What is Fertility Awareness Method?
Fertility awareness methods or Fertility Awareness Based Methods (FABMs) is a form of natural family planning that involves monitoring signs of fertility to identify fertile days in any given menstrual cycle. Fertility signs such as cervical mucous and basal body temperature are then recorded in a fertility chart.
Are there different types of FAM methods?
There are many types of Fertility Awareness Based Methods including calendar-only methods (not reliable), cervical mucous-only methods, temperature-only methods and sympto-thermal methods.
What is the best type of fertility awareness method?
The most accurate types are sympto-thermal methods that involve monitoring symptoms (sympto) such as cervical mucous and basal body temperature (thermal). Sympto-termal methods can further be divided into single-check methods and double-check methods. Both these methods are highly effective, but double-check methods are a little more accurate as they use additional calculations to help narrow down the fertile window more precisely. Most of the better-quality research on the effectiveness of FAM is based on double-check sympto-thermal methods, however, double-check fertility methods usually can not be applied until a full year or 12 menstrual cycles are successfully charted and there is a thorough understanding of temperature shifts that occur at ovulation.
Are there any other markers of fertility besides cervical mucous and temperature?
There are other signs that can be charted to help identify fertility such as resting pulse rate, breathing rate, heart rate variability and the position of the cervix. Many femmetek devices now incorporate some of these markers into their devices and therefore can be tracked alongside the menstrual cycle. LH (luteinising hormone) testing strips can also be used alongside the practice of FAM in some women. As more research is conducted, other factors such as sleep, skin health, digestive health eye health and even voice changes have been found to be associated with hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle. Many of these signs can be recorded as symptoms and may be useful in identifying a hormonal link with other conditions or may help to identify hormone imbalances. Symptom monitoring or cycle tracking is a wonderful way to help identify potential health problems and can be used alongside FAM but it is not a reliable method of fertility tracking.
Although gaining knowledge and understanding of the different markers of fertility can be very interesting for some women, for most women the practice of monitoring other fertility signs (besides temperature and cervical mucous) becomes confusing and overwhelming and makes the practice of FAM impractical and difficult to adhere to. There is no need to monitor any other signs outside of cervical mucous and basal body temperature, as it does not improve the accuracy of the method.
As a fertility awareness instructor, my aim is to make the practice of fertility awareness as simple and easy to follow as possible. For this reason, the only parameters that I will discuss on my website are cervical mucous and basal body temperature.
What is FAM used for?
1. Help women achieve pregnancy faster. Based on a study from 2013 only 12% of women that had been actively trying to conceive for over a year were able to identify their fertile window correctly despite over 60% believing they knew how to time intercourse correctly (1). Although I suspect this figure is improving with time, accurate timing of sexual intercourse remains the largest barrier to pregnancy achievement in otherwise healthy couples.
2. Helps avoid pregnancy without the use of hormonal birth control.
For various reasons, women may not wish to use hormonal birth control. Fertility awareness methods provide a more reliable and effective form of birth control that also encourages body literacy without any side effects. In order to avoid pregnancy, abstinence or the use of a barrier method is required during the fertile window.
3. Helps identify hormonal imbalances. In my training, I was taught that FAM is the “ultimate” diagnostic tool for hormonal imbalances and potentially other more serious hormone-related conditions. By recording different symptoms alongside the fertility chart, different patterns may emerge that suggest hormone imbalances. While blood tests and dried urine hormone tests can be very helpful, they provide only a snapshot of hormone levels at the time of testing and may not be a clear representation of the larger picture. FAM looks at patterns that emerge from assessing the action of hormones on the menstrual cycle as a whole. Personally, charting my cycle was the only way I was able to identify my long-standing hormone imbalance. I was refused hormone testing by many doctors and was left in the dark about my hormone issues for many years until I discovered fertility awareness.
Please note** most research on the effectiveness of FAM has been conducted under the guidance of a qualified instructor. While FAM can easily be self-taught, we do not have data on the effectiveness of FAM without the guidance of an instructor. If you wish to work with me to learn the FAM method please contact me or book an appointment.
Hampton, K. D., Mazza, D., & Newton, J. M. (2013). Fertility-awareness knowledge, attitudes, and practices of women seeking fertility assistance. Journal of advanced nursing, 69(5), 1076–1084. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2648.2012.06095.x