Let's start this Q&A series with the basics: What's Fertility Awareness? How does it work for Birth Control? For getting pregnant?
There are several methods of Fertility Awareness that use the same basic principles. They all work by identifying the days a woman can get pregnant, and the days she can't. I teach the Justisse Method, which is a symptothermal method of Fertility Awareness.That means women learn to look at "symptoms" (cervical mucus secretions, changes in cervical position) and "thermal" information (temperature).
You may have heard of the "rhythm method," or other systems of natural birth control based on counting cycle days. Fertility Awareness methods are not related to these methods in any way. If a method is based on a woman's past cycles or on average cycles, it's using guesswork. Fertility Awareness operates in the present, determining the fertile phase of each cycle by checking fertility signs every day. As a form of birth control, the Justisse Method is 99.6% effective.
If you have irregular cycles, not to worry. Most women have at least one slightly longer or shorter cycle every year. That's why it's so important to use current information - it's those months that are a little off the average numbers when you can have an accidental pregnancy, or miss your chance to conceive. If you tend to have very irregular cycles, you'll probably appreciate that Fertility Awareness charting will help you understand when your next period is on the way. Charting can also help you figure out why your cycles are irregular, and show you how your reproductive health improves as you treat any hormonal imbalance issues.
The Justisse Method is excellent for women who have recently given birth, come off birth control pills, are breastfeeding, or are in perimenopause. Charting your fertility signs gives you insight into your returning or your changing cycle and helps you take even better care of your reproductive health.
Charting your fertility signs with the Justisse Method of Fertility Awareness allows you to avoid pregnancy naturally. Your body gives signs every day that tell you whether or not you can conceive that day, taking the mystery out of your cycle. You can decide to abstain from sex during the fertile phase of your cycle (usually about 6-10 days), or use barrier methods during this time. If you abstain during your fertile phase, the Justisse Method is 99.6% effective for birth control, similar to hormonal methods. Hormonal birth controls usually stop your body from ovulating, so you don't have any chance of intercourse and ovulation happening at the same time. Fertility Awarenessshows you when you're ovulating, so you can decide yourself not to have intercourse at that time, without interfering with the healthy process of ovulation and menstruation. (See this Q&A entry for a brief explanation of how ovulation and menstruation are healthy and health-promoting.)
This method of birth control gives you confidence that you won't get pregnant when you don't want to, but that you can if you want to conceive in the future. It iscompletely safe. It helps you become healthier, instead of raising concerns about negative impacts, which is an issue many women have with other methods of birth control. It allows you to work in harmony with your body's brilliant, healthy cycle of fertility instead of seeing it as a danger.
And for getting pregnant...
Charting your fertility signs with the Justisse Method shows you whether you're ovulating, and when, so you know on which days intercourse can lead to conception. The health of your hormonal balance is reflected on your chart too, so you can get an idea of what might be making it difficult to get pregnant.
If you turn to health-promoting therapies like dietary changes, herbs, acupuncture, and exercise to improve your reproductive health, their effects will be visible to you on your next month's chart. You can witness your improving fertility as it unfolds.