Is fertility awareness for me? Can ANYONE use it?
An education in fertility awareness will definitely add value to your life, but using fertility awareness as a birth control method may not be for you. Listen up: The education in fertility awareness contains a lot of valuable information that women unfortunately do not get. Not from their gynecologists, not in their sex ed, not (generally) from their parents. Most women just don’t know a lot about their menstrual cycles and fertility. This just happens. Good news, though, there is a lot you can learn with a simple education in fertility awareness, and it’ll be a life skill that you have if you ever do want to use it. As a birth control method, not everyone will jive with fertility awareness. Women who get a lot from it tend to be very health conscious, want to be autonomous, feel empowered by taking control of their reproductive choices, or just hate all of the other alternatives (for good reason). If you think it might be for you, I invite you to contact me with any questions or concerns, I’d love to help you figure out if it’s right for you.
What is the sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness (STM)? Is it the same as Natural Family Planning?
The sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness is commonly classed under the name “fertility awareness” or “natural family planning,” though both of those things can encompass more than just the STM. The STM is a method in which you use at least 2 bio-markers to accurately identify your window of fertility and use that information for birth control, maximizing chances of conception, or to better understand your hormonal health. It is a very effective method of birth control when used correctly and consistently.
What makes the STM better than other methods that include fertile period identification?
The STM does not rely on calculations, like the (much) less effective rhythm method or standard days method, and it provides 2 markers of fertility rather than 1, like the ovulation method. Though the ovulation method is also very effective, the best studies have shown the STM to be the most effective. It is also great to have 2 markers in case something happens and one is not accurate or can not be checked.
Can you use a barrier or other method during your fertile phase?
Yes. The STM exists to help you identify your fertile period, and is not birth control in and of itself. You can choose to abstain or have sex that does not involve genital contact during your fertile window for the highest effectiveness, or you can use any non-hormonal method (condom, diaphragm, withdrawal, etc.) and have intercourse during that time. If you choose to use an alternate form of birth control, you must be capable of using that method perfectly and happy to take on the effectiveness that that method provides; all of these methods have a lower effectiveness that the STM alone.
Do I need to use withdrawal even during the parts of my cycle that aren’t in the fertile window?
No. Withdrawal is not necessary in your infertile period, as sperm that are left will not be capable of surviving to fertilize the next egg that will be released.
Do I need regular cycles in order to practice the STM?
No. The STM is not based on projections made with data from past cycles, so you are always looking to your body that day and finding whether you have signs of fertility and impending or completed ovulation. The STM is just as effective and accessible for those with irregular cycles as for those with cycle like clockwork. In addition, the STM can help you see what might be going on with your hormones and what steps you can take to rectify any possible problems.
Can I use the STM while breastfeeding before I have had my first post-partum period?
Yes. Though the method is harder to learn while breastfeeding, you still have the same hormonal events associated with ovulation, making the method just as effective. Often, those who find the method impossible while breastfeeding are dissatisfied with the amount of time their bodies are indicating possible fertility. For many women the gear up for ovulation can be quite extended while breastfeeding and a longer fertile window results. Because of this, it’s great to not only have a handle on the STM, but an alternate form of birth control that is acceptable to you to use during that time.
Why do you talk so much about hormonal health?
A huge barrier to getting off the pill for a lot of women is cycle problems! Maybe you can relate and the pill cleared up your acne, reduced cramps, made your periods predictable, etc. Instead of using the pill to quell symptoms, I urge you to find the root cause of your problems and fix that. What’s sweeter than lasting relief without a pill?
In addition, you may want to use the sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness as an aide to help you get pregnant. If your hormonal health is superb, your chances will be better of getting pregnant when you want to.