6 Cycle Comparison: Marquette Versus Billings Versus DOT Fertile Windows

Have you ever been curious what your fertile window would look like in multiple methods?

In this blog, I show 6 cycles with various fertility signs and method interpretation including: the sympto-thermal method (Sensiplan rules), Marquette method, the Billings Ovulation Method, and DOT (a calendar method that was recently purchased by Clue app and is a new FDA approved birth control). I chose to include representation for only studied methods of fertility awareness: sympto-thermal, sympto-hormonal, mucus-only, and calendar method.

All charts are from the Read Your Body app, a flexible app for all methods that I highly recommend!

Some things to know before reading:

  • Marquette allows sex any time of day within their rules. My calculation rule lasts until the end of day 7.
  • Sympto-thermal method allows sex any time of day during first 5 days of menstruation, but the first safe day in the luteal phase must be used in the evening. My calculation rule is day 5.
  • Billings Ovulation Method allows sex in the evenings only and on rotated days in the pre-ovulatory time of the cycle. Days of bleeding where mucus cannot be observed are not allowed. However, since you can have sex any time of day post-ovulation with Billings, sometimes cycle day 1 is available if you have sex before bleeding occurs.
  • DOT allows sex any time of day within their rules. It automatically opens my window on day 7.

Cycle 53

Consecutive Fertile Window for Expected Abstinence:

Billings: 8 days

Sympto-thermal: 12 days

Marquette: 12 days

DOT: 12 days

General remarks: This is an extremely standard cycle in length and mucus patch (the average person will have a 5 to 6 day mucus patch when charting). I believe this is a great example of what methods would look like for someone of the average cycle length.

Cycle 54

Consecutive Fertile Window for Expected Abstinence:

Billings: 9 days

Sympto-thermal: 21 days

Marquette: 15 days

DOT: 12 days

General comments: My average coverline is 96.8 to 97.0, so regardless of earlier high temperatures and some illness I felt confident marking this coverline and temperature shift. Due to continous long, clear-ish mucus, my sympto-thermal peak was extremely delayed. Billings is a sensation focused method so I was able to mark my peak at an earlier time and have less expected abstinence.

DOT gave me a very risky day on this one. It is possible I could have been ovulating near the safe day. However, that would have only left 9 to 10 days for implantation and I had spotting, so whether this truly could have ended in pregnancy is up in the air. Even with well-timed sex, pregnancy will not always occur.

Cycle 55

Consecutive Fertile Window for Expected Abstinence:

Billings: 6 days

Sympto-thermal: 12 days

Marquette: 12 days

DOT: 12 days

General comments: This small fertile window in Billings might look scary to some, but it is not possible to get pregnant when the cervical mucus plug is truly closed. I have about one cycle like this every 13 cycles. I was also using the Kegg device during this cycle which is placed internally and reads electrolyte levels to determine the fertile window. It gave me the same 3 day dip for a fertile window, so I feel even more confident that those days were truly dry. I am missing temperatures on this one because my thermometer glitched and would not give me readings on these days. Sex day 1 was allowed because menstruation didn’t start until 5pm.

Cycle 56

Consecutive Fertile Window for Expected Abstinence:

Billings: 8 days

Marquette: 11 days

DOT: 12 days

General Comment: This was an extremely heavy period so I had no period days available in Billings. Even though the other methods gave me available days, I couldn’t have used them due to the pain, so ultimately the other methods didn’t really help out on more safe days.

Cycle 57

Consecutive Fertile Window for Expected Abstinence:

Billings: 10 days

Marquette: 14 days

DOT: 12 days

Cycle 58

Consecutive Fertile Window for Expected Abstinence:

Billings: 9 days

Marquette: 11 days

DOT: 12 days

General Comments: Marquette monitor missed my peak on this cycle. It misses peak on up to 10% of cycles. I relied on meeting LH rules instead of the monitor. Sex day 1 was allowed because menstruation didnt start until 1pm.

Reflecting on What’s Best for Me

I’m currently on cycle 59 charting, and I have tried a ton of methods. Right now, my ideal method is Billings and LH tests as a bonus marker.

While it may appear that Billings gives less safe days in some instances, what is most important to me is having the smallest consecutive fertile window. Having less expected abstinence actually makes me more likely to follow the rules. I was completely unsatisfied with only being allowed period sex in the sympto-thermal method because I have period pain issues. That means that I basically had no safe days at all in reality before ovulation with sympto-thermal.

I originally felt very enthusiastic about Marquette method. However, after 6 cycles of using the Clearblue Fertility Monitor, I realized that it always caught my LH surge after the cheap LH tests. In addition, it missing my peak even once is frustrating for the cost of the product. For that reason, I have decided to stop using the monitor when I run out of tests. I can use a 15 cent LH test and get the period prediction aspect (LH is my most steady indicator).

The DOT app tends to give me a risky cycle whenever I ovulate late and have a shorter luteal phase. I do not rely on this for pregnancy prevention. Overall though, DOT has not given me many risky ways. I use it for long-term period prediction, and it is the most accurate period predictor I’ve ever used for planning months in advance.

What to Consider Before Switching Methods

1. Why are you unsatisfied with your current method? Is it the amount of safe days, or is it the routine that you don’t like?

2. Do you have medical needs that could be addressed by another method?

Sometimes the grass isn’t greener on the other side, but if you are like me and can’t have period sex or don’t want to have period sex, methods like Billings without calculation rules will almost always include more safe days if you are dedicated enough to learn the method and chart it accurately.

Folks in irregular cycles like in postpartum time or with PCOS may benefit from more flexible methods without calculation rules

*DISCLAIMER: DO NOT TRY TO LEARN FROM MY CHARTS. MY CHARTS ARE NOT YOUR CHARTS.

One Cycle Seven Ways: Experimenting with Marquette (Clearblue Monitor), Billings Method, Sympto-Thermal, Daysy, Kegg, DOT, and more!

Over the last several months, I have been testing multiple femtech products (such as Daysy Fertility Tracker, Kegg, DOT) and comparing them to charting methods like Marquette, Billings Ovulation Method, and Sympto-Thermal (NFPTA). These products and methods rely on different fertility signs such as basal body temperature, cervical mucus, urinary hormones, electrolyte levels, and calendar dates.

Disclaimer: Do not attempt to learn to chart using this post. My own experience may not reflect your unique cycles. My fertility intentions may not be your intentions.

Keep in mind that different methods may change safe days over time. The following data is only a snap shot of what fertility windows for avoiding pregnancy could look like. In particular, the Daysy thermometer only has 4 cycles of data on me.

Expected Consecutive Abstinence Over 3 Cycles

Cycle 52

  • Billings Ovulation Method: 15 (9 consecutive)
  • Marquette: 13
  • Sympto-thermal: 16
  • DOT: 12
  • Daysy: 15

Cycle 53

  • Billings Ovulation Method: 14 (8 consecutive)
  • Marquette: 13
  • Sympto-thermal: 13
  • DOT: 12
  • Daysy: 14

Cycle 54

  • Billings Ovulation Method: 16 (9 consecutive)
  • Marquette: 15
  • Sympto-thermal: 19
  • DOT: 12 (EXTREMELY RISKY)
  • Daysy: 15

From this data, you can see that sometimes the amount of expected abstinence does not differ from method to method, and sometimes it differs a whole lot! On my last cycle with DOT, it ended my avoidance window on the day after peak fertility occured. Fertility is still potentially high on the 3 days following this date.

Billings method almost always had the least consecutive abstinence because it relies on real-time fertility signs to open the window. However, because it rejects calculation rules and relies on one primary sign, only alternative evenings are ever allowed for pre-ovulatory sex. In addition, heavy days of menstruation are not allowed due to the possibility of early ovulation, and the bleeding obscuring the opening of the fertile window.

Other methods like Daysy, Sympto-thermal, DOT, and Marquette do allow pre-ovulatory consecutive sex, but most of that falls during menstruation for my cycle ranges (25 to 30 days).

