Every woman is different and fertility awareness needs to be thoroughly understood if it is to be effective.
Fertility awareness doesn’t mean ‘withdrawal’ (removing the penis before the man comes). You should only use fertility awareness if you have been taught by a specialist teacher, so you can use it effectively.
Some key facts are:
Fertility awareness works by observing and recording your body's different natural signs on each day of your monthly cycle. The main signs you have to look at are:
Changes in these fertility indicators can help you to identify your fertile time. You can also use fertility monitoring devices which you can buy in a chemist.
A specialist teacher will show you how to record the signs and explain what you can tell from them.
You will need to be taught natural family planning by a specialist teacher and there can be a cost. For further information visit: Fertility UK at www.fertilityuk.org.
There are phone apps and online systems however the reliability and effectiveness of using these is not known, you should always be taught fertility awareness methods by a specialist teacher.
A woman’s cycle is approximately 28 days (although this can be longer or shorter) and the fertile period lasts for around eight to nine days. This is because eggs can live for 24 hours (and there can sometimes be a second egg released after 24 hours) and sperm can also live inside the body for up to seven days, so if you had sex seven days before ovulation you may still become pregnant.
When you use several indicators together according to teaching and instructions, fertility awareness can be up to 99% effective, depending on which method is used. This means that two in every 100 women who practise fertility awareness methods will get pregnant each year.
If not used correctly it will be less effective (estimated around 75% effective because of mistakes).
Fertility awareness must be properly taught. Then the instructions must be properly followed or it will be much less effective.
Recent use of hormonal contraception may affect fertility indicators until regular menstrual cycles have been established. Women should have a minimum of three complete cycles after stopping hormonal contraception.
Other medication, for example pain relief, antihistamines and some antibiotics can also affect different fertility indicators.
Most women can use this method if they have sufficient commitment and can share the responsibility with their partner.
However for some women for whom pregnancy poses a significant risk relying on fertility indicators for the prevention of pregnancy is not recommended.
It can take longer to recognise your fertility indicators after having a baby and also during breastfeeding.
If you are breastfeeding, some women use a contraceptive method known as LAM (Lactational Amenorrhoea Method). It can be very effective in avoiding pregnancy. If breastfeeding is to be used as a contraceptive it is recommended that women must be:
Women should be advised that the risk of pregnancy is increased if the frequency of breast feeding decreases, menstruation returns or when it is greater than six months since having a baby.
It can take longer to recognise your fertility indicators after an abortion or miscarriage.