What Is The Fertility Awareness Method? 9 Things To Know About FAM Birth Control

Have you ever heard of the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)? Me neither, until now. It's not the rhythm method, it's based on tracking your cycle daily and being in tune with your body's secretions as a sign of how fertile you are. I find the idea of understanding what different discharges mean pretty fascinating, as right now my understanding of my cycle is that it seems to have something to do with the moon and also maybe wolves and because I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) it makes even less sense. I love the idea of demystifying what's happening down there. 

With FAM, you need to be absolutely careful and take the time to track every day, and have a partner who is on board. So, this may not be the best method for everyone, including me. I really don't want to get pregnant and according to Bedsider, it's great for you if "you wouldn't mind getting pregnant...failure rates are kinda high if not used correctly—so if getting pregnant would be disastrous for you, choose another method". 

So probably not my choice, but everyone has different priorities and lots of people are unhappy with hormonal birth control. Plus, I like the idea of knowing more about my body. Want to learn more? Here are 9 things you need to know about FAM:

1. It's based off of two major indicators: Basal body temperature and cervical fluid

Together these two tell you about your current hormonal levels, which in turn tells you how fertile you are. For most people this means checking your cervical fluid and body temperature every day.

2. You learn about and track the different fluids

If you're anything like me, even if you've noticed different discharge at different parts of your cycle, you've had no idea what they mean. With FAM you learn to track the consistency and color, or lack there of, to learn how close you are fertility.  

3. It takes dedication — from both partners

While the woman needs to be really careful about recording information every single day, both of you need to be aware of the cycle and okay with abstaining or using another birth control method for about a week out of the month. The upside is you're both more in tune with your body! That's never a bad thing.


4. There's an app for it

There are actually a few different apps for that help you track your cycle and your temperature. The most popular one is Kindara — you can get a thermometer that's linked and makes tracking easier! It also has tips for those trying to avoid pregnancy and those trying to get pregnant. Check out their infographic for stats on FAM.


5. There are lots of different choices

You can check them all out on Bedsider, but basically some focus more on cervical fluid, some more on temperature (it's recommended you look at them together), and some are based on just tracking your cycle in days. There's also the symptothermal method looks more closely at the cervix itself and what it's doing— it's shape, opening, and more for those of you that really want to get better acquainted!

6. But some don't work for women with irregular periods

Some, like the standard day method, rely on having a regular cycle so aren't suitable if your period is irregular. So if you're like me and have no idea when your next period will be, stick to the methods that study what's actually going on that day. 


7. Don't use it if you've just come off hormonal birth control

If you've been on the pill and are hoping to switch to something more natural, wait a while. The hormones in the pill affect your cycle so it may be a while until things have settled down. In the meantime stick to other methods.


8. It requires 1 week a month of abstinence or alternative methods 

There is that one week of the month where you're definitely fertile. FAM relies on either skipping sex during this time or using another form of birth control. I told you you had to be dedicated!


9. It's based on the idea that women are fertile for 1 day, but sperm can live inside you for up to 5 days

The week estimate comes from the idea that your body is fertile for up to a 24 hour window but any sperm deposited can live in your body for 5 days. Those suckers are stubborn. So, there's at least a six day window you need to stay strong!

Images: Elena Signorini/Flickr; Giphy (9)

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