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.

How To Learn FAM On A Budget (And Why You Don’t Need Expensive Femtech to Chart)

When I first stumbled on the sympto-thermal method, I was lucky enough to find Groove‘s website. It intrigued me, and when I tried to learn more, I quickly came across Natural Cycles (an app recently approved by the FDA). I didn’t know much about fertility at the time, but the price of Natural Cycles turned me off. I also ran into into the Daysy thermometer and saw that it cost over $300.

It had me like…

Groove’s website had shown me that I could do the method for free. Luckily, a friend recommended Kindara to me soon after. Someone in the Kindara community told me to buy Taking Charge of Your Fertility and to join Fertility Awareness Method of Birth Control on Facebook. Thus, my charting journey began with a fifteen dollar book and a ten dollar thermometer. As a broke graduate student, it was an investment that I could afford.

I’m not alone in having Natural Cycles or Daysy catch my eye with an advertisement. Many women begin their charting journey when they are drawn in by the advertisements of femtech or “female fertility” devices. These devices promise to interpret a woman’s fertility for her. Rather than teaching women how to tell when they may be fertile, these devices rely on algorithms and ignore other vital fertility signs.

While I am glad that these devices get the word out about natural birth control, the problem with these devices is twofold. To begin with, the devices are pricey investments that many families may not be able to afford. Many people may be misled and believe that it costs hundreds of dollars to use a form of fertility awareness. Others may buy the device without realizing that the devices do not offer the same accuracy as a real sympto-thermal method. They don’t offer the close instruction that many women with troubling cycles may need (especially those confusing cycles that can happen post-pill).

Natural Cycles costs around $10 per month, or around $80 annually, while Daysy costs several hundred dollars. Neither app takes into account cervical mucus (the thing that keeps sperm alive, ie what allows pregnancy to occur). It is beyond me why they don’t think to educate women about this vital fertility sign, but it is my belief that women should be fully informed and able to interpret their own fertility signs. These devices don’t promote empowerment, but instead ask for women to blindly rely on femtech devices. It is easy to be misled by advertisements, and women may not run into many peer-reviewed studies if they aren’t looking. Recent studies have shed light on the true efficacy of devices like Daysy. Click here to read about a recent incident regarding how Daysy is misleading (and here to read the peer-reviewed study) regarding the efficacy.

Natural Cycles is very open about its 93% typical use efficacy rating, but why would women pay ten dollars a month for a lower efficacy than what they could achieve by working with an instructor? I think that sometimes when women buy these devices they have come into charting with little knowledge of their own fertility and may feel that they can trust technology over their own interpretations of their fertility. Ladies, we are smart. With a little help and guidance, we can learn to determine our own fertile windows with a more reliable method than this device. Fertility awareness can be really empowering, and knowing your own body is a fantastic feeling.

When women are taught by an instructor, the sympto-thermal method typical use efficacy rating is 98.2% (self-learning has not been studied for efficacy). By working under an instructor, women can achieve self-reliance when it comes to interpreting their cycle. Instructors can help clear up tricky charts, and help women understand their own cervical mucus. A one time investment in instruction can provide a woman with years of reliable birth control. After a major life event like the birth of a baby or during times of hormonal change, women may need support with charting again. Otherwise, learning how to chart can serve a woman until menopause. Finding an instructor and buying a reasonably priced thermometer is both cheaper and more empowering than using a femtech device.

So, what’s my point?

Ditch the femtech.

You can learn NFP, and you can do it on a budget without expensive devices (and it’ll be a more reliable method of birth control).

In this next section, I’ll show you the three first steps to get started.

The following advice is geared more towards those trying to avoid pregnancy or trying to achieve pregnancy without any special circumstances (not recently postpartum, breastfeeding). I also only point towards sympto-thermal resources. Look for a future post geared towards those charting with special circumstances.

Step 1: Find an Instructor

charitng

Symptopro and Couple to Couple League offer very reasonably priced courses that can be taken online or through video chat / phone calls. Both of these offer instructor support (all of these courses are around $75-$150, but rates may vary for individual teachers). These two organizations also offer their own app (or website) to use with the method.

Besides the organizations I listed, there are also many freelance NFP teachers. FAMBC offers a list of instructors. You may also stumble on a few on Instagram by searching for things like #naturalfamilyplanning and #fertilityawareness.

I have plans to offer services that are affordable to someone who makes minimum wage. My basic charting help and course will cost $75. It is my belief that all women should be able to afford to learn how to interpret their own fertility. It is such a vital skill for navigating our lives. If you would like to work with me when my courses open in the September 2019, please fill out this —> form <—

You may wonder why anyone would pay for an instructor if it is possible to self-teach. When I first started charting, I didn’t know that the perfect efficacy rating of NFP was based on the Sensiplan study which followed people who had been taught by an instructor. Women who are self taught and lack a community may not reach the perfect efficacy level. Similarly, when women trust femtech devices blindly, it may result in less than perfect efficacy rates. When women are taught by an instructor, the sympto-thermal method typical use rate is 98.2%.

Step 2: Get a Thermometer

thermometer

If you are looking for a thermometer, any basal body temperature (BBT) thermometer will do. Just make sure that it is not a fever thermometer. The precision of the BBT thermometer is necessary. Check your local pharmacies or look online. My personal favorite thermometer is the iSnow. It holds sixty temperatures, has a backlight, an alarm, and a pretty quiet beep. You can find multiple versions of it in the twenty dollar price range.

If you want a cheap thermometer without a backlight, the mabis is great. This was my first thermometer.

You can also use a glass BBT. These take a little longer to take your temperature. Check for them in stores near you or online.

3. Pick an App / Way to Chart

fertlity friend

If your method doesn’t come with an app, check out my blog post “Top 3 Fertility Awareness Mobile Charting Apps” to help you decide which one is right for you.

Look into paper charting. Pen and Paper Fertility releases some great journals. You can also find some free charts to download on TCOYF’s website.

You can also try spreadsheet charting. Look for my blog post on how to get started with Google Sheets.