As interest in Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (FABM) is growing across political, religious, and lifestyle spectrums, women and couples seeking to understand their bodies on a deeper level are finding tons of resources coming to the fore to help them get started. From Facebook groups to apps, there is a wealth of information online on using natural family planning methods in a variety of situations. These avenues can be a great support to both women who are just getting started and those who have been using FABMs for a while, but have otherwise felt alone in their venture.
With all this information at our fingertips, it can be tempting to do your research and essentially go it alone as you incorporate a Fertility Awareness-Based Method into your day to day. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not immune to Google self-diagnosis. But I also recognize there are limits. I can read a bunch of articles and studies, but that won’t make me an expert. This couldn’t be more true when it comes to Fertility Awareness-Based Methods, especially when used as a form of natural family planning.
The research on the effectiveness of Fertility Awareness-Based Methods to prevent pregnancy reveals that couples can enjoy high typical effectiveness rates of natural family planning—even rates that rival current pharmaceutical birth control methods. The kicker is that, to benefit from these high efficacy rates, couples must be on the same page and have learned the method from a certified FABM instructor.
This is why I chose to work with a trained FABM instructor when I learned a new FABM a few years ago. My NPF instructor’s knowledge and the speedy, informed, and personalized answers I got to my questions were so valuable to me. Her confidence in me helped me believe I could use the method successfully. And when I came back years later with questions about changes in my life, we picked up right where we left off, and again I got the answers I needed.
Here are four reasons why I’d encourage anyone using a FABM to take the time and make the effort to develop a relationship with an instructor.
Your chart may not be “textbook.”
You can certainly read about charting procedures and what to look for. There are images online that can be useful in getting familiar with a new method. However, once you start charting, your chart may not look like the ones in your study materials. Every method I’ve seen has included some less typical examples in their guidelines, but your particular menstrual cycle may not fit one of those molds.
Unfortunately, at this point, some women mistakenly assume that natural family planning doesn’t work for her body, due to irregularities in her cycle. But, as it happens, charting with a FABM equips women to regulate their cycles more fully and effectively than if they resort to synthetic hormones in birth control. To do this, you need a personal FABM instructor to help you identify patterns and understand the nature of your unique fertility, which a fertility app or book alone cannot do.
You may need treatment.
If there is something different about your cycle, your instructor can suggest treatment options to help regulate your hormones, and thus your cycle. It’s also possible that your chart reveals an underlying health condition, which will require further observation. Women whose fertility charts reveal signs of endometriosis, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or other reproductive disorders can find success treating their health concerns with the help of a doctor who understands FABM. Your instructor will have recommendations on which healthcare providers can offer the best and most relevant care.
Your goals may change.
The way you use a method can change with your goals as far as your family-planning and health priorities. Depending on whether you’re trying to conceive, trying to avoid pregnancy naturally, trying to reduce PMS or other cycle-related symptoms, or simply trying to learn more about your hormone levels, you may interpret your chart and use your infertile and fertile days differently. Having an instructor who knows you and your fertility can take a lot of guesswork out of charting as you enter different seasons of life.
There is value in a personal relationship.
Using FABMs isn’t always easy. Fitting your charting into your daily routine can be an adjustment, as it requires consistency and effort to reach peak effectiveness. Stress, medical conditions, changes in medication, and more can affect your fertility and change your approach to your wellness. That’s why the human element of FABMs simply can’t be replaced by any kind of technology. It will be easier to stick with a method and see the learning curve through when you have someone in your corner who has the expertise, but who also has your best interests in mind.
Getting the Most out of the Web
One thing websites and especially Facebook groups are great for is finding an instructor. Each major method has access to instructors on its website: such as Billings, Creighton, Sympto-Thermal, and Marquette. (Click here to see all our full list of classes and instructors). Many instructors teach over the phone or video conference, so don’t worry if you can’t seem to find one locally. If you can stay within your time zone, arranging meeting times may be easier.
Social media can be helpful in finding an instructor, too, because you can get feedback from other clients. A personal recommendation is a great way to begin your experience with an instructor.
Who knows, maybe after getting acquainted with FABM, if you don’t have any instructors in your area, you may consider getting trained as an instructor yourself. As we’re seeing, there’s a growing need, and you could be just what someone else needs down the line.
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