If you’ve been googling around, you’ll know there is SO MUCH info out there about Fertility Awareness (FA) and it can feel extremely overwhelming.
I wanted to write a post that really simplified FA and brought it down to three key elements.
The way I like to think about and teach FA is this: you are simply learning to observe what’s happening in your body.
If you’re a naturalist or herbalist already, you’re used to observing the changes in nature.
You’re just applying those exact same observational skills to your own body.
If you’ve ever taken a tracking class or any kind of botany or plant class - you already have the skills to learn FA.
It’s just relying on your own observations and collecting a little bit of data - that’s it!
So let's keep it really simple and go through the basics of what FA is and how it works.
FA is the ability to understand what’s going on with your menstrual cycle at any stage of your life.
By using your observation skills and a little data collection you can identify when you are fertile and when you are not.
You can get helpful insights and downloads about how your body and cycle respond to your lifestyle choices, how stress affects your cycle and the areas you need to tend.
FA also gives you the opportunity at every cycle to conciously choose contraception or conception - putting your fertility in your own hands.
(If you want to learn more about the benefits of Fertility Awareness aside from contraception hop over here.)
Ok, so what do you need to practice FA?
A menstrual cycle
A paper chart
A Basal body temperature thermometer
You don’t need fancy apps, femtech gadjets or expensive thermometers!
Here’s how it works.
There are three keys to understanding your fertility.
When you are walking around in your day-day life, going about your business, you bring your awareness to your vulva and ask yourself: “how do I feel today?”
Do I feel moist, wet or dry?
At the end of the day, you write down on your piece of paper whether you felt moist, wet or dry.
If this feels hard at first - try checking in after you pee. When you wipe does it feel wet and smooth or does it feel kind of dry and draggy?
The second thing you need to do is observe what your body is doing.
When you go to the bathroom, after you pee, wipe and look at the toilet paper.
You are observing your cervical mucus at your vulva.
Touch and observe the quality of your cervical mucus.
Is it sticky, stretchy and egg white or watery?
Is there no observable mucus at all?
And write that down.
So far it’s …
1. Sensation - what do you feel at your vulva?
2. Observation - what do you see at your vulva?
And the third element is temperature.
You have to take your temperature - with a basal body temperature thermometer (BBT) - the very first thing in the morning, before you get up, drink water or move around and you write that on your paper chart.
You can buy a BBT thermometer from any pharmacy / chemist / supermarket - just check it's a BBT thermometer and that it will show two decimal places. (i.e. 36.67C or 98.17F)
And that is it.
All you need to know now is how to interpret the results that you have.
Over time, a pattern will emerge.
It might seem confusing at first, but after a few cycles you will start to notice a distinct pattern.
As you become familiar with your pattern you will learn what your fertile days are and what your non fertile days are.
Learning the rules
The rules ensure you can use the information you have about your body, to avoid pregnancy.
There is a little nuance here, but once you understand how your cycle and cervix work, everything becomes clear.
We'll cover the rules in another post.
Essentially, fertility awareness allows you to have up-to-date information about where you are in your cycle and which days you are fertile.
Then you choose your actions accordingly - whether to have sex and try for pregnancy, abstain from sex altogether or explore intimacy that doesn't involve sperm being in proximity to your vulva or vagina.
Charting allows you to visualize your shifting fertility across your menstrual cycle.
It helps you keep track of your fertile and non-fertile days and follow the rules so you can avoid or achieve pregnancy.
There are a number of ways to chart: graph charts, basic charts and apps.
I have a lot to say about charting apps - and a lot of concerns - we'll explore that in another post sometime too.
START YOUR CHARTING JOURNEY!
Bringing it all together.
You will definitely have questions and concerns as you start your FA journey - am i doing this right? Was that a temp shift? Is this fertile mucus?! - but don't let yourself get overwhelmed.
Remember to keep things simple.
You're just observing the seasons of nature - and looking for the pattern.
Sensation. Observation. Temperature.
The final word
Charing your cervical mucus, temperature and applying the rules is what makes fertility awareness an effective method for contraception.
FA is 99.6% effective for contraception when you learn with a trained instructor in the method*.
Fertility Awareness is a daily practice - and it's not going to be the right fit for everyone.
If you do choose to walk the Fertility Awareness path you'll discover a drug and device-free method to understand your fertility that's based on your own physiology and brings you into a deeper awareness of your own body - and that's pretty amazing if you ask me!
A couple of notes:
There is a three-cycle learning curve when learning Fertility Awareness for contraception.
The sympto-thermal method of Fertility Awareness is 99.6% effective for contraception when learned with a trained instructor in the method.
This article does not offer enough information for you to use FA for contraception, it's recommended you book a session with a trained FA teacher.
What's my story with Fertility Awareness?
FA is part of my personal and professional practice.
I've personally been using Fertility Awareness for contraception for six years.
I studied and was certified in Fertility Awareness under Dr. Kerry Hampton in 2015, and have been teaching others for the past three years.
I see clients remotely via Zoom and in-person following COVID guidelines at my clinic in Rockland, Maine.
If you're ready to start your FA journey, review your charts or have questions about the method:
Spring 2021 sessions are booking now!