Here is a list of the most common facts and myths about the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM).
This will help you separate fact from fiction; why the calendar method is ineffective at preventing pregnancy, but how a another natural method is as effective as the pill(!) and if natural birth control could be a right fit for you.
Your Natural birth Control Questions Answered
Can I avoid pregnancy naturally and effectively?
Yes! The Fertility Awareness Method is a natural form of birth control practiced by observing and recording our body’s fertility signs which can be used to prevent pregnancy naturally. You can avoid pregnancy naturally without synthetic hormones, internal devices and unwanted side effects with the Fertility Awareness Method. For more details, please see our what is fertility awareness post.
What exactly is the Calendar Method?
The Calendar Method is an unreliable method of birth control because it is based on a mathematical formula using past cycle lengths to predict future fertile windows. As we know, women are beautifully complex, and this method doesn’t allow for potential variation in the day of ovulation, which is very common. Practising the calendar method for birth control is not effective as it doesn’t involve observing fertility sings on a daily basis, and will likely lead to pregnancy at some point.
Is FAM the same as the Calendar Method?
No! The Calendar Method is based on a woman’s past cycles to determine which day ovulation takes place, assuming it will be at the same time month after month. As this is not the case, the calendar method is not effective in preventing pregnancy. The fertility awareness method is based on a day to day assessment of your fertility signs and is 99.4% effective when used correctly.
Can I use FAM if I have irregular cycles?
Yes. Learning to chart your cycles will most likely lead you to discover WHY your cycles are irregular and give you the tools to regulate them. Even if your cycles varianty in length, equally effective because it is based on a day to day assessment of your fertile signs.
Can I use FAM while I’m breastfeeding?
Yes you can. However it is much easier to practice FAM if you have learned it prior to conception, as there are additional rules to follow FAM postpartum.
“But my friend charted her cycles and she got pregnant, why should I think this will work?”
“Charting your cycle” or “Knowing your cycle” is different than practicing a Fertility Awareness Method such as the ‘sympto thermal method’. Yes, there are accidental pregnancies with FAM, comparable to any method of contraception but the rumors mostly stem from misuse of the term “Fertility Awareness Method.” Most people in this category were actually practicing the Rhythm Method or not charting effectively. For more information on this, please see our post on common fertility awareness mistakes.
I recommend wholeheartedly to learn a method thoroughly with a course, workshop or comprehensive book before using FAM to prevent pregnancy, as well as using a barrier contraceptive method for a few cycles while charting and learning FAM.
Can I use condoms or another barrier method and safely avoid pregnancy during my “fertile window”?
Yes, definitely… but something to remember is you would then be taking on the effectiveness of the barrier method of your choice rather than FAM’s effectiveness.
Using a barrier method during your fertile window CHANGES the effectiveness, depending on the method chosen.
Having sex during your fertile time is risky! 100% of pregnancies occur while having intercourse during our (approximately) 8 day fertile window. It’s up to you if you choose to abstain from intercourse (and do other things instead) or use a barrier method during your fertile window. There is information on barrier methods, considerations and effectiveness rates on our Resources Page.
Is FAM difficult or time-consuming?
The rules can seem a bit confusing and overwhelming in the beginning, but don’t worry, it doesn’t take long before you commit these rules to memory.
Some women will feel confident reading the relevant chapters in Taking Charge Of Your Fertility, others will prefer an in person workshop, or an online course.
After learning the method, it usually takes two to three cycles observing and tracking to feel confident enough to use this method as birth control. After that, charting usually takes just a few minutes each day; 1 minute to take your temperature upon waking in the morning and another couple of minutes to record your fertility signs in an app.
How effective is FAM as natural birth control?
The Sympto Thermal Method of fertility awareness is 99.4% effective when used correctly. This is nearly the same as the pill, which is roughly 99.7% effective with perfect use.
How are effectiveness rates of contraceptives measured?
The Pearl Index is a common measure to summarize contraceptive effectiveness. Since most people are not familiar with the Pearl Index, it is often presented as a percentage. However, it is important to note that the percentage quoted does not reflect the percentage rate that a method will work or not work, but rather the percentage of people who will avoid pregnancy in a year of using that method. For example, if condoms are listed as 82% effective, that doesn’t mean that if you use condoms 100 times they will fail 18% of the time. It means that for every 100 people who use condoms as their only method of birth control for a year, 18 will become pregnant. This is what is called a “typical use” rate.
Researchers then usually try to correct for misuse of the method to produce a “perfect rate.” In the case of condoms, those pregnancies that resulted from known errors (putting on the condom incorrectly or only part way through sexual activity) would be eliminated to create the “perfect rate” measure. In this case, yielding a 98% perfect use efficacy rate for condoms.
Are there technology that can do this all for me without charting and interpreting a chart?
Yes, there are two new technologies that have just recently been developed:
Daysy fertility monitor and the Natural Cycles app.
Both use the temperature method to learn and track your cycle, and will show you if you are fertile or infertile. Measure your temperature every morning, record when you menstruate and you will be shown if you are fertile or infertile that day. Both are all natural, free from side effects and no charting is necessary, however you do have to follow the strict temperature taking guidelines to ensure you record an accurate basal body temperature for the technology to analyze.
Daysy is 99.3% accurate and Natural Cycles is 99.5% accurate with perfect use.
I hope this list of the most common facts and myths about the Fertility Awareness Method helps you in understanding what’s effective and what isn’t! Remember any ‘method’ that predict your cycle from the previous month such as the calendar method and the rhythm method are not an effective form of birth control!
Please note, when referring to FAM as abbreviated for simplicity in the questions above, I’m referring to the highly effective sympto thermal method of fertility awareness.
Jess is a designer, writer and womens wellness advocate. She believes that each of us have our own unique experiences and stories to share to educate and uplift one another.