1. General Information
2. Breastfeeding and Natural Contraception
4. Woman's stories
1. General Information
MAIN PURPOSE OF FERTILITY AWARENESS:
To accurately determine the woman's fertile and infertile time in her cycle, and use this information to either achieve a pregnancy or avoid a pregnancy through natural means.
FERTILITY AWARENESS IS BASED ON SCIENTIFIC PRINCIPLES:
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NATURAL METHODS OF CONTRACEPTION:
1. A woman's menstrual cycle is hormonally controlled by estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen dominates the first part of the cycle and progesterone the latter.
2. A ripe egg lives a finite period, between 10-24 hours. If a second egg is released in one cycle (e.g.fraternal twins), it will be released within 24 hours of the first egg.
3. Sperm can live in a woman's fertile quality secretions for 3-5 days.
4. The corpus luteum (the remnant of the follicle after ovulation occurs) releases progesterone, which acts to inhibit further eggs from ovulating until the following cycle. Its lifespan is 12-16 days, approximately two weeks.
E. A healthy woman produces three observable fertility signs that signal impending ovulation or its aftermath: basal body temperature, cervical fluids or secretions, and cervical position.
Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)
Fertility Awareness Method is based on daily observation and charting of three fertility signs during a woman’s menstrual cycle (Basal temperature; cervical fluid or secretions; cervical position). By monitoring these signs, a woman can accurately identify the fertile and infertile days of her cycle (see sample chart). Because cycles are not usually clock-work, the method takes into account various changes such as stress, illness, travel and medications. During the infertile days, couples can enjoy full relations without contraception (most days of the cycle). During the fertile days, a couple can choose to use barrier methods like a condom, diaphragm, cap, or spermicide, or to engage in other non-penetrative forms of intimacy. Likewise, during the fertile days, a couple can know exactly when to time relations in order to achieve a pregnancy. Fertility Awareness is a life skill that can be learned and mastered by most women. When used consistently and correctly, it is highly effective, reliable and safe.
Rhythm Method or Calendar Method
This method of contraception is based on a mathematical calculation which takes into account a woman's past cycles lengths in order to predict a woman's present and future cycle lengths, and her fertile and infertile days. This method cannot be considered reliable because an error of one day can lead to an unplanned pregnancy. The fact that most women’s cycles are often influenced by external factors (travel, illness, medications, stress, etc) helps explain the method's low effectiveness rate.
Withdrawal (Intercourse without internal ejaculation)
While this is a commonly-used method of contraception, it cannot be relied upon for two important reasons: Firstly, if a man experiences an orgasm (by himself) during the hours before he has intercourse with his partner- there is a possibility that live sperm will be present in his tubes and be expelled with the sexual arousal fluid which is secreted way before a man actually reaches orgasm. Secondly, there is a chance of accidental pregnancy if a man ejaculates near a woman’s vaginal opening during her fertile days when her ovulation secretion enables the sperm to enter and swim up quickly to meet the egg. Many women have conceived this way.
EFFECTIVENESS OF FAM
The theoretical effectiveness of FAM, like most conventional methods of contraception, is 98-99%. Theoretical or method effectiveness is another way of stating “perfect use.” Actual user effectiveness, or imperfect use, is between 80-95%. The rate depends on the following factors:
how much experience the user(s) of the method has
the extent to which the woman/couple follow the method rules correctly
the way the method was learned: did woman/couple receive instruction and follow-up from a certified teacher?
if the couple abstains from intercourse during the fertile phase or uses one or two back-up (barrier) methods
if the couple observes niddah-laws (which typically allow for unprotected intercourse after ovulation).
THE FERTILITY SIGNS WHICH ARE THE BASIS OF FAM
1.Basal Body Temperature (BBT) refers to a woman’s waking body temperature; it is taken in the morning with a special digital thermometer. A relative rise in BBT signals the beginning of the infertile phase after ovulation (approximately 10-13 days). These are the days in which a couple can have unprotected intercourse.
2. Cervical Secretions or Fluid refers to normal changes in cervical secretions which occur throughout the menstrual cycle. Secretions change in color, texture, wetness, acidity and quality and are directly related to a woman’s fertility status. Fertile secretions are necessary for ovulation and fertilization of an egg by a sperm cell; secretions are observed either internally or externally.
