Updated: Apr 22, 2019
When speaking about Fertility Awareness, I often meet a few common misconceptions - about how the method works and whether or not it is effective for birth control. I therefore decided to gather these "myths" in one neat blog - and debunk them once and for all!
1. It's the same as the rhythm method or a cycle tracking app
The by far most common myth about Fertility Awareness is that it is the same as the infamous "Rhythm Method" (also know as the "calendar method") - where you calculate your fertility by counting days, or using an algorithm to do so (like you do in most cycle tracking apps, for example).
The sympto-thermal method of Fertility Awareness DO NOT rely on any kind of calculation! But on real time observations of our bodies actual physical signs of fertility. To be precise, the signs we look for in the sympto-thermal method are: fertile cervical mucus, basal body temperature and cervical position.
This is a really important difference from the rhythm method - since the menstrual cycle is dynamic, and the timing of our fertile days may change from cycle to cycle. With the sympto-thermal method we do not guess our fertility based on previous cycles, but instead we look at our bodies to get a direct reflection of our fertility in this exact moment - every day, all of the cycle.
2. It's unscientific
The sympto-thermal method is based on almost a century of research about how the menstrual cycle and female fertility works. Here is a quick recap:
As estrogen rises - approximately in the middle of a normal length cycle - it stimulates cells in the cervix (the part of the uterus that is protruding into the vagina) to produce a very special substance for a couple of days - called cervical mucus. Sperm are completely dependent on the presence of this substance to be able to enter the uterus and reach the egg. Therefore - the absence or presence of this mucus is the main sign of fertility we look for in the sympto-thermal method.
After ovulation the body's temperature rise as a result of the shifting hormones. This temperature shift is the other sign we look for when using the sympto-thermal method. After we have confirmed that ovulation has happened by seeing the temperature shift, we know that we are infertile until next menstruation. Yiho!
3. It's really complicated and takes a lot of time and effort
Like any new routine and skill, the sympto-thermal method will take some initial dedication and determination to learn and integrate into our lives. But once you have made the skill your own, it will only take a few minutes of your time each day - and you will benefit from it for the rest of your reproductive life. And this routine can actually be perceived as something positive: many charters I meet start to appreciate it as a time of self care - a daily time for communication with one's own body.
If you struggle with integrating new routines - that's what you have me for! A Fertility Awareness educator is like a personal trainer - together we will find a way to make natural birth control work in your life.
4. You can only use it with regular cycles
Since we do not count days - but look at the body's signs of fertility in real-time - it is completely possible to use to use the sympto-thermal method also with irregular cycles! It may take a little extra time to learn (and getting the help of a trained educator is strongly recommended!), but once you have learned the skill it will be an effective method of of birth control - regardless of how your cycle looks like.
In addition to using Fertility Awareness for birth control, the sympto-thermal method will give you a mirror of what is happening hormonally in your body. This gives you a tool to figuring out why your cycle is irregular! Together with a Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioner you can then create a plan for restoring menstrual cycle health, and make your cycle more regular.
5. It's like calling for a baby
So, after reading all of this, you might still be wondering: is it really effective? Like really, really effective?
When you learn the method together with a trained educator, and use the method correctly, the sympto-thermal method is up to 99,6% effective for avoiding pregnancy! That is pretty much as effective as the contraceptive pill.
Using the method correctly comes down to learning it together with a trained educator, using the method according to the guidelines, and having good communication with your partner/s on how to use juicy alternative to intercourse on fertile days. When you are determined to do this practice in an optimal manner - you will get a highly effective and completely natural method of contraception.
As I've mentioned in other blog posts (for example here and here), there are other benefits than birth control to using the sympto-thermal method. By charting our menstrual cycles, we get a neat map of our hormonal shifts. It can help us get to the root problem of hormonal imbalances - and thereby improving whole-body health. Many women also experience a completely new way of relating to their bodies - which can be highly empowering and lead to more self love and self care.
So, time to go out in the world and spread some high quality myth-debunking information! Because everyone has the right to high quality information about how their bodies actually works.