How to Easily Plan and Prevent Pregnancy Using the Fertility Awareness Method
When I first heard about natural family planning or the fertility awareness method (FAM), I had been taking the birth control pill for 10 years. I had no other reasons for taking the pill other than to avoid an unplanned pregnancy–my period was normal, I never suffered from cramps, and acne was never a big issue.
I assumed that the birth control pill (or other hormone treatment) was the only option to avoid getting pregnant unexpectedly because that was what I had been told–by sex-ed teachers, my doctors, my mom. Everyone was on the same page, so I hopped on that train.
But as I started my journey into natural living, cleansing myself of toxins and synthetic hormones, the fertility awareness method made its appearance, and I was hooked. Natural family planning involves nothing more than a thermometer and paying attention to you–no pills, no hormones, no guessing. And it all starts with knowing your body. Amazing, right??
Did you know that women can only get pregnant about 5 days out of the month? 5 DAYS! These five days surround the middle of the month when your egg drops from your ovary, or ovulation. The only time you can get pregnant is when an egg is released. It doesn’t take five days for an egg to drop, so why isn’t it just one day that I can get pregnant? I’m going to tell you something no one ever told me…
Your Fluid Matters
Have you ever noticed that, every so often, you have some kind of discharge–raw, egg-white? Creamy? Sticky? Not all the time, just every once in a while. I used to think it meant I had some kind of infection, but it would always clear up after a few days. This is the shocker, my friends–that fluid is both a sign that you’re ovulating and is what keeps sperm alive in your body.
“[Cervical fluid] provides an alkaline medium to protect the sperm from the otherwise acidic vagina, it nourishes the sperm, it acts as a filtering mechanism, and perhaps most important, it serves as a medium in which the sperm can move.” (Weschler, pg. 54) So that inexplicable fluid coming out of you about halfway through your cycle is supposed to happen; it is the naturally occurring fluid that tells sperm an egg’s a-comin’!
Your Body Temperature Matters
Another way you can track if you’re ovulating is by taking your temperature every morning. The moment you wake up, take your basal body temperature–the temperature of your body at rest. I’m not kidding, don’t even go pee. The moment your body starts moving around your body temperature rises. I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and it’s actually a lovely start to my day. It takes just a few minutes and I use that time to pray, say affirmations, and get in a positive head space for the day.
Your basal body temperature has its own pattern, but typically your body is cooler during the first half of your cycle compared to the second half. That’s because, the next day after ovulation, your body produces progesterone in case there is a fertilized egg that needs the hormone, and it increases your temperature as a result. (A consistent rise in temperature for over 14 days is another way you can tell if you’re pregnant because the progesterone continues when it knows there has been fertilization!)
This method alone shouldn’t be used when trying to get pregnant because you won’t see the ovulation-related rise in temperature until the day after ovulation. Take your temperature around the same time every day (otherwise you may get varied results), and you’ll start to see the amazing pattern you never knew existed in your body!
Your Cervical Position Matters
Making note of the fluid and taking my temperature are the two things I track, but you can also track your cervical position for the trifecta of ovulation signs. Because of estrogen produced in your body, the cervix changes position depending on the time of your cycle.
Just after and just before menstruation the cervix is closed, sitting lower, has a firm feel, and is not wet. However, during ovulation when the estrogen level is higher, the cervix is open, sitting higher, is softer, and wet. Makes sense based on where the sperm’s gonna go, right? To check your cervix, all you need to do place two clean fingers inside your vagina and feel the cervix; you may need to place a leg up, on the toilet seat perhaps, to get closer to the cervix.
There are many apps available to track these important factors for fertility. I use the PreMom App and there’s a thermometer that automatically records your temperature to that app, but find an app and thermometer you like!
In summation, the three things you can use to keep track of your fertility naturally and effectively (though the first two are enough) are:
- Cervical fluid
- Waking temperature
- Cervical position
How to Chart Your Fertility
So, now we know what we’re looking for when we are fertile, but what about those of us who are trying to avoid getting pregnant? According to Toni Weschler in Taking Charge of Your Fertility, for charting infertility/when you won’t get pregnant, there are “Four FAM Rules”:
- FIRST FIVE DAYS RULE
You are safe the first 5 days of the menstrual cycle if you had an obvious thermal shift about 12 to 16 days before.
- DRY DAY RULE
Before ovulation, you are safe the evening of every dry day (no cervical fluid). But the next day is considered potentially fertile if there is residual semen that could be masking your cervical fluid.
- PEAK DAY RULE
You are safe the evening of the 3rd consecutive day after your Peak Day, the last day of either eggwhite cervical fluid or lubricative vaginal sensation.
- THERMAL SHIFT RULE
You are safe the evening of the 3rd consecutive high temp past your Peak Day, as long as that 3rd temp is at least 3/10ths above the cover line. (The cover line on a physical chart/app is drawn 1/10th of a degree above the six days that precede the rise in temperature)
FUN FACT: A man can impregnate one woman every day from puberty until the day he dies. A woman can get pregnant (about) five days a month from puberty to menopause, 11-51 years old, give or take. How’s that for some perspective?
Natural Family Planning and the Fertility Awareness Method is the Solution
Women can only get pregnant five days out of every month, and yet we have some kind of hormone treatment (pill, IUD, shot, etc.) for every day of every month. Natural family planning and the fertility awareness method is the solution you need to avoid those fake hormones and take control of your fertility. It’s going to empower you to listen to your body, and know how, when and if you want to get pregnant. This is what I wish they taught in health class…
For more in depth information about fertility and other issues surrounding it, please check out Taking Charge of Your Fertility.
For information about the birth control pill, the side effects you may be experiencing because of it, and how to detox from it, please check out Beyond the Pill.
Here is a round-up of products mentioned in the article for your shopping convenience!
- Easy@Home Smart Basal Thermometer
- Easy@Home Ovulation Test Strips and Pregnancy Strips (combo)
- PreMom App
- Taking Charge of Your Fertility book
- Beyond the Pill book
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