Updated: Aug 17, 2021
Fertility Awareness is the practice of observing several body signs (also known as biomarkers) in order to determine when in a woman’s cycle she is fertile, that is, able to get pregnant.
What is the Fertility Awareness Method?
The Fertility Awareness Method (also known as FAM) involves taking these observations and using them to avoid pregnancy. There are many different Fertility Awareness Based Methods (see here for an explanation of each method) but all have rules aimed at avoiding pregnancy.
What are the body signs that are observed through FAM?
The body signs used in Fertility Awareness include cervical mucus (which is produced by the cervix in response to hormone changes), basal body temperature (the body temperature upon waking after at least 3 hours of sleep), luteinizing hormone or LH levels, and cervical position.
Cervical mucus is an essential biomarker if using FAM for contraception. It lets you know that you are in your fertile window and are about to ovulate. When cervical mucus changes, you can confirm that you have ovulated and are no longer in your fertile window. Basal body temperature is another helpful body sign. If you’re taking your temperature every morning, you’ll be able to tell that you have ovulated (and are no longer fertile) because your temperature will rise. Basal body temperature cannot tell you that you are about to ovulate, only that you have already done so. Thus, it cannot be used on its own for contraception. Luteinizing hormone (LH) tests let you know that you will likely be ovulating in the next 24 to 36 hours. This is not a 100% guarantee that you will ovulate, but is a helpful secondary biomarker to use, especially in combination with cervical fluid. Cervical position (and texture) also changes throughout the cycle. The cervix rises and softens leading up to ovulation, so daily cervical position checks are an optional body sign to observe as well.
What I teach
The Fertility Awareness Method that I teach is based on my training as a FEMM practitioner as well as my experience using basal body temperature. FEMM (Fertility Education and Medical Management) is a primarily cervical mucus-focused method that also includes optional LH testing and basal body temperature checks. I also include Sensiplan-esque contraception recommendations based on a woman’s individual cycle length.
How does it work to use FAM?
FAM looks different for every woman, but for me, it looks like taking my temperature every morning and checking my cervical fluid when I pee. Literally every time I wipe is a chance to check my fertility status, and if I forget? No problem. I’m gonna pee again later. Sometimes I test LH levels, which is something I teach in my program. LH tests are urine strips that can be a helpful secondary biomarker to observe while building confidence in charting or with irregular or scant cervical fluid.
Fertility Awareness works because the female body has observable body signs that indicate when a woman is fertile. All mammals have signs like these (dogs and cats go into heat and act...a bit crazy while some species of monkey have butts that turn red!) and if we get to know our own bodies, it’s really quite easy to observe.
Why use FAM?
Unlike most forms of contraception, Fertility Awareness has no side effects. Not only does FAM work to prevent pregnancy, should you decide to get pregnant, your understanding of your cycle will make conceiving that much easier! Fertility Awareness is also a great way to identify any health issues so that you can address them earlier rather than later.
Can I use Fertility Awareness if I’m on the pill or an IUD?
The hormonal birth control pill works by preventing ovulation, making cervical mucus infertile, or creating an inhospitable uterine environment for implantation of a fertilized egg. All of these things will make your observations through Fertility Awareness unreliable. If you have an IUD, you are likely still ovulating, but your cervix and uterus will be affected. Thus, you probably won’t be able to identify fertile cervical fluid. So the short answer is no, you cannot use FAM while on the pill or an IUD.
Want to get started with Fertility Awareness?
Check out my online program Beldam Fertility Awareness!
Work with me in a one-on-one Fertility Awareness coaching session!