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.

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.

Why We Should Talk About Cervical Mucus: Breaking the Taboo, Femtech, and Understanding our Bodies

Fertility awareness is garnering more attention than ever before. Companies like Natural Cycles, Ava, and Daysy** have made FAM more mainstream through advertisements. These femtech companies lure women in with a promise of an alternative, natural method of contraception that doesn’t involve hormones. While I am thankful that these companies have gained FAM more attention, I am critical of their motives and whether they truly empower women to understand their bodies.

All three companies have something in common. They choose to ignore cervical mucus as a fertility sign. Instead, they rely on basal body temperature. Daysy relies on basal body temperature as the primary sign to open and close the fertile window. Natural Cycles also relies on basal body temperature, but LH testing can be added if the user chooses. Ava relies on basal body temperature, resting heart rate, and breathing rate.

I have to wonder. Why don’t these companies include cervical mucus?

Cervical mucus is vitally important. It allows sperm to survive. Without it, sperm cannot fertilize an egg. Ovulation only takes place over the period of about one day in women (two eggs may be released within a 24 hour period). Cervical mucus provides sperm the opportunity to survive long enough to meet an egg. According to a study done by Ferreira-Poblete, “Sperm would have a 5% probability of surviving more than 4.4 days and a 1% probability of surviving more than 6.8 days.” This potentially long survival rate of sperm in cervical mucus is what allows that sperm to make it to the finish line. As you can see, cervical mucus is an incredibly important part of reproduction.

Why would these companies leave out something so important? Could it be because they find the topic unsavory? Do they think women are afraid of touching their own bodies? Why not inform women on this incredibly important sign?

In “Sex Ed for Teens, Where’s the Mucus?,” Laura Wershler argues that cervical mucus is an important part of sex education. She discusses how some people fear that telling teens about their cervical mucus will make them engage in riskier behavior. She calls this a bad assumption, and I agree. I do not remember hearing anything about cervical mucus in sex ed. My mother certainly never brought it up. How are women expected to learn about this aspect of their body? (It seems like the answer is that they are not supposed to learn about it.)

In her book, In Our Control: The Complete Guide to Contraceptive Choices for Women, Laura Eldridge writes about the backlash that Toni Weshler, author of Taking Charge of Your Fertility, experienced when she published her book for teens called Cycle Savvy which includes information about cervical mucus and how cycles work. One “senior fellow” called the book “inappropriate” and said that doctors and sex educators should be teaching the “value of self control” instead of promoting the idea that teenagers are influenced by their hormones. As you can see, it’s been a long battle for women to have the privilege to understand their own bodies.

Recently, Facebook and Instagram began taking down pictures of cervical mucus. Cervical mucus is produced in response to estrogen and is totally non-sexual. However, Facebook and Instagram have flagged these as sexual content.

It really makes me question the motives behind these choices of social media companies and femtech companies. Why do companies like Facebook, Instagram, Ava, Natural Cycles, and Daysy all fear cervical mucus? (Daysy discusses it on social media but chooses not to include it in their fertility predictions). Why do femtech companies avoid discussing it? Why isn’t it something that we are all comfortable discussing? After all, fifty percent of the population experiences it. I wonder if it is because much of the world isn’t fully supportive of women understanding their bodies.

In particular, I want to point out that Ava, Natural Cycles, and Daysy all want to make profit off of women’s fertility. The Ava and Daysy devices are incredibly expensive. On top of that, they leave out a vital ingredient to understand fertility. As far as I can tell, these companies aren’t out to help women have true body literacy. Instead, they give women the minimum amount of information about their bodies (they don’t encourage self-interpretation) and leave them in the dark. Women can avoid pregnancy for a very low cost without these expensive devices. See my blog for more information.

I think it’s about time that we broke the taboo around cervical mucus, and many others are also taking important steps to make this happen.

Right now, there is a petition to Facebook and Instagram to let them know that taking down cervical mucus pictures is not acceptable. You can sign here.

Another great source is the Cervical Mucus Project. This is an online database with pictures of peak and non-peak cervical mucus. You can also submit your own.

Let’s start talking about our mucus! Mucus is a very important fertility sign in the sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness. In fact, it is the only fertility sign used in some methods.

We should embrace this sign that our bodies give us!

Some Peak Mucus to Celebrate!

**Daysy now includes cervical mucus in their app BUT it does not change the fertile window. This is sad, and it really defeats the point of including it.

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.