I think it’s so funny how you can read in one place that “Fertility Awareness is hardly an effective way to plan families, as it fails 25% of the time” and yet in another place you can read “It’s 99.999% effective and the best thing since sliced bread.” (Both are an extreme end of the spectrum.)

Tis’ very difficult, my dear readers, to compare FAM to much of any other kind of birth control. I used to think I could – I touted its effectiveness (always with the attached disclaimer **if practiced correctly, as if I have any kind of authority on the subject!), exclaimed that FAM users have no less sex, in some studies, even more sex than artificial contraception users, and that it created a better relationship in terms of communication and love.

But I’ve been coming to the realization over the last few months – no matter what the church says, no matter what your midwife says, no matter what your cousin’s boyfriend’s roommate’s girlfriend says, fertility charting is one thing and one thing only – knowledge. What you decide to do with that knowledge is 100% up to you.

Yea, it’s supposed to be effective at preventing pregnancy if you make certain choices in regard to certain knowledge. Yes you could very well have more sex than a user of artificial contraception – if you make that choice. Yes, FAM can create a stronger bond between a couple and increase communication – if you make that choice. But FAM isn’t going to make those decisions for you.

For me, fertility charting just makes clear, common sense. You have a clue in on what’s going on with your health, you become intimate with the tempo of your body, and I don’t care what anyone says, my cycle affects my mood, disposition, and emotions. So much light was shed on this for me because of charting! I like it because it is basic knowledge about my body and health. Knowledge and that’s it.

Who would I promote fertility charting to? Any menstruating female. Period. (pun intended) Who would I promote fertility charting to as a sole method of birth control? Those that have the desire to do so.

FAM doesn’t “work”. YOU do the work for it to “work”. And that puts it entirely in its own category. People talk of fertility charting as a lifestyle rather than a birth control option and it’s true. It’s not a pill you take every day or an IUD sitting in your uterus that you most likely don’t think about on a regular basis. (Not method bashing, just saying they are inherently different!) FAM is something you’re pretty much constantly thinking of. Ok not constantly, but you’re always aware of it, it’s something you physically write down or record every morning and every night. If you are using it for family planning, you are constantly making choices day to day. And instead of changing your body to be something you want, it’s working with your body.

This feels very counter-intuitive to our culture. We control our bodies more often than not, such as dieting, dying our hair, and waxing our eyebrows. (Hey, I’m Italian, I know about the eyebrow bit!) We like to tell our body how to be. Charting requires, instead, letting your body be and working with that.

Fertility knowledge is one thing – family planning is another. And fertility charting for family planning is its own category apart from other methods as well, for the very nature of letting the body rule instead of ruling the body.

So in conclusion, FAM isn’t quite synonymous with other contraception. It’s simply knowledge. I always chuckle when someone lumps it into “birth control” options. I mean it simplifies the conversation, and I get it. Even I, myself talk about FAM as if it could sit on a shelf right next to the Nuvaring. But it would seem a bit more accurate to put “phase 2 abstinence”  into the birth control selection. Otherwise fertility charting has nothing to do with controlling birth.


Disclaimer: There are ideological differences between the methods of Natural Family Planning that we provide here and the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). NFP does not allow for any barrier methods during a woman’s fertile time, while FAM does. We sympathize with why a couple would want to use a barrier method, either during the learning phase or perhaps for religious beliefs. However, we encourage and promote not using them. Please keep in mind several things. 1.) Your body is designed to only have a small window of fertility. 2.) If a barrier is ever going to fail, it will do so during your fertile times. Abstinence during those times is the only way to ensure not getting pregnant. 3.) For all Catholics: To be a Catholic in good standing, barrier methods are never permissible.  Here at this website we propose to give you the information, the resources, and the confidence to have true freedom in your sexual life without being tied to any form of barrier/contraception.

About Cassie: I am a twenty-something, semi-recently reinstated Catholic stumbling my way through young adulthood. I work in TV and write about fertility awareness and all things Catholic and feminine. She blogs at 20somethingcatholic.

Fertility Charting vs Birth Control

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