The fertility awareness method is an effective and natural form of birth control, but how exactly does it work? The biggest barrier to educating and informing women about FAM is that we aren’t raised knowing how our fertility and reproductive physiology works beyond knowing that we get a period. When we understand just exactly how we’re able to get pregnant, we can use that knowledge to avoid pregnancy as well.
Ovulation is the main event
We wouldn’t get our period if we didn’t ovulate. Ovulation is the event in the middle of the cycle that triggers the next steps in order for us to get our period. This is because of the combination of estrogen and progesterone that rise and fall around the different events of our cycle. Once progesterone takes over following ovulation, it only hangs around for a set amount of time before it dips off and our uterine lining is able to shed. We also wouldn’t get pregnant if it wasn’t for ovulation – the release of an egg. The egg only survives for 24 hours before it dies off. How do you know if you've ovulated? You will need to chart both cervical mucus and basal body temperature.
Cervical mucus: essential for pregnancy
Cervical mucus is the fluid (a hydrogel) that is released by crypts in the cervix. Depending on what hormones are present in your body at any given time, your cervix will secrete mucus. Without cervical mucous, sperm would die quickly, because the Ph balance of the vagina is hostile to sperm. Cervical mucus keeps sperm alive for about 5 days.
CM + EGG + SPERM
With the lifespan of the egg, plus the cervical mucus, sperm can reach the egg for about 7 days per cycle. Many women are told that they can get pregnant at any day of their cycle. This is just not true. Of course, the only way you would be able to know is if you were charting your cycles. To increase your chances of getting pregnant, you will want to learn how to track your cervical mucus.
Putting it all together
With FAM, we chart cervical mucus and basal body temperature. Basal body temperature raises following ovulation, due to the presence of progesterone in the body. This gives us the time of ovulation after it’s actually happened. Remember that the egg only lives for 24 hours. With FAM we give ourselves 72 hours after ovulation to ensure that we’re safe for the possibility of 2 eggs being released, as well as another day of buffer time. Cervical mucous gives us an approximate time of ovulation as well as a start time for our fertile window prior to ovulation. Basically, we’re finding the time that it is possible to get pregnant in our cycle, and using protection or having alternative sex during this time if we would not like to get pregnant.
FAM has been shown to be as effective as the pill. Many women choose to use FAM as an all natural birth control method. That being said, it is 100% effective during the infertile window – the time after ovulation when the egg is dead and gone, and you’ve been able to confirm ovulation. It’s important to note though, that FAM during the fertile phase is as effective as whatever barrier (or other) method you’re using. If you’re using condoms, it is as effective as the effectiveness of the condoms. There is a chance of pregnancy no matter what type of birth control you’re using, if you’re having sex. We like to think that birth control makes us infallible, but this just isn’t true. If you’re having sex, have a conversation with your partner (s) about what you would do if you got pregnant, just in case. FAM effectiveness also increases when you work with an instructor! Check to see when I'm running my next FAM charting course, Cycle Love.
FAM is an effective method of birth control, and it empowers you to learn about your body and your fertility. Our fertility is there, whether we want to get pregnant or not! Whether you use FAM or another type of birth control, educate yourself on what it does to your fertility to manage the risk of pregnancy. This empowers you to make informed choices that are right for you.