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.

Embracing Our Bodies with Fertility Awareness

In contrast to hormonal birth control, fertility awareness asks us to change nothing about our bodies. There are no harmful side effects, but there is the beneficial side effect of actually ovulating.

Ovulation is good for your health, and I believe that we as women have the #righttoovulate

Fertility awareness teaches us how our bodies work so that we can modify our behavior rather than our biology. Hormonal birth control changes how our bodies work, FAM teaches us how our bodies work.

I strongly believe that fertility awareness teaches us the value of self-control. We learn that unprotected sex at all times is not necessary for a healthy relationship.

For those not abstaining in the fertile window for religious reasons, I also think it changes the generally very heteronormative view of sex and opens us up to new kinds of love and touching in the fertile window. And of course, if choose to abstain, there is room for emotional love during this time as well

If you are ready to take the plunge into FAM, I am now accepting clients for an asynchronous course with 3 cycles of help from myself. Sign up on my learn with me page or send me an email.

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.

An Honest Review of Pearl Fertility Kit

I tried the Pearl Fertility Kit. During my first kit, I got a little confused when the kit did not seem to line up with my fertility signs. However, I contacted Pearl Fertility and they were super helpful. They sent me another kit for free, and it worked perfectly when I tried it this last cycle.

Pearl is a product marketing to women who are trying to conceive (TTC). The product explicitly states that it should not be used to avoid pregnancy. The kit contained 15 follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) strips, 15 luteinizing hormone (LH) strips, and 4 progesterone (PdG) strips. It also included a few pink dye pregnancy tests. As I am not currently trying to conceive, I did not use these.

The app claims to open a woman’s fertile window by scanning the FSH and LH strips and giving you a fertility window from these results.

If anyone wants to try this product, I highly suggest tracking your cervical mucus, as good quality cervical mucus (eggwhite, clear, stretchy, wet) is what allows sperm to survive to meet an egg. Progesterone tests need not be used until at least 4 days past your peak day (the last day of good quality cervical mucus). Even then, some women do not see positive progesterone tests until as late as 7-10 days past ovulation. For more information, visit Proov’s website linked at the end of this article. By charting your real fertility signs, you could use these tests more wisely.

Overall, I thought the Pearl Fertility Kit was super cool. FSH strips are a brand new thing, and I have high hopes for them being integrated into a real fertility awareness based method in the future. If you have the money to invest in Pearl, this can be a fun kit to experiment with. Basically you get to see three main hormones of the menstrual cycle play out. Pearl graphs them for you.

If you cannot afford Pearl, do remember that it is free to chart cervical mucus and that this is always the best indicator for when to have sex when trying to achieve pregnancy. Without cervical mucus, sperm will never make it to the egg on its own.

Here is what my Pearl chart for this month looks like:

The highest pink dot is my positive LH strip.

Here is my Pearl information compared to my symptothermal method chart. In this chart, FSH equals Ferning since Kindara does not have an FSH category.

The Pearl fertile window is indicated by the green lights. It did start my fertile window on a day pregnancy was unlikely since there was no mucus. The blue hearts represent the fertile mucus where sperm can survive. These two fertile windows lined up pretty well.

Overall, I would rate myself satisfied with this kit.

One tip:

From the calendar screen, you can override what tests Pearl is asking for. I only suggest doing this if you are charting your other fertility signs (cervical mucus and basal body temperature) and know that something is not lining up right.

In addition to the strips, Pearl has spaces to track intercourse, your period, and pregnancy status.

Curious to know more about the fertility signs?

If you want to learn how to chart your real fertility signs to achieve or avoid pregnancy, read my guide to getting started.

Look for my next blog on using Proov progesterone tests.

Interview With My Fertility Awareness Method Partner

There are many interviews with women online who use FAM, but there are not many resources interviewing the male partners of these women. What is online is mostly interviews with religious men. While this may be useful for religious folks, I think there needs to be more information from the secular side of things. In response to this need, I surveyed men and created this resource: Men and Fertility Awareness: Reflections and Resources. What follows below is an interview with my husband. We have successfully avoided pregnancy together with the sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness since June 2016.

