If you use the fertility awareness method yourself and you’ve tried to explain it to your doctor, friends, or even your mom you’ve probably received some crazy eyebrow action, a lecture about how you should be prepared to get pregnant, or just been dismissed altogether.
After successfully using the fertility awareness method for 16 years and counting I find myself thinking is this still a thing?! Whenever I talk to people about the method or read articles about its effectiveness, I’m still surprised at the misinformation that continues to be spread around like wildfire. I feel compelled to add to the conversation by debunking the most common myths about fertility awareness that keep showing up all over the place.
The most important takeaway here is that fertility awareness actually works when you use it properly. Studies have shown that perfect use of fertility awareness has a 99.4% effectiveness rate.
So what are the most common myths about the fertility awareness method? Here are the ones I hear most often…
1. It’s the Rhythm Method
Ok. Enough already. I’m only at number one and I’m already steamed. Does anyone even know what the rhythm method actually is? My guess is not so much. The rhythm method is basically using a calendar to predict when you’ll ovulate based on what happened last month. It’s a non-method, and if you use your past cycles to figure out when you’re ovulating it’s the same as guessing. That’s why it doesn’t work.
News flash! There are exactly zero women in the world who actually ovulate on day 14 of their cycle every single month from their very first period to their last one (before menopause). It just doesn’t happen that consistently over the course of our entire reproductive lives because we’re not actually machines. Ovulation can and does vary from cycle to cycle, and the rhythm method doesn’t take that into account….which is why it doesn’t work.
The fertility awareness method, on the other hand, is a scientifically based observational system that allows you to know when you’re in your fertile window. When you use it correctly you can pinpoint exactly what days of your cycle you could possibly get pregnant regardless of whether your cycles are “regular” or not. There’s no guessing involved. No mathematical calculations either. This brings me to the next myth.
2. It only works if you have regular cycles
This is particularly annoying because as women we’ve all been conditioned to believe that normal menstrual cycles are always 28 days, all the time. Since there are about 5 women on the planet that this is true for, the rest of us are left feeling there is something wrong with us because our cycles vary from month to month.
So here is your crash course on the menstrual cycle:
- Ovulation doesn’t happen on day 14 every cycle. It can happen on day 14. Sometimes. But ovulation day will vary from cycle to cycle in most women
- Ovulation can be delayed by stress, illness, and a variety of health issues and endocrine dysfunctions (i.e. Thyroid issues, PCOS, Adrenal issues, etc.) which is why it doesn’t happen on the same day every month
- Ovulation only happens on one day of your cycle. One day. During one 12-24 hour period. If 2 (or more) eggs are released it happens on the same day. After you ovulate, there is a series of hormonal changes prevent you from ovulating again for the rest of your cycle
- Most women don’t have a 28 day cycle every month, and most women’s cycles vary in length from month to month
- You can’t get pregnant on every single day of your cycle. There is a short 5-7 day window during your menstrual cycle where it’s possible for you to get pregnant. The rest of the time your body actively kills sperm for fun (within minutes after the sperm enter your vagina)
Most people still believe that ovulation happens on day 14 so much so that they just take for granted that it’s true. Did you know timing sex on day 14 of your cycle could actually prevent you from getting pregnant if you’re trying to conceive?
But I digress. Since the fertility awareness method is not based on a particular cycle “rhythm” or “pattern” it doesn’t actually matter if your cycles are 28 days or if they vary month to month. You can use fertility awareness whether your cycles are 21 days long, 32 days long, 45 days long or if they fluctuate from month to month. It will be just as effective. Why? How is that possible? Well, fertility awareness teaches you to observe your signs of fertility and figure out whether or not you’re fertile on a day to day basis. It doesn’t depend on what happened in your previous cycles. In fact, if you’re using the method correctly, you won’t be basing any of your decisions on what happened in your previous cycles.
3. It doesn’t work
To be fair, this is mostly due to misunderstanding. Most health professionals still believe that you are fertile on every day of your cycle, and there are still a ton of health professionals who still believe that you can ovulate multiple different times in your cycle. If you still believe these myths then I can understand why it would be hard for you to believe that the fertility awareness method could actually work reliably to prevent pregnancy.
But the thing is there is only about a week or so during your cycle when you can actually get pregnant. On the rest of the days, even if you have all the sex, you won’t get pregnant. That means that if you can identify which days are fertile and avoid having unprotected sex on those days it is physically impossible for you to get pregnant. Let that sink in for a moment. It almost sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? Hormone free, side effect free birth control that’s just as effective as the pill? Well trust me when I say It does work.
Why does fertility awareness work?
Because outside of your fertile window it is impossible for you to get pregnant. Let me say that again. Impossible. Yep. Outside of your fertile window your body kills sperm left and right. It’s science.
That means that when you use fertility awareness correctly and only have unprotected sex on your infertile days you can’t. actually. get. pregnant.
This might be a stretch for you to get your head around in just one blog post. Don’t worry, I get it. It was for me too. I got the same lecture in junior high sex ed class that you did. I was taught that women are fertile every single day of their cycles. I was taught that there are no safe days, and the only way to prevent pregnancy effectively is to use hormones that protect us from the possibility of pregnancy every single day. But it’s simply not true.
When you use the Fertility Awareness perfectly it is 99.4% effective in preventing pregnancy.
4. It’s too complicated
This argument is pretty insulting. And Annoying. And Condescending. It’s basically saying that you are just too “stupid” to get it. Come on people! It’s not rocket science. The fertility awareness method involves learning to observe and chart 3 signs of fertility: cervical mucus, basal body temperature and cervical position. Although there’s a bit of a learning curve, most women find that within 2-3 cycles it becomes second nature and they wonder how they ever missed these signs before.
Like any new skill there are nuances, but overall the concept is deceptively simple. Cervical mucus forms the basis of the method, and in the simplest terms possible, when you have cervical mucus you’re fertile. If you can get that part you’re half way there already! To get the high effectiveness rate quoted in the studies, you’ll want to make sure you receive instruction from a certified fertility awareness educator. This way you’ll be clear on the rules and be able to use the method confidently to prevent or achieve pregnancy when you’re ready.
I’m the first to say that this method isn’t for everyone. But it might be right for you. If you’re looking for a method of birth control that puts you in the driver’s seat, that has zero side effects, and doesn’t mess with your hormones it’s worth looking into. Once you get a handle on how it works, you’ll have a reliable and effective method of birth control you can use for the rest of your life.
You’ll also have the benefit of experiencing the 10 Unexpected Benefits of Fertility Awareness Charting…
Now I want to hear from you! What myths about fertility awareness have you heard? Have you used the method yourself? Join the conversation in the comments below!
Lisa Leger says
The “it’s too complicated” one irks me the most. We assume women are competent to drive a car, do email, follow a knitting pattern, run a household, keep a human infant alive, and any number of other challenging tasks, yet when it comes to wiping our very own vulvas and assessing what we see on the tissue, it’s suddenly too much for us? Ugh
Fertility Friday says
Couldn’t agree more Lisa!
Am a big fan of fertility awareness! So thank you for this post. 🙂
But I miss some information about natal moon fertility, which doesn’t follow the ‘normal’ cycle. Women can actually ovulate outside of the 5-7 day window under certain beneficial circumstances.
There is the argument that is causes women to be over focused on their bodies and so they’ll become nuerotic. And fashion magazines and most popular media does what? And in a truly unique helpful way?