Fertility Awareness Basics

Fertility Awareness Method, or FAM, has been used for over 30 years as a natural method of birth control by thousands of couples around the world and is based on the charting and analysis of certain simple body signs that change with changes in a woman’s menstrual cycle. On the other hand, it is also a method that can be used for those trying to conceive by looking at the same information.

Using this method pinpoints when a woman is most fertile, when ovulation has occurred, and when she might be pregnant. Specifically, waking temperature and cervical fluid change predictably and identifiably with changes in the hormonal cycle that accompanies ovulation and menstruation. You can take classes taught by a certified FAM practitioner and record your fertility signs on printed charts and make your own interpretations using the rules of the method. Another choice is a well-respected book by Toni Weschler that will teach the method, and in this age of computer information, a website called, Ovusoft.com is a basic primer on the Fertility Awareness Method.

A brief overview of how the method works:

FAM is a collection of practices that help a woman know which days of the month she is most likely to get pregnant. She can learn when ovulation is coming by observing her own body and charting physical changes.

1. Calendar Charting is what a woman uses to calculate the average number of days in her cycle and estimate future fertile times. By using past menstrual cycles, she can see the shortest and longest cycles over several months and use a formula to determine an estimate of her fertile time. A woman’s fertile time (“unsafe days” if she wants to prevent pregnancy, or “best days” if she wants to get pregnant) is about one-third of her cycle (or month). There is no universal chart as every woman’s cycle is different and so every woman must keep her own chart.

2. Cervical Mucus Monitoring. Cervical mucus changes consistency during the menstrual cycle and plays a vital role in fertilization of the egg. In a typical cycle, after 5 days of menstruation there are 3-4 “dry” days, and then wetness begins with sticky, cloudy, whitish, or yellowish secretions. The wetness increases to the wettest day when mucus is quite distinctive: abundant, clear, very slippery and very stretchy. Ovulation occurs sometime in the 2 days before or up to 2 days after the peak day of stretchy fertile mucus.

3. Basal body temperature (BBT). When a woman monitors her BBT she can see when ovulation happens after it has occurred. Using an easy-to-read thermometer, you can take your temperature every morning immediately upon waking and before any activity. Immediately before ovulation, the temperature drops briefly. Within 12 hours of ovulation the BBT rises several tenths of a degree and remains up until the next menstrual period. By keeping a chart of your BBT over a period of 8-12 months you can learn the approximate time in your cycle when you usually ovulate.

4. Cervical Observation. The position of a woman’s cervix changes over the course of her menstrual cycle. Usually, during and in the first few days after menstruation, the cervix is fairly low and firm. During ovulation, the cervix is at its highest and most open. After ovulation, the cervix returns to the firm, low and closed position. A woman can check and record changes in her cervix manually throughout the month.

Learning to use the FAM method takes time, effort and considerable commitment, but poses no health risks or side effects for the woman. It can also increase a woman’s awareness and understanding of her own body.