Who's had this conversation before:
You: "I want to avoid getting pregnant right now, but I'm not happy with the pill."
Doctor: "I understand. Let's switch you to this type of birth control instead."
You: "Um...no, I don't want hormonal birth control at all."
Doctor: "Oh, I see. You want an IUD?"
You: "Actually, I started using fertility awareness, and it's..."
Doctor: [Interrupting you while shaking their head] "I'll see you in a month or two to confirm pregnancy."
I practice an evidence-based fertility awareness method, NOT the rhythm method. However, many people, even doctors, still think fertility awareness is a glorified name for the rhythm method. In this article, we will examine 4 Common Myths regarding FABMs and learn the truth behind the misconceptions surrounding natural birth control.
Rhythm Method 101: Definition & History
Roughly 100 years ago, in the 1920s, two scientists in different parts of the world discovered a connection between ovulation and menses. Dr. Ogino (in Japan) and Dr. Knaus (in Austria) found that ovulation, on average, occurs anywhere from 12 to 16 days BEFORE a woman's next period starts. This discovery was exciting news, and the findings began spreading quickly within the medical world.
In 1932, a scientist, Dr. Leo J. Latz, living in Chicago, brought this idea to the general population in America. The term "Rhythm Method" seems to have originated from Dr. Latz's published book, The Rhythm of Sterility and Fertility in Women. In this publication, Latz, utilizing the discoveries of Ogino and Knaus, presented a "fairly predictable" calculation that a woman could use to achieve or prevent pregnancy. If a woman were looking to avoid pregnancy, she would not have intercourse between days 12 to 16 in her monthly cycle (assuming she had a 28-day cycle).
The book quickly gained popularity and had sold over 200,000 copies by 1942. Along with Dr. Latz's book, a new "device" came on the market, The "Rythmeter." The Rythmeter was a hand-held calculator that women and doctors could use to estimate fertile and infertile periods of the menstrual cycle. However, even the inventor of this new device warned women not to use it without having a record of at least nine months of past menstrual cycles. Man, oh, man, now that's commitment!
The rhythm method is no longer considered an evidence-based fertility awareness method (FABM). Present-day FABMs are based on your body's biomarkers, such as bleeding, mucus, temperature, and hormonal indicators in the urine. These methods are backed by sound research and are adaptable to each woman and each individual cycle.
These days, the evidence-based FABMs recognize that calculating the time of ovulation can be tricky. There is no one-size-fits-all calculation. Ovulation varies from woman to woman, and a woman can ovulate at a different time each month. Stress, illness, or interruptions in the normal routine can also alter a woman's cycle.
Effectiveness rates for avoiding pregnancy can be very high—over 98 percent in some studies. However, keep in mind that your effectiveness will be highest only if you follow all the instructions of your method and ideally, if you work with an instructor.
There are three main types (or categories) of FABMS:
People who make this claim are still thinking of the rhythm method. FABMs are all about reading your body's fertility signals directly (by measuring urine metabolites of hormones) or indirectly (by observing symptoms like cervical mucus and basal body temperature). Additional cross-checks to fertility may include the wet or dry sensation while walking and your cervix's position throughout your cycle.
When cycle length changes, chart observations change, and the fertility window then also shifts. A certified instructor will be able to help you navigate your cycle. Women experiencing abnormal cycles due to PCOS, endometriosis, continual mucus, or postpartum may need additional support from their instructor.
Prices do vary, but they aren't all expensive. Many of the price points may depend on if the instruction is being held online or in-person. Prices also vary due to the instructor's training and experience working with clients. You also can find membership models, group coaching, or one-on-one coaching. There is an option available for everyone. FABMs are not a one-size-fits-all just like our cycles are not one-size-fits-all.
Written by: Chavah Brooke Hull, CYC Fertility Coach
1. Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, NSW Government, accessed 25 June 2020, https://collection.maas.museum/object/345735
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