Fertility Awareness 101: What It Is & How It Can Change Your Life

Fed up with hormonal side effects and messing up your natural rhythms to prevent pregnancy? Fertility Awareness Methods (FAM) might be the solution to your birth control woes. FAM has gotten a bad rap so most women don’t know that it can actually be more effective than condoms. It’s also empowering and fun!

Did you know you can’t actually get pregnant most days of the month? 

In fact, you can only conceive for a day or two each cycle, once you ovulate. And since sperm can live in your body for about six days after sex, you have about a week-long “fertile window” before you ovulate each month. The hard part is knowing exactly when you’re going to ovulate—most people have no idea, or only know once it’s happened already.

There are no hormones involved.

 Except the ones naturally produced by your body, of course. FAM works by reading your body’s changes throughout the month to know when you are actually able to become pregnant. For people like me who have suffered from depression and other horrible side effects from the pill, shot, implant, or hormonal IUD, hearing about non-hormonal methods is like the light at the end of the birth control tunnel.

You also don’t have to put anything into your body.

 Unlike the copper IUD, another popular non-hormonal method, you don’t put anything in your uterus. IUDs are great for some, but they can also be painful and expensive. Many people find the copper IUD gives them long, heavy, crampy periods—and that’s not to mention reports of copper toxicity and mood effects. With fertility awareness, there are zero side effects. The only thing you put in your body is the thermometer you pop in your mouth each morning to take your temp.

FAM is all about listening to your body.

 There are a few ways to track your ovulation: checking your temperature each morning, checking changes in your cervical mucus, and recording your ovulation and menstruation on a calendar from month to month. If your cycle is like clockwork, you will only need to use condoms or another method of birth control for a week or so each month! For others, the “unsafe” fertile window might be a bit longer. The rest of the time, anything goes.

It reminds you that you can trust yourself.

You are the highest authority on your body. Women are told that doctors know more about their bodies than they do but obviously that’s not true—the medical world doesn’t even know how most contraceptives actually work or what negative effects they might have. It seems like the medical world also doesn’t even care. Studies on male birth control were shut down for causing mood issues but everyone seems to be fine with female birth control having the same negative effects. What gives?

It frees you from the misogynistic medical industry.

I’m fed up with doctors telling me what to do. The medical world is a great resource for information and drugs and other services, but let’s not forget that it’s a just resource. It’s not the authority on what I do with my body, whether I’m making healthy decisions or not. I think we give the medical world too much power to shame us. We let it persuade us into things we know aren’t right. Let’s not forget that the medical industry is part of a patriarchal capitalist society–it’s not there to take care of us, it’s there to profit from us. Fertility awareness lets you manage your own fertility without buying into big pharma.

It’s really empowering to get in tune with your body

We are our bodies! For women especially, our bodies have been used to make us feel ashamed, insecure, and objectified. It’s an amazing experience to get to know your body intimately and to be able to truly appreciate your unique physical self. Your cervix, vagina, uterus, hormonal system, etc.—you know they’re all there somewhere inside of you, but are you actually familiar with them? Do you have a relationship with them? Knowing your body makes your parts and functions more than just abstract concepts. It helps you be happy with your body, which helps you love yourself!

It doesn’t mess with your sex drive.

Mood swings and depression aren’t the only downsides to hormonal birth control. The pill, patch, hormonal IUD, etc. have been known to decrease sex drive. It’s frustrating that I want to use contraceptives so I can have worry-free sex but they also seem to ruin my sex life. During my short time on the Liletta IUD, I honestly wondered why I bothered with birth control at all since it pretty much made me never want to have sex in the first place.

It’s an effective form of birth control.

 The main reason people don’t consider FAM when going over birth control options is that most people think they have a high failure rate. That’s just plain incorrect. Different studies show that FAM is between 76% and 99% effective, depending on if it’s used properly. Basically, FAM is very effective when done right, but sometimes people make mistakes—it’s the same deal with condoms, which are only about 85% effective in practice.

It’s a valid method, just like the pill.

 People think FAM doesn’t work because our society won’t trust a woman as much as some under-researched pill. Women who practice FAM empower themselves, take authority away from the medical industry and defy the idea that women can’t be independent and clever. Since you don’t need products or prescriptions for FAM, the medical industry doesn’t profit from it. No wonder medical professionals drag it through the mud–they want you to think you need them. Really, all you need is to trust yourself… and a $7 thermometer.

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