"So you're using FAM, that's the rhythm method, right? See you in 9 months when you're pregnant!"
It can be really challenging to bring up FAM with other people because of the misconceptions that surround FAM as to whether it is an effective method of birth control. Misconceptions stem from lack of awareness, minimal medical professional education on the physiology of fertility, the billion dollar pharmaceutical industry, and a culture that shames women for their sexuality and menstruality. Phew!
These misconceptions are the reason that you may feel others have negative feelings towards you using FAM as your method of birth control. I wanted to share some tips I've learned along the way, because feeling isolated as you learn a method that still isn't 100% mainstream is never fun.
Talking to your partner
When I took my first FAM course, I was lucky that my partner came with me. If you can encourage your partner to do some of the learning with you, this may be one of the ways to overcome mistrust in FAM as an effective method. In the logical masculine mind, FAM can seem far-fetched, and men may find themselves skeptical that it will work in preventing babies. When men understand how FAM works, and I do have a blog post about it here, they may trust it a little more. Men may be used to not playing a part in their partners contraceptive choices. FAM encourages communication between you and your partner (which is a huge bonus!), so that you are both on the same page as to where you are in your cycle and fertile window.
This means that if your partner understands FAM, the method will be even more effective, because miscommunications will be avoided. FAM isn't rocket science. Explaining to them that:
Women can only get pregnant when an egg is present, and the egg lives for 24-48 hours.
The vagina is naturally inhospitable to sperm (due to the ph level of the vagina and the ph level of sperm) unless cervical mucous is present.
We need sperm + an egg +cervical mucous for pregnancy to be possible.
We track BBT because of the rise in progesterone that naturally occurs post-ovulation, as well as tracking cervical mucous that lets us know when our fertile window starts.
We are able to pinpoint ovulation with BOTH BBT and cervical mucous, by charting it on a chart.
Once ovulation has occurred and the egg is dead and gone, there is no possibility for pregnancy to occur - so we are safe for unprotected sex.
As you build your confidence with FAM, your partners confidence will build as well. After you've charted FAM for 3 months, having unprotected sex on days close to when you know your period is about to start is a great way to start building that trust - as well as sending your charts to your instructor!
Talking to friends and family
Newsflash: your birth control methods are nobody's business but your own. Really. You do not have to tell friends and family about the method you use unless you want to. If you do want to talk about FAM, a great way to start is to only talk to people who ask specifically about FAM. Bringing it up with people who aren't open to it might mean that they aren't open to the answer. As you get used to talking with others about FAM, it will be okay, no matter what the response. Using the facts, challenging common myths, explaining FAM in terms of how it works, are all ways of explaining FAM. You won't change anyone's mind about it though, who is dead set against it. Sometimes just leading by example can be huge and remembering that your actions can speak louder than words.
Remember too, that if you do want to talk about it with open-minded folks, you can have a huge impact on your community. Beginning the conversation, busting FAM myths, and normalizing FAM and menstrual cycle literacy might just take hold in your circle of family and/or friends. I only knew one other person using FAM when I first started, as I became more brave to talk about it and normalize it, I know many many more women in my circle of friends and family who use FAM.
Talking to your general practitioner
Ah yes, this can be a tricky one, the doctors office may possibly the hardest realm to bring FAM up in. A couple things, first - you are not irresponsible for using FAM as birth control. FAM + barrier methods is a perfectly effective and wonderful method of birth control. Your doctor might not agree, because they may come from the perspective that being on a hormonal form of birth control is the only "acceptable" method. This is good to remember if you are going to have the birth control conversation with your doctor.
It's also good to remember that your doctor doesn't know everything about your fertility or reproductive physiology. This is backed by an Australian study done in 2016, which discussed the significant knowledge gaps for general practitioners when it comes to the physiology behind fertility. Unless you have a doctor who is knowledgeable about women's health, fertility and hormones, you may not get a good response from your doctor. This means that you have to do our own education around your fertility and menstrual cycle health, and go into your doctors appointment with a goal in mind. When you come with the facts, and are clear about what you'd like to get out of the appointment, you put yourself in a better position to get the care you deserve.
Having a well rounded team of practitioners and educated folks around you, especially if you are needing some extra support for your cycles, is vital. Some of these people could be women's health centered:
Fertility Awareness Educator
Some final thoughts
If you don't have a real-life community of people who you can chat about FAM with, the wonderful thing about this day and age is that there are many communities online that you can become a part of. Facebook and Instagram are great ways to connect with FAM experts as well as other people who are using FAM as birth control.
If you're on Facebook, the Fertility Awareness Method of Birth Control Facebook group is an AMAZING resource
Connect with me on Instagram, and send me a message to say hi! I always love when people do this. Some of my favourite FAM and women's health instagram accounts are @fertilityawareness, @clarabailey_, @chloeskerlak, @fertilitycharting, @_clairebaker_