Have you switched from the pill to Fertility Awareness Method?

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By: Nate GriggCC BY 2.0
I’ve been on the combined pill as contraception constantly for 12 years. It was a choice of convenience and availability back in the day, and I’ve just stuck with it after I met the man who became my husband last year. He’s never really had to participate in any contraception decisions with me, because I’d made a default decision before I met him.

We are thinking that kids are definitely in the cards, but not just yet. My husband likes the pill because it is reliable, easy and he doesn’t have to think about it. But I’m really sick and tired of the pill.

I’ve been reading up about fertility awareness methods (Toni Weschler has a great book on this topic) and am being drawn more and more toward this path, first for contraception but then maybe for baby making in the future. But I’m really scared to take the leap, and I’m not sure if our young professional lifestyle fits the method. I like to sleep in on weekends and drink alcohol in the evenings, both of these aspects of my life seem incompatible with Weschler’s advice about taking your temperature.

I’m finding it really hard to work out these two kind-of conflicting aspects of my life: my desire to get off the pill and get to know my body, and our desire to wait before we have a baby. I was wondering how other Offbeat Families readers work out what contraception method is good for them and their partners, and I’d love to hear about your experiences with natural fertility awareness. — Cinnamon Girl

Comments on Have you switched from the pill to Fertility Awareness Method?

  1. I have been using FAM for 2 years and so far no babies (yay!). I used the website Ova Ova for a year (super helpful) to get to know my body. At first I would set an alarm on the weekends, take my temp and then go back to bed. Eventually I really got the hang of knowing when I was ovulating. The only downside I found is sometimes you just aren’t as certain as you are with the pill that you aren’t at risk of being pregnant in a given month. I have had to take more than a few pregnancy tests which can be stressful. To me it’s worth it to not be putting a bunch of hormones in my body all the time, but you should really think about how you will feel if you are a few days late and suddenly get super stressed.

    • My personal experience is that I’m less stressed about a “late” period than if I weren’t charting my cycle. Sometimes because of stress or sickness ovulation can be delayed, and I can actually see that happening via my chart. The time from ovulation to menstruation is always the same, give or take a day, from month to month. So I have had 30+ day cycles where I know I just ovulated late and don’t have anything to worry about. I can also see when I don’t ovulate at all (a rare but possible occurrence) because my temperature doesn’t rise. I had a GYN make me take a pregnancy test when I had a 40-day cycle even though I knew I could not be pregnant because my temperature was still low.

    • Dollar store pregnancy tests can provide great reassurance at low cost!

      Also want to chime in that you don’t necessarily need to wake up to check your temperature, especially if you choose a thermometer that stores the last temp. I had no trouble falling right back to sleep.

  2. I made the switch from oral contraceptives to Fertility Awareness. I felt like I was deciding between what contraceptive I hated the least, and that really doesn’t work for my feelings around my body.

    From what I read and was taught, temperature is not very reliable and wasn’t a big deal, so I didn’t take it. I have very regular cycles that I have tracked for quite a while, so it was pretty comfortable for us. I reached out to a midwife that really helped us understand the best ways to navigate Fertility Awareness, and probably could not have done it without her help. She gave us a lot of options and helped us decide what was best in a bit more holistic way than other providers. I found quite a few midwives and birth centers offer these services. I will say that Fertility Awareness did require a lot more diligence and awareness than other methods, and was occasionally frustrating, but once I got into the swing of things I was much happier. I still had alcohol on the weekends and slept in. I just figured out timing and sequencing that worked for us (with the help of the aforementioned midwife).

    It is worthwhile noting that we were in a place where it was very okay if I got pregnant, though we wanted to wait until I secured a job. Had I not been in that mindset, I am pretty sure my feelings would have been quite different.

    • I don’t think everyone can use this method if they are trying to NOT conceive. Too high of a risk. Condoms aren’t even 100% effective!

      Personally, I think it takes the fun and spontaneity out of sexy time.

  3. My husband and I tried it (briefly). The trouble I encountered is that, by and large, it seems like FAM is largely successful for a particular kind of person and lifestyle – which if you fit into, its great. From what I understand, you’re supposed to take your basal temp around the same time each day to ensure consistency. I don’t know if varying the time can cause actual error, but it advises against it. I’d also recommend that before you start, confirm with your gyno that you do not have any potential issues that could alter results (PCOS, hormonal imbalance, etc). I had an undiagnosed mild thyroid condition that apparantly threw my periods off for quite a while. FAM wasn’t a great option for me for that reason. I got the impression that FAM tends to assume a very minimally medicated, very middle of the road female body. And lots of women just don’t fall within that scope.

    Might I make a gentle suggestion? I don’t know your personal business or reasons for wanting to ditch the Pill, but if you’re looking for something non-hormonal, have you looked at the copper IUD at all? It has none of the hormones of the Pill. I had a tough time getting it because the idea of something foreign inside me for that long was, well, off-putting. But it’s generally safe (and doesn’t weird me out any more than a menstrual cup or tampon). I’m not trying to turn you off of FAM in the least, but it does require a serious investment of time and energy and just might not jive with your lifestyle. I’d say before you start, make sure your doctor clears you for it. I was lucky that I didn’t get pregnant, because I was assuming I had “normal for me” periods when in fact, I had a hormonal imbalance.

