Fertility awareness

What is fertility awareness?

 

Fertility Awareness, also know as the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is a practice for women of observing, charting and interpreting their main signs of fertility - cervical fluid, basal body temperature and cervical position. It can be used all throughout a woman's reproductive lifespan as a means to deeply understand and connect with the ebb and flow of her menstrual cycle, monitor and assess reproductive and hormonal health, avoid pregnancy naturally without the use of hormonal or invasive contraceptives and optimise chances of conception when pregnancy is desired.

 

What are the main signs of fertility?

Cervical mucus is the most important biomarker of fertility. It is produced by the cervix in preparation for and in the lead up to ovulation. Being able to confidently and accurately identify your cervical fluid is essential for determining if you are fertile on any given day.

Basal body temperature (BBT) is the second sign of fertility. BBT is your body's waking temperature after at least four consecutive hours of uninterrupted sleep. It's used to confirm that ovulation has (or hasn't) already taken place. It CANNOT be used to predict ovulation or when you will be fertile.

Cervical position is an optional but highly encouraged fertile sign to observe. The cervix changes in height, texture and openness throughout the cycle and can serve as a super helpful additional sign to help you confidently identify your fertile window.

What is the Justisse Method?

The Justisse Method is a sympto-thermal method (STM) of fertility awareness charting, which means both cervical mucus observations and basal body temperature (BBT) are charted daily. The Justisse Method can also be used as a cervical mucus only method for those whom taking temperatures is not an option, such as shift workers or breastfeeding moms.

The Justisse Method was developed in 1987 and is a secular fertility awareness based method (FABM) that centres the menstrual cycle as a woman's fifth vital sign. The Justisse Method offers a holistic and functional approach to reproductive health management and is deeply grounded in principles of feminism, body literacy and reproductive justice.

How effective is the sympto-thermal method for birth control?

STMs have the potential to be as effective as hormonal contraception (>%95). They are often ignored in medical care settings that focus on pregnancy prevention because there is more room for user error and this leads to a paucity of good research. However, STM users who observe scientifically validated fertility biomarkers are able to confidently determine fertility, day by day. Success with STM requires education, motivation, and consistency. It is important to differentiate STMs from other “natural methods” which rely on calculations and predictions that are loosely based upon the science of ovulation happening mid cycle. The solid science of STM combined with professional instruction and personal commitment can provide a highly effective form of contraception in those for whom it is a good fit.

(Association of Fertility Awareness Professionals, 2021)

How can fertility awareness help me try to conceive (TTC)?

Pregnancy is not possible on every day of the cycle. In fact, women are only fertile for around one week per cycle, so the window for conceiving is actually quite short. Practicing fertility awareness allows you to confidently identify your fertile window so that you can time sex accordingly when TTC. Additionally, FAM allows you to monitor your menstrual, reproductive and hormonal health so you can use it as a tool for pregnancy preparation to identify and address any potential issues ahead of time.

Is FAM useful even if I don't want a baby and I don't need it for birth control?

Absolutely! If you are a woman/girl of reproductive age you can practice fertility awareness - it is a tool and life skill that can support you throughout your life from menarche to menopause. It is truly empowering to really understand how your body works and to be body literate. FAM also provides you with the knowledge and ability to make informed decisions for your sexual, reproductive and overall health.