Whatever method works best for someone is very dependent on their lifestyle and what someone is willing to diligently track.

The Same Chart Seven Ways

The highlighted days represent days to not use in order to avoid pregnancy with these methods.

My hearts are left on to show the fertile window and for authenticity. Do not use these charts to try to learn the rules of any method or to determine when sex is safe. You will see some broken rules based on my own personal intention level and on the fact that not all fertility signs will show the same window.

The Billings Ovulation Method draws the fertile window based on vulva sensation and cervical mucus. Any heavy bleeding is considered potentially fertile because it obscures readings and ovulation can always happen early. It requires alternating evenings for sex during the established basic infertile pattern.
This is the Marquette Method while using only urinary hormones and calculation rules. Fertile window opening determined by calculation rule based on last 6 cycles or first “H” reading on the Clearblue monitor. Clearblue measures estrogen and luteinizing hormone. My first window is also closed by a progesterone test in addition to meeting PPHLL rules.
This is the double-check sympto-thermal method per Natural Family Planning Teachers Association (NFPTA) rules. It opens the fertile window based on the shortest cycle in the last year minus 20. It closes the fertile window based on cervical mucus and basal body temperature.
This is a chart with the Daysy Fertility Tracker. This basal body thermometer learns your patterns over time and opens the fertile window based on past cycle data. The fertile window changes with time, and this is technically my 3rd Daysy cycle. Caution days and Red X days are for avoiding intercourse. Daysy does not allow the user to mark temperatures questionable, but I have marked two days questionable because I drank alcohol or had the heater on.
This example chart includes my cervical mucus notes for more context. DOT is a calendar based method that looks at the last 12 cycles of data. Only people in regular cycles can use DOT. Black moons are days available for intercourse based on the calendar method. In the next line, I also have included Kegg. Kegg predicts ovulation for trying to conceive purposes only, so I am including it as a bonus comparison. By reading the electrolyte levels in my cervical mucus, it determined that these 3 days were the most fertile days of the cycle. A full Kegg review is forthcoming in December 2020.
This is a resting heart rate chart. Resting heart rate has been shown to correlate with the menstrual cycle. I convert my heart rate like this: 69 = 96.9, 70 =97.0, 71 = 97.1, etc to be able to fit it onto the graph. You can see that it very closely followed my ovulatory pattern.
Here is my chart with all the data in one. It is so cool how different fertility signs draw the fertile window!

Unfortunately, my Mira Fertility sticks were flawed, so I had to remove that data from this experiment. In the future, I will do a comparison post also using this device. I am currently still testing the Kegg device, and a review with full Kegg charts is forthcoming in December. Kegg cannot be converted to display on the Read Your Body app, so I could only include the fertile days in this post.

Do you have any questions about all of these methods?

Consider coming to my free Instagram Live on femtech on November 28th. You can find me @chartyourfertility.

On December 12th, I’m offering a “pay what you can” introduction session that is minimum $5 to $30 USD on regular FABM methods and what the main differences are. Reach out to me if you would like to come.

Finally, a special shout to the Body Literacy Collective and the Read Your Body app for making this post possible by creating the most versatile charting app on the market!

An Honest Review of Proov Progesterone Tests

Are you interested in testing your progesterone at home with Proov?

Proov tests check levels of the hormone progesterone in the urine. Proov tests are an FDA approved product. People who are ovulating produce the hormone progesterone after ovulation. If you are a fertility awareness charter, you can use these tests to double check that ovulation has occurred along with your other fertility signs. If you are seeking to become pregnant, you can use these tests to help see if your luteal phase is sufficient to support a pregnancy.

Here are a few links on recent studies so that you can be more informed about using this product:

Proov is Clinically Validated

Study on Urinary Hormones and Progesterone

Study on Proov Combined with Fertility Awareness Methods

Study on Combining Proov with Clearblue

I have personally been using Proov for over a year and a half now. It is a regular part of my fertility awareness routine that I use to avoid pregnancy.