    • I heartily second this. A few years ago, I was tired of hormonal birth control. I researched FAM and began practicing it, but I realized that I wasn’t comfortable with it’s reliability. I was at a point where I definitely could not get pregnant, and I personally couldn’t put that much faith in FAM. After more research I ended up getting the Paragard copper IUD. I had a great experience for five years. I just got it taken out so we can try for a baby (woo!!).

      • My doctor told me that FAM is awesome for a lot of women. However, he was VERY adamant about impressing on me that it is NOT that great of a method if you absolutely CANNOT handle a pregnancy right now. He explained that even with 100% perfect usage, there are variables – like stress, sickness, hormones, etc. If you would be okay with pregnancy if it did happen, FAM is awesome. But if you’re dead-set against pregnancy, it’s not the best choice out there.

    • I have PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome) and used FAM to get pregnant to great success – we got pregnant our second cycle after trying. FAM is all about getting to know your body and your cycles, so I think it totally works for any of those things.

      Now that our son is born, I too am looking for ang

      • Sorry, my comment posted before I was done.

        I am looking for a good birth control option as well. I did hormonal birth control for a couple of years and it gave me vulvodynia, so I’m never touching the stuff again. Between the vulvodynia and recovering from a tear in childbirth, condoms feel awful for me. I want to do FAM, but I have to wait until I start my cycle again. Now we’re just hoping I can’t and won’t get pregnant yet, which I realize isn’t the best plan.

    • Thanks for your advice, I hear what you say about FAM and the huge diversity of womens bodies making everyone different.

      A reason that I’m thinking of using natural fertility awareness is because the transition from using it as contraception to trying to conceive looks so seamless, with no trips to a doctor to get anything removed.

      • Your point about the transition between trying not to and trying to is one I hadn’t considered. Also I’m pretty sure that when you stop hormonal BC you should use condoms/barrier method for 2 months until the hormones get out of your system, so this would avoid that.

        Caveat: Your “transition time” could be a LOT shorter than you anticipate! (Some studies say FAM has a 25% failure rate with typical use)

        • Medical advice recommends finishing the cycle of pills you’re on to avoid irregular bleeding, and then its just fine to start trying to conceive. There’s no need to wait a few cycles to ‘clear your system’ and the birth control won’t continue to interfere with your contraception for a few cycles, which seems to be a common misconception. The hormones flush out of your system really quickly which is why you’re in danger if you forget your pills 2 or 3 days in a row

      • This was my thought process when I switched to FAM. I’d been on the pill for years, and it was starting to give me major mood swings, so I wanted to give it up. I took up FAM, not only as a method of contraception, but also as a way to better understand the way my body works.

        And also because I know that I would love to start trying for a baby in the future, and my history of charts and understanding the way my body works is a great tool in making conception seem easier.

        I’ll be honest, even though I usually wake at around the same time, I sometimes sleep in. I just take it when I get up. I use Fertility Friend (who also have a mobile app, which is VERY convenient), and they change the colour of the dots on the chart if you take your temperature earlier or later than expected. But I find very little variation in temperature dependent on time (I stress this – for MY body), but the highlighted dots also help you identify at a glance if one temperature reading could be a little off. But after a while, you really do get to know your body and your cycle, and it makes me feel a lot more confident. And as Jessica said, makes it much easier to predict when your period is expected (one of the things I struggled with most when coming off the pill).

        Another thing I’ll stress, is that when you come off the p ill, it can take MONTHS for your period to come back (it did for me, and many of my friends). So don’t stress that you could be pregnant during this time, this is normal. (I’ll admit, I took a least one pregnancy test during this time, just because I didn’t realise how long it took to get back into a normal rhythm – another thing to consider if you think going off the pill can automatically make you fertile immediately. It’s possible, but not necessarily the case). This was another reason I wanted to use FAM prior to trying to conceive, knowing that I could just switch to trying rather than trying not to immediately, whenever the decision was made.

        I’ve even had friends take up fertility charting when not sexually active as a way to accurately predict when their periods are due. They also find it very helpful.

        So yes, I do love and wholeheartedly support FAM, however, be aware that it is not foolproof, and really shouldn’t be used as a primary method of contraception if you are in a position where you can’t possibly handle a pregnancy right now. My position is that we’re not trying right now, but if I did fall pregnant, that’s fine too. So keep that in mind when making your final decision.

      • Yes. I used it to NOT get pregnant for two years, and then I used it to get pregnant and conceived on the second cycle.

        But my husband and I had decided using FAM for the two years prior to TTC was okay because it would not be devastating if we actually became pregnant.

        Now, once again, we are using FAM. We are using condoms in addition, because although it would not be devastating if I became pregnant, we haven’t decided whether or not we’ll have another child. The condoms reduce the chance of accidents.

        I feel much better when I’m not on drugs for birth control.

    • Not to get too picky, but technically you’re supposed to take the pill at the same time everyday, too!

