Fertility Awareness is a system of fertility management, meaning it can be used to prevent pregnancy or to increase the chances of conception. It’s based on a woman’s observations of her fertility signs: cervical secretions (“mucus” or “cervical fluid”), basal body temperature (taken upon waking), and the optional sign of cervix changes. These observations are made daily and recorded on a chart (electronic or paper).
The charts indicate if a woman is fertile on any given day, thus giving women and couples the information they need to avoid or achieve pregnancy. But the charts also provide other valuable information, such as whether or not the woman is ovulating and if she is prone to miscarriage. Fertility Awareness is more than just a system of fertility management. It is also a tool that can inform women about their menstrual cycle, hormonal well being, and reproductive health.
As a method of contraception, Fertility Awareness is not for everyone. The pros and cons should be carefully weighed by anyone considering using it. But because it provides such valuable information, and has the ability to empower women around their sexual and reproductive health, we consider Fertility Awareness to be a form of literacy, a “life skill,” like reading and cooking, that everyone should have access to.
The terms Natural Family Planning and Fertility Awareness are often used interchangeably, and in terms of the science on which they're based and how observations are made, they are essentially identical. The main differences have to do with context, meaning how they are taught and how they are practiced.
Historically, Natural Family Planning methods referred to those that were taught in a Catholic context. Most NFP methods advocate chaste abstinence (refraining from all sexual activity) during the fertile phase of the cycle if a couple wishes to avoid pregnancy. NFP does not condone sexual activity outside of marriage and often restricts instruction to heterosexual, engaged or married couples. Secular Fertility Awareness places no restrictions on who may learn or use the method, and will support women and couples as they choose from the full range of reproductive options, including sexual activity that does not involve genital to genital contact, the use of barrier methods during the fertile phase of the cycle, pregnancy termination, and assisted reproductive technology for those that need it (including same sex couples).
Fertility Awareness and NFP teachers alike advocate for knowing how our bodies work, for the cooperation between partners that these methods invite, and for working with our bodies, rather than against them, in order to manage our fertility.
You will see statistics from supporters of Fertility Awareness claiming that Fertility Awareness is over 99% effective for pregnancy prevention. That figure comes from a 2007 German study. And many people think that if they practice Fertility Awareness, they can expect those results themselves, even if they follow different rules, or learn the method in an entirely different manner. As it happens, the “rules” employed in this study were more restrictive than those used by many people and, perhaps more importantly, the participants in the study were taught by accredited teachers. “The training and the teaching methodology was standardized and adhered to strict guidelines. There were comprehensive teaching materials that accompanied the personal small group teaching sessions.” (Frank-Herrmann et al., 2007). In other words, the study participants didn’t learn how to practice the method from social media, and they didn’t just download an app.
Although Fertility Awareness can be a very effective, side-effect free, low cost, reversible, wonderful method of birth control with multiple benefits and purposes, it does need to be learned thoroughly and practiced consistently in order to be highly effective. There is a lot of room for error. Working with a highly qualified instructor can help you get the most out of your Fertility Awareness Practice. Member instructors on this site have all completed (or are in the process of completing) a rigorous training. They can help you reach a deep, practical understanding of Fertility Awareness that takes into account your circumstances so that you can meet your goals.
There are many factors to consider when looking for instruction. What kind of training has the person had? Do you want to be in a group, or taught individually? Is it important to you to work with someone in person, or would you work with someone virtually (by video chat or phone)? Do you want someone with many years of experience, or would you consider working with someone newer to the field (whose fees will likely be lower)? How much will instruction cost? Bear in mind, it may not be possible to find everything you’re looking for. For example, in most parts of the country, highly qualified instruction in a non-religious context is almost impossible to find locally. That’s why so many of us work virtually. It may not have been what you wanted originally, but you may find that it works well for you, once you try it. The members of our organization are happy to answer questions you might have about how we teach and what we can offer you.
That’s easy! Look here for a directory of highly qualified instructors.
It means that the person displaying the icon has graduated from one of the training programs whose certifications we accept. [In future, it may also be displayed by those who have completed our independent certification process that is currently in development.] More to the point, it means that you can feel confident that the person displaying the icon is deeply trained, highly qualified, and has achieved recognition from others in the field of Fertility Awareness. Please note that people begin teaching in the latter stages of their training programs, but cannot display the icon until they have graduated.
Please see our material about teacher training and certification.
Please read our material about becoming an instructor.
Absolutely! Please see our membership page.
Yes, we know. (We’re hip reproductive health educators, remember?) And, we don’t care! Lots of words and names have sexual connotations, yet they still get used in daily life. Uranus. Tea bag. Cumin. Santorum. Ok we’ll stop now. (But for the record, we pronounce our name “A. F. A. P.” not “A-FAP.”)