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4 Easy Steps to Start Practicing Fertility Awareness

This post was originally published at Pen and Paper Fertility and was republished with permission from the author, Jessie Brebner.

So you’ve been thinking about starting to track your cycle, you’ve been researching the world of “Fertility Awareness Based Methods” of contraception and it’s looking like a great fit with your lifestyle – and now? You’re ready to dive in!

But maybe you are feeling a little lost on where to start?

Below you will find four easy, simple steps that will act as a springboard into a new world of body literacy. These four steps are my personal recommendation, based on my own experience learning the Symptothermal Method.

While I would always recommend working with an instructor, the realist in me knows that the cost of an instructor is out of the range for many people. The below four tips will be especially helpful if you cannot afford the services of an instructor, and are heading down the self-taught route.

Before we begin, don’t forget to read up on HOW the Symptothermal Method actually works in THIS blog post.

1) Purchase and read a book called Taking Charge Of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. This book will blow your mind (and that’s a promise). Delve into the details of your incredible reproductive system and find out how to harness it for natural birth control and/or easier pregnancy achievement. Learn about how charting your cycle can give you invaluable insight into your own health.

Consider this book your ultimate guide to the inner workings of your reproductive system.

This book will be your guide. It contains all of the rules and all of the background science (there is an incredible bibliography section with a wealth of scientific resources if you want to dive deep). It will instruct you on how exactly to go about checking your cervical fluid and your basal body temperature every day.

NOTE: When I mention efficacy rates of 99.6% with perfect use and 98.2% with typical use, these figures are based off THIS study. This study was based on the Sensiplan protocol of the Symptothermal Method. Participants were taught under the instruction of a qualified Fertility Awareness Educator for the duration of the study. The Sensiplan protocol is slightly more conservative than Toni Weschler’s protocol because it includes a calculation-based “Doering Rule”.

While I will never stop recommending Toni’s book “Taking Charge Of Your Fertility” because of the absolute wealth of information contained within its pages, I will say that if you are aiming for the absolute highest efficacy possible, you may want to look into the Sensiplan protocol after you have read Toni’s book, and keep in mind that these efficacy rates are based on users who had an instructor.

2) Download an app or set up a paper chart to begin tracking your cycle. My personal favorite is Kindara for iOS. I still use Kindara when I am out and about during the day, and then I fill in my paper chart at night in Pen & Paper – the definitive Fertility Awareness charting journal. Other great options are Lily for iOS, and OvuView or Lady Cycle on Android.
A Symptothermal Method chart in my favourite app for iOS, Kindara.
Always remember that apps are for inputting and observing your own data. Don’t rely on app predictions – it’s best to turn predictions off in your app, if possible. Read why HERE.


3) Buy a Basal Body Temperature Thermometer. You don’t need anything fancy. A cheap $20 one from the pharmacy will work just fine. Just make sure it is definitely a Basal Thermometer and not a standard fever thermometer.

And then start temping! If you want to invest a little more, you could check out the iSnow (it’s a BBT thermometer that has a backlight, stores up to 60 temps and also has a built-in alarm).

You could also check out Tempdrop: a wearable BBT that accurately takes your temp while you’re sleeping, thereby removing the need to stick to a restrictive waking schedule every day. Great for shift workers and postpartum mamas!

4) Join the Facebook group Fertility Awareness Method Of Birth Control HERE. You will find over 17,000 women all busy supporting each other as they learn how to use the Fertility Awareness-Based Method of their choice. While the majority of members use a Symptothermal Method, there are also plenty of Symptohormonal Method users and Cervical Mucus-Only Method users too!

The group has an active and involved team of admins and mods, and many very experienced members who are always only too happy to help when you have any charting-related questions. The group actively encourages learning through weekly learning posts such as ‘Textbook Tuesday’, ