Health The real deal on “natural” birth control. And, should you exercise before or after work?
New trend: young women are considering ditching their pills and patches. Good idea, or kinda nuts? The experts weigh in.
Five years ago, I’d receive a few phone calls a year from women in their 20s about fertility-awareness methods of birth control,” says Katinka Locascio, a doula who trains women in the technique. “Now, I get a few calls a month.”
No, this isn’t the oldfashioned rhythm method; FAM, as it’s called, is far more precise than that. It identifies when you’re fertile based on body signs that change during your monthly cycle, so you can determine when it’s OK to have sex. Confused? This is what you need to know:
1It takes discipline
One of the most common types of FAM, the symptothermal method (STM), involves checking cervical fluid and temperature daily, and logging it in a chart or a free app, like Kindara.
“It takes me 10 or 15 minutes a day,” says Bianca Distefano, 24, a nurse. “But I don’t need to take time to fill a prescription.”
What if your cycle isn’t like clockwork? Proponents argue STM is still effective because you constantly gauge body signs to assess your pregnancy risk. But ob-gyn Dr Rebecca Brightman says that it’s not that simple: “If you’re irregular, the time from the first day of your period until ovulation can be unpredictable. Someone who has a 43-day cycle one month and a 35-day cycle the next has no idea when she’ll ovulate,” she says.
Sperm can live for up to five days. Get the timing wrong and – whoa, baby.
2You can’t be squeamish
You’ll need to be OK with touching your cervical fluid a few times a day. As you chart all of that info, you’ll notice patterns: you’re drier right after your period; at peak fertility, the fluid is stretchy and clear (think egg whites).
But being in tune with your body has benefits, says Sarah Bly, a fertilityawareness educator. “For some women, the Pill can squash your ups and downs of arousal; [with FAM] you get to listen to your own libido,” Sarah explains.
3You need a backup method at first
Experts say to chart three to four ‘practice’ cycles – more if you’re coming off hormonal contraception – to spot your body’s patterns. So condoms are a must until then.
4It’s not foolproof
While one small study found that women who were incredibly rigorous in charting had a 99% success at preventing pregnancy, the CDC reports that with typical use, FAM is just 76% effective, compared with 91% for the Pill.
“If a baby isn’t ideal, but not awful, FAM may be fine for you,” says ob-gyn Dr Katharine O’connell White. “But if a baby would derail your life, use a more effective contraceptive.”