Babe, calendar this too. Courtesy of, ThinkStock
Are you ridiculously organized? Are you great at paperwork? Do you do your own taxes? Never mind that, but the Fertility Awareness Method may be perfect for you.
Birth control is one of the most personal preferences for a woman. Come on, ladies, this isn’t like buying generic tampons when the store is out of Tampax — it’s serious stuff.
There are many birth control options, but each one has its own drawbacks. For example, “the pill” may be a godsend to many women, but it’s not an option for those who are too susceptible to the side effects of hormones. Then there’s the tried-and-true condom, but everyone knows what an intimacy killer it can be. (Breakage? The complete and utter desensitizing of your nether regions? Ugh. Next!) How about the sponge? OK they’re great, but, if you get it on every day, you'll go into debt buying them.
However, there is an alternative to hormonal and barrier methods. It's been around since the early 20th century, and it's making a big comeback (unlike other illustrious trends of the era, like churning your own butter).
The Fertility Awareness Method — which is often mixed up with The Rhythm Method — is a calendar-based way of determining your fertile days. (Or, as most of us call it, the days of the month you might get knocked up.)
Interestingly, the Fertility Awareness Method is promoted by the Catholic church. Why? Because it doesn’t involve contraception, which the Church opposes. Spiritual beliefs aside, you've got to appreciate that this practice works with, not against, your body.
How To Do It
There are essentially two ways to go about this. Please understand that the two we are about to discuss are related, but not one in the same. We will primarily focus on the second method described.
The most basic way is called the Calendar Method, or Standard Days Method. The Calendar Method is said to be more than 95% effective when done correctly. If your period isn’t regular, however, this practice is not effective and you must avoid it!
The Calendar Method was developed by the Institute for Health at Georgetown University, and is based on the fact that women are most likely to be fertile on days 8-19 of their cycles (assuming their cycles last between 26 and 32 days, that is). So, all you have to do is calendar your cycle using an actual calendar, an app (see below), or a visual tool, like CycleBeads, to let you know where you are in your cycle.
The Fertility Awareness Method is a little more work, but better for women who don’t have perfect periods. When using this method, you need to measure your basal temperature every morning before anything else. Like, before your morning coffee, before your morning pee, and even before you get out of bed. This is because when you ovulate, your temperature will fluctuate; specifically, it should decrease slightly and then increase 0.4 to 0.8 degrees. You can buy a basal thermometer at most drug stores. DO NOT attempt to use a regular thermometer because it’s not specially calibrated for your purposes.
In addition to charting your temperature, you also need to pay attention to your undies. When you ovulate, your cervical mucus (AKA vaginal discharge) should become wetter, clearer, and be at its smelliest. Sounds pretty, I know . . .
Who Should Swing It To This Method
Are you one of those ladies who have always had super regular periods? Are you ridiculously organized? Are you great at paperwork? Do you do your own taxes? Never mind that, but the Fertility Awareness Method may be perfect for you.
Who Should Find A Different Beat
Stay tuned, because many of you won't jive with this practice.
If you are not monogamous, this isn’t the best decision because the Fertility Awareness Method doesn’t protect against STDs. I mean, duh, but, it has to be said. It’s also only 75-87% effective (remember: most women don't have perfect cycles), so you’re taking a risk. Yet, understand that there isn’t one method that is 100% effective other than abstinence — but that's no fun.
If your relationship is solid, but your period is a hot mess, this is probably a no-go as well.
If you’ve just come off hormonal birth control methods, your hormones might not be regular enough for the Fertility Awareness Method to work, so it is suggested that you wait 90 days to start or combine it with a barrier method for that period (no pun intended).
You should also remember that fertility awareness requires a period of abstinence or using some sort of physical barrier, like a condom, diaphragm, sponge, etc. when you are fertile. So, if you like to get it on every day and don’t like to use barrier methods ever, perhaps a hormonal method (pill, ring, IUD) is a better choice for you.
Back in the day, women used to write this stuff down on paper, make notes, and cross their fingers. However, technology has made this process easier and more accurate. Below are three apps that will make fertility awareness less daunting.
Kindara is one of the most popular apps. It’s free (you can buy their Bluetooth thermometer, however, which automatically records your body temperature). It also helps you chart all of the other permanent information related to your fertility. Think of it as your personal assistant for the Fertility Awareness Method.
Glow is another app, which is similar to Kindara, but doesn’t have a connected basal thermometer, so you must to buy your own and plug the numbers into the app yourself.
If you are planning on using the Calendar Method, you should try the CycleBeads® App. Based on the ever-popular tool, you chart your period and then the app sends you friendly reminders about when you are fertile and when you are about to get your period.
If you aren’t sure what method of birth control is best for you, talk to your gyno. Remember, no one knows your ladybits quite like your doctor!