Q: How did you feel when you were first introduced to the idea of FAM?


I was excited to have a mathematical and scientific method to deduce ones fertility.


Q: How much did you know about this stuff before? How was your sexual education in school?


I had no idea fertility could be tracked through temperatures and cervical mucus. My sex education only involved the male body, and my sex ed teacher had to show us how to use a condom by rolling up a knee high sock.

 Q: Where do you fall on the intention scale? (click here for access to intention scale)


We are a TTA 4. We would be willing to get an abortion if there were a major health risk. My intention is to be with her, and a child is not a factor of my support. We are not trying to conceive and are currently avoiding pregnancy.


Q: How involved are you in charting? How has that changed from the beginning? How do you feel about how we currently handle the fertile window?


I am not involved in charting. I trust my wife who knows more than I do. I am satisfied completely. I have learned a lot since we began, and could help our future daughter with charting if need be.


Q: How long did it take you to trust FAM? What advice would give you to non charting partners?


I do not trust anything completely, but I trust my partner. What FAM offers is knowledge about the reproductive system, and a set of rules that allows for variances to be interpreted so that one can change their actions to increase or lower the risk of pregnancy. It offers several methods to prevent conception and a guideline of fertility to understand the best moments to conceive. FAM allows me to trust the educated decisions my partner and I make. It only works if it is correctly followed.


Q: How comfortable are you with FAM these days? If you have any remaining doubts, what would make you feel reassured?


I have been comfortable all along because I have been ready to accept responsibility for my actions. My comfortability with FAM is a direct response to my comfort with my partner. If I had doubts, it was relieved by understanding the method. All other methods require trust in the contraception or the technology. FAM prepares people to trust themselves and their knowledge 

Now Opening Enrollment For December 2019 Fertility Awareness Course

I am so excited to be offering this new course for those interested in learning the symptothermal method of fertility awareness. The method I teach is based on the rules studies by Sensiplan. You can read about this study here.

I found fertility awareness after 7 years on the pill, and it really rocked my world. When I started practicing it myself, I realized that it was a grave injustice that women are not taught about FAM. Practicing FAM has put me in touch with my body more than ever before. It healed some of the mind/body split that I had developed through years of resenting my period.

Moderating in Fertility Awareness Method of Birth Control, the largest English speaking, secular fertility awareness group on Facebook at 25,000+ members, lead me to becoming a certified instructor through the Natural Family Planning Teachers Association (NFPTA). Starting in February 2020, I am pursuing a certification through Bebo Mia as a fertility doula to support women who are TTC. Outside of the fertility world, I am training to be a librarian. I have taught at the college level since 2016.

I teach a secular form of fertility awareness including information on barrier methods (condoms, diaphragms, etc). The NFPTA method has the same temperature rules as Sensiplan. I teach cervical mucus, cervical position, basal body temperature, and calculation rules (the doering rule and minus 20 and 21 rules). My distance course is offered on Moodle. It is a 4-week self-paced course that includes video charting examples and information on charting during all life circumstances (perimenopause, postpartum, postpill, and TTC). This class opens in December. Your partner is welcome to ask me questions and take the course along with you.

If you already have charting experience from reading TCOYF or the Sensiplan file (3 or more complete cycles), I will extend a discount to you if you decide to work with me. Reach out to me to find out more. I will also likely be holding a live introduction to FAM session in early December.

The best way to get in touch with me is through DM on my Instagram @chartyourfertility or through e-mail by completing a form on chartyourfertility.com. You can also follow me @chartyourfertility on Facebook

A symptothermal method chart
An Example of Symptothermal Method Chart on Kindara

*Disclaimer: These methods only work as well as the user. Even with perfect use, there is still a .4% chance of pregnancy. Using a calculation rule is built into the efficacy, and ignoring calculations may result in unintended pregnancy. I will work closely with you so that you understand the rules, but it is ultimately on the user to follow them.

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.