‘So much more than family planning’: Finding freedom in Fertility Awareness

FAMs helped me get help for endo, conceive, and carry my children to term

Coming from a family where my parents used natural family planning (NFP) to space children, I learned at a young age that there are natural ways to avoid pregnancy. It was not until I was engaged, though, that I actually learned how it worked—that there were observable biomarkers other than my period, and that fertility awareness was so much more than family planning. This is actually why I prefer to say we use a fertility awareness method (FAM) rather than a NFP method. Having this awareness and knowledge of my fertility has completely transformed my life, allowing me to get help for endometriosis, prevent miscarriage, and plan my family.

Painful periods from Day 1

From the time I started my first period all the way through college, I suffered from severe endometriosis, and I didn’t even know it. My periods lasted twelve days and were debilitatingly painful and heavy. I was told by my doctor that if I agreed to take hormonal birth control, it could go away. 

I didn’t want to be on birth control, but I didn’t know there were real answers for why I suffered so much pain. As a result, I just accepted this burden as my “normal,” and hoped it wouldn’t affect my ability to have children one day. 

The first time I heard that fertility awareness isn’t just for family planning

Fast forward to early adulthood. My now-husband and I were newly engaged, and I was babysitting for a friend of mine. I noticed her chart on her bathroom counter, and before I could even ask, she was giving me all the details. She shared what method she used and how it had helped her and her husband feel confident in family planning and handling her own hormonal health issues. 

I was blown away. Never had I heard anyone speak joyfully about NFP before, and never had I heard that it was useful for more than family planning. She told me there was real medical treatment for issues like I was having. She connected us to a Creighton Method practitioner, and we began meeting with her to chart my cycles.

I learned that FAMs are based on a solid scientific foundation, and how they could improve our marriage

My husband comes from a family of medical professionals, and as we started our Creighton Model sessions, he was thrilled to learn more about how the female body works. His desire to be involved from the get-go led to our beautiful relationship with FAM/NFP, where I monitor my daily biomarker observations and my husband does the recording, also known as “charting.” Because we learned to chart while we were engaged, it allowed us to get into the rhythm of a constant recognition and appreciation for what our shared fertility would mean in marriage. 

Can practicing FAM as a married couple still be difficult sometimes–especially during seasons when you’re trying to avoid pregnancy? Absolutely. But because each cycle we come to an agreement on our family planning intentions and understand our shared fertility, this practice has inspired us to grow in our intimacy and learn how to love each other in so many different ways

How FAM changes the approach to prenatal care 

When my husband and I felt called to begin having children, our use of the Creighton method helped us not only achieve pregnancy, but it also helped us carry our pregnancies to term. 

For my second child’s pregnancy in particular, my progesterone levels were labeled “non-viable” by my normal OB/GYN. Accompanied by multiple bleeding scares in the first trimester, I was told that I would likely miscarry him, and the only options provided for me were how I would “prefer” to miscarry. 

That’s when we turned to a NaProTechnology-trained physician, who refused to give up on the pregnancy. Weekly hormone checks and progesterone supplementation sustained the pregnancy and also prevented preterm labor in the second and early third trimesters.

Some seasons in life call for a switch from one fertility awareness method to another

Creighton was a great method for the beginning of our marriage. It gave us the tools to understand my fertile signs and helped me to get access to good medical care. Since Creighton is a mucus-only method (meaning that the only daily observations you make are of your cervical mucus or cervical fluid), it helped me to appreciate the value mucus observations have towards not just understanding my fertility, but also my overall health.

After intentionally having our first two children close together, we discerned that we needed to space out our next pregnancy a little more. This led us to searching for a method with an additional biomarker to help us feel more confident in knowing our window of fertility

Postpartum breastfeeding made my biomarkers more obscure which added a new level of difficulty to my charting. When we discovered FEMM through the testimony of a friend, we felt confident that it was the method we needed for our current state of life. It was very similar to Creighton in its mucus descriptions and protocol, so we did not have to make many changes in our charting. With the addition of luteinizing hormone (LH) testing, we were able to feel more confident in our understanding of my fertility. 

I decided to become a FEMM fertility care practitioner so other women could know that fertility awareness isn’t just for family planning, but also helps with overall health

Like I mentioned above, I had previously suffered severe endometriosis symptoms, thinking it was just my “normal.” It’s because of Creighton and now FEMM that we have been able to address my symptoms at their source, and are now pregnant with our third child. Each of my pregnancies have had their various hormonal issues, but without the knowledge I gained about my cycle through practicing these methods and the care of NaPro and FEMM providers, it is very likely none of my children would be here today. 

So, after my second pregnancy, I decided I wanted to become a FEMM fertility care practitioner myself. 

What women deserve…and fertility awareness offers

More women need to receive real explanations for their hormonal disorders, infertility issues, recurrent miscarriages, and diseases. They deserve treatments that address root causes rather than just symptom management. More couples need to know that their marriages could actually be strengthened through the use of NFP/FAMs. And most importantly, all women of all ages need to learn what I had learned: female fertility is not a disease or an annoyance to be stifled. Fertility is a beautiful, unique part of our femininity that clues us into our whole-body health. 

Every day I continue to learn more and more about how my hormones and cycle impact my whole life and are impacted by my choices.I know from personal experience that fertility awareness is more than just family planning. Through this knowledge, I continue to grow in my sense of awe of the female body. Knowledge is power I always say, and in the area of fertility awareness, this is especially the case.  

Additional Reading:

How recognizing our shared fertility can strengthen marriages

Marital problems as a side effect of birth control use


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