This article contains excerpts from Natural Womanhood’s Complete Guide to Fertility Awareness Methods and was edited to fit this newsletter. If you want to read the full guide please visit their website at naturalwomanhood.org/complete-guide-to-fertility-awareness-methods.
A PRO-LIFE WAY TO PLAN PREGNANCY
How can someone prevent an unwanted pregnancy without taking abortifacient drugs like hormonal contraceptives or birth control pills?
They may consider FAMs (Fertility Awareness Methods).
FAMs are modern evidence-based methods of tracking a woman’s menstrual cycle, through observable signs unique to each woman. Fertility Awareness Methods help a woman know more about hormonal health and when she is naturally fertile and infertile. By observing and charting biomarkers of fertility, women can be equipped to reach health goals with greater precision and meet family planning needs with high rates of effectiveness.
FAMs are often used as a form of natural family planning. They teach you when you are fertile and when you are not, at natural times in your cycle. By avoiding intercourse during periods of your cycle when you are fertile, you can use a FAM/NFP as a form of natural birth control, and at effectiveness rates that rival pharmaceutical birth control. You can also use these methods to achieve pregnancy if that’s your goal.
Which method is the most effective? The answer is the one that works best for you.
Five of the most commonly used methods of fertility awareness are:
- Sympto-Thermal Method
- Creighton Method
- Billings Method
- Marquette Method
You can learn a FAM from a book or an app, but you may feel more confident by learning from a trained instructor. Reputable FAM/NFP providers offer a network of trained instructors at your service. Because of their experience in observing cycles and reading charts, they are also able to help you understand if your charts show optimal health or signs that you need further medical support.
FEMM (Fertility Education and Medical Management) is a method that uses cervical fluid as the primary biomarker but also utilizes urine tests as an option to confirm ovulation and therefore the end of fertility each month. FEMM users can also include basal body temperature readings in their charts if they wish. The FEMM charting app also matches its teaching where FEMM-trained medical practitioners can help diagnose and treat hormonal disorders, infertility, and other cycle-related issues.
FEMM is a modern, easy-to-learn (and use) method that has a medical component should you need it. Many women like the flexibility of utilizing their desired biomarkers, and the fact that there is an app to use for charting. To learn more about FEMM or find an instructor, visit femmhealth.org.
The Sympto-Thermal Method (STM) is most often taught by an organization called the Couple-to-Couple League. STM tracks three different signs: changes in cervical mucus, basal body temperature, and optionally, cervical position and firmness. Changes in the cervix and cervical mucus can tell you when you are fertile and when you are likely ovulating. Observing your basal body temperature confirms that ovulation has happened once you see a spike in temperature. All of these observations must be recorded on a chart or in an app, each day.
The Sympto-Thermal Method incorporates the main components of every other method. If you are interested in STM, look for an in-person or online class through the Couple-to-Couple League or SymptoPro, the two major organizations which specialize in the teaching of this method.
The Creighton method tracks cervical mucus. Additionally, the Creighton chart comes with different colored stickers for marking days of menstruation, mucus, dry days, and fertile mucus, so a pattern or abnormality is easy to spot immediately. A further benefit of the Creighton method is that an accurate and detailed Creighton chart can be used by a Natural Procreative Technology (NaPro) doctor to diagnose important health issues, including infertility and hormonal imbalances.
Creighton and its association with NaProTechnology are attractive to anyone struggling with and seeking treatment for infertility or any menstrual irregularities. Learning this method can be more expensive than others because of the one-on-one nature of instruction, but many also see this kind of individualized approach as a benefit. To learn more about Creighton, go to fertilitycare.org.
BILLINGS OVULATION METHOD
The Billings method is another cervical mucus-only method, although, unlike Creighton, it doesn’t require any testing of the mucus. Instead, Billings puts a strong emphasis on the sensation of mucus and requires users to note the sensations during the regular activities of the day.
Many couples very happily use Billings. We recommend it to beginners because it is easy to learn. Billings is a great option for someone who is looking for a no-fuss, less regimented FAM option. To learn more, go to boma-usa.org.
Like FEMM, the Marquette method is a member of the Sympto Hormonal family of methods and a method with the strongest evidence of high effectiveness rates for avoiding pregnancy. Marquette utilizes a fertility monitor and urine test sticks to help determine days of low, high, and peak fertility by detecting surges in estrogen and luteinizing hormone. The monitor “learns” your individual cycle and prompts you for urine tests on specific days based on its recordings of your previous cycles. The monitor readings can be combined with other fertility biomarkers—like basal body temperature readings or cervical mucus observations—for increased accuracy.
The Marquette method is simple and doesn’t require an action every day of the cycle. The monitor isn’t cheap, and you’ll need to buy additional test sticks every couple of months. Second, it is possible for the monitor to miss the peak reading about 10 percent of the time. For this reason, many users also incorporate ovulation predictor test strips (OPkits) to be extra safe when avoiding pregnancy. Third, in a normal cycle, abstinence begins on a specific cycle day regardless of the monitor reading, which might create more days of abstinence than other methods. For more information check out MarquetteMethod.com.
To stay informed about these pro-life, pro-marriage, and family methods of a family planning visit Natural Womanhood and signup for their weekly e-news at www.naturalwomanhood.org.