This is my Read Your Body chart. The yellow plus signs are for LH (luteinizing hormone) positives. The blue plus sign is for Proov test positives. On this chart, I got a positive LH (luteinizing hormone test) on Day 18 and a positive Proov test on Day 21.

My most common day to get my first positive Proov is approximately 3 to 5 days after a positive LH test. I love having Proov as a crosscheck so that I can have an extra way to confirm ovulation. I like having a ton of data in my fertility awareness routine. While there is currently no official protocol for confirming with Proov tests (outside of Marquette method tentative guidelines), you can use them as a part of your fertility awareness routine regardless of your intentions. You should still rely on the fertility signs in your method rules while using Proov.

For those trying to conceive, the tests can be used around 7 to 10 days post ovulation (counting from peak day, temperature shift, or positive LH depending on what you are charting). If the tests are positive, this is a good sign that your progesterone is high enough when implantation is most likely.

I used it 7 to 10 days past my first positive ovulation test to see if my progesterone levels were high enough in the last part of my cycle. Ideally, for conception purposes, you want to see positive Proov tests on days 7 through 10.

These tests are also useful for people with irregular cycles or tough cervical mucus patterns because they can help you know if you have indeed ovulated.

Proov also has an app that can help you read your tests, including LH tests. It recently updated to include numeric values. This makes the data even more meaningful! Some people struggle reading Proov, and the app is definitely useful for those people.

I highly recommend trying Proov if you are curious about your progesterone! For now, I have decided to make Proov a permanent part of my avoiding pregnancy fertility awareness routine.

Want to try Proov after reading my review? Please use this referral for $5 off Proov. Thank you!

Top 3 Charting Mistakes When Beginning Fertility Awareness

I’ve been moderating a rather large Facebook group for fertility awareness charters for over a year and a half now (26,000 members and climbing, join here!), and before that I constantly scrolled through the Kindara community charts very regularly. These experiences in various FAM communities, as well as my certification as a FAM instructor, have alerted me to some common mistakes that new charters make. I outline what these are and how to avoid them in this post.

Mistake #1: Using a Fever Thermometer Instead of a Basal Body Thermometer

Many folks read Taking Charge of Your Fertility and see that we only chart to the first decimal place in Fahrenheit. Then they think that using a fever thermometer is okay since fever thermometers have only one decimal place. This is NOT true. We need the sensitivity of a basal body thermometer with two decimal places. If you are someone who has weak temperature shifts, it is even more important to have the right thermometer! Many people also miss that the original studies that the symptothermal efficacy is based on requires you to take your temperature for three minutes. Almost no fever thermometer does this, and even some basal body thermometers do not. Make sure that you have the correct thermometer that allows you to either take your temperature for three minutes or prewarm the thermometer.

Mistake #2: Overmarking or Undermarking Cervical Mucus Observations

I often see people overmark “watery” type mucus because the vagina is always moist. Other people will overmark “creamy” type mucus even though what they are seeing may be cell slough. While it is definitely better to assume fertility if you are uncertain, this can cause unnecessary abstinence. The solution to this problem is to work with an instructor. The efficacy of the method is based on working with an instructor anyways, and it is generally best to get a professional’s advice on your chart if you are seriously avoiding pregnancy. If you need an instructor, you can find one here.

I also see people undermark cervical mucus. This is the more dangerous of the two mistakes. Many people decide not to pay attention to wiping or walking sensation or view sensation as less important than their visible mucus. Since vaginal sensation is equal to cervical mucus, it is highly important that you also chart your sensation according to whatever method you are following. If there is any change in vaginal sensation, even if you do not see mucus, the fertile window should be considered opened in the pre-ovulatory time of the cycle.

Mistake #3: Following a Hodge-Podge of Methods

The fertility awareness method only works as a form of birth control when the rules are followed very carefully according to an established method. Simply beginning to take your temperature and marking mucus without reading a manual or taking a class is NOT enough for anyone who seriously does not want to get pregnancy. Do NOT rely on social media posts to learn how to chart. It is necessary to really learn what you are doing if you do not want an unintended pregnancy. You can find out about multiple methods by visiting my post on getting started.

