By Ritika Reddy
The number of women that choose to use natural family planning methods is growing as fertility awareness comes into the spotlight. It’s no surprise that an increasing number of women are interested in learning more about their cycles; tracking your body’s biological rhythms can give personalized insights into your fertility health. As public awareness about natural contraception rises, it’s not just women that will learn about Fertility Awareness Based Methods (FABMs); men will be exposed to these concepts as well (1).
I was curious to find out what men already know about natural contraception and address some of the preconceived notions they may have—so, I turned to some close male friends and family to see what they already knew, and what they would like to learn more about.
Man A: I’m twenty-three, and I’ve been with my girlfriend for three years.
Man B: I just turned thirty-six, and I’m happily married to my wife.
Man C: I’m twenty-eight years old and single.
Man A: Trick question! My girlfriend and I actually had a conversation about this recently. It varies from person to person, so it’s totally individual.
Man B: Honestly, I have no idea. Maybe towards the beginning of the month?
Man C: I’m a little unsure of what ovulation is exactly, but I think it’s when the egg is released. If I had to guess, I would say it happens right before the period.
Man A had it right—each woman’s fertile window is unique, and can be predicted by a number of biological markers. The traditional notion that ovulation occurs on day 14 is outdated: check out this study to learn more (2).
Man A: We use condoms for now. My girlfriend has been considering getting on the pill, but she feels nervous about it.
Man B: My wife has had an IUD for the past year, and before that she was on birth control pills.
Man C: I wear a condom.
Man A: Yes, but I don’t know a lot about it. I know that women are fertile at a certain time in their cycle, and less likely to get pregnant at other times, but I don’t know how women are able to figure this out.
Man B: I think I know what the fertility awareness-based method is. Actually, my wife and I used fertility awareness to get pregnant! I can see how it would be used for the opposite too.
Man C: I don’t know what natural contraception is, but I am familiar with the pill and birth control implants. I’m guessing that Fertility Awareness Based Methods don’t involve any sort of medication.
Man A: I am open to the idea of it, as I know my girlfriend doesn’t want to be on the pill. I’d like to support any choice my girlfriend makes about her body. However, I’d need evidence that it works, because I haven’t really heard much about it. My biggest fear is getting [her] pregnant by mistake.
Man B: I’m not sure if there is any merit to these stories, but I’ve heard a lot of examples where people are really careful using these methods but still get pregnant. I would only use a natural method if I were still open to having another child, even if it isn’t planned.
Man C: I’m not in a relationship right now, but if I was with someone who communicated with me honestly and openly, I would consider it. I don’t know enough about it to make a judgment.
Though it was clear that the men I interviewed did not know some things about women’s health and fertility, their openness to learn and lack of judgment was a pleasant surprise. Though they were slightly skeptical of natural contraception and FABMs, the hesitation came from a lack of knowledge, not a lack of trust in the method itself. The men’s main concern was still getting their partner pregnant despite using a natural contraceptive method. In contrast to popular belief, FABMs are highly effective when used correctly; ACOG states that only 1-5% of women will become pregnant during the first year of perfect use (3). After each interview, I found that the men viewed natural contraception much more favorably. Discussion and education are powerful tools, and speaking to the men in your life about fertility and contraception may result in some great conversations.
About the Author
Ritika Reddy studies Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she worked as an undergraduate researcher studying pain neurofeedback and hormonal mechanisms that affect the brain. She is a passionate advocate for women’s health and education and wishes to pursue a career in business while using her background in science.