What is Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)?
FAM is a reliable method of tracking fertility that can be used in preventing or attempting to achieve pregnancy, in addition to providing a deeper understanding of gynecological health. It is also so much more than that. Your body has an amazing monthly rhythm of hormones that translates into signals that you can pick-up on in order to understand your fertility status as well as the health and balance of your hormones. The main measures that are used are a daily morning temperature taken even before your feet hit the floor, as well as cervical fluid and cervical position.
Understanding your monthly cycle
The first half of your menstrual cycle is from the first day of your menses until ovulation, which is around day 14. This is called the follicular phase. During this time, estrogen is high and the morning temperature should be lower (generally below 98.0F). The second half of your cycle is higher in progesterone, which causes the morning temperature to be at least a few tenths of a degree higher that the first half. This second phase is called the luteal phase and spans from approximately day 15 until the day before your menses returns. If these daily morning temperatures are charted throughout the month, there should be a clear shift where the morning temperature rises, which indicates ovulation. Commonly, the whole cycle will be around 28 days and the luteal phase should last at least 14 days. If your cycle is much longer or shorter than 28 days or luteal phases that are less than 11 days it could mean that there is some degree of hormone imbalance. Tracking this information shows you exactly what is going on with YOUR body each month and that is priceless!
Something you were not taught in sex-ed class: you can really only get pregnant about 6 days each month, which means there isn’t really any need for birth control for the rest of the month. FAM helps you understand which of those days are your fertile days so you can either avoid having sex or use some form of non-hormonal birth control during that time.
How can I get started with FAM?
If you’re ready to understand your hormones better and are psyched to start using this method for either birth control or fertility support, there are a couple different ways to go about it. Learning a little bit more of the theory and practice of FAM is the best way to use it with success.
Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler is the go-to reference for understanding all things FAM. It's a really amazing read if you get nerdy about the whole thing, like I did. The methods taught in the book are basically the "old-school" way of charting with a basal body thermometer and a paper chart. Many apps also exist now help make charting easy. Kindara is my favorite if you want to go that route.
What are The simplest ways to get started with FAM?
Kindara has created a basal body thermometer, called Wink, that links to the app. You take your temperature with Wink first thing in the morning and it automatically inputs your temperature information into the app. So easy!
Another great and even simpler device is Daysy. With Daysy, you simply your temperature each morning and it indicates your fertility status for the day with either a color-coded light. Daysy also has an app, called DaysyView, that will show the chart of your fertility throughout the month. This is a great option if you don’t think you’re interested in tracking other signs of fertility, like cervical mucous. The other big difference with Daysy is that it uses an algorithm to analyze your data in order to determine your fertility status for you (rather than you figuring it out using your own data).
To best understand the effectiveness of Daysy, I want to bring up the Pearl Index. It’s a way of rating the effectiveness of birth control methods. If 100 women used a certain kind of birth control method and 1 of them were to get pregnant, the Pearl Index number would be 1.0. Birth control pills have a Pearl Index of between 0.1 and 0.9 and IUDs a Pearl Index of 0.1-2.2. Well, Daysy’s Pearl Index is 0.7, which is pretty darn good! That means that it is 99.3% effective.
Think you might need more support?
If you really want to dive into this method and get some additional support with your charts, I recommend finding a Fertility Awareness Educator that can help further explain how to chart and can look at your charts to help you understand and read what is going on with your own cycle.
A personal note about FAM...
I’ve spent a lot of time training in FAM and used it myself for 2.5 years to prevent pregnancy and then had great success using it when I was ready to get pregnant. I have a history of hormone imbalance associated with Post-Birth Control Syndrome and FAM played a major role in helping me heal my hormones and have a healthy baby. In my dream world, all my female patients would use FAM so I could see their charts and understand what’s going on with their hormones without the need for ordering any specialty testing (in most cases). If you're looking for a practitioner who understands FAM and can help restore your hormone health, I'm here for you! Find out how to work with me right this way.