An Example of a Symptothermal Chart on Kindara

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.

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.

An Honest Review of Tempdrop

Are you looking to simplify your basal body temperature charting routine? Is getting up in the morning just too hard to remember to take your temperature? Read on!

There are currently a few wearable basal body thermometers on the market such as iFertracker, Ava, and Tempdrop. In this blog, I will review the Tempdrop device. If you decide to purchase, use this link and get 10% off the device. This discount only works on the Confidence and Freedom Packages.

tempdrop

Tempdrop is a wearable basal body temperature thermometer that came onto the market in 2017. Rather than setting an alarm, you 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 people 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 15 days (as of March 2020), the algorithm will kick in. (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). By day 60, the device will only change and make improvements to the last 2 temperatures taken.

PROS

  1. Helps Women Practice the Sympto-Thermal Method: 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. This is a big game changer for people with irregular sleep schedules. It can make your mornings much easier. 
  4. Helpful Facebook Group: You may join the Tempdrop Facebook group for support and charting help. They have detailed units about how to use this device to achieve or avoid pregnancy. There are multiple spin-off Tempdrop groups that you may want to explore as well.

CONS

  1. Price: Tempdrop Basic Package is $159 (12 month warranty). Tempdrop Confidence Package is $199 (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 (scroll to the end of this to get 10% off the device). 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 Temperatures: If you are the anxious type, you may not like the last few temperatures 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 temperatures is not a problem.

In 2020, Tempdrop released their own app. I do NOT recommend using it to interpret your data for you. It is quite expensive, and it does offers to interpret your data for you. The best app is one that lets you make all the decisions instead of forcing you into certain rules that may not fit your chosen method.

Here is an example of the Tempdrop app:

Screenshot Image

Source: Google Play Store

Instead, I recommend using Read Your Body app which is only $15 USD a year and empowers you to read your own fertility signs! It automatically syncs with Tempdrop. This is my top recommendation if you are determined to use Tempdrop for avoiding pregnancy. It is entirely customizable down to the cervical mucus categories and incredibly diverse custom data. See my blog on using this app for 7 different types of fertility methods and devices.

cycle 53_1701120622760017610480320543813112..png

My Original Experience with Tempdrop in 2018

I used the Tempdrop device for almost 12 months. I found my oral temps to be more predictable and more steady when observing my own trends over time. I get very steady 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% off the device. This discount only works on the Confidence and Freedom Packages.

Full disclosure: I will get a $10 USD kickback if you use my coupon. Thanks for using it!

Read More

Why Fertility Awareness Can Be a Feminist Choice

In this blog, I’m going to refute some of the arguments against fertility awareness. At the risk of losing some of my audience immediately, I have included the word feminist in this blog title. A while back, I got into an argument in a Facebook comment section with someone who was offended by this article that questioned the pill and it’s effect on women. The argument went nowhere fast, but it got me thinking.

In many circles, questioning the birth control pill is tantamount to attacking women’s rights. I have been told that I’m not a good feminist if I don’t support the pill. As someone who fully supports women and their choices, and as someone who only wrote about women in my graduate degree (I did a lot of gender studies topics), this assertion really hurts.

I know that the birth control pill changed many people’s lives. It brought women into the public sphere more than ever before. Women could now work and have sex without fear of pregnancy. It is considered a great achievement. What’s better than that?

The problem is that not many women are not fully informed about what their birth control options are before being put on the pill. In addition, women are put on the pill for reasons other than birth control (things like heavy bleeding, endometriosis and PCOS). However, we now know there there are alternative forms of birth control, and that the pill does not treat gynecological conditions (it masks them).

