Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)

What is the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)?

Fertility awareness actually involves a combination of methods that aim to predict when a woman will ovulate. These methods include a woman taking her basal body temperature and observing her cervical mucus. By carefully recording these observations, she can abstain from vaginal intercourse during the time when she ovulates and is most likely to become pregnant. Or, if a woman wants to become pregnant, FAM can also be used to choose a time when intercourse is most likely to result in pregnancy.

How does FAM work?

Simply counting the number of days to the middle of a woman's menstrual cycle, also called the Rhythm Method, is not an accurate way to prevent pregnancy. Ovulation occurs approximately 14 days before a woman's next period, and the length of a woman's cycle can change from month to month depending on factors like stress or illness. So counting forward from a woman's last period is not an accurate predictor of ovulation.

When talking about fertility, we have to consider both the life of the egg and the life of the sperm. An egg lives in a woman's body for about 1 day while sperm can live in a woman's body 3 to 5 days. Conception is most likely to occur when intercourse occurs in the 4 to 5 days before ovulation or on the day of ovulation, and this is referred to as a woman's fertile period.

In order to become aware of her fertile period, a woman can observe the cyclic variations in her cervical mucus and basal body temperature as well as other cyclic body changes. This involves:

  • Taking her temperature every morning before getting out of bed.
  • Observing the amount and consistency of vaginal mucus every day.
  • Charting the temperature and mucus results so that she can see the changes that occur throughout the menstrual cycle.

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How effective is FAM in preventing pregnancy and STIs?

If used correctly and consistently every cycle, and if the couple consistently practices abstinence during fertile periods, the rate of pregnancy for couples using the FAM is 1% to 9%. When statistics take into account a woman forgetting or misusing the method, the typical rate of pregnancy is approximately 25%. The FAM method does not provide protection against sexually transmitted infections.

If you are interested in using this method,we recommend that you discuss it with your medical provider or a natural family planning counselor first to make sure that you fully understand the method and are well prepared to use it. Brown students can make an appointment at Health Services by calling 401.863-3953.

What are some advantages of using FAM?

  • It is an opportunity for a woman to understand her cycle.
  • There are no medical side effects.
  • It can determine fertile periods if pregnancy is desired.
  • It may be an acceptable contraceptive method if a person's religious beliefs do not approve of other methods.

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What are some disadvantages of using FAM?

  • A typical college student's schedule decreases the effectiveness of this method. Irregular sleep patterns, stress and illness can make it difficult to use this method accurately and consistently.
  • It provides no protection against STIs.
  • Women who have irregular cycles will find this method difficult to use.
  • It takes a few cycles before a woman can learn to use it confidently.
  • It requires consistent motivation and commitment combined with a good understanding of the method.
  • A couple has to use another method of contraception or abstain from intercourse during the woman's fertile period .

Links you can use

For more information about the FAM and to learn ways to chart your fertility, you can visit:

Planned Parenthood

Fertility Awareness Network

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Disclaimer: Health Education is part of Health Services at Brown University. Health Education maintains this site as a resource for Brown students. This site is not intended to replace consultation with your medical providers. No site can replace real conversation. Health Education offers no endorsement of and assumes no liability for the currency, accuracy, or availability of the information on the sites we link to or the care provided by the resources listed. Health Services staff are available to treat and give medical advice to Brown University students only. If you are not a Brown student, but are in need of medical assistance please call your own health care provider or in case of an emergency, dial 911. Please contact us if you have comments, questions or suggestions.