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.

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 

Shortcut charting, or “Wait… I don’t have to take my temperature every day?”

Many people come into FAM overwhelmed by all the data that they have to collect daily. It can be a bit of a turn off for those new to the method. They may wonder why they have to check their cervical mucus ALL day and then set an alarm on top of that.

When you first begin charting, it is vitally important to try to get the information down every day so that you can get into a habit and make sure that you are following the rules. Missing information will leave you with less complete charts that could leave you confused as to whether ovulation is confirmed or not.

However, once you have been charting for a significant amount of time and become confident, you can stop recording fertility signs once you have confirmed ovulation.

I am headed into chart number twenty-two successfully avoiding pregnancy with FAM, and I have been shortcut charting most of the time for about seven cycles now. I personally recommend confirming ovulation in 12 cycles before shortcut charting. This is so that you know how early you ovulate, your normal temperature levels, and how to tell whether something abnormal is going on in your cycle (ie sickness causing temperatures to be higher than normal or an abnormal cervical fluid dry up due to cold meds or some other medication).

Toni Weschler, author of Taking Charge of Your Fertility, recommends that women have several months of experience in the standard rules before taking any shortcuts. She offers some modified guidelines to follow and emphasizes that “contraceptive efficacy won’t be compromised as long as both your fertility signs have confirmed that ovulation has already been confirmed for that particular cycle.”

The Modified Rules

Temperature Taking

  1. You don’t have to take your temperature during your period. Toni explains that these temps may be unreliable anyways. However, if you have short cycles with early ovulation, you may need those temps in order to confirm ovulation. If you have a temperature shift CD12 or sooner, you will need some period temps in order to have enough temperatures to draw a coverline.
  2. You don’t have to take your temperature after you confirm ovulation with temperature rules. This means at least 3 high temperatures with a standard shift. If you have weak shift or a fall back rise, you must have the extra temperatures needed to fulfill those rules before you stop taking your temperature. Some people take their temperature again a day or two before they expect their period since it can (but not always) give an indication that menstruation is approaching.

Cervical Mucus

  1. You don’t have to check cervical mucus after you confirm ovulation. You will need to check until you meet peak rules (P + 3) and crosscheck this with 3 high temperatures before you can stop checking for cervical mucus. Again, if you have a weak shift or fallback, you will need to check until you meet the rules.
  2. From the day after your period until the day you observe peak type fluid, you should check cervical mucus continuously throughout the day and follow all rules for mucus checks. However, you don’t have to check cervical mucus multiple times a day once you observe peak fluid. If you observe peak fluid first thing in the morning, there is no need to keep checking. You have already recorded your most fertile observation for the day.

Those are the basic changes when short cut charting.

Here is an example chart.

This woman does not take her temperatures during her period. She begins taking her temperature on CD6 when menstruation ends. She checks her cervical mucus multiple times a day and follows the rules for checking until CD11. On CD11, CD12, and CD13, she observes eggwhite mucus first thing in the morning and doesn’t check again. On CD14-CD17, she checks mucus multiple times a day because she knows she needs at least a 3 day dry up (P + 3) to confirm ovulation. On CD 15, she has her temperature shift. CD16 is above the coverline. CD17 confirms ovulation because it is at least .4 F above the coverline. Ovulation is officially confirmed with both peak and temperature rules met. She takes her temperature again on CD26 to see if she gets a temperature drop indicating that her menstruation may begin soon.

People Who May Want to Think Twice about Short Cut Charting

Not everyone is suited to short cut charting.

  • Charting for Health: If you are charting for health, you may want to record your signs every day. Odd cervical mucus patterns and temperatures can indicate health issues. If this is your goal for charting, short cut charting may not be right for you.
  • Using Tempdrop: Tempdrop says to wear the device every day. If you don’t, it could disrupt the algorithm. As far as I know, they do not recommend short cut charting at this time. If you use this device, you may not want to short cut chart if you are worried about being at risk of pregnancy.
  • You aren’t confident in charting: If you are not confident in your ability to chart, you should NOT short cut chart. You should be 100% confident in your abilities before attempting this.
  • You are sick: If you are sick, you may want to chart more diligently and stay protected if you are uncertain about your chart interpretation.
  • You are only charting one sign: You NEED two signs in order to short cut chart. If you pick just one, you may be putting yourself at risk of unintended pregnancy. Ovulation must be confirmed with two signs.

An Honest Review of Tempdrop

Did you know that there are now wearable basal body temperature thermometers?

A few such as iFertracker, Ava, and Tempdrop are now on the market. In this blog, I will review the Tempdrop device.

tempdrop

Tempdrop is a wearable basal body temperature thermometer that came onto the market in 2017.

Rather than setting an alarm, women can simply put this thermometer on before bed. You wear it around your upper arm (and it may be worn in a bra as well). It needs 3 hours of sleep to determine your basal body temperature. The device uses an algorithm to find your true temperature, regardless of how many times you have gotten up or whether you had restless sleep this night. This device is very popular with shift workers, breastfeeding mothers, and other women who don’t get a regular amount of sleep and wake up at different times. It holds 24 hours of data, and it must be synced at least every 24 hours or you will lose previous data.

