Describing the Fertility Awareness Method

Hi there and welcome to my very first Flowers Fertility blog! I thought the best first blog entry should be one I already wrote :)  The plan (fingers-crossed) is that you’ll be hearing a lot more from me in the coming months as I develop my online presence. I’ve been teaching classes and offering individual consultations since 2011, but hope to expand this little educational business I’ve started. Cheers to the New Year!

Originally posted on a blog managed by Mountain Midwifery Center in 2011:

We've all heard the joke, "What do you call couples who use the Rhythm Method for birth control? Parents." The Fertility Awareness Method, specifically the Sympto-Thermal Method, is most decidedly NOT the Rhythm Method. Instead, it is a woman-centered, holistic, educational, and versatile model of gathering information from one's body. Women and couples successfully use the Fertility Awareness Method to monitor reproductive health, to properly time intercourse in hopes of consciously conceiving, and to avoid pregnancy.The advantages are that it is simple to use, is easy to learn, is inexpensive, doesn't harm reproductive health, and can be a reliable form of birth control. (Wait... did she really just say it can be a reliable form of birth control?)

The Fertility Awareness Method looks at what's going on in a woman's body today, and uses data from (in order of importance) cervical fluid, basal body temperature, and cervical position to answer the question, "Am I fertile or not fertile today?" It also helps to answer a lot of other questions we may find ourselves asking: "Is my period late because I'm pregnant or because I'm stressed out? Is this a late period or a miscarriage? Why can't I get pregnant? Is my vaginal discharge supposed to be like this? How many times am I going ovulate each cycle?"

The sentiment I hear over and over from women who learn about Fertility Awareness is, "Why didn't they teach us this in school? I wish I had known this stuff when I was a teenager!"

The foundation of the Fertility Awareness Method is observing the daily hints/clues/signs/symptoms that our bodies give us about what's going on with our reproductive cycle. It's scientifically validated: specific reproductive hormones cause the menstrual cycle to progress in a certain way and produce symptoms in our bodies that can be observed. It is a secular alternative to Natural Family Planning that is taught by the Catholic Church. (More about the differences here.)

Many thorough studies have been done on the Fertility Awareness Method. A recent 2007 German study of the Sympto-Thermal Method of Fertility Awareness showed that for preventing pregnancy, the method effectiveness was 99.6% and the total effectiveness was 98.2% [1]. This is extremely high when compared to the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) statistics for other forms of birth control: male condoms are 85-98%, pills/patches/rings are 92-99%, and Fertility Awareness Methods are 75-99% [2]. The lower range of effectiveness for the CDC's figures of Fertility Awareness Methods could be that it included the data for non-Sympto-Thermal Methods of Fertility Awareness like the outdated Rhythm Method and perhaps couples who did not adhere to the specific rules for avoiding pregnancy. The high range (99%) shows that the method can be extremely effective when it's properly taught, understood, observed, interpreted, and followed-up for individual concerns with a qualified teacher.

Many women successfully use the Fertility Awareness Method to achieve their personal reproductive goals. While this method is not right for everyone, adding this valuable information of body knowledge to one's repertoire would be an asset to anyone working in women's health.

Colleen Flowers is a Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioner and teaches Natural Conception and Natural Birth Control classes using the Justisse Method, a Sympto-Thermal Method of Fertility Awareness at Mountain Midwifery Center. She suggests Taking Charge of Your Fertility and Cycle Savvy (specifically for teens) by Toni Weschler, and The Garden of Fertility by Katie Singer for information about the Fertility Awareness Method.

[1] Frank-Herrmann P, Heil J, Gnoth C, Toledo E, Baur S, Pyper C, et al. (2007)."The effectiveness of a fertility awareness based method to avoid pregnancy in relation to a couple's sexual behaviour during the fertile time: a prospective longitudinal study. Human Reproduction. May;22(5):1310-9. Retrieved February 15, 2011 from