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Fertility Awareness Method

The fertility awareness method (FAM) is a form of natural family planning that uses a combination of several separate methods - usually calendar charting, basal body temperature (BBT), cervical mucus, and cervical observation - to predict when a woman will ovulate. This method, also called the Sympto-Thermal Method, can also be used as a method of natural contraception.

The fertility awareness method helps women identify and predict ovulation so they can time their reproductive efforts to coincide with their most fertile days, thereby increasing the likelihood of conceiving. In general, a woman is able to get pregnant for about 5 to 7 days each month. Sperm can live inside a woman's body for 3 to 5 days after intercourse; but after ovulation, an egg is viable for just 24 to 48 hours. You are more likely to conceive if intercourse occurs from 3 days before ovulation until 2 to 3 days after ovulation.

One advantage of FAM is that it is completely natural, with no associated health risks or side effects. Other advantages include its effectiveness if used correctly and consistently (especially for women who have regular menstrual cycles); it can increase a woman's awareness and understanding of her body; and couples using FAM may develop greater communication, cooperation, and responsibility. In addition, the methods can be used to confirm each other; for example, a change in cervical mucus can be confirmed with a change in basal body temperature.

One disadvantage of the FAM is the amount of time and effort required to learn how to use the method correctly - it requires considerable commitment and calculation - and some women say that despite careful tracking and adherence to the method, they simply cannot detect a predictive menstrual pattern.

The fertility awareness method is most effective for women with regular menstrual cycles. Women who have recently given birth, had an abortion or miscarriage, or are breastfeeding or approaching menopause may find it more difficult to chart their fertility because their fertile signs may vary in unpredictable ways due to irregular hormonal fluctuations. This method is also not recommended for couples who have serious reproductive problems or for women with irregular cycles. The following are the most common methods used as part of the fertility awareness method:

Calendar Charting

Calendar charting, also called the rhythm method, involves using past menstrual cycles as a guide to calculate the average number of days in your cycle and estimate your future fertile days.

If we use the first day of menstrual flow as the beginning of the calendar, an egg is maturing and is almost ready to be released from the follicle by day seven of the average cycle. Somewhere between days 11 and 21, hormones in your body cause the egg to be released from the ovary (ovulation) and travel down the fallopian tube towards the uterus. If sperm does not fertilize the egg, it breaks apart. By the 28th day of your cycle your hormone levels drop, which signals the lining of the uterus to be shed as the beginning of your menstrual flow.

The first half of the menstrual cycle, before ovulation, is very different in every woman and can even change from month to month in the same woman. But the last half of the cycle is usually more similar for every woman because there are approximately 14 days from the day of ovulation until the start of the next period. (The average menstrual cycle is between 28 to 32 days.) This is why women are encouraged to count back 14 days from their last period to pinpoint their most fertile time of the month.

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