Written by Guest Blogger: Chloe Skerlak, a Justisse Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioner and Certified Fertility Awareness Educator.
What is fertility awareness?
Fertility awareness is the daily practice of observing and recording one or more of the body’s signs of fertility – cervical mucus, basal body temperature, and cervical position. Tracking this helps you to identify your fertile window – the only time in your cycle when it’s possible for you to get pregnant! The Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is a hormone-free, side-effect free method of contraception that is based on knowing when you are fertile.
Since ditching the pill, charting my own cycle, and teaching fertility awareness all over the world, I’ve come across a few myths I’d like to set straight.
Myth 1: The Fertility Awareness Method is the Rhythm Method
The truth: Nope! Not the same.
The Rhythm Method makes mathematical projections based on past menstrual cycle history to predict future fertile and infertile phases of the menstrual cycle.
These predictions, though occasionally right, assume most people ovulate around the same time and do not accurately reflect your current cycle. Thus making it an ineffective, out-dated form of contraception.
The Fertility Awareness Method teaches a person how to determine the status of their fertility through daily observations of the body’s signs like cervical mucus, basal body temperature, and cervical position. You will always know if you are fertile right now, today. You won’t need to wonder and guess.
It’s like deciding if you need to wear a rain jacket or not by looking at the weather forecast this time last year or looking out the window!
Myth 2: The Fertility Awareness Method is ineffective
The truth: The Fertility Awareness Method is 99.6% effective.
That’s as good as hormonal contraception!
This number comes from a study done in Germany that looked at 900 women who contributed over 17,000 menstrual cycles and prevented pregnancy using the sympto-thermal method of FAM.
It’s important to clarify that the 99.6% effectiveness is when you abstain during the fertile window. If you choose to use a barrier method or withdrawal, then now you’re relying on the effectiveness of the barrier method or withdrawal with the knowledge that you’re capable of becoming pregnant.
Also the effectiveness depends on how you learned the method, your correct use of instructions, and your consistent observation and charting of these signs!
Myth 3: You can’t use FAM if you have irregular cycles
The truth: Absolutely, you can!
FAM can be practiced by ALL menstruators, whether they have regular or irregular cycles, if they’re coming off hormonal birth control, or experiencing cycle changes like perimenopause or breast-feeding.
This is because FAM is about charting daily observations and making decisions about your fertility based on what we see today not on what happened in previous cycles (like the Rhythm Method).
In fact, the more irregular your cycle, the more you SHOULD be charting!
Your menstrual cycle is your fifth vital sign! And fertility awareness charting can help reveal what’s really behind those irregularities.
Myth 4: Not all cervical mucus is fertile
The truth: ALL cervical mucus is fertile.
As you approach ovulation, your estrogen levels begin to rise and this is what causes your cervical mucus to change from a plug to a slip-n-slide that’s visible at the vulva when you wipe. You might observe cervical mucus that looks like glue paste or lotion or raw egg whites.
It’s true your mucus may become more like raw egg whites (clear and stretchy) the closer you approach ovulation. However, it doesn’t matter what kind of cervical mucus you see and or how much you see it, when cervical mucus is present, sperm can ride that super-sperm-highway all the way to the Hotel De La Sperm, the cervix, and check in for 3 to 5 days waiting for ovulation to occur! You’re fertile!
There are times when someone might see cervical mucus every day or even after ovulation. For example, if they’re coming off hormonal birth control, breast-feeding, experiencing underlying reasons like food allergies or compromised cervical health, or if they’re confusing cervical mucus with vaginal cell slough or arousal fluid (both are infertile). This is temporary and should be addressed with your healthcare provider and/or fertility awareness educator.
Myth 5: Tracking your temperature can help you predict ovulation
The truth: No, but tracking your BBT can help you confirm ovulation.
BBT, or your basal body temperature, is a measure of your metabolic rate. After you ovulate, your metabolism goes up (as a result of a surge of progesterone) and you can measure this shift when you take your temperature every morning.
Since you need to ovulate in order to see that temperature shift, it can’t predict when it will happen but tracking your BBT can be very useful to confirm that you did in fact ovulate.
Though some people may experience a dip in their BBT close to ovulation, this does not occur reliably enough to be used as a predictor of ovulation.
Cervical mucus is a much better predictor for when ovulation is likely to occur.
Myth 6: You need a fancy thermometer to track your BBT
The truth: All you need is a thermometer you can buy from your local drugstore or pharmacy.
I personally use and give all my clients a non-mercury glass thermometer because it’s accurate at assessing your BBT and is the gold-standard for assessing thyroid health (very important for menstrual cycle health!).
Even more important than the kind of thermometer you buy, is your consistency. Being consistent is the key when it comes to tracking your BBT. This means taking your temperature first thing in the morning, after 5 hours of sleep, every morning around the same time (+/- an hour).
Some people who have trouble with this (shift workers, people who are postpartum, experiencing insomnia, etc.) may benefit from a wearable thermometer that tracks your temperature as you sleep. It’s called a TempDrop. Use this link for 10% off.
Myth 7: Fertility Awareness is Only About Fertility and Sex
The truth: It’s so much more than that!
The menstrual cycle is your ultimate guide to befriending yourself and getting to know all parts of you… that’s all 4 phases!
Practicing fertility awareness can completely change the way you live your life – what you eat, how you exercise, who you date, what jobs you take, even whether you go out salsa dancing or stay in and read a book!
Understanding your own unique cyclical nature with fertility awareness shows you how to live by your own rhythm, follow your own sense of timing, and listen to your own intuition.
For more myth busting about fertility awareness, the menstrual cycle, and the pill, check out my YouTube series 28 Days, 28 Myths.
It’s my passion to teach people about the menstrual cycle and help them reconnect with their body through fertility awareness charting. If you’re ready to ditch the pill and learn fertility awareness, I offer a free 30 min online consultation to see if we’re a good fit! Book it here!
Chloe is a Justisse Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioner and Certified Fertility Awareness Educator. She has made teaching fertility awareness in group and private programs her profession because she wants women and people with cycles to regain their sexual and reproductive sovereignty, become advocates for their own health, and live vibrant, healthy lives. She is also the founder of the Cervix Portrait Party (yes – taking photos of your cervix is a thing!) and is passionate about teaching body literacy to pre-teens and teens. Chloe also loves salsa dancing, full moon bathing, and putting menstrual blood on her face.
P.S. Catch Chloe’s interview in this week’s episode of The Hormone P.U.Z.Z.L.E Podcast – FAM, Cervix Parties, Moon Bathing and More with Chloe Skerlak. You can also find the episode on this podcast page as well as Spotify, and Stitcher. Don’t forget to subscribe, follow, and write us a review on Apple Podcast (if you LOVE it).