Why did I choose to become a fertility awareness instructor?

Why did I choose to become a fertility awareness educator?

Fertility awareness is the sex education I wish I learned in middle school.

When women actually learn how their fertility works, they learn that getting pregnant is not as easy as the drop of a hat. We learn to appreciate and live with rather than work against our fertility.

Almost every person who I’ve seen read #takingchargeofyourfertility or take a FAM class comes out of the experience saying, “Why have I not always known this information? I wish I could have known this when I was younger!” Learning fertility awareness changed my life, and I know it can change yours too.

Do I believe FAM is the right method of birth control for every woman?

No, it is probably not.

But I do believe that every woman should be taught how to understand her own body. What she does with that information is up to her.

Fertility awareness gave me the ability to avoid pregnancy on my own terms. It gave my spouse more knowledge about my body and the changes I experience during my cycle. It has strengthened my relationship in more ways than I can name.

If you want to learn FAM, I suggest getting an instructor. Check out this website for a list of instructors.

My Experience Becoming a Certified Fertility Awareness Teacher

In early October 2019, I finished my double check sympto-thermal method teacher training through the Natural Family Planning Teachers Association (NFPTA). NFPTA is headquartered in England, but the organization certifies teachers internationally through an asynchronous online course. Women can certify alone, or they can certify with their spouse. The course is offered in celcius, but American teachers can chart their own cycles in farenheit.

One of the things that makes NFPTA different than other courses out there is that teachers are required to make their own teaching materials. For those who would rather avoid religious affiliations, the course is technically secular with some small remnants of religious beliefs in some of the materials. Abstinence is emphased in the fertile window as the most effective way to avoid pregnancy. This course certified me to teach cervical mucus, basal body temperature, cervical position, and calculation rules to adult women until menopause (information on charting menstrual cycles during puberty was not given).

Example of a chart in my teaching materials

In part one of the course (this is roughly 13 weeks long), I learned the rules for avoiding pregnancy with the sympto-thermal method in both regular and irregular cycles, post hormonal birth control use, postpartum, and perimenopause. I was also taught to support women who would like to use their fertility signs to become pregnant. This part of the course was given in downloadable course packets and videos. I evaluated and gave feedback for over one hundred charts with NFPTA interpretation rules.

Following this, I took an exam on the teaching rules as well as female and male anatomy. Once I passed the exam, I created my materials. Since NFPTA does not provide teaching materials, teachers are required to create their own lesson plans, booklets, videos, and whatever else they require to teach the rules and fertility signs. This took me around two months of labor (probably at least ten hours or more per week). My end products were:

✏ ~140 page learning manual

✏ 60 minutes of video

✏ PowerPoint (70 slides)

In part two of the course, I was required to teach a minimum of three women how to chart for three full cycles. I had to evaluate them based on a NFPTA checklist and teach them how to avoid pregnancy using NFPTA charts. I found clients through the Facebook group I help moderate, and a few people I knew in real life volunteered.

Overall, I would only suggest this course to people who have been competent charters for a year or more. In addition, potential enrollees should have an aptitude to teach and create materials. The program is a bit disorganized, and sorting through all of the various materials is a challenge in itself. If you are wanting your materials handed to you, this is not the program for you. Farenheit charters will need to learn to read celcius for the course.

The course does need some updating, but I have high hopes for the future of the program. The program allows teachers to be very creative which is a big plus if you are up for the challenge. It is also very reasonably priced compared to most other programs. In addition, the rules are very similar to the Sensiplan method. This is very important because the Sensiplan rules are what yield the oft quoted 99.6% efficacy statistic. Every three years, teachers are required to do a skills training. While this is usually in England, we should be able to do this virtually within a few years or less.

Your Guide To Getting Started With Charting Your Menstrual Cycle

One of the most common questions I get in my inbox is how to get started with the fertility awareness method. This post outlines all the different ways you can learn to chart. First and foremost, I will do a shameless plug for learning with me. My course opens in late September 2019. I will provide you with a materials packet and support for 3 cycles charting. I teach basal body temperature and cervical mucus (cervical position is a bonus sign). I also have postpartum and perimenopausal protocols available. You can find out more about this here.

For anyone who is able to chart multiple signs of fertility (temperature and mucus or temperature and cervix), I do suggest using two signs over using a single sign. This is because if one sign is obscured for some reason, you will still have the second sign to fall back on. In addition, charting temperatures will prevent you from having issues with double peaks. Charting temperatures also allows you to have unprotected sex during menstruation (only if you do not have short cycles); cervical mucus only charting does not allow intercourse on the days of heavy bleeding. The 99.6% perfect use efficacy rate that you may see quoted around is based on charting temperature, cervical mucus, and using a Doering rule to limit dry day usage. You can read more about this study here. STM charting also allows for barrier use in the fertile window, depending on whether you learn from a religious source or not.

However, using a single sign like mucus can be really great for postpartum charting and perimenopausal charting. Mucus only methods can also be used to pinpoint health problems. The method you pick should be based on your fertility intentions and what stage of life you are in. Notably, mucus only methods require abstinence in the fertile window because without abstinence penetrative sex could disturb the mucus sign. I like how this faith-based document explains “Your Right to Know” about multiple fertility signs.

What you will never see me suggest is using a device like Natural Cycles or Daysy to chart temperatures only. Temperature only charting is valid, but you do not need to shell out a bunch of money to do it. Temperature also cannot be relied on to open the fertile window. You need cervical mucus for that. Even if you want to only do temperatures, it will be much cheaper and arguably more effective if you get an instructor and interpret your own data.