      I’ve used FAM to conceive my first child and we’re planning on doing it for our second…not sure if I want to use it to PREVENT a child, though…that makes me less certain than having a backup of condoms πŸ™‚

    • These are my concerns with FAM, as well. If I ever stop with the Pill, I’d probably switch to an IUD, withdrawal, condoms, a combination of withdrawal + diaphragm + spermicide…. FAM just does not appeal to me personally. I think a big part of it is that I know that usually women get an uptick in their sex drives when they are MOST fertile, so having to wait until I’m less fertile and don’t even feel like it does not sound appealing to me.

      So far though the Pill works for me!

    • I <3 FAM all over the place, but I agree that it is not always appropriate as a birth control method, depending on your situation. I have PCOS, which means that my body is often "gearing up" for ovulation and then failing to actually ovulate. This means there are a lot of times that I am showing fertility signs (especially fertile-quality cervical fluid) and would therefore be in the "don't have intercourse right now" zone, even though I find out later that I wasn't actually fertile at that time. Like, WAY too many days for it to be practical, since I'd be avoiding intercourse so often. That said, if hormonal birth controls don't feel right to you (they didn't for me after several years on the Pill), you can still choose to use a barrier method or have non-intercourse-sex during times when you are potentially fertile.

      For those who are trying to conceive, FAM rocks. For those who think something might be "off" in their bodies but they aren't sure what, FAM rocks. It can really help you to pinpoint exactly what is going on in your cycle, which is very helpful for your doc in diagnosing any health issues and in timing intercourse to get pregnant. Plus, once you become familiar with your fertility signs, you know your body SO well! I love being able to go to my doctor and say, "I haven't ovulated in X days," or "I just ovulated a few days ago." When I got pregnant, a nurse tried to tell me I was 9 weeks along based on my last menstrual period. I looked her in the eye and said, "Nope, I'm just over 4 weeks!" It's awesome to have my own informed understanding of my body and not rely exclusively on health care professionals.

      Also, to address concerns about the reliability of FAM for birth control, I think it's worth pointing out that most of the stats regarding FAM's success rate are actually skewed to be lower than they should be because they include people who decided not to follow the principles of FAM (i.e. have intercourse when they knew they were likely fertile) as "user error" rather than "intentional choice to not use the method." This makes FAM look much less reliable than it is… Like if someone usually uses condoms most of the time, but they decide not to one time, and then get pregnant. We wouldn't blame the condom, but for some reason those instances tend to get rolled into the stats for FAM because it is harder to measure exactly whether someone was using it improperly by choice or by mistake. Once you have a solid understanding of how your cycle works, the lifespan of eggs/sperm, and the signs to look for… AND you have internalized the rules for charting and making decisions regarding intercourse, it would be VERY unlikely to have a pregnancy that was a total accident. It's more like, "Well, I cheated a bit on the rules because the risk of getting pregnant wasn't super high, and it turns out I got pregnant."

      All in all, FAM is a good deal of work to wrap your head around at first, but it is an incredible long-term solution to managing your fertility in a way that has no harmful effects on your body or the environment.

    • Just as an aside about the Copper IUD – I hated the pill and what it did to my moods and mental state, so I switched to the non hormonal copper IUD in September 2011. It worked great in the “not getting pregnant” department, but the side effects I had were a much longer (8ish days) and heavier period each month. Also, I was actively working out, lifting weights and eating a clean diet and I was completely unable to lose weight. In fact, I held on to more weight around my midsection and even put on about 10lbs in the year and a half I had it in. I had it removed in mid March, and since then have been able to drop about 7lbs, and two inches from my waist. Mind you, I haven’t changed my diet or workout routine at all. So, this is something to consider about the IUD.

  4. I had a similar situation that led to me getting off hormonal birth control and doing fertility awareness. I got on the pill around five years ago and bounced around through the various other forms – nuvaring, depo, back onto the pill, IUD, nuvaring again. And though at first the pill and the ring worked great, the shot made me bleed constantly (and they told me that it might have messed up my system for a while, though “probably” not permanently, which freaked me out). The IUD gave me an ovarian cyst, as well as horrid cystic acne (lovely) and when I got back on nuvaring, I got a cyst in my breast that I had to have aspirated. That was the last straw for me. I was sick of putting these chemicals in my system and not knowing for sure how my body would react and then seeing for sure how it did react … anyway, I started using OvaOva, which came recommended from Offbeat Families, and I’ve been “natural” for several months now.
    I found that overall, the question of taking my temperature at the same.time.every.day kind of averages out because like you, I like sleeping in on weekends and going out at night. But over time, you can see in the OvaOva graphs how that doesn’t affect the software’s ability to track your fertility. Cervical fluid is just as important as temperature – and when you go off the hormones and you’re making the effort to become more aware of what your body is doing, you notice and make mental calculations throughout the month. I should also note: it is likely that your first month or two on the method will look very odd on paper as your body accustoms itself to the lack of hormones and settles back into your natural cycle. My temperatures were allllll over the place πŸ™‚
    Pulling out/condoms is crucial, obviously. So your husband has to be totally on board and supportive of this decision. We are not even close to ready to start our family (a couple years at least, please!), but for both of us, the long-term aspect of my fertility and reproductive health clinched the deal. We would rather be very careful now and risk getting pregnant sooner than we would like because my body is healthy and prepped for that than to stay on hormonal birth control and have health issues and have to worry about how those chemicals will affect my ability to get pregnant when it does come time.
    Hope my experience is useful in your decision making, and good luck with whatever you choose!
    ~isis
    p.s. and whoa, sorry for the novel!!

