Fertility Awareness Methods

Quick Facts

Least effective

Hormone-free

You track your cycle to find out what days you can get pregnant

You need to track and record what you find daily

Don’t have sex or use other birth control on your fertile days

No side effects

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More About the Fertility Awareness Methods

You can use these methods to track changes in your body over the course of a menstrual cycle. This helps you find out which days you are likely to get pregnant. They work by helping you track your menstrual cycle and ovulation (when your ovaries release an egg). These are your fertile days. You can choose to not have sex or to use a barrier method (like a condom) on those days. If you have sex on fertile days or “unsafe” days, you are more likely to get pregnant.

There are many ways to track fertility. These include daily tracking of body temperature, cervical mucus, and the days of your period. Your provider can help you learn more about these methods and support you in making the best choice for you.

How to Use the Fertility Awareness Methods

There are different ways to find out your most fertile days. Choose a method that works for you, or use more than one for better results. Talk with your provider to find out more if you think one of these methods could be the right choice for you. They can help fill you in on the details you will need to know to use these methods.

Breastfeeding Method – Breastfeeding a baby in the first 6 months after giving birth can serve as birth control.  This only works if certain rules are followed.

Standard Days Method (SDM) – Track your periods to find your fertile days. Your cycle must be between 26 and 32 days and always come on time to use this method. There are apps or special beads to help you keep track.

Cervical Mucus – Track the look and feel of your cervical mucus to find your fertile days. It’s best to use this method with the help of your provider so that you learn what to look for.

Two Day Method – This method is based on the presence or absence of cervical secretions. A person checks once a day for secretions in their underwear, on the vulva, or a sensation of vulvar wetness. If there are any secretions “today” or “yesterday”, you are fertile today. If there are no secretions today or yesterday, you are not likely to get pregnant if having sex today.

Basal Body Temperature – Take and record your temperature each morning before you get out of bed.

Symptothermal Method –  Track several of the signs your body gives that let you know when you are fertile. This can mean using more than one of these methods at the same time.

Natural Cycles – Track your cycle with the first FDA-approved app. You measure your basal body temperature in the morning and enter it in the Natural Cycles app. The app’s algorithm uses temperature, period, and cycle data to tell you whether this is a fertile day or not.

A circular chart showing days 1 to 7 as menstruation infertile, days 8 to 19 as fertile, and days 20 through 26 to 32 as infertile

Effectiveness

Fertility awareness methods range in their effectiveness.

  • About 77-98% effective with typical use. This means that on average, 2 to 23 out of 100 people using these methods will get pregnant in a year. You can improve effectiveness by:
    • Talking to your provider about finding methods that work for you.
    • Following the methods and tracking changes in your body every day.
    • Using abstinence or other birth control, like condoms and spermicide, on your fertile days.

 

Donut chart with three segments. The caption says "76 to 88% effective with typical use"

Benefits

  • Hormone-free.
  • There are no side effects.
  • It helps you really get to know your body and how it works.
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Limitations

  • It takes more work than other methods. You need to look for and record your body’s cues. E.g., changes in temperature, cervical mucus, and mood.
  • You need to have regular periods to use the Standard Days Method.
  • You need to abstain from sex on fertile days to avoid pregnancy. Or, you can use a barrier method like condoms. You should plan for at least a week each month when you don’t have sex or use a backup method.
  • It doesn’t work as well if you’ve just stopped using a hormonal method or an IUD. It takes a while for your body’s cycles to return to normal. Talk to your Family PACT provider to learn more.
  • You and your partner both must be 100% on board in order to use these methods. It takes more cooperation than most other kinds of birth control.

Family PACT Coverage

If you are eligible, Family PACT covers Fertility Awareness Methods. A provider can talk with you about how to use these methods and help you decide if it’s the best choice for you. Search for a nearby Family PACT provider: click “Find Providers” in the top right-hand corner of this page.

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