Recently I asked my instagram followers for their questions around natural birth control and the ins and outs of Fertility Awareness. We got a lot of juicy ones! Here are the first few and stay connected for more!
Why does FAM get such a bad rep? How accurate is it really?
- In most mainstream sources FAM is used as an umbrella term and includes various types of fertility awareness, including the rhythm or calendar method. These are based on counting days and don’t take into account the subtle differences between women, and between cycles. They have a high failure rate.
- Symptothermal methods of FAM (ie those that use 2 or 3 bio-indicators: basal body temperature, cervical fluid, and cervical position) have been found to have a perfect-use rate of 99.4-99.6% and an effective use rate of 98.2%. This comes from the Frank Hermann study, 2007.
- Unfortunately we do not have a lot of scientific studies and everyone in the FAM world wants more! We need to ask the question, who would fund a study that empowers women to take charge of their bodies and their fertility? No pharmaceutical company will benefit and they won’t fund the studies like they do for their own products.
- Doctors are not learning basic female physiology in medical school. Misogyny in the medical industry is still an issue in 2019 and most medical schools have not caught up with the latest scientific research. The female hormonal cycle is still viewed as something to be suppressed rather than understood.
Ok, so how does it work?
STMs of FA are based on a few facts
- Ovulation happens once per cycle and takes a maximum of 48 hours (this accounts for multiple egg release during a single ovulation event).
- Ovulation causes progesterone production. Without ovulation, there is no progesterone present in the body. Progesterone warms the body by 0.2-0.4C.
- In the right conditions (cervical fluid), sperm can live for up to 5 days. Without cervical fluid sperm will live for about 4 hours
- That makes a maximum of 7 days within the female cycle that a couple can achieve pregnancy. This is known as the fertile window. STM’s add a few days as a double-check. (In my last 30-day cycle, for example, my fertile window was 12 days. I had 18 “safe days”)
- Ovulation cannot be predicted, only confirmed retroactively. The opening of the fertile window is determined by cervical fluid observations and the closing is determined by both cervical fluid observations and a sustained temperature shift.
If you can’t predict ovulation, how does cervical fluid mark the opening of the fertile window? And what are the changes in cervical fluid in the cycle?
Pro-tip: to really understand how FAM works, we highly recommend using a qualified instructor. This is not a comprehensive guide to contraception! Especially when it comes to pre-ovulatory unprotected sex you want to practice caution until you are confident. Many couples who are serious about avoiding pregnancy do not use pre-ovulatory safe days at all or may use the 3-day or 5-day rule (an instructor can help you with these rules)
- Because we can’t predict ovulation, all pre-ovulatory cervical fluids are considered fertile and may provide nourishment for sperm
- The “standard” fluid cycle is: menstruation > dry > sticky > creamy > egg white > watery > dry > menstruation
- Everyone is different and may not experience all these types and that’s ok. What we are really looking for is an increasing quantity and for it to become clearer and more liquid the closer it is to ovulation. This reflects the rising estrogen in the body in the preovulatory phase
How do you not have sex in your fertile window, because that’s all I want to do?
Estrogen, the dominant hormone in the build-up to ovulation, is an excitatory hormone that makes us want to have sex – there’s no denying it!
- Barrier methods and withdrawal (“the pull-out” method) are both legitimate options to use during your fertile window. But remember, any method failure during this time is not considered a failure of FAM and each has its own effective use rate. Pro-tip: there are ways to make barrier methods and withdrawal more accurate and “perfect” your techniques! Check out my last blog post for more details on these.
- Sex is not defined by a penis penetrating a vagina. When it comes to sex, let your creativity come out to play. Personally, I have found that not only does estrogen increase my sex drive, but it also enhances my imagination and willingness to explore new things. Pro-tip: look into ways for making non-penetrative sex more exciting than a couple of teenagers: sex toys, role play, power play, kink, BDSM, mutual masturbation, etc
- Get to know your butt – sometimes I think we were given two holes for this exact reason! I haven’t seen any science to prove the effectiveness of butt sex as a contraceptive method and I would recommend being cautious of the proximity between butthole and vagina. However, it is something my and partner and I use frequently during the fertile window. Remember, any fluids that touch each other could potentially lead to pregnancy! Pro-tip: as soon as he ejaculates inside of you, immediately make sure that gravity helps it flow away from the vagina ie. if you’ve been lying on your stomach during sex, turn over onto your back so it’s flowing down. Also – go sit on the toilet ASAP and get it out!
This leads perfectly into the next question: How to prepare for butt sex to ensure it’s pain-free and fun?
- Practice on your own first! This takes the pressure off and you’re completely in control
- Start with toys (on your own and/or with your partner) that are smaller than a penis – like a butt plug. Pro-tip: don’t put anything your butthole that doesn’t have a large base! Unlike the vagina, the rectum doesn’t have a “plug” (the cervix) to stop things getting lost in there so make sure to use toys that are specifically designed for butt play or risk an embarrassing trip to the ER
- Always, always use lube. I use coconut oil because it’s all natural, inexpensive and waste-free but remember, you can’t use oil-based lubes with condoms!
- Communicate! Make sure you and your partner are on the same page the whole time. Make sure they know that YOU are in control. At first, you do all the movement and YOU control the pace and depth until you’re comfortable. Pro-tip: the more you do it, the easier it is and the more pleasurable it becomes. If you don’t do it for a for weeks and it can be tight the first time again!
- Enjoy multiple stimulations. Stimulate your clitoris at the same time to reduce pain and enhance pleasure. You could even use a toy on your vulva or in your vagina as well.
- I think the biggest fear around anal sex, besides pain, is the fear of the presence of poo! I’ll be perfectly honest: I think I’ve had two poop incidents (that I know of!). Once (the first time, phew) was on my own and yeah it was weird! But I just washed it off and try not to think about it too much! The other time was with my partner and honestly, we didn’t discuss it – he went off to shower and I cleaned up a little spill on the sheets. I believe that if you’re in a mature relationship, who wants to venture through the back door, this is just something you’ll handle as it comes. It’s way less of a big deal than you think it is! Pro-tip: if this is something that really stresses you out, you can easily perform an enema on yourself in the shower using a water bottle with a squeeze lid
I personally love anal pleasure and I think it’s a common myth that women don’t derive pleasure from it. It has expanded my capacity for pleasure in a way I didn’t imagine until I got into it. If you’ve been scared to try it for fear of pain or poo-particles, I really encourage you to give it a go. At your own pace.
That’s all for now, stay tuned for more of your questions on using Fertility Awareness for an abundant, pleasurable and easeful sex life!