  5. I stopped taking hormonal birth control (nuvaring) after having been on in continuously for years because my husband was halfway around the world for a few months and I was tired of it. Prior to then, I’d always been in the “yes, I want kids…. someday… maybe when I’m 50. And hopefully we’ll adopt, because pregnancy sounds awful.”

    Four days after stopping the nuvaring, I got hit with babycrack (http://offbeatfamilies.com/2011/01/babycrack) lot a ton of bricks. It was really bizarre how instant and visceral the reaction was, because I really was totally ambivalent about babies and pregancy beforehand, and I am definitely not anymore.

    I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but had I known about it, I probably would have stayed on bc until we were actually ready to have kids.

    • This happened to me too when I stopped- all of a sudden crazy hormones were telling me I wanted kids when I actually don’t want them. At all.

      Back on the birth control pill it is, with the added benefit of drastically diminished babycrack!

    • Going off depo has made me babycrazy. I feel totally alien to myself! I was always ambivalent about babies (happy auntie! Happy teacher! but always happy to give the baby back and sleep in). It was a sudden and intense NEEEEEEEDBABIES kind of feeling. Scary, even.

      It’s mellowed out some, but I still have babies on my mind WAY more frequently than I would like. Babies are not an option at this point, so that makes it even worse.

  6. I used the Fertility-Awareness Method (well, the Billings method specifically) to get pregnant and it worked the first month after temping and charting and all the other methods of Natural Family Planning failed us for months before that. But the temping and charting helped me become aware enough that I could use FAM and feel confident in my ability to read my body.
    That being said, if you do go off of the pill, be aware that you may not feel the same for a bit. You might feel great, and that would be awesome, but I thought I was losing my mind (was on the pill for 8 years) after I stopped taking it. I had some crazy thoughts, urges and feelings (like Chris mentioned above, among others) run through my mind and body in the 6 months I was without the Pill and I got through them, but it was a bit rough for a while.
    Best wishes and good luck finding a method you are comfortable with.

  7. We’ve been using this for our entire 9 year relationship. The only ever slip up was our fault, which is how we got our 6 year old, and our other child was planned via this method.

    I agree with others that you’ll need to be extra careful around wonky cycle-disrupting times. My cycle gets thrown off after major illnesses, major stress, post-pregnancy, post-hormone-changing medicines, etc.

    To me, the big deciding factors come down to priorities. I’m the kind of relentless hippie for whom not being on a hormonal birth control or having any bodily insert is more important than not having a baby. If we had another child, it would probably be tough but also totally okay and even wonderful. If I was strongly against having another child, I might feel differently about it.

    • It’s reassuring to hear that natural fertility awareness hasworked for you for so many years! I am quite concerned about wonky cycles throwing us off track. I have a job that gets stressful and I’ve read in Toni Weschler’s book that this can delay ovulation, making it sometimes difficult to tell when the “safe” time is. This is a big factor why I’m a bit reluctant to start start using this method for contraception.

      What you say about priorities though is important. We’re not against having a baby, but just maybe waiting a year. A big reason that attracts me to this method is that when we do decide we want a baby, that we will be well-equiped with the knowledge of when’s the best time to conceive!

  8. it didn’t really work for me (not that it failed, just that i hated it for preventing pregnancy). i have irregular cycles so until i had confirmed ovulation, i pretty much had to treat the entire time between the end of my period and confirmed ovulation as a potentially fertile period…which, for me, is anywhere from one to about four weeks. treating it as a potential fertile period meant condoms for us, because we couldn’t afford a mistake. and when it comes to contraceptives i hate the least, condoms are not one of them.

    however, i found it to be awesome when we were actually trying to conceive.

  9. Yup. After 14 years on the pill, I couldn’t get my prescription renewed for a few months, so I started FAM.

    I got pregnant two months in. Luckily, Husband & I were already considering kids for our very-near future, so it was just a shift in schedule instead of a catastrophe. But, y’know– these things can–and do!– happen.

  10. I used FAM as birth control for a few years, and found it to be pretty easy – especially once I got a phone app that helped track things. It was nice to get to know my body and to understand what was happening throughout the month. The temperature was tricky some mornings, but it’s combined with cervical fluid, so even if I missed a temp reading, I still had a pretty good idea of where I was in my cycle.

    Of course, early December 2011 I missed a temp reading, thought I knew what was going on, and found out 2 days later that I had ovulated a few days earlier than usual. And now I have an amazingly awesome 8 month old kid. Like any other birth control method, FAM is not perfect. Now I have the Paraguard.

  11. I was on Ortho-Tricyclen-Lo for over four years when I conceived my daughter in 2010 (yes, it does happen!). After delivering her in 2011, I decided that hormonal birth control was not for me. I considered an IUD, but in the end chose Fertility Awareness Method. Because I was breastfeeding, I did not get my first postpartum period until 2012 (two years to the day after I got my positive pregnancy test). I have successfully avoided pregnancy and really enjoy the freedom of no pill. We are not really in a position to have another child right now. We did have one big “oops” with charting last month, and I decided to take Plan B as a back-up. I really like FAM but I know that it is not for everyone. I feel like I know my body so much better since using it, and I feel confident that I am much more in control of my pregnant/not pregnant state than I was while on the pill.