I was put on the birth control at age 15. I suffered from heavy bleeding, and mostly my mom just wanted me on it out of pregnancy fears. My doctor did not give me any information about the pill or expected side effects. (Some may point out that the packet comes with information, but freshman year aged me from high school did not think to read my birth control pack in depth). I was switched between at least 4 different types of birth control that I remember. The pill gave me migraines with aura (which I recently learned means I should have gotten off of it immediately, there is a link with having a stroke and migraines with aura while on the pill). I would lose vision while at work and had other disturbances in my vision. I also had pretty regular nausea, weird bleeding, depression, and digestive issues.

When I came off the pill for the first time at age 21, everything felt different. My emotions felt different, and my relationships changed. However, I was left with little alternatives for contraception. To me, taking the pill had become synonymous with being responsible, and I felt like I was failing at being a responsible woman and controlling my fertility.

At the same time, I felt so great coming off of it that I knew it wasn’t an option for me any longer. I felt truly like myself for the first time. One line in particular from a short film called Birth Control Your Own Adventure really resonated with me. This film is about how one woman struggles to find the right hormonal birth control. At one point a friend asks her, “How do you even know who you are if you’ve always been on the pill?” And, truly, I don’t think I knew myself while I was on it.

In my search for a better birth control, I stumbled upon fertility awareness methods. I found out that it was possible to track my cycle and determine daily whether I was infertile or infertile. Charting my cycle helped me learn when to expect a period. I had no idea that you could literally count high temperatures after ovulation in order to know when to expect a period. This feeling felt revolutionary, and I wanted to tell everyone.

When I try to share the joy I have found in this method, I often hear a few retorts. I’ve listed a few below along with my responses to these arguments.

The Arguments Against Fertility Awareness

  • Why should I have to plan sex? It seems kind of sexist that you expect women to wait to have sex at certain points in their cycle. On the pill, I can have sex whenever I want.

With fertility awareness methods, you don’t really have to “plan” to have sex. You can, however, choose to have unprotected sex during the infertile times of the cycle. If you are using a secular form of fertility awareness, you can also use condoms or other barriers during other points of the time in the cycle (keeping in mind that these barrier methods have their own efficacy rates).

I think it’s also worth noting how often the average couple has sex. A 2017 study found that the average American couple only has sex once a week. My window for abstaining or using backup protection is only about 9-11 days long. That’s a little over a week and a half a month. (I’m aware that some women have longer fertile windows. This aspect of fertility awareness is very individual and based on your own unique cycle). So, are these women really missing out on having unprotected sex a little less often?

Finally, yes, you can have sex on the pill whenever you want. However, the pill has been known to lower women’s libido and testosterone. Read this article to find out more. So, while you can have sex any time you want on the pill, doesn’t quality of sex matter? You can still have sex pretty often while using fertility awareness, and you may find you enjoy it more too.

  • This method seems really irresponsible. It only takes one time for a woman to get pregnant. What if she decides to have sex in her fertile window?

If someone is fully informed and taught by an instructor, they will know when their fertile window is. Yes, it only takes one time to get pregnant but if you are using fertility awareness, you know when that window is. If she decides to have sex in her fertile window, she may consider a barrier method. Anyone who has sex during their fertile window should be cognizant of the risks of pregnancy. By the way, at a typical use rate of 91%, someone could also have sex in their fertile window without knowing it while on the pill. At least fertility awareness lets women know what is going on in their own body.

  • Isn’t that a super religious method? I don’t care for that. It’s my body and I can have sex when I want.

Natural Family Planning is based in religious teachings. Fertility Awareness is not. Women can pick what they feel comfortable with based on their intentions. You can also still learn from NFP resources even if you aren’t religious. The method works the same regardless of any ideology attached to it.

  • Isn’t that like the rhythm method? You can ovulate at any time!! That’s not gonna work!

No, it’s not. There are many scientific studies on fertility awareness. Here is one. Here is a recent article reviewing all the studies done on FAM.

Women cannot ovulate at any time. Once ovulation has been confirmed in cycle, it is almost totally impossible for it to happen again. Some people say, “What about superfetation??” This is so rare, and almost impossible to prove. If you are confirming ovulation with a double check method, then you can be safely assured that ovulation will not happen again. At the beginning of a cycle before ovulation is confirmed, it could happen at any time. However, there are rules to follow so that women know when to stay protected.

