I am writing this to tell you that there is a method of NFP that actually works. GASP! I know this because I did it successfully for almost 3 years, and then conceived our daughter on the first try! It’s called the Fertility Awareness Method, or FAM.
When Daniel and I got married, we were so young. He was 21 and I was 20. We knew we wanted children, but not yet. About 3 months before our wedding, I started a birth control pill. That started over a year’s worth of extra spotting, migraines, unsure periods, and forgetting pills. I hated taking the Pill. I changed my Pill 3 times within that year, and never found one that worked with my body and my budget well. One day, I went to my husband and said “I’m done. I’m going off the Pill and I’m going to do this naturally”. He did not agree with my decision. He was scared and said “Ok, as long as you’re ready to get pregnant”. Everyone that we knew who had done it “naturally” became pregnant quickly. Like, within the first month. Now I was DETERMINED to prove to Daniel that I could do it and NOT get pregnant yet.
When I was browsing the books at Goodwill one day before our wedding, I had picked up a book called "The Fertility Awareness Method" by Toni Weschler. I thought, "hey, maybe I can use this sometime". It was only $2.50 and I love books, so I bought it. And it sat on my bookshelf. After that conversation, I found the book and began to devour the pages. I am a very hands-on learner and I like to ask lots of questions, so it was difficult not having someone to call and ask questions or explain something in layman’s terms. I spent many nights buried in this book learning how to read my own body signs.
And let me tell you, YOU CAN DO IT TOO! Not only has it taught me to know my body extremely well, but it has also saved us money, time, and lots of contraceptives and pregnancy tests! It takes a little while to get in the groove and feel confident, but you will get it. Here is the gist of what this method includes:
- Taking your temperature daily (orally)
- writing down every time you have intercourse
- writing down every detail of your day that applies, including workout, illness, travel, etc.
- inspecting what is in your panties (sorry!)
- writing down all symptoms such as headache, cramping, crankiness, etc.
- abstaining during your “fertile” days (or using contraceptives)
This method will help you to explore what is “normal” for your body. Is your cycle 28 days? Mine is approximately 32. Do you have tell-tale symptoms? I can feel which side I am ovulating from because it is achy. When will your period come? Mine is almost always 13 days after my ovulation.
It can also help to determine if you may have a medical condition, like a yeast infection, UTI, cysts, and even if you are or are not ovulating. I feel like this method takes all the question out of wondering whether or not you are even fertile and can get pregnant!
Now, if you want to practice this method, I want to warn you now. It is effective and can work, but I always tell people to leave about 20% up to God. There is ALWAYS a possibility of birth control failing and getting that two-line surprise. But for me, this is what I wanted. I wanted control over my body, but not to the point where I was “playing God”. Simply my own conviction, that’s all. I always tell women to use this method only if a surprise pregnancy would not be completely awful.
Because of this method, I knew the exact days that I was fertile, and when we decided to risk it the first time, we got pregnant. I even knew (and this may freak you out) that our baby would most likely be a girl because of the time in my ovulation that we were “intimate”. Yes, this method can help you to “choose” the sex of your baby, if you will. Again, I still leave it all up to God because he can change anything, but it was correct in our case. This is possible because ‘boy’ sperm swim quickly and only live about 24 hours, and ‘girl’ sperm are heartier, swim slower, and live 48 hours. If you have sex a day or two BEFORE an egg is released (and you ovulate), it is more likely to be a girl. If you have sex DURING your ovulation, it is very possible that you will conceive a boy. Make sense? The book explains it in more depth.
It is not hard to get into the routine of taking your temperature as soon as you wake up and writing everything down. I kept my thermometer on my headboard and would grab it as soon as my eyes popped open. At the end of the day, I would mentally list everything I did including workouts, how I felt, symptoms, etc. and write it down. It become second nature. The book will tell you that when starting this, write down everything as it happens, even if you have to carry your chart around! Otherwise you will forget!
It is important to write all of this down because our cycles can fluctuate according to what is happening in our lives. Have you been traveling? Ovulation tends to hold off longer when you travel, almost as if it’s WAITING for things to calm down. Did you just start or stop working out? This can also affect when you ovulate. Have you been sick or stressed? Another delay. The neat thing is that these things NEVER DELAY YOUR PERIOD, JUST YOUR OVULATION. You period is ALWAYS, I repeat, ALWAYS 12-16 days after ovulation.
For example, my cycles are consistently 32 days long. One cycle went 42 days. SCARY! I thought I was pregnant! But during that time, we were traveling and I was stressed, and my body kept trying to ovulate but did not succeed. I can see that from my chart. And then my period started in the airport bathroom. Awesome.
Just a quick rundown- you can tell when you’re ovulating depending on the vaginal discharge. This is the mucus in your panties. Sorry ladies, but we’re all adults here! You can actually see the discharge change and build up as you approach ovulation, and when it peaks it is so thick and stretchy (up to 4 inches!), and that is when you are at your peak of ovulating. After ovulation, you become relatively dry and mucus-free. It’s weird, I know, but it’s true! Start watching yours.
It can also tell you pretty much as soon as you are pregnant. You use your temperature to gauge when you are FINISHED ovulating, and it jumps higher and stays higher until you start your period. If your temperature continues to rise, sometimes higher than it has ever been, that can be an indicator. IF YOUR TEMPERATURE IS UP LONGER THAN 18 DAYS, YOU ARE PREGNANT. I knew my body so well and knew that I never got to 15 days after ovulation, so I took my test on day 15 and got two lines!
Because of this, it can also help you to discover if you are not ovulating, conceiving and miscarrying, having any reproduction issues, etc. It can even help to reveal other things, such as thyroid issues! How cool is that?
There is an entire section on using FAM after birth and while breastfeeding, but I am still getting the hang of it. Because we don’t really want an “oopsie” baby, we are still using other contraceptives until I am comfortable charting this new territory. If you are a breastfeeding mom, I urge you to read through the book and become comfortable with the method before relying on it completely for your birth control.
Don’t be afraid when your friends tell you that it doesn’t work or that it’s the “have lots of babies” method, because it’s not true. It does not work for everyone, but it’s worth a shot if you're interested. You need to feel prepared to learn and research, and be confident that you can do it!
I LOVE knowing my body so well and seeing that our bodies were discovered to show specific signs correlating with our fertility. God is awesome.
If you are interested in using this method, please go get the book first. Read through it and see if it’s something that could fit into your life. There are even online forums and discussion groups and entire websites dedicated to women using FAM that may help you. Check them out.
I am always willing and able to meet with anyone interested in seeing my charts, hearing my experience, or asking me any questions. I LOVE this method!
the months. You will use a new chart for each cycle. It's neat to look back on these to see what
is "normal" for you, see what side you ovulated from (if you know) and anything else you