  12. I used the FAM method for several years with complete success. Toni W’s, “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” is a fab resource. I have used the computer software that came with the book to accurately chart my cycles for years. It works really great. The first several months you practice FAM you really do have to be on top of things & make sure you are charting really accurate information, but once you get the hang of it, you will understand your body so much more and if you sleep too late or drink to much one night, it won’t throw off your whole chart. You’ll know how to make sense of it.

    I found FAM to be a really empowering way to take charge of my own body. I took BCP’s for years and had every horrible side effect you can imagine. I also suffered from from PCOS for years and taking BCP’s seem to make my symptoms much worse (despite every typical doctor advising me otherwise). I personally always prefer to do things more naturally anyhow. After changing my diet, going off BCP’s and really paying attention to what my body was doing through FAM, I was able to reverse all my PCOS symptoms and am now expecting our first child (something several doctors told me would possibly never happen).

    I slept with a BBT thermometer under my pillow so as soon as I would wake up it would be right there. My husband even learned to tune out the beeping after a while. For majority of the years I was practicing FAM it was with the intention of trying to AVOID getting pregnant. FAM really does work and is based on science. Once your temp climbs and you are in your fertile phase, you know that you are safe. Your BBT will back you up. I never once had a mistake, but I also took it very seriously.

    I will say, make sure to get a good quality BBT thermometer. Don’t buy the ones they have at Target or CVS. They don’t read accurately. I always ordered mine from either amazon.com or from a “trying to conceive” website (even though thats not what you want it for, you know those ones will work). They were never very expensive. I’d replace them every 6 months or make sure you have extra batteries on hand. If you start noticing really out of sorts, whacky results it could be your BBT thermometer is acting up.

    Good luck with trying it out if you decide to give FAM a shot. I know I wouldn’t be comfortable using any other method.

    • I also have PCOS, and wanted to switch to FAM, but I am afraid because of the issues of irregular cycles and such. Was this an issue for you? Were there any unexpected issues because of the PCOS or was it really easy? I would really love to get more information from you before I take the leap πŸ™‚

      • Not the previous commenter, but I used FAM for about a year when I was trying to get pregnant and I have PCOS. I did feel like it was difficult and wouldn’t be helpful for preventing pregnancy because my cervical mucous was really all over the place. It had a “fertile” consistency most of the month, but my temperatures said otherwise, so it was just really hard to tell when I was going to ovulate. My fingers are also super short so I could never feel my cervix no matter what contorted position I got into. Of course, you may not have that issue. Additionally, since I went six months without ovulating, it was really just sort of a wash. I did eventually get pregnant after a few rounds of fertility drugs and I felt like it helped with that just to let me know that they were working, but I personally wouldn’t it trust it to prevent pregnancy unless you are able to get your PCOS under control to the point where you are having regular cycles.

        • To be clear, I never had trouble actually tracking things, like taking temps, checking cervical fluid and keeping track of all that. I mean, looking at my temps, it was clear that I wasn’t ovulating, but part of the benefits of FAM is being able to predict ovulation and for that to work you actually have to have a cycle, not just six+ plus months of nothing. Or else you’re using condoms all the time (if you’re preventing) because you can never tell when you’re about to ovulate, especially if your cervical fluid is constantly fertile looking.

      • I mention this in an earlier comment, but I’ve been diagnosed with PCOS for almost 14 years, and I got pregnant using FAM right away. I had no problem tracking my cycle. It can be scary, because women with PCOS are far more likely to miscarry. Me personally, I stopped taking the metformin when pregnant because that is what is recommended, and almost immediately started bleeding and was told there was a 50% chance I would lose the baby. After talking to a lot of doctors and doing a lot of research I went back on the metformin and the bleeding stopped. I then had an uneventful rest of my pregnancy, an uncomplicated home birth and a super healthy son. This is obviously just my experience.

  13. Have used FAM for 15 years to avoid pregnancy and its worked great. Have never been on any hormonal contraception so Im not sure how that would effect the first few weeks of transitioning in terms of temp readings.
    Im not great at taking my temp the same time every day but within a 3 hour window works, the important thing is to take it before you do anything else, like as soon as you wake up.
    In my experience once I was in the habit of charting I could see a clear shift in temp readings following ovulation.
    Im also pretty conservative and only have unprotected sex from 2 days after ovulation to day 1 of my cycle.
    Long haul travel will mess with your cycle and there for the temp readings so its not great for folks who travel long distance alot.

    • Yes. I think mentioning using other forms of protection along with fertility management is smart. I’ve only been doing it for 2 and half years, but when I know I’m in my week window of ovulation and we’re feeling racy, we always use a condom. Like the poster above, I only go completely unprotected in the same way she does. I don’t want to take any chances. Also, there are different phone apps, and I love mine.

