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What is the Fertility Awareness Method?

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  • Written By: Devon Pryor
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 27 December 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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The Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is a practice that integrates numerous methods of monitoring and tracking a woman’s fertility. Generally speaking, the fertility awareness method is designed to predict ovulation, and thereby avoid or encourage fertilization. The fertility awareness method can be used either to decrease or increase the woman’s chances of becoming pregnant, which ever case might be desired. When used as a method of pregnancy prevention, the fertility awareness method is quite similar to the rhythm method of birth control. Like the rhythm method, the fertility awareness method is considered a natural form of birth control.

The fertility awareness method requires the woman to pay close attention to her body throughout all stages of the menstrual cycle. It is mostly used among women who wish to better control pregnancy, yet are adverse to the idea of medications or devices to either prevent or encourage pregnancy. However, the use of physical barrier methods such as condoms and diaphragms is sometimes integrated into the fertility awareness method. Within FAM, these devices might be used during the time when a woman is most fertile, as an alternative to abstinence.

The fertility awareness method is based upon many assumptions connected to ovulation and the survival of gametes within the body. For example, FAM works off the assumption that the ovum remains alive within the body for up to 24 hours after ovulation. FAM ups this time span to 48 hours in case two ova are released at once. Another FAM assumption is that the male gamete, the sperm, can live inside the woman’s body for up to 5 days. Based on these assumptions, and the prediction of ovulation, the woman can either avoid or encourage pregnancy.

In order to predict ovulation, the fertility awareness method recommends that a woman use a calendar to chart her menstrual cycle. This includes marking the days of menstruation, over a few consecutive months, in order to predict the most likely ovulation date. Another practice used within the fertility awareness method is the monitoring of Basal Body Temperature (BBT). This practice detects the brief drop in body temperature that occurs right before ovulation.

Yet another important practice within FAM is the monitoring of cervical mucus. By observing and noting the changes in consistency of cervical mucus throughout the menstrual cycle, the woman can also determine her most fertile time. Cervical mucus is important in assisting the sperm inside the uterus. These changes may also be charted on a calendar. In addition to observing cervical mucus, the cervix itself can be observed, because at different points in the menstrual cycle, the cervix varies in firmness, position, wetness, and may be slightly more open or closed.

Effectiveness of the fertility awareness method can depend on a number of factors. Not every woman’s cycle is perfectly regular, and can therefore be difficult to track. Women with an irregular month-to-month cycle may have trouble developing an understanding their own body rhythms well enough to accurately predict ovulation.

The many observations a woman must understand and track during her menstrual cycle can be affected by factors other than ovulation. For example, body temperature can rise due to illness, lack of sleep, or substance intake. This can create confusing signals and throw off the BBT practice. Even when used correctly, the effectiveness of the fertility awareness method is not guaranteed.

Clear advantages of FAM include the complete absence of health risks and side effects to the woman, which are associated with other pregnancy control methods such as fertility enhancing drugs and oral contraceptives. In addition, the fertility awareness method can be an effective way for women to learn about the natural processes of their own bodies, and to feel more in control of their own fertility.

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