Frequently Asked Questions
How effective is FAM for preventing pregnancy?
Very! When comparing rates of different methods of birth control, studies generally present two statistics. One is the “perfect use” rate, meaning the method was used every time without error. And the other is the “typical use” rate, meaning the rate when the general population does not use the method consistently or correctly. FAM has a ‘perfect use’ rate of about 97-99%, meaning that of 100 couples using the method perfectly for 1 year, only 1-3 will experience an unplanned pregnancy. This rate is comparable to using the Pill. FAM has a “typical use” rate of about 85%, meaning that approximately 15 couples will experience an unplanned pregnancy. This may seem high, but this statistic is on par with other methods where the user controls the effectiveness (condoms, diaphragms, etc.) This is because people don’t always use their method correctly; the condom isn’t put on early enough or in the case of FAM, they take a chance even when they know they are fertile. Don’t let this deter you, because the effectiveness of FAM is up to you! Once learned, FAM is easy and becomes second nature, that, plus having a partner that agrees to practice the method conscientiously with you, you are highly unlikely to get pregnant unless you choose to.
How can FAM help me get pregnant?
I know I talk a lot about FAM helping you prevent pregnancy, because that is what most people come to me asking about, but one of the most beautiful things about practicing FAM is how it can help you get pregnant! With FAM you can identify your fertile window so that you can time intercourse optimally. It can also help clue you into things that may be inhibiting conception such as a short luteal phase, insufficient fertile cervical fluid, anovulatory cycles and early miscarriages. FAM can even tell you when you are pregnant by tracking your temperature. Typically your temperature will drop and your period will start, but if it stays up for 18 days or more, you can confirm pregnancy.
Why haven’t I heard about FAM before? Why didn’t my gynecologist offer it to me?
Great question!! When choosing what birth control method I was going to use, only 2 people out of all my peers knew what FAM was! I initially thought it was what women used before the pill was invented, but there’s so much more!
There are several reasons why we as women don’t know the full story of how our cycles really work.
- We are taught in a fear based culture with shame surrounding our periods and bodies. The thought is, more fear surrounding sex the less likely it will happen. Wrong. Education is key. Our national teen pregnancy rates are extremely high compared to other countries.
- We live in a capitalist system with a profit driven health care system. The bottom line is, there is no money to be made with FAM. Once you have learned how to practice FAM and buy a thermometer, there are virtually no other costs besides the occasional condoms purchase. Compare this to the astronomical profits made from artificial birth control.
Is FAM difficult to practice?
No, but it does take an initial time investment to learn. Once learned, however, it becomes second nature and only takes a minute out of your day. With that being said, I understand FAM isn’t for everyone. It requires a daily commitment as well as a willingness to observe and chart what your body is telling you. My biggest passion is that women know that it is a viable option of birth control if they are unhappy with their other options. There are times in a woman’s life such as breastfeeding or approaching menopause, when FAM can be challenging. Having support and education from a FAM educator can help you navigate those tougher times. In general, FAM is easy to practice and is full of great rewards for your efforts.
Is the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) the same as Natural Family Planning (NFP)?
FAM and NFP’s methods are very similar, however the biggest difference is that NFP is usually taught within a religious context, whereas FAM is secular. Because of NFP’s religious background (most often catholic), classes may only be offered to married or engaged couples and generally teaches abstinence during the fertile time. FAM on the other hand is open for all to learn and supports barrier methods during fertile time. When I first wanted to learn how to chart my fertility, I could only find a religious course to take, which I did, however I am so excited that this amazing practice is becoming more known in secular circles because it is an amazing tool for ALL women!
Is this the Rhythm Method?
NO! FAM is not the birth control method that your grandmother with 10 kids may have used. The Rhythm Method, also known as the Calendar Method is based on the idea that there is a fixed window of fertility with ovulation occurring on day 14. This is very unreliable because A. women’s cycles are not all the same and vary from woman to woman and B. a woman’s own cycle can vary from month to month. That is why with FAM, a woman tracks her own fertility signs (temp and cervical fluid) and determines herself when she is fertile, not when the calendar says she is.
Can I practice FAM while breastfeeding?
Yes, FAM can be used to safely and effectively prevent pregnancy while breastfeeding, however, it is a more difficult time to practice FAM. Because of this, the “rules” for preventing pregnancy during this time are somewhat different than the standard rules, condoms are needed more often and there are other things that need to be addressed, such as how various breastfeeding & parenting behaviors can impact when a woman’s body becomes fertile again after birth. If you had experience practicing FAM before pregnancy, you will have an advantage in practicing FAM while breastfeeding, however it is still possible to learn FAM while breastfeeding even if you did not have previous experience.
What about (ovulation predictor kits, ovulation monitors, Lady Comp, etc.)?
The beauty of practicing FAM is that you don’t need anything besides a thermometer and a chart (via an app or paper), saving yourself hundreds of dollars! Especially when using an app on a smart phone, we now have computers in our hands, thus it is the modern day version of a Lady Comp. With using an app, you also have the added benefit of charting much more than just basal temperature, such as cervical fluid, which the most important fertility sign. When using monitors or fertility computers you are not as in touch with your body and are unlikely to experience the tremendous joy and satisfaction that comes from knowing that you are in control of your fertility, and your sexuality, and that you can understand your body and make choices based on that understanding.