      I was on the pill for ten years before this. I went off it and my body went a little wonky. My doctor told me I probably wouldn’t be very fertile right away, but conceived my now two and a half year old 10 days after I went off the pill. So, if you decide to go this way, be ready for some wonkiness right at the beginning. However, I feel SO MUCH BETTER not being on the pill anymore. I love, love, love it.

      • I’m gonna echo what these ladies said. I was on BCP for a decade and hated the side effects. So I read TCOYF, which I loved, and tried FAM (upon Ariel’s recommendation, no less!) for a year to get acquainted with my cycle, then used it to conceive, then used it as birth control, then to conceive our second child. At this point I’ve been using it for 8 years successfully. It helps that I have a pretty regular cycle and ovulation pains that tell me exactly when I ovulate (fun times!). My luteal phase is a reliable 13-14 days, so I have a pretty good idea of when I’m going to get my period. I haven’t charted for years, and I use condoms from day 6 of my cycle (since I ovulate on day 14) until 5 days after I ovulate. Any time I’m in doubt about my cycle, we suck it up and use a condom.

        I’m a little embarrassed to admit that before I tried FAM I had much less information about how my reproductive system worked than I thought I did. At this point I’m pretty confident that I’ll never use hormonal birth control again.

  14. I started the pill when I was 16, took it for 3 years, then went to the patch, then went to the NuvaRing, then to the Depo, then back to pills, then the Mirena (terrible idea), which was removed in November 2010. I have been off hormonal BC for 32 cycles!!! It is AWESOME. I feel so much more aware of myself. It’s so nice to allow my body to function normally for a change. Once you get started with FAM, it’s almost a habit. Sure, there are mornings when I wake up late and forget to temp, but it’s not the end of the world. By knowing the other signs (cervical fluid, position and general feeling), I’m able to make conscious choices about whether we need a condom that day. I sleep in on weekends, too! I just simply wake up and temp at 7, then fall back asleep. πŸ˜€ And after a night of boozing, I know it’ll be higher than it should be, but as long as you’re not mistaking that rise for ovulation (ie. you’re aware you drank, and you note it on your chart) you’re in business.

    One recommendation: get a digital thermometer that will store the temp until later. I temp in the morning and record in the evening so I can input all my other daily goings-on at the same time. It’s helpful to keep a really brief journal (think a written, daily snapshot) to help you keep track of stuff. Like, if I had a really stressful couple of days at work, I note that so I’m aware my ovulation may be delayed due to stress. It gets easier the longer you do it. πŸ™‚ I love knowing what’s going on–I can predict to the day (sometimes the hour) my period will start, and I can identify when I’m ovulating and on which side. It’s revolutionary. DO EEEET!!!

    • Yes – definitely get a thermometer that stores the temp. That way on the weekends you can get a reading then fall back asleep immediately, instead of getting up to record things. Small thing, but it matters!

    • Thanks for your positive comment, it’s really reassured me about uing FAM as contraception! I’d love to get to know my body more and FAM seems like a really good way to do this.

  15. I hate, hate, HATE being on hormonal birth control. I don’t eat meat partially due to the added hormones, and yet I add them to my own body? The pill also messes with my cycle in ways nature never has.

    After a year of the pill and 3 missed periods I had enough last March. I talked it over with my bf and switched to FAM using Ova Ova, actually after reading the ad-post on this site. Their site is very pretty and has a lot of good educational info and pictures.

    That said, Ova Ova customer service is terrible. I was charged the annual fee 3 times in a year. Each time I contacted them to remove the charge it took between 3 days and 3 weeks for them to get back to me. To the point that I had to threaten to contact the BBB of Nebraska (where they are located). I will not be using them anymore.

    Aside from that, I stopped using FAM and went back on the pill after about 6 mos. and a scare. I never got good at recognizing a change in my cervical fluid, it all looked the same to me. I did temp every day but I often forgot to record it and then forgot what it was by the time I went to log it. We stayed on condoms every time in addition to FAM because I was just not comfortable enough that I had gotten my reading right.

    I am job searching now so it is really not a good time. We are going to talk about me going off the pill and giving FAM a try again once I have a job and we get engaged.

    • I used Ova Ova as well, and the software never successfully identified ovulation or fertile/ infertile periods. It was a pretty place to chart my information, but if I hadn’t read “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” it would have been useless. Also, the site seems to never have released an app or added a forum.

      I’m due next month (thank you Toni Weschler:) and if we decide to chart again I’ll use the TCOYF software instead.

      It’s helpful to hear everyone’s experiences since hormonal birth control doesn’t work for me, but so far am not confident enough with the Fertility Awareness Method to use it for prevention.

  16. After 18 years on birth control pills, I went off them in favor of FAM and condoms. We weren’t ready for kids yet, so my husband being on board with the change also using condoms sometimes was key for us. Since I was already charting, it was an easy transition to trying to conceive when we were ready.

  17. I’ve been using FAM to try to conceive in the past and we are currently using it even though we are trying to avoid and I would HIGHLY recommend it. That said, it is possible that when you first come off birth control your cycles might be irregular and you will find charting to be frustrating. During that time, I would also use a barrier method if it is imperative that you not conceive right now. (In fact, if it is *imperative* that you not conceive, I would always use two methods of birth control–I’ve just heard too many “oops” stories.)

