What in the world is FAM? FAM is an acronym for Fertility Awareness Method- a method of natural birth control, conception planning, and overall feminine health awareness. My husband and I used FAM the first year of our marriage as a method of birth control (before consciously breaking the rules once and conceiving our son!), and plan on using it to help us conceive baby #2 when the time is right.
But wait, you say, is this that rhythm method stuff? And isn’t that kind of unreliable? Well, no, FAM is not the same as the rhythm method- and you’re right- the rhythm method is unreliable. Let me explain the difference.
The rhythm method assumes a 28 day cycle on average, with ovulation occurring around day 14. In theory, if you plan on either having or avoiding intercourse around the time of ovulation, your plan for achieving or avoiding pregnancy, respectively, should be relatively successful, right?
The problem with the rhythm method is that it assumes an average menstrual cycle, with average timing of ovulation. As we know, however, most women don’t always follow the averages- and even if you usually do, it could change at any time! For example, did you know that stress or sickness can delay ovulation- making you fear that you are “late” when your period is still actually coming? Did you know that sometimes you may experience bleeding similar to a period, but not have actually ovulated? Did you know that these variables could happen in any given cycle?
These are just a few examples of how the rhythm method can completely misunderstand common changes in a woman’s body. You could see how you could run into a birth control problem if you rely on avoiding sex around the “usual” time of ovulation, but your body actually delayed it by a few days that month. Conversely, many women may try to time conception around day 14 for months on end, to no avail, all the while never considering that they may actually ovulate earlier or later than day 14.
How does FAM solve this conundrum? FAM teaches women to be aware of what their bodies do each cycle so that they can know for sure when they are and are not fertile. There are three primary fertility signs that FAM users learn to detect and chart:
1) Basal Temperature– Upon waking, a woman’s basal temperature is slightly lower before ovulation occurs than it is right after ovulation. By recording daily temperatures, you can observe a pattern of lower temperatures early in the cycle leading to a thermal shift upward after ovulation that stays higher until your next period.
2)Cervical Fluid– Ever notice that nasty goop you expel every cycle? Generally speaking, the wetter and more eggwhite-like your cervical fluid is, the more fertile you are. Women typically dry out after ovulation until close to their next period.
3)Cervical Position– When a woman is not fertile, her cervix is firm and closed, but when she is fertile, it softens and opens a bit. This takes time and practice to learn the difference.
Using these three signs of fertility, a woman can detect at any point in her cycle whether or not she is fertile, whether or not she has ovulated yet, and can more easily pick up signs of a true problem with her feminine health.
I highly recommend the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler and its sister website, www.tcoyf.com as tools for getting started with FAM and learning to chart your cycle. Hope this is helpful!