After wearing it for thirty days, the algorithm kicks in. So, you cannot trust the device for determining when to have unprotected sex for the first 30 days. 

(If possible you should back up temp with oral basal body temperature for the first 60 days if you are avoiding pregnancy. If not, use a different method of protection).

During days 31-60, the device continues to learn your patterns. By day 60, the device will only change and make improvements to the last 3 temperatures taken.

PROS

  1. Helps Women Practice STM: If you are not able to take your temperature with a normal basal body thermometer due to breastfeeding, shift work, or other irregular sleep schedules, this device will help you practice any sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness or natural family planning.
  2. Great Customer Service: I have had to interact with Tempdrop Customer Service several times. They are fairly prompt with responses, and they do try their best to troubleshoot with you. While there was an issue with the Tempdrop frame breaking, they fixed this issue for free.
  3. No Alarm Needed: Hate your alarm? You won’t need to set it to take your temperature if you wear Tempdrop. 
  4. Helpful Facebook Group: You may join the Tempdrop Facebook group for support and charting help.

CONS

  1. Price:  Tempdrop Basic Package is $149 (12 month warranty). Tempdrop Confidence Package is $189 (12 month refund guarantee, 24 month warranty, Tempdrop Care available). Tempdrop Freedom Package is $249 (24 month warranty, Tempdrop Care, 12 month refund guarantee, extra armband and battery). While this price could be worth it for you if it’s the only way you can take your temperature, it may not be affordable to everyone. This price is still a little high, especially if you are making minimum wage or have other expenses like childcare. The referral codes only work with the higher price packages. If you have kids or animals, you may want to get a better package if you believe your device may be damaged easily.
  2. Battery: The device does not tell you when the battery is dying. However, you can contact support to find out. They now recommend changing the battery at 8 months.
  3. Frame Breaking: Many people (myself included) have had the frame break easily. However, the company promises that they are trying to fix this issue and a newer frame with different plastic will be issued with devices bought this year.
  4. Changing Temps: If you are the anxious type, you may not like the last 3 temps changing. While this is due to the way the device functions, some people may find it unsettling. Second, many people who chart expect that they will see a drop in their temperature before they get their period or the day of. I personally never got the drop to indicate my period was coming until Tempdrop retroactively adjusted my last temperature. With oral basal body temperature, changing temps is not a problem.
  5. Only Syncs With Ovuview** For now, Tempdrop only syncs with Ovuview which can only be downloaded on Android. If you don’t have an Android, you have to type the temperatures in yourself and make sure to remember to update them. However, supposedly Tempdrop will sync with new apps sometime soon!

My own experience:

I am one of the people who has had to contact support many times about the product. For some reason, they did not think to tell me to update the battery even when I had owned the device for longer than 8 months and began experiencing weird temperatures. I don’t hold that too much against them, as I know they have a lot of customers writing in and could have missed this detail for me.

I have used the device for almost 12 months. I found my oral temps to be more predictable and more steady. I get very steady “robo” or repeating temperatures with oral charts most of the time. However, I am not a shift worker, so I will admit that I do not need Tempdrop like some people may do. I already have to wake up at the same time 5 days a week, and I don’t find it inconvenient to take my temperature on the weekend. Even if I take my temperature later, my oral temperatures are incredibly steady. My oral temperatures also caught my shift earlier than Tempdrop did on two separate occasions (I have seen other people say that Tempdrop catches their shift sooner than oral temperatures, so this is really an individual thing).

Funnily, alcohol appears to effect my Tempdrop temperatures MORE than my oral temperatures. I speculate that this is because whenever I would put the Tempdrop on, I was still recently drinking and hotter due to the alcohol. In contrast, I would be sleeping for 8-9 hours and have worn off the alcohol before taking my oral temperature.

Here is one full cycle comparison:

Tempdrop (Ovuview) 

ovuview

Oral Temperatures (Kindara)

kindaraoral

Tempdrop temperatures will either read higher or lower than your oral temperatures. In my case, they read much higher.

Want to try it yourself?

Use this  link  and get 10 dollars off. This discount only works on the Confidence and Freedom Packages.

Full disclosure: I will get a 10 dollar kickback if you use my coupon.

Free Downloadable Paper Charts

I created some #NFPTA inspired paper charts. These charts can also be used for methods like Taking Charge of Your Fertility, Sensiplan, and other STMs (like the one I teach) too.

I always have trouble finding charts without temperature scales. As someone with lower temperatures than average, the standard temperature scale just doesn’t work for me. These charts have totally blank temperature scales. They will work for F or C charting.

I also included a page with space for cycle notes, method rules, and legends for certain things on the chart.

Click Here to Download a Blank Paper Chart PDF.

Click Here to Download a Blank Paper Chart Microsoft Word Document

If you don’t want to print them, screenshot the PDF of the chart and paste it into a program like Microsoft Paint. You can fill in the squares of the chart yourself to make your own kind of chart pattern.

An Example of a Simple Chart

digital chart

  • Red = Menstruation
  • Tan = Dry Day
  • Yellow = Non Peak Mucus
  • Green = Pink Mucus
  • Pink = Unprotected Sex
  • Blue = Protected Sex