Why there’s no such thing as The Fertility Awareness Method
This week on the Menstrual Mastery Podcast we’re talking all about why there’s no such thing as The Fertility Awareness Method. We tapped into this a little bit last week on the 5 Biggest Fertility Awareness Method Myths episode, but this myth really deserves its own episode so that’s what we’re doing today!
Something I hear all the time is - “Oh, I use the fertility awareness method as birth control.”
After which I always ask, “Which fertility awareness method?”
And then everyone looks at me in pure confusion like I have 3 heads.
But, here’s an important thing most people using natural birth control methods don’t know - There isn’t just one fertility awareness method. In fact, “fertility awareness methods” is the overarching term for cycle tracking methods of natural birth control and pregnancy achievement that are based on the tracking of real-time fertility signs like cervical fluid and basal body temperature.
So while you may be using A fertility awareness method, you’re not using THE fertility awareness method.
The most popular fertility awareness methods include…
> The Cervical Fluid Only Method (aka the Billings Ovulation Method)
> The Temperature Only Method
> The Sympto-Thermal Method
> The Sympto-Thermal Double Check Method
So let’s take a look at each of these methods and explore how they work….
The Cervical Fluid Only Method - which is also referred to as the Billings Ovulation Method - requires the tracking of only ONE fertility marker, namely cervical fluid. Users of this method learn how to use rules based on cervical fluid only to open and close their fertile window - or the time in each cycle during which they can get pregnant. Cervical fluid can be seen and felt at the vaginal entrance, on toilet paper, and on underwear. This is a single index fertility awareness method because it uses one single sign to both open and close the fertile window. Fun Fact - I used this method of fertility awareness for the first 5 years of my natural birth control journey.
The Temperature Only Method also requires the tracking of only ONE fertility marker, basal body temperature. Basal body temperature is recorded as our temperature first thing in the morning before getting out of bed. This method is also a single index fertility awareness method because it uses only one single sign to open and close the fertile window. Not so fun fact - This method requires the most days of abstinence or barrier method use of all the fertility awareness methods because it doesn’t allow for unprotected, pre-ovulatory intercourse because temperature cannot be used to locate impending ovulation. It can only confirm ovulation AFTER it has occurred.
The Sympto-Thermal Method requires the use of TWO fertility markers - cervical fluid AND temperature, essentially combining the cervical fluid only and temperature only methods. The STM method also teaches how to use cervix tracking as a confirmation tool. This method is, however, still a single check fertility awareness method because while it uses TWO rules to close the fertile window (cervical fluid + temperature rules), it only uses ONE rule to open the fertile window (cervical fluid rule). Fun Fact - This method was highly popularized by the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. It’s because of this that many folks think that the sympto-thermal method is THE fertility awareness method, as in the only one, but alas that is not the case.
Lastly, The Sympto-Thermal Double Check Method requires the use of TWO fertility markers, optional cervix confirmation tracking, AND a shortest cycle rule to ensure that the fertile window is opened early enough to account for the earliest potential of ovulation in one’s cycle. This method IS a double check method, meaning that it uses TWO rules to open the fertile window (cervical fluid + shortest cycle rules) and TWO rules to close the fertile window (cervical fluid + temperature rules). This, in turn, creates greater method efficacy as there is a double check for decisions that are made regarding opening and closing the fertile window. Fun Fact - This is the method that I personally use and the one that I teach to my clients here at Sauvage Wellness. In the most comprehensive study available on the method, the Petra Frank-Herrmann study, the sympto-thermal double check method was proven to be up to 99.6% effective with perfect use when learned from a trained instructor! That’s nearly exactly the same as the perfect use rate of the birth control pill! (You can read that study here.)
You’ll notice that the rhythm method is mentioned NOWHERE on this list - and that’s for a very important reason. It’s NOT a fertility awareness method. The rhythm method is an old, outdated, and relatively ineffective method that attempts to prevent pregnancy with a predetermined calculation of when your fertile window will be in your current cycle based on when it was in your past cycles… and that’s an awful idea. You are not a robot. You will not ovulate at the same time every month. Heck, in a stressful month you might skip ovulation all-together. Common things like stress, illness, and new medications can throw off ovulation from cycle to cycle. That’s why it’s incredibly important to use real-time body symptoms to determine your fertile window NOT a calculation from your past cycles.
The rhythm method was developed in the past as a natural pregnancy prevention method before the research that led to the development of modern fertility awareness methods was available. It is an old, outdated, ineffective method and is rarely, if ever, taught by certified fertility awareness educators.
I share all of this with you because I feel it’s important that you know that just as with hormonal birth control options - you have several CHOICES of fertility awareness methods and to not get discouraged when people tell you that “the rhythm method doesn’t work”. They are correct; it doesn’t, and fertility awareness educators are NOT using or teaching the rhythm method.
As you explore which fertility awareness method you might want to use, it's important to know that each method functions slightly differently, has different efficacy rates, and different barrier method or abstinence requirements as we’ve discussed in today’s episode. It’s important to know which method you want to use and why and then seek out a certified fertility awareness educator who is specifically trained in that method.
Here at Sauvage Wellness we use the sympto-thermal double check method for several very important reasons…
>> It uses both cervical fluid AND temperature tracking to provide the most comprehensive information on upcoming ovulation, as well as the end of the ovulatory window.
>> It uses a double check system requiring that TWO rules are used to both open and close the fertile window so that users are certain they are making the safest choices in terms of pregnancy prevention.
>> Tracking BOTH cervical fluid and temperature allows us to better spot potential hormonal and cycle imbalances that could lead to pms, heavy periods, irregular cycles, delayed ovulation, spotting, fertility problems, and more.
>> It can be easily used for BOTH natural birth control and pregnancy achievement.
>> It gives us a comprehensive view of our menstrual cycles so that we may better support our needs during the varying menstrual cycle phases and address cycle imbalances.
If you want to learn more about the sympto-thermal double check method - you'll want to check out the following resources...
Thank you so much for joining me for another episode of the Menstrual Mastery Podcast! It has been such a pleasure sharing with you the various types of fertility awareness methods that exist with a focus on my favorite - the sympto-thermal double check method. My hope for you is that you now better understand that even with fertility awareness methods you have CHOICES. There is no such thing as The Fertility Awareness Method. Girl, you’ve got choices!
Before you go, please take a moment to follow the Menstrual Mastery Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts and leave a review. You can also get new episodes of the Menstrual Mastery Podcast sent straight to your inbox by visiting: sauvagewellness.com/subscribe
Thank you again for joining me today! I am your host Brandy Oswald. Until next time, Happy bleeding!