    My own experience coming off of birth control has convinced me to not ever go back on. My cycles were very irregular for more than a year after having been on birth control for about 10 years. When I talk to my friends who say they are thinking about trying to conceive in the next year or two, I always suggest they consider getting off the pill and using a barrier method while learning FAM so that they can know what their own cycles are like long before they try to get pregnant and also give their hormones some time to regulate, if needed.

    I sleep late on weekends but I just have an alarm set on my phone. It goes off, I take my temp and then I fall back asleep. No biggie. The thermometer saves the temp so I can record it later when I get up. I also drink wine in the evenings and don’t find that it has a big impact on my temperatures. I also have very restless sleep and sometimes don’t get the solid block of sleep that is recommended, but I still see a very clear shift in my temps.

    I say “go for it” but consider a barrier until 1) you really get a handle on your cycles and/or 2) it is truly *imperative* that you not get pregnant right now.

    • Yes I have heard that a barrier method is important when you are just starting out and getting the hang of charting cycles, thanks for your advice on this.

      If we did get pregnant early on it certainly wouldn’t be a big problem. The reason we are thinking next year will be the time to start trying is only because we’d have paid off a bit more of the mortgage by then and enjoyed being married just the two of us.

  18. After reading this question when it submitted to us, I immediately got the Taking Charge of Your Fertility book and it changed my fucking life. I seriously cried while reading parts of it because it turns out… I know SHIT about SHIT with my lady parts.

    I just started charting this month and it seems to be working okay, even though I don’t go to bed or wake at the same time every day, drink wine (almost) every night, AND have been traveling. I just saw the tell-tale spike in temperature today! I’m stoked to see how this goes.

    Now if only I could get that guy I married to get on board…

    • I seriously wish everyone would read the book even if they’re not considering FAM, just to get educated about their body. I cringe when I see stuff on the Internet like “keep in mind you ovulate around day 14!”

      • yeah, seriously. I ovulate on day 25 of a 32 day cycle. Thanks to FAM I was able to have a kiddo! Otherwise we’d be banging duds together on day 14 πŸ™‚

    • Yes! This! Until I read that book, I thought I had yeast infections all the time. While I didn’t end up sticking with FAM for contraception, reading the book was so informative and empowering. And that knowledge is so helpful now that I’m actually starting to try to get pregnant.

    • Hi Megan, I had the same reaction when I read the book a few weeks ago! I was so sad that I’ve spent so many years since I was a teenager totally not knowing anything about how my ladyparts operate. It really hit me that I’m missing out on knowing about such a huge part of me as a woman.

    • Agreed. I read this book last summer after hearing about it on obf and I also cried. Why this is not knowledge we pass on to our children when we talk about periods is beyond me, but I immediately went off birth control (we were “okay” with getting pregnant right away) and I really enjoy this method. With wine. πŸ™‚

  19. I had to stop taking the pill because it was impacting my personality (it made me crazy!) and eventually it made me really sick. My now husband and I used condoms until we were married, and then decided we would follow my cycles closely (I’m very regular) and just not have sex during my “fertile periods.” Well, that lasted a grand total of ONE WEEK before I got pregnant! We are now expecting our first little one in July. Just wanted to give you a word of warning. We aren’t upset or disappointed, but it was definitely a big shock!

    • For future reference or for others in the same boat, if birth control pills are making you crazy it may be worth trying a different kind of birth control pill.

      Regular birth control pills made me insanely anxious. About EVERYTHING. And sometimes about NOTHING. But I switched to a low dose birth control pill and I was fine. Or at least no more anxious than I am in my normal, unmedicated state:p

      I beleive that I have read that that progesterone only pills (or the shot) are more likely to cause mood problems than progesterone and estrogen pills, so women with a history of mood disorders are generally advised not to take those. (Though I have a friend who says the shot made her more emotionally stable because it evened out the mood swings caused be her cycle, so your millage my very).

      Depending on HOW crazy birth control pills make you, it may not be worth it, or even safe, to experiment with different pill formations, but it’s useful to know that there are different kinds of birth control pills and they may not all affect you the same way.

      • I can’t agree more. There is such a HUGE difference in the different types of hormonal birth control, and it’s different for every woman! One pill makes one woman crazy, but another type may save her sanity. A different woman will love that same pill that made the first woman crazy. Some people get migraines from hormonal birth control, but for me they are the ONLY thing that prevents me from losing 3 days of work a month. We are so lucky we live in an age with so many options!

        This is a little off topic for this thread, but there’s a lot of hating on hormonal birth control, so I just wanted to reiterate that it varies WIDELY from woman to woman and that you have to try it for yourself!

        I’ve been considering writing a post about the initial decision making process involved in deciding if hormonal birth control is for you. I always feel so unprepared when I am at the doctors office, so I did a lot of research first so I had time to think about different options and what was important to me and my lifestyle BEFORE I was in a paper gown.

        • Totally agree! I found that the patch (Ortho Evra) works awesome for my lifestyle. I definitely cannot handle a baby right now, and am far too busy and under too many different variables for FAM to be practical for me right now. I chose the patch over the pill because I know I won’t be able to take a pill at the same time every day, but a patch once a week at the same time every week is doable. I’m pretty sure the Planned Parenthood website has a feature that suggests birth control methods based on questions you answer.

