Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fertility Awareness Method of contraception

Every woman should read this book

Fertility Awareness Method (FAM): On my August 6, 2010 post ‘Teens, rhythm and pregnancy’ Eric asked a question about the difference between FAM and the Rhythm Method. Since the two are often confused I thought I’d explain a bit about FAM which is far more reliable than the Rhythm Method if practiced correctly, and post it in an entry where more readers, who might be interested, can read it. An excellent book on FAM is Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. It’s easy to understand and a very empowering read. I highly recommend every woman reading it regardless of whether she plans on using FAM or not as it gives you an understanding of what’s happening in your body all through your cycle. And guys, it’s worth you reading it too if you are interested in what’s going on in a woman’s body and why we may be cranky at times during our cycles. FAM is super for when you are trying to conceive, because you can tell exactly when you ovulate so you know the best time to go baby dancing. However, what my circle generally uses FAM for is as an aid for contraception and the discussion below is from that viewpoint.

First a caution: Used for contraception FAM is unforgiving of Oopses and just-this-once events like “Just let me stick the red part in for a minute” That’s against the rules when the woman is fertile! Ok?

To use FAM fully (including taking basal body temp) takes discipline and a stable schedule, because the temp readings should be taken at the same time each morning, immediately after awakening after more than 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep. The temps are recorded so the woman can see her temp shift at ovulation. So for any woman with an erratic schedule the temp part is questionable. If you are using FAM for birth control the temperature shift upward by a few tenths of a degree at ovulation is a sort of after-the-fact measurement that tells you when you’ve ovulated. About two weeks later, if you haven’t become pregnant, your progesterone level drops – causing a decrease in temp – that occurs a day before your period starts. No temperature drop about two weeks after ovulation is an indication that progesterone is still high and you may be pregnant.

It’s good to know that you have ovulated and therefore after another 24 hours (O+1) it should be safe to go without protection if you’re sure STIs aren’t a problem. However, if you haven’t been carefully watching up to that point for slippery stretchy cervical fluid and a ripening of the cervix when it softens, opens and rises higher in the vagina - which tells you you’re fertile and should be using a barrier - you may find you’ve been truly fucked in every sense of the word. That’s because when sperm reaches fertile cervical fluid it can live in a woman’s tubes as long as 5 to 7 days waiting for her to release an egg. In the teens and early 20s (19 to 26 years old) a woman has a 50% chance of becoming pregnant from a single act of unprotected IC on her most fertile day. So a woman really needs to be careful using FAM.


  1. However, as I think I may have pointed out in my reply to the prior post mentioned, I think most couples using FAM are doing so, so they can CONCEIVE, not prevent conception. Those are the people who are despirate to have a child. I know some do it to know when not to have unprotected sex, but I think a vast majority use it to have a child.

  2. I disagree. But first some terminology: Natural Family Planning (NFP) is the approved Catholic Church’s birth control method where instead of using a barrier during the woman’s fertile days the couple abstains. The Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is the secular version with the same set of rules and fertile signs, except that the couple uses a barrier of some sort (condom diaphragm, cervical cap etc) while the woman is fertile, thus increasing the risk if the condom breaks or the diaphragm dislodges.

    It’s difficult to find figures to factually determine how many women currently use FAM and NFP If you find a reliable source please let me know.

    “According to an unpublished tabulation of the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth from the National Center for Health Statistics, only 3.6 percent of Catholic women using some form of family planning are using Natural Family Planning”

    Coming from a Catholic study you have to think that they really mean NFP and abstinence not adding in FAM which is sometimes done. In addition, there are the non-Catholic couples who (for one reason or another) can’t or don’t want to use the more common hormonal and barrier methods. Almost all of those couples who use FAM/NFP use it for contraception.

    And from table 9-1 p.223 of the 18th revised edition (2004) of Contraceptive Technology:

    In a 1995 study .3% of the 44.8 million women (between the ages of 15 and 44) who used birth control used periodic abstinence, Natural Family Planning. That’s 1,254,000 women using NFP.

    Logic, human nature and my experience around Gyn clinics for years leads me to believe that:

    1) Most women have no problem reproducing. The (statically) few women with fertility problems get the media attention because it’s a great story, the high cost of fertility treatments and often their celebrity.

    2) FAM/NFP is time consuming to learn and takes discipline to use correctly. Regardless of how empowering the experience is a couple really has to want to use it correctly for it to be effective and the largest number of highly motivated couples are the ones trying to avoid pregnancy. Therefore, most couples practicing FAM or NFP use it to limit the size of their families.


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Powys , Wales, United Kingdom
I'm a classically trained dancer and SAB grad. A Dance Captain and go-to girl overseeing high-roller entertainment for a major casino/resort