The typical use rates of fertility awareness (when abstinence is practiced in the fertile window) is higher than the typical use rate of the pill. See my about section for more information.

  • But women need the pill for medical conditions, you know like endometriosis? Do you want women to suffer?

Obviously, I don’t want that. What’s important to know here is that the pill doesn’t actually treat endometriosis, or PCOS, or anything else really. It just masks the problem. If you have extreme period pain, you need expert care. The pill may mask problems that would eventually hurt a woman’s health and fertility. In particular, I want to note that if you are suffering from endometriosis, there is help. Join Nancy’s Nook Endometriosis Education to learn what your options are. For PCOS, Alissa Vitti is a great resource. Here is her website.

  • Isn’t it kind of anti-feminist of you to promote this? Women should be able to control their fertility however they choose.

Ah, my favorite question. I do agree that women should be able to control their fertility however they want. My whole shtick is that they should be fully informed in order to make this decision. With the dearth of good sexual education programs in the USA, almost no one is informed enough. Even doctors aren’t informed enough. Many only take one measly birth control class. Fertility awareness instructors do more than that, and they aren’t even in medical school. If more women knew that fertility awareness methods actually worked, they could make the decision to learn more about their body. I believe that all women should learn about fertility awareness methods as soon as they have their first cycle. It is so useful for girls to know what’s going on in their bodies!

I also argue that we have a #righttoovulate. I saw Dr. Lara Briden post this hashtag a while back, and I love it. Ovulation is amazing. And actually, I think it’s sort of anti-feminist to take that away from women, especially if they don’t understand what they are missing. Women are only fertile for around 24 hours a cycle (men’s sperm life makes up the rest of the fertile window). This is such a small window. Don’t we deserve the benefits of ovulation? Read Dr. Lara Briden’s article, “Ode to Ovulation” to learn more. In addition, some people have argued that it takes 7 years to develop fully healthy hormonal cycles, shouldn’t we be able to do that too? Putting women on birth control when they are young prevents so many of those benefits.

**I will note that I understand that hormonal birth control can be invaluable in domestic violence situations, or when a woman really cannot do FAM, or is forced on HBC for unrelated medical conditions. I just want the average woman to know that she has other options.

What's more feminist than fully owning and living in your own body, while also avoiding pregnancy and planning it as you choose_

Conclusion

Most of the arguments against FAM are from uniformed people who don’t know what they don’t know. Fertility Awareness is actually feminist, and it’s certainly not anti-woman. It allows women to take control of their own fertility (here’s a great book on that). What’s more feminist than fully owning and living in your own body, while also avoiding pregnancy and planning it as you choose? Why should women subdue their own fertility when their fertile window is so short?

Do you want to learn more? Visit my other articles and reach out to me.

Top 3 Fertility Awareness Mobile Charting Apps

One of the first steps many women take when starting their charting journey is downloading a period app. However, not all apps are created equal. A quick search in the app store comes up with dozens of apps. Sadly, very few of them are suitable for those using NFP or FAM. Most are just forms of the rhythm method, an unreliable from of birth control that comes up with predictions based on past cycles. My review only includes apps that allow women to track cervical mucus and basal body temperature–the two main signs in SymptoThermal Methods. I also tried to only pick apps that allowed self-interpretation. Learning how to interpret your own fertility signs is vitally important when charting.

1. Kindara

kindara2

Available on Android and iPhone.

Perk: The iPhone version allows users to share their whole chart.

Con: The Android version is known to be considerably more glitchy than the iPhone version. On Android, users can select “Share This Chart” and “With Community” to access a screen where they may screenshot their own chart.

