At a meeting with a colleague who is also a FAM user, an interesting question came up: to what extent do we, as FAM users and enthusiasts, have an ability to spread the method as a means of birth control without taking on responsibility for that person, potentially a close friend, using it properly and correctly? Should the introduction be reserved for certified instructors?
These are all important questions to consider. I believe that certified FAM instructors are not the only ones who can spread the good news. Those people do play a critical role in teaching FAM thoroughly and helping interpret a cycle professionally. But just because someone doesn’t have easy financial or geographical access to a teacher who has studied to achieve that level of professional accreditation doesn’t mean that they can’t learn the method for themselves after an unofficial introduction. Many FAM users did hear about the method via word of mouth. The key is making sure your introduction setup is safe and covers the necessary bases.
A few key points to keep in mind:
0. No judgment, no pushing
If the person isn’t enthusiastically inquiring for more information, stop. Do not proceed to point one, do not pass go, do not collect $200. ;)
FAM is appropriate for women when and if they decide it is. If they aren’t open to it, no problem! The last thing you want is for FAM to become associated with “those really aggressive anti-birth control activists who try to tell me my decisions are wrong.” You may have planted a seed by the mere mention that will be watered by the next friend who mentions it, or the next media story… who knows. But pushing any birth control philosophy on any woman is the opposite of what we’re looking for.
1. Focus on the center: charting cycles
The core of FAM is bodily awareness. Many people are drawn to it for birth control, but soon realize the many other benefits of knowing what’s happening in their cycle. That’s a solid message to start with. Outside of birth control methods that curb hormonal cycles totally, people can chart their cycles in tandem to whatever methods they are using, merely to gain empowering insight into what’s happening in their bodies.
2. Share it as an added tool, not an all or nothing
Once someone is charting and getting to know their cycles, it can enhance their other methods of birth control. You aren’t clean sweeping their own methods and plan with your conversation. Some people I talk to are doing things like guessing when they ovulate (because getting pregnancy wouldn’t be tragic, because they’re trusting some loose interpretation of the rhythm method, or because they just don’t know any better) and using a condom or the pull out method at that stage. Other people are using a condom or other barrier method all the time, which is an overly safe bet but not a move reflecting much cycle literacy.
FAM can add another tool, with no added risk, to either of those practices. Fertile days can be abstinence days – either fully, because enjoy the build up from the period of restraint, or creatively, as there’s a lot that can be done without penis actually entering the vagina – or they can be “protected days.” This super cool New York Times story graphs MANY forms of birth control, several of which can be used in tandem with FAM.
3. Ease into it
People should chart 2 or 3 cycles well and completely before even considering FAM a method of birth control. The method, used well, is not learning to chart. The method is using your complete understanding of your pattern and confirming ovulation without question. This method should not be used on it’s own until the individual knows their cycle well and can follow “the four rules,” especially if coming off of hormonal methods. That means that people need to understand the four rules, and stick to them carefully.
4. Those Rules!
You don’t want anyone getting pregnant the month after you tell them about this awesome birth control method and they go research it to some unknown extent. If ALL four rules are followed, they can’t. Make sure you bring that to the table if they’re asking you about the method seriously.
1 – First 5 Days Rule
The first five days of your period are infertile if you confirmed ovulation with a temperature shift in the previous cycle.
2- Dry Day Rule
You are infertile the evening of each day you observe no cervical fluid.
3 - Temperature Shift for 3 Days Rule
You are infertile the evening of the third consecutive day that your temperature has shifted and remained above the coverline.
4- Peak Day + 4 Rule
You are infertile the evening of the 4th day after your peak day of cervical fluid (which is the last day you observe cervical fluid).
Check out this post for more important details on the 4 rules.
5. Provide resources
Unlike sharing other great forms of birth control, “ask your doctor” might not be the best starting point with FAM. Often, these methods are not even taught in medical school. The rhythm method has given it a bad reputation, and many doctors don’t know the symptothermal method well. Others shy away from recommending it since the doctor’s office isn’t the best place to learn an entire system of confirming infertile days (for the same reasons we might hesitate to tell a friend, realistically… a doctor, under the current medical system, might have less time with a person than you do on a coffee date!).
People should definitely communicate with their doctors, but they should come in prepared and be responsible for their own education. Some starting points for more info:
This Kindara blog provides a great list of sites, people, and organizations, and is a great resource in itself. A few other leads: