When one talks about birth control, options like oral contraceptive pills or even emergency contraceptives (eg. morning-after pills) come to mind. Very rarely talked-about is the FAM (Fertility Awareness Method). It is actually the only form of birth control that does not require the use of medicine or any other medical devices!
Despite this, it is a relatively unknown and foreign method to most – Thus, let’s now educate ourselves more about the mysterious FAM!
What is FAM? How does it work?
- Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) (“Rhythm method”)
Also known as ‘natural family planning’ or the ‘rhythm method’, FAM is the more uncommon natural method, FAM involves tracking your natural cycle of fertility and menstrual cycle, thus developing a better awareness of your body to help detect ovulation (without the aid of pharmaceutical methods). The days near ovulation are your fertile days — when you’re most likely to get pregnant. So FAMs can be used to prevent pregnancy by avoiding sex or using another birth control method (like condoms) on those “unsafe,” fertile days.
There are a few different FAMs that help you track your fertility signs. You can use one or more of these methods to predict when you’ll ovulate:
The Temperature Method:
You track your basal body temperature (BBT) for several cycles by using a very sensitive basal thermometer to take your temperature before you get out of bed each morning. Due to hormonal surges, your BBT goes up right after ovulation.
The Cervical Mucus Method:
You track the colour, thickness, and texture of your cervical mucus to monitor your fertility. Your cervical mucus becomes thinner, slippery, and stretchy when you ovulate. Tracking your cervical mucus will require some practice.
The Calendar Method:
You use past menstrual cycles recorded on your calendar or an app to estimate the time of your ovulation. When used on its own, this is the least reliable method of birth control. It should be avoided if your menstrual cycles are shorter than 26 days or longer than 32 days.
It’s most effective to combine all 3 of these methods. When used together, they’re called the symptothermal method. You should track at least 6–12 menstrual cycles before you begin to rely on only FAM for contraception.
What are the Pros and Cons of the FAM?
FAM as a higher failure rate due to incorrect usage. However, if used correctly, it can be just as effective as condoms or birth control pills.
Do I have to buy anything to use FAM? How much does it cost?
Unlike the other forms of contraceptives which involves use of medication or devices, the FAM is a natural method, hence not requiring anything other than yourself, and the use of a calendar!
However, as tracking such dates and symptoms can be cumbersome at times, a female tracking app such as the pslove period tracker app would help incorporate all 3 methods together by helping you log all the symptoms on one platform, making this method more effective and easy to use.
How effective is FAM? Sounds risky.
FAMs are about 76-88% effective. This means that out of 100 couples who use FAMs, 12-24 will get pregnant each year, depending on which method(s) are used. If you use multiple FAMs together, they work even better.
The better you are at using FAMs the right way — tracking your fertility signs daily and avoiding sex or using birth control on “unsafe” days — the more effective they’ll be. However, there’s still a chance that you’ll get pregnant, even if you constantly use them perfectly.
Fertility awareness methods don’t work as well as other types of birth control (eg. Oral Contraceptive Pills) because they can be difficult to use.
However, for those whose religious beliefs do not allow the use of other forms of birth control, this method may be preferred.
How then, do I make FAM more effective?
Similar to other forms of birth control methods, efficacy of FAM increases the closer you follow the guidelines of its usage. This method requires the cooperation of both partners, so it’s important each party is supportive and informed on how the method works.
FAMs reaches its maximum efficacy when:
- You are able to invest the time, discipline and effort required to track your fertility cycle and signs every day
- You and your partner do not mind abstaining from vaginal sex or switching to another form of birth control during the fertile period
- You work closely with a nurse, doctor or counsellor who are well-versed in FAMs in order to guide you
- You combine all 3 methods (mentioned above) of FAMs and use them concurrently
Each of the FAM method makes use of different signs to predict your fertile days. However, when you use all 3, you are able to get a better gauge or back-up signs if, for example, your temperature messes up due to a sickness, if you’re using the temperature method.
FAM is an excellent alternative to those who do not wish to turn to medicine or devices for birth control. Apart from being a birth control method, it can also work the other way – To help one get pregnant, if one is able to predict her fertile period.
Hence, FAM is a useful method regardless you’re trying to prevent pregnancy, or trying to get pregnant. Despite these, it is a relatively unknown and foreign method to most.
To make the tracking of so many symptoms less daunting, check out the pslove period tracker app, where you’re not only able to track your period, but also log symptoms such as those involved in FAM tracking mentioned above, to be able to consolidate all your womanly problems and symptoms in one single platform!
I hope this article has been useful in bringing more awareness to the uses of FAMs!
For a more detailed explanation of FAMs, head here.
Also, find out more about period-delaying pills here!