Fertility Awareness

Overview of Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (FAMs)

Fertility awareness-based methods use one or more indicators to predict the days in a person’s menstrual cycle when they are fertile, that is, when an ovum has been released from the ovary and is capable of being fertilized. Fertility awareness-based methods either estimate when ovulation is most likely to occur or indicates when ovulation has already taken place. These methods are most useful when someone has regular and predictable menstrual cycles.

On days when fertility is greatest, a couple can use an alternative barrier method of birth control, such as condoms or a diaphragm; enjoy ways of sexual pleasuring other than penis-vagina sex; or abstain from sexual contact completely.

How It Works

It is strongly recommended that training from a qualified health care provider be obtained to use these methods effectively. Fertility awareness-based methods offer the advantages of being safe and inexpensive. For some people, religious convictions make fertility awareness-based methods the only acceptable method of birth control.

Failure can occur when:

  • careful records of indicators are not kept
  • people with vaginas may have irregular menstrual cycles
  • people may find the intervals of abstinence during the fertile days too long
  • they find that having to plan sex a hindrance to spontaneous intercourse

Fertility awareness-based methods require a strong commitment to use the techniques correctly and consistently. The Standard Days Method (SDM) and the Calendar Rhythm Method, involve counting the days in the menstrual cycle and require that the person know which day of their menstrual cycle they are on. For the SDM they are considered fertile between days 8 through 19 counting day 1 as the first day of menstruation. People can use SDM if they have regular cycles never shorter than 26 days or longer than 32 days. Another method is the Calendar Rhythm Method.

There are also home test kits available for ovulation prediction and detection that can be used to detect the fertile window of the menstrual cycle for contraceptive purposes.


Typical use: 75%

Perfect use: 95%-97%


  • Greater involvement of partner to avoid pregnancy
  • No prescription or visit to a healthcare provider needed, though some users benefit from training by healthcare provider
  • Increased communication between couple
  • Increased awareness on how to become pregnant if conception is desired


  • High failure rate if not used consistently and correctly
  • Fewer "safe" days to have intercourse each month
  • Training is essential
  • Breast feeding, illness and other factors can obscure fertility signs
  • No protection from STIs
  • If periods are not regular, may not be as effective
  • Both partners must be completely dedicated to using the method and if they are not, the failure rate is higher
  • Usually takes several months of monitoring cycle to note patterns


Religious Organizations will often have courses on FAMs, so check with local churches in your area if you are potentially interested.