  20. I made the jump from the pill to Fertility Awareness in November after almost a year of deliberation. I love it.

    It took two months after stopping the pill to get my period and every month since then my charts have made since despite my sleeping in and regular consumption of alcohol. My cycle is not varies in length each momth so I love that fertility awareness tells me exactly when my period will arrive. (12 days after ovulation for me) I’ve actually had fewer pregnancy scares than when I was on the pill.

    I set an alarm to take my temp. On weekends I just go back to sleep. My doctor was skeptical when I told her about temping. She said to pay attention to cervical mucus instead cause charting rarely makes sense. The app Fertility Friend has been really helpful deciphering my temps.

    We use withdrawal method and don’t really avoid when we’re supposed to, so I’m pretty much failing at following the rules. I just love actually bring aware of my body. I’m not ready to give up withdrawal yet though.

    In sum, glad I got off the pill. Love fertility awareness.

  21. When I was 20 (I am now 27), I was part of a study that monitored my fertility with one of those fancy fertility monitors and sticks and such. I got to know my body pretty well.

    After getting engaged (and then married), partner and I used effectively a modified FAM (we used condoms before – I was not too keen on the hormones in my body) using the cervical changes and time of the month. I learned from that previous study that my body is like clockwork. It worked for probably about five years.

    …Or it was like clockwork until I quit veganism and graduate school and found myself almost immediately pregnant. (Three months from quitting veganism and immediately after quitting graduate school). My daughter’s due to be born next month.

    A lot of my comfort with using FAM was that having a kid was something I am OK with – I am married to the man who in my gut and heart I know would be the best father for my children I could ever ask for, and having children was something I wanted. My preference was not to have an “oops”, but I went with it because “oops” wasn’t going to mean the end of the world. And I’m pro-choice.

    In any case, I’m due next month. I was not temping, it was a hormone measure, but I figured I’d share my failure as a caution.

    • That’s why this method scares me- I have too many uncertainties and crazy changes in my life. I’m just afraid it will through everything off.

      Maybe it could work for someone more stable.

      It sounds like everything worked out since you really did want kiddies in the first place! Life never goes as planned, right?

  22. My husband and I swiched to this method after getting married, for birth control. We have a 2 year old son that was conceived when I was not supposed to be ovulating. I’m sure it works for many people, but know your risks, percentages, and know what your back up plan is in case, that way you don’t get blindsided.

  23. We have used FAM for over 3 years, and love love love it. I feel much more confident using this method than putting my trust in a product to work 100% of the time for the rest of my life. Some things to consider regarding the temperature-taking: 1) If you miss taking a temperature or two, it’s not as big of a deal as missing a pill or two. About the only time you really need careful temperature charting is right around ovulation. Some people don’t even take their temperature except in Phase 2, but I find it easier to keep in the habit by doing it every day. And 2) cervical fluid is the more reliable of the two indicators, so as you get in the habit of noticing your cervical fluid (which will come back once you go off the pill), you can use the temperature as more of a back-up signal.

    I’ve written about FAM (also known as Natural Family Planning in Catholic circles) quite a bit on my blog if you want to check it out — I’m pro-finding what works for you, unlike a lot of NFP promoters — and you’re welcome to get in touch if you have in-depth questions about it, as I love talking about it. This goes for anyone interested!

    • I would just like to say it makes me very happy to see a Catholic on here more open minded. I was raised as one and the culture is still a part of me, but I have pulled away because of not liking the whole love thy name but try to change those sinners type of mentality.

      Just thank you for being a cool Catholic. It’s nice to be reminded of the ones who aren’t the judgmental minority.

  24. I’m currently using a combination of both FAM and the pill. We’re taking the pill because we can’t have kids just yet and practicing FAM so we can get the hang of it. Quite possibly we’ll switch to FAM exclusively when my scrip runs out later this year, once we’re in a better place to have an unplanned child. I set my alarm for 4 am, take my temp with a digital thermometer, record it in an app in my phone, and then (if I don’t have to pee) go right back to sleep until whenver. I get an accurate reading everyday and then I get more sleep. Took me a few days to get used to going back to sleep when I started (before I got married) and then it took my husband a little getting used to it as well once we got married, though he usually sleeps right through it now. I keep him informed of what’s going on and he’s a total champ about taking extra precaution (condoms) during the fertile period. Working well for us so far!

    • You may already be aware of this, but most pills (maybe all) work by preventing ovulation and making your body think it’s already pregnant. So you are unlikely to see your body going through the regular fertility phases that FAM tracks, unless possibly you happen to have a breakthrough ovulation that month. But it’s still great to get in the habit of taking your temperature, etc., if you’re planning to switch to using FAM.

      • Right, and since I tracked for a few months before starting the pill, I’ve been aware of some of the differences. There is still a brief temperature spike right around the time there should be, so whether I’m actually ovulating or not, it definitely gets us in the habit of being aware of it. I also meant to mention that it’s at 4AM that I take the pill, so I don’t forget to that at a regular time everyday either.

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