3. Cervical Position refers to changes which can be felt internally near the os (opening of cervix). The cervix changes in height, softness and size during the fertile time only. Any woman can feel these relative differences with her own finger.
FERTILITY PROBLEMS WHICH FAM CAN HELP IDENTIFY
A. anovulation (non-ovulation)
B. irregular ovulation
D. absence of fertile secretions
E. hormone imbalances like PCO- Polycystic Ovaries
F. insufficient progesterone (luteal phase defect)
G. occurrence of miscarriage
H. Under- and over-active thyroid
SELF-DIAGNOSIS OF GYNECOLOGICAL PROBLEMS/ISSUES
Charting one's fertility signs provides a woman with vital information about her body, her health and her fertility. Charting can also facilitate the diagnosis of many gynecological problems. Women who chart regularly are aware of what is/is not normal for them, and thus can help their clinician determine irregularities based on the individual woman's symptoms. A few examples of situations or problems which can be more easily diagnosed through daily charting are:
A. irregular and abnormal bleeding (not all bleeding is menstrual bleeding)
B. early and late ovulation
C. yeast and other infections of the vagina and cervix
D. cervical anomalies
E. symptoms characteristic of premenstrual tension (PMT/PMS)
F. exact timing for conception and confirmation of pregnancy (without a blood or urine test)
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF FAM:
1. It is a natural, safe and effective method of contraception (requiring only 1 1/2 minutes a day of “work” during the learning phase. It is also an ideal planning tool for achieving pregnancy.
2. It allows a woman to develop a deeper and more connected relationship to her body, sexuality, and health.
3. It promotes healthful body awareness & self-responsibility for one’s health.
4. It is consonant with religious practice and lifestyle.
4. It facilitates gynecological and fertility diagnosis by a clinician.
5. It can facilitate and enhance communication between partners.
6. It encourages male participation in sexually-related decision-making.
7. It is an empowering experience for women/couples who learn how to control their fertility while gaining peace of mind and self-confidence.
1. It requires time to learn (4-8 hours, depending on purpose) and time for gaining experience and confidence (3 months).
2. It requires discipline and maturity to chart regularly.
3. It requires correct and consistent use if it is to be effective.
4. It requires motivation and couple cooperation.
5. The method does not protect against sexually-transmitted infections
TYPICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF FAM USERS:
1. Women desiring greater body awareness and understanding of their fertility and health, their sexuality and their femininity.
2. Women who cannot use or choose not to use hormones or other chemical substances in their bodies
3. Women frustrated with the side-effects and inconveniences of conventional contraceptive methods
4. Religious couples who desire a safe and halachically acceptable alternative to conventional methods
5. Breastfeeding mothers ( Natural Contraception During Breastfeeding - Article)
6. Women with irregular cycles who want to achieve pregnancy
7. Couples desiring a method which promotes shared responsibility for fertility
RATIONALE FOR LEARNING FAM:
All women and men have the right to:
a) learn and understand how their reproductive systems work
b) receive accurate information about their fertility which can promote personal health and decision-making about responsible sexual behavior
c) know the full spectrum of options available for either achieving or preventing pregnancy, and
d) freedom of choice based on one’s personal health needs as related to lifestyle, values or religious orientation.
Like all methods of contraception, FAM is not for everyone
2. Breastfeeding and natural contraception
A leading myth that many women hold is that breastfeeding alone is an effective method of contraception. What many women do not know is that breasteeding when practiced at high frequency , can be used together with checking one's natural secretions, as a reliable method of birth control. A breastfeeding woman can know if and when her body is fertile, regardless of whether she is menstruating or not. Women do not need hormones or IUD's during this time. See Article: Breastfeeding and Natural Contraception
Hormonal Changes During Breastfeeding (graphic)
Myths about Breastfeeding and Fertility
3. Workshops Formats
Most workshops involve three meetings: the first two are 2-4 weeks apart, depending on whether the woman is cycling or breastfeeding without cycles. The first class covers female anatomy, the menstrual cycle, and how to observe and chart one’s fertility signs throughout the cycle. The second class covers the rules for conception. For couples trying to conceive, the second meeting involves examination of the woman’s chart and discussion of problems related to the treatment of potential infertility. A third, follow-up visit is arranged by the client. Partners are welcome and encouraged to attend, and classes for women-only are also offered. For further information
4. Women's Stories
-The Importance of Knowing Your Date of Conception
Charts for downloading
Recommanded sites & Books