Using Fertility Awareness for natural birth control is an amazing and effective option for achieving natural, chemical-free contraception - by learning to read our bodies' signs of fertility and infertility. But to succeed, there are some key rules that we need to follow.
Last month I spoke about why natural birth control actually works. This month, however, we will have a look at some common mistakes that could easily make natural birth control not work.
Let's dive in:
1. Don't rely on calculations - but on real-time observations
Your cycle is dynamic - it is constantly adjusting to your life and health as it looks like in this very moment. That means that the length of the cycle - or on which days we will be fertile - will possibly vary from cycle to cycle.
That is why we in the sympto-thermal method of Fertility Awareness do not rely on calculations based on previous cycles to determine when we are fertile. This is what makes the sympto-thermal method different from for example the Rhythm Method and most cycle-tracking apps.
The importance of this cannot be stressed enough: only real-time observations of our physiological fertile signs can show us on which days we are fertile.
2. Don't trust your "feeling" - trust your charting!
A common misunderstanding when using natural birth control, is that once we have charted our cycle for a while and gotten to know it, we can stop daily charting and rely more on our "feeling". From my and other Fertility Awareness educator's experience, this is not true!
Now get me right here - I do believe we have an incredible ability to intuitively tune in to our bodies and receive important messages from them; but when it comes to natural birth control, I've seen this strategy fail far too many times! If we lived in perfect harmony with nature and ourselves, this strategy could perhaps work. But let's face it: in our modern society, most of us don't.
So, to achieve maximum efficiency natural birth control with Fertility Awareness: do your observations daily and chart them on your menstrual cycle chart daily - regardless of how experienced you are.
(Personally, I've used Fertility Awareness as my method of birth control for 10 years - and still chart my fertile signs diligently every day.)
3. Don't disregard the "in-doubt rule"
One of the most important rules we have in Fertility Awareness is the "in-doubt rule". It means that: if you have missed observations during a day, or are in the slightest doubt about the character of an observation, or of any other reason do not feel 100% sure about whether you are infertile or not during any given day - then regard yourself as fertile!
Again, this is just as important for new users of Fertility Awareness, as for experienced charters. Remember: the menstrual cycle is dynamic and changes during our life-time, so even if we are very experienced, we might still bump into observations that we've never seen before and do not know how to judge. If this happen, it's recommended that you book an appointment with a trained Fertility Awareness educator, who can help you gain clarity in what has happened - which will lead you to more confidence in your future use of the method.
4. For maximum efficiency - don't rely on withdrawal, condoms or other barrier methods on fertile days
Now, this might feel like a real bummer, but when speaking about the efficiency of natural birth control, it really has to be mentioned: no penetrative sex is completely secure on fertile days.
There are several reasons for this:
Research has show that a rather big proportion of men has sperm in their pre-ejaculatory fluid (more commonly know as precum: the transparent liquid that appears on the tip of the penis when a man gets excited). This is the reason to why a woman can get pregnant from intercourse even when the man has withdrawn his penis from the vagina a long time before ejaculation.
Research on condom efficiency has been made throughout the whole cycle - not only on fertile days! Which gives us a good reason to suspect that the stated efficiency of condoms would likely be much lower if the testing had been done on days when the women in the trials actually could get pregnant.
Fertile mucus (that appears on fertile days) is really luscious and slippery in it's character - creating a greater risk for a barrier method to slip off or be displaced.
If you feel comfortable with taking a bit of a risk - then barrier methods or withdrawal can be used on fertile days. But if neither pregnancy nor abortion is an option for you, or if you experience stress from fearing pregnancy - than I would strongly recommend avoiding all genital-to-genital contact and sticking to other sexual practices during fertile days. See it as an opportunity to explore new and yummy alternatives, that might even enhance your sex life!
Take a deep breath
Now, I know this was a lot of information, and that some of it might awaken some emotions - but the truth is that Fertility Awareness is not rocket science, and it is very efficient for birth control when learned and used correctly! However, it do take some time and dedication to learn and understand how to use it properly. Some people are really good at learning from a book - but many will experience that some guidance from a trained educator will make it much easier to gain full confidence and security.
This also applies for experienced charters: if your cycle suddenly changes - maybe since you've given birth, getting closer to menopause, or experiencing some health challenges - it is recommended to revisit your educator and get some updated guidance for your new situation.
When practiced correctly, Fertility Awareness gives an amazing opportunity not only to manage our birth control naturally - but also as a tool for monitoring our menstrual cycle health, and getting to know ourselves on a deeper level. Explore the blog for much more information on these topics.
Now, let me know in the comments what you thought about this post! Have you experienced making an mistake when using natural birth control, that you believe others might benefit from hearing about? Please feel free to share in the comments - or anonymously by sending me a message.
Much love to you all,