Contraception

Fertility Awareness Method

What is the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)?

Fertility awareness actually involves a combination of methods that aim to predict when ovulation will occur. These methods include taking basal body temperatures and observing cervical mucus. By carefully recording these observations, a user of the fertility awareness method can abstain from vaginal intercourse during the time when she ovulates and is most likely to become pregnant. Or, if pregnancy is desired, FAM can also be used to choose a time when intercourse is most likely to result in pregnancy. 

How does FAM work?

Simply counting the number of days to the middle of the menstrual cycle, also called the Rhythm Method, is not an accurate way to prevent pregnancy. Ovulation occurs approximately 14 days before the first day of the next period, and the length of a person's menstrual cycle can change from month to month depending on factors like stress or illness. So counting forward from the last period is not an accurate predictor of ovulation.

When talking about fertility, we have to consider both the life of the egg and the life of the sperm. An egg lives in the reproductive tract for about 1 day while sperm can live in the fallopian tubes and uterus for 3 to 5 days. Conception is most likely to occur when intercourse occurs in the 4 to 5 days before ovulation or on the day of ovulation, and this is referred to as the fertile period.

In order to become aware of the fertile period, you can observe the cyclic variations in cervical mucus and basal body temperature as well as other cyclic body changes. This involves:

  • Taking your temperature every morning before getting out of bed.

  • Observing the amount and consistency of vaginal mucus every day.

  • Charting the temperature and mucus results so that you can see the changes that occur throughout the menstrual cycle. 

How effective is FAM in preventing pregnancy and STIs?

If used correctly and consistently every cycle, and if you consistently practice abstinence during fertile periods, the rate of pregnancy for someone using the FAM is 1% to 9%. When statistics take into account a user forgetting or misusing the method, the typical rate of pregnancy is approximately 25%. The FAM method does not provide protection against sexually transmitted infections.

If you are interested in using this method,we recommend that you discuss it with your medical provider or a natural family planning counselor first to make sure that you fully understand the method and are well prepared to use it. Brown students can make an appointment at Health Services by calling 401.863-3953. 

What are some advantages of using FAM?

  • It is an opportunity for to better understand your menstrual cycle.

  • There are no medical side effects.

  • It can determine fertile periods if pregnancy is desired.

  • It may be an acceptable contraceptive method if a person's religious beliefs do not approve of other methods. 

What are some disadvantages of using FAM?

  • A typical college student's schedule decreases the effectiveness of this method. Irregular sleep patterns, stress and illness can make it difficult to use this method accurately and consistently.

  • It provides no protection against STIs.

  • People who have irregular menstrual cycles will find this method difficult to use.

  • It takes a few cycles to learn to use it confidently.

  • It requires consistent motivation and commitment combined with a good understanding of the method.

  • Another method of contraception must be used or abstinence must be practiced during the fertile period 

Related Links

For more information about the FAM and to learn ways to chart your fertility, you can visit:

Planned Parenthood

Fertility Awareness Network

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