First Step: Pick an Instructor

Sympto-Thermal Methods (STM)

Sympto-thermal methods require you to monitor at least two fertility signs. These signs are basal body temperature, cervical mucus, and/or cervical position. You can learn these methods from religious or secular sources.

Religious Organizations Who Teach STM

These methods may include some religious teachings in the text. Usually, this is Catholic teaching based on their theology.

Couple to Couple League USA

Price $135 USD. Both members of a couple can attend. Online options available. Some in person class offerings. Emphasizes abstinence in the fertile window.

SymptoPro USA

Price $110 USD. Online options available. Religious materials may be absent from the course but the organization is pretty open about its religiosity and beliefs. Emphasizes abstinence in the fertile window.

European Institute for Family Life Education

Price will vary widely. This includes information for most of the NFP organizations in Europe that partner with this institute. There is a chance that some of these may have secular teachings, but you would need to contact them to ask. Emphasizes abstinence in the fertile window.

Marquette USA

Price will vary. This method sometimes teaches temperatures in addition to mucus and hormone testing. Emphasizes abstinence in the fertile window.

Sensiplan France, Germany, Slovenia, Netherlands

Price will vary. Instruction available in person and online depending on the country. This is a Catholic organization. Emphasizes abstinence in the fertile window.

Secular Organizations Who Teach STM

Natural Family Planning Teachers Association Based in United Kingdom but teachers are located world wide

Prices will vary. Many teachers work online, but there may be in person classes available. Method does emphasize abstinence from genital to genital contact in the fertile window but no religion is present in the text. (I am certifying through this organization). Barrier method allowance will vary from teacher to teacher.

Justisse Method Based in USA but some teachers world wide

Prices will vary. Many teachers work online, but there may be in person classes available. This method can only be used as mucus only (from my understanding, please do ask a teacher). Barrier methods are allowed.

The Association of Fertility Awareness Professionals USA

Prices will vary. This includes Grace of the Moon and Justisse teachers. May or may not emphasize abstinence in the fertile window.

Fertility Awareness Method of Birth Control Instructor List World Wide

Prices will vary. This list includes teachers from random methods. Most teach online, but a few teach in person. Reach out to one to find out more. May or may not emphasize abstinence in the fertile window.

Mucus Only Methods

Billings Method USA and Woomb Billings Method Australia Likely world wide availability for teachers.

Prices will vary. Abstinence is required in fertile window. Religious in nature (Catholic).

Creighton Method World Wide and USA

Prices will vary. Abstinence is required in fertile window. Religious affiliations but may not be overt in materials. Connected with NaproTechnology doctors and may be a good choice for women with fertility problems.

FEMM USA but teachers are available online

Prices will vary, but can run as cheap as $75. This method includes mucus and LH strips. Abstinence is required in the fertile window. Secular, but the organization does have religious affiliations.

Rhythm Methods

These methods only involve tracking your cycle length. I do not recommend this to anyone who absolutely cannot get pregnant for health reasons or who absolutely does not want to get pregnant in general. If you are okay with the possibility of pregnancy, this may work for you. These methods also require you have to fairly regular cycles. This type of charting should really only be done if for some reason you cannot learn or are not able to track mucus or temperatures. These methods are not good for postpartum or perimenopause.

Dot (Free)

Cycle Beads ($12 USD)

Communities and Self-Teaching

If you plan on self-teaching, I highly recommend joining this community. I am a moderator in this group. I do not recommend self teaching unless you absolutely cannot afford instruction. We have no known efficacy rates for self-teaching; so, it will be sort of “uncharted” territory if you choose to rely on it. The reason I recommend an instructor is because many people do not know what they do not know. Missing key details in a self-teaching manual can result in an unintended pregnancy. If self-teaching, I recommend waiting 12 full cycles before using any dry days. Dry days are one of the easiest things to misinterpret if self-teaching. If you are going to learn, I suggest the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. This is a single check sympto-thermal method for opening the fertile window, but a double-check for closing the fertile window. This puts it at closer to 98% perfect use and 88-90% typical use. You can see that this is less effective than the other STMs linked above. Check your local library to see if it has listings of the book. Here is a link to WorldCat which you can use to locate a copy near you. Click here to check out Taking Charge of Your Fertility on Archive.org.

Other Free Manuals:

Sympto

NFPTA Fertility Guides

Many people ask if there is a self-teaching manual for mucus only methods. Mucus only methods should not be self-taught. That would be incredibly risky. If you want to do this, select an instructor from the list earlier in this blog.

Second Step: Order a Thermometer and Pick a Way to Chart

Recommendations for Thermometers and Apps

I recommend the iSnow as my favorite basal body thermometer for charting. Whatever you do, make sure you do not have a fever thermometer. These are not suitable for charting. It must be a basal body thermometer. For as slightly cheaper thermometer with a back light and memory, I suggest Easy@Home.

For information on the only wearable basal body thermometer I am willing to suggest, please read this blog post.

For information on charting apps, please read this blog post.

Third Step: Start Charting

While it will take you some time to make the initial investment and learn the method, it takes less than 5 minutes a day to chart once you have learned the rules. Build good habits right away. Check for mucus at every opportunity. I highly suggest taking your temperature after at least 3 hours of sleep at the exact same time when you are first charting. Some people may find that the time they can take their temperature can vary and still give them clear charts, but others will find they need to take it at the same. It takes a few weeks to make a habit. Once you have your routine down, charting will get so much easier.