You may be thinking there’s just one method of fertility awareness, after all, most of what we see online is about the sympto-thermal method.
In reality there are a ton of different options and all of them are valid choices – it’s up to you to decide what works best for you. Read on to see what the different options are.
There are different categories based on what signs in the body are used to determine fertile versus infertile days, and then within those categories are specific methods that are based on the same signs of fertility, yet have slightly different rules. If you want a reminder of the different signs of fertility you can read about them here.
Which method will choose will depend on how effective you want your method to be, how open you are to pregnancy, and what level of effort you are willing to put in on a daily basis to make it work. Check out some research here on effectiveness of some of the different methods.
Mucus-only methods are just what they sound like; they only use cervical mucus to determine fertile days. As I’ve said many times, mucus is by far the most important sign of fertility, the most stable, and the most reliable.
In order to follow these methods it’s important to learn with a trained teacher because the observational routine is a bit more rigorous since it relies on one sign, however these are highly effective and can be over 99%.
Specific methods that use mucus only are Justisse (yes, the method I teach uses temperatures, but it’s originally based off a mucus-only method and certainly can be used that way if desired), Creighton, Billings, and Two-Day Method.
Sympto-thermal methods use mucus, basal body temperature and the optional sign of cervical position. The Justisse method that I teach is a sympto thermal method, but there are a ton of other methods out there. The most popular is the one based off the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler (often considered the bible of fertility awareness for the general population) and the only secular option besides Justisse.
Other methods are Serena (Canada), Couple-to-Couple League, SymptoPro and others.
Sympto-hormonal means it uses hormone measurements as well as cervical mucus. The only method that does this is the Marquette Method. There is some cost with buying a hormonal monitor and testing strips, but for some this is preferred, and I’ve often seen those in the postpartum period like the extra sign of fertility (although not required of course).
There are many temperature only methods out there, with more and more all the time. If you were going truly temperature only you would have to consider everything prior to the post-ovulation temperature rise to be potentially fertile because temperature readings do not tell you when the fertile phase of the cycle starts, only when it ends.
However, many temperature methods will combine a calendar calculation, for example looking at the earliest temperature rise in the last 12 cycles and subtracting 7 days from that to determine when the fertile phase starts, based on the fact that sperm can only live a few days.
There are also many products out there selling fancy thermometers and telling people that the thermometer is all they need for birth control. While some of these do have a high efficacy rate, I would caution that you don’t need to pay hundreds of dollars for a fancy thermometer, and all of these gadgets and gizmos can give a false sense of security when simply observing your body is all that is needed. Do your research to see if it’s right for you, but really the only thermometer you need can be a simple one bought at the drug store.
Calendar methods are what we would call the Rhythm Method, or those that don’t look at any biological signs of fertility and assume fertility based on what day you are at in your cycle.
There is one calendar method that is researched and studied to be 95% effective for those with cycles always between 26 and 32 days long called Standard Days. If you have any cycles outside of this length you should not use it, and the higher failure rate is because it doesn’t take into account when you actually ovulate and the length of your luteal phase, but simple what day it is on the calendar.
So, which method do you use? Have you tried more than one? The key to success (especially for birth control) is to stick to the rules of the method you are using and not mix and match, since that can be a sure way to make a mistake and get pregnant when you don’t want to be.