“Yes. No. Yes no, yes. No, yes!!!”
Does choosing the right fertility awareness method (FAM) feel as impossible as finding the perfect pair of jeans?
Don’t fret, I’m going to give you a framework to help you find the method that will fit you just right.
The hardest thing about beginning a charting journey is knowing where to start. But what I’ve learned is that it really comes down to answering a few key questions. The answers about your unique life, goals, and health will help you find your perfect fit.
Important Questions to Consider When Choosing a Fertility Awareness Method
What are the main biomarkers of the protocol and how are they tracked?
Cycle biomarkers are the specific signs your body gives you based on the different hormone levels of the cycle: cervical mucus, temperature, hormone metabolites. Each protocol relies on these biomarkers to determine what your unique cycle says about your fertility. The types of biomarkers prioritized vary by method. Are you going to be put off by tracking cervical mucus closely, potentially touching it? Do you want to incorporate a lot of cross checks to determine your fertile window and confirm ovulation? Do you want a method that tests hormones via urine so you can be your own lab rat?
How much of an investment (time and money) is the protocol, from learning to implementing daily?
If it’s not right for your clock or wallet, it’s not right for you. Some methods take many classes and follow ups with an instructor to learn. Others only a few. There are still others with self-paced options that you can learn on your own, but you’ll have no support from an instructor.
What are your goals in learning FAM?
Do you want to chart for health or natural family planning? Maybe it’s both, so you want a method with a medical management protocol. Are you trying to seriously avoid pregnancy? What stage of life are you in: postpartum, adolescence, pre-menopausal?
Are you single or in a relationship?
I believe EVERY cycling woman, regardless of her age, should be charting. But depending on your current relationship status, you might be drawn to one method versus another. Again, it comes back around to whether you are charting for health and body literacy versus family planning.
Where do you find a certified instructor?
Word of mouth, Google, FAM or NFP Facebook Groups (often have instructors listed in files), FAM instructor on Instagram, Catholic Churches, and method websites are all great resources.
Discerning Which FAM Is Right For You
FEMM, Creighton, SymptoThermal, Billings, Marquette, Boston Cross Check are some of the most popular FAMs.
Fertility awareness methods cover a set of rules to monitor your cycle biomarkers and determine your fertility status every day. FAMs are based on rigorous scientific research. Most FAMs incorporate cervical mucus as the primary biomarker of fertility. Others include hormone monitoring, temperature checks, or cervical position.
Regardless of the protocol's rules, the goal is the same: to determine YOUR daily hormonal activity and thereby your fertility. Remember, you aren't fertile 24/7 and can’t spontaneously ovulate! Once you find a method that helps you achieve your goal, you are able to monitor your health, plan a family, & cycle sync your life.
Considering the questions I outlined above in relation to each protocol’s requirements will take a little bit of time and research, but are worth the upfront investment. A key piece of success across the board is consistency, so you’ll want to make sure the method you choose is the one that fits your unique rhythm of life. It should be as reliable and versatile as your favorite pair of jeans. This is also where the advice of an experienced instructor can be invaluable.
Do You Need an Instructor?
How does an instructor fit into this picture? Can't you read a book or blogs on the method you want to learn? Well, you could and I support self-teaching... But let me paint a picture of what might follow:
Months of confusion as you try and interpret your unique biomarkers.
Heartbreak as you try to conceive and find you’re unable to.
Shock as you DO conceive, but were SURE you were following the protocol to avoid pregnancy.
Concern as you look over cycle patterns and are unable to decode if you’re ovulating with normal cycle patterns.⠀
Dismissal from a provider with, "That's part of being a woman" as you explain that the symptoms you're experiencing are affecting your life. ⠀
Comments from friends & family who say, "That's the rhythm method and you'll be pregnant soon."⠀
Irregular cycles and symptoms post birth control that make you want to get right back on it.⠀
When you work with a FAM instructor, your reality becomes easier to navigate. You are able to feel empowered and equipped to face these scenarios and discern the next best steps. A trained FAM instructor will:
Guide you through learning a FAM from start to finish.
Review your charts.
Help you reach health and family planning goals.
Support you as you seek medical care.
Teach you to understand your cycles, whether they're regular or not.
Transition you through challenging cycles: puberty, postpartum, breastfeeding, premenopause, post hormonal birth control.
A Free Intro Course Is the Best First Step
Fertility awareness instructors are often certified in one or more fertility awareness methods. Some offer free intros as part of their services (I do!), so don’t be afraid to ask. They may also be able to help you discern whether their method is right for you or if you may be better off connecting with a colleague of theirs who is trained in another charting method.
The main takeaway? Choosing the right FAM for your unique cycle and goals is a process. It may take some trial and error. But the sooner you connect with a professional, the sooner you’ll be able to find the FAM that fits you like your dream pair of jeans.
My free intro course is a great first step to take to determine whether the FEMM approach is right for you.