happened, but I also have a fairly concrete idea of when my period is coming, which is also reassuring.
The FAM does not have any side effects (unlike birth control), and you can stop using it at any time to attempt to get pregnant. The FAM can also be used to help couples conceive, as it identifies your fertile days and you can have intercourse when your cervical fluid is fertile to optimize chances of conception.
Charting your cycle can also help reveal any problems that may need to be looked into, including hormone abnormalities and irregular cycles that could be affecting your ability to conceive or causing issues with your period.
The FAM is a completely natural, enlightening form of birth control that has a steep learning curve, but is so easy once you get used to it.
Although using Google to learn about the FAM is great, I would definitely recommend working with a professional to learn the method if you plan on using this as your primary form of birth control. It doesn’t take long to get the hang of it but it’s important that you do it properly.
I’m very grateful to have found a natural method of preventing conception that works for me and my fiancé. Not having to take birth control and being aware of my body has made me feel both more confident and understanding of my womanhood.