Key Points for Providers and Clients
  • Fertility awareness methods require partners' cooperation. The couple must be committed to abstaining or using another method on fertile days.
  • Must stay aware of body changes or keep track of days, according to rules of the specific method.
  • No side effects or health risks.

What Are Fertility Awareness Methods?

  • "Fertility awareness" means that a woman knows how to tell when the fertile time of her menstrual cycle starts and ends. (The fertile time is when she can become pregnant.)
  • Sometimes called periodic abstinence or natural family planning.
  • A woman can use several ways, alone or in combination, to tell when her fertile time begins and ends.
  • Calendar-based methods involve keeping track of days of the menstrual cycle to identify the start and end of the fertile time.
    • Examples: Standard Days Method which avoids unprotected vaginal sex on days 8 through 19 of the menstrual cycle, and calendar rhythm method.
  • Symptoms-based methods depend on observing signs of fertility.
    • Cervical secretions: When a woman sees or feels cervical secretions, she may be fertile. She may feel just a little vaginal wetness.
    • Basal body temperature (BBT): A woman’s resting body temperature goes up slightly after the release of an egg (ovulation). She is not likely to become pregnant from 3 days after this temperature rise through the start of her next monthly bleeding. Her temperature stays higher until the beginning of her next monthly bleeding.
    • Examples: TwoDay Method, BBT method, ovulation method (also known as Billings method or cervical mucus method), and the symptothermal method.
  • Work primarily by helping a woman know when she could become pregnant. The couple prevents pregnancy by avoiding unprotected vaginal sex during these fertile days—usually by abstaining or by using condoms or a diaphragm. Some couples use spermicides or withdrawal, but these are among the least effective methods.