I’ve been so so hesitant to write this post for so long. I really feel like I should, mostly because my relationship with birth control changed so dramatically due to friends and bloggers sharing their own stories, and I think it’s important to keep the conversation travelling.
But it’s still so….personal.
Plus, I didn’t want to be that person who’s like, “I don’t use birth control! Want to see pictures of my twenty kids?” I know, I know, that’s part of the stereotype I want to crush and it’s weird that it’s something I’m afraid of but still. So since only one of my children was “unplanned,” and that happened while I was ON birth control, I’m starting to feel more safe being able to testify to FAM’s success.
So what is this FAM? And how can you get by without birth control? Fertility Awareness Method is just a way of reading your body’s signs to know when your ovulation is about to occur. That may sound really sketchy but it’s actually becoming really scientific. You can buy all sorts of little contraptions and devices and apps to help you know when it’s coming.
Some, like those who follow the teachings of the Catholic Church (NFP), abstain during a women’s fertile period. Others, comme moi, just rely on old fashion barrier methods until my fertile period has passed.
So using FAM isn’t really not using birth control. It’s simply only using birth control when you need it, when you can actually get pregnant.
I’m not really going to get into the specifics of how YOU, personally, can use FAM because this post is really more about why I chose it and because it would take a long time. If you are interested in it more, the holy grail of books on FAM is Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Check it out, ask me if you have questions.
Be sure that if you do your own research on FAM, the website or book is talking about the Billings method, Sympto-thermal method, or Ovulation method. Many include other “methods” like the rhythm method or even pulling out when they talk about FAM, which are not the same thing.
Bold, underline, italic. It’s that important to know, because if you google FAM you’ll get websites saying Rhythm Method: Fertility Awareness.
Not. The. Same.
This sounds really inaccurate and complicated. I’m not sure it will even work for me because I’m so irregular.
First of all, it’s pretty rare for a woman to truly be irregular. Unless you have a five day cycle, and then a thirty day cycle, and then a sixty day cycle, you are probably not irregular. You know how when you’re pregnant you get a due date for forty weeks after your missed period, but technically at 38 weeks youre full term and the doctor wont induce you until 2 weeks after your due date? That’s because there is a month….A FULL MONTH…in which your ovulation could have normally occurred. Doctors know ovulation doesn’t happen exactly 2 weeks after your period and your next period comes 2 weeks later. Most women vary all over the board within the month which is why FAM is so effective…because it doesn’t look at typical, it looks at your body every single day.
Yes, checking your temperature and cervical mucus and noticing more pimples and a fuller tummy does take more time and effort than swallowing a pill. But cooking dinner instead of heating up Marie Callenders, or walking instead of driving everywhere takes more time too, but these are things we’re willing to do for our health.
I’m worried I’d mess it up and then be stuck with a baby and some guy I don’t like.
I will absolutely acknowledge that FAM works best for married couples who aren’t opposed to the idea of having children. That isn’t because it can’t be successful, but because it does involve a lot of trust between the two people. In other words, if you would happen to get pregnant, it would be a lot easier for the blame to be placed on the women’s negligence rather than faulty medicine or a defective condom. I think that’s why a lot of women are scared of the idea of it and why it’s important to have someone who won’t be angry with you because they really really didn’t want children. I will say though that part of FAM is condom usage, and if you are having sex with someone you aren’t in a relationship with you should be using one anyway, regardless if you’re on birth control or not.
The pill (although there are many different kinds of them) have an efficacy of 99 percent when used correctly. The effectiveness of FAM is 99 percent when used correctly (and FAM with condom usage is more effective than NFP, for obvious reasons of human frailty.) It has had great success in India, where hormonal birth control is hard to come by.
I like taking birth control because it makes my periods less painful/I don’t break out/Other “health” reasons.
If you like taking birth control kudos to you cause I found it to be terrible. I liken it to being pregnant, which is essentially what some hormonal birth control does, trick your body into thinking it’s pregnant. The problem most women seem to encounter here is that they’ve become so accustomed to hormonal supplements that their body freaks out for a bit when going off the pill, as it does whenever the hormone levels in your body change. Hormonal changes are the same reason why women get morning sickness. Some of the most painful periods I had happened after I stopped breastfeeding and my fertility returned. Painful periods, bloating, pimply face, crying over everything, headaches….I gots all those for about three months. And then they went away. When I was in high school I struggle a lot with pimply skin and painful cramps but as I’ve gotten older they’ve gone away, which is a perfectly normal thing to happen to a girl just entering her fertile years.
The thing is that unless you are currently not taking a hormonal pill, and haven’t been for awhile, you really don’t know how your body really is. If you’re up for it, give it a few months for your body to adjust, and just see how you feel. I would guess that in 9/10 cases, your period will be a lot lighter, your will feel more energized, and happier once your body rids itself of the excess hormones and allow it to regulate itself (it may even boost your…uh, appetite?…in bed).
I really care about my health and the environment, but I just am too scared about having a baby.
Ok, I only brought up the part about the environment so I could point out the havoc synthetic hormones are having on it. Ever single time you pee, bits of your hormonal supplements get flushed down the toilet and into the water system. And they cannot be removed. That means every time you drink tap water, you are slurping down tiny residue from your neighbors’ birth control pills. And it’s not just humans…hormones are literally changing entire animal species.
However, I totally get the part about being nervous about getting pregnant accidently. It can be a lot more in your face and scary than the idea of getting breast cancer, harming the environment, or having trouble getting pregnant when you’re ready. This is why I said it takes a lot of trust, not just between you and your partner, but trust in yourself. Like most things, once you get into the hang of it, recognizing your ovulation becomes almost second nature. I can wake up one morning and know it’s coming, just because I’ve learned to listen to my body. FAM is all about being an observer and charting the little things so that you can notice the big trends your body goes through every month. It’s never too early to start charting and in fact is probably even better to try your hand at before you’re sexually active, since there is a bit of a learning curve. The first couple of months I’d suggest always using a barrier method, until you really start to trust yourself to recognize your ovulation. You can even use ovulation tests to check if your guesses are correct.
However, you cannot use FAM if you are currently using birth control. Some people ask that because they want to start tracking before committing to going off the pill. It wont work, mostly because the pill is designed to suppress a lot of those things that you can use to help determine ovulation.
I’m afraid of what my doctor/friends/family/spouse will think
This was actually one of the biggest things for me. Luckily my GYN is a midwife and she’s pretty cool with me using it, especially since she knows how much trouble I had on even low hormone birth control. However, I’ve heard a lot of people say they got a hard time from their doctor, who didn’t see it as a viable birth control option. Just remember, a doctor works for YOU, and if they make you feel bad for choices that are important to you, then find someone else. I think part of the problem is that many doctors look on fertility control as a medical problem, but part of FAM is recognizing that fertility is not a problem, it is an integral part of being a women, and you want to control the outcomes of your fertility, not the fertility itself.
I think I already addressed some of the issues about your spouse and as to other people, it’s not their business. Tell them to buzz off.
Anyway….I hope this information is at least somewhat useful, and gives a bit of an insight into another way to control your births.
Oh! Also, one of the best benefits of using FAM is that when women are ready to get pregnant, they have tremendous success using FAM to conceive. It’s not only a great way to prevent births, but to have them when you’re ready.