Cost

Perk: Free Version Available

Con: Vaginal Sensation and more than four categories are extra. Premium version is $4.99 USD/month or $49.99 USD/year

 

SymptoThermal Rules Interpretation

Perk: I don’t know if Kindara has a monopoly on self-interpretation or what, but it’s one of the only apps to allow users to interpret and mark their own peak day and temperature shift. It also lets users mark their own coverline. This means that Kindara is good for those using a method like Taking Charge of Your Fertility (which has a higher coverline) and those using Sensiplan (which has a lower coverline). Lastly, Kindara has a very easy to read, clear chart. This is so important for users, and for those helping them.

Predictions

Kindara also does not predict fertile windows unless the user is trying to conceive (I recommend ignoring these even if trying to conceive. It is always best to do your own interpretations or ask an instructor if uncertain). It will predict menstruation based on average luteal phase length once it has enough data.

Other Features:

  • Users may share charts and get feedback from the community
  • Counts days past ovulation when shift is marked
  • Cervix Tracking (Height, Openness,Firmness)
  • Sex Tracking (Protected, Unprotected, Withdrawal, Insemination
  • OPK and Pregnancy Tests Tracking
  • Journal Available
  • Pairs with Wink Thermometer (syncs with the app via Bluetooth)
  • Emojis can be used in custom data

2. Fertility Friend

fertlity friend

Available on Android and iPhone 

Pro: Fertility Friend appears to work equally well on Android and iPhone

Cost

Pro: Free, paying is not necessary to be able to chart.

Con: VIP membership available starting at $9.99/month. This is a little expensive. The community sharing feature is only available to those who pay.

SymptoThermal Rules Interpretation

Perk: Coverline can be overridden under settings.  There are options to chart cervical mucus and temperatures.

Con: The app automatically interprets. For new users, this may be confusing. 

Predictions

Fertility Friend does predict fertile windows, period days, ovulation days, and a recommended test day for pregnancy. As always, users should rely on their own interpretations and get help from an instructor if needed.

Other Features:

  • Cervix Tracking (Height, Openness, Firmness)
  • Pregnancy and OPK tracking
  • Ton of Options for Mood, Health, Diet
  • Options for IVF, A.R.T., and Fertility Medication Tracking
  • Weight Data
  • Lightbox (With VIP compare photos of OPK and HPT tests)
  • Chart Overlay (Compare multiple cycles on one chart)
  • Sex Tracking (no option to differentiate unprotected versus protected)

3. OvuView

ovuview

Available on Android Only

Con: Pretty much the fact that it isn’t available on Apple products

Cost

Perk: Free (but with ads). One time payment of $4.99 to remove all ads. This is the cheapest app with the most features for custom tracking.

SymptoThermal Rules Interpretation

Perk: You can pick from multiple methods. Users may turn methods on and off.

Con: No self interpretation available. I have included it because unlike any other app that I have come across that interprets for users, the methods can be turned off. Users may play around with the methods to see if they can mark their chart according to their method’s rules. Turning off all settings would leave a chart for the user to interpret themselves even though they can’t self-mark.  Another con is that the temperature scale is very hard to read. Make sure to round or drop your temps. Ovuview may not always do this correctly.

Predictions

Ovuview predicts future fertile windows, ovulation days, and periods. Users should ignore this in favor of self-interpretation.

Other Features:

  • A ton of custom tracking like medications, moods, weight, etc.
  • Syncs with the Tempdrop device (This is wearable BBT. My review is coming soon. Full disclosure: this link earns me ten dollars if you use it to purchase the device)
  • Cool design. Users can choose their own chart colors, background, custom data colors, etc.
  • Cervix Tracking (Position, Opening, Texture)
  • OPK and Pregnancy Test Tracking
  • Fertility Monitor Tracking (None, Low, High, Peak)
  • Sex Tracking

Conclusion

There are limited options for self-interpretation when it comes to FAM apps. The three apps above are the best I’ve found when it comes to self-marking.

Look out for my next blog on how to chart using Google Sheets. I’ll be creating a Youtube video on how to do this yourself. This method of charting allows self-interpretation, custom data tracking, and users can chart on their computer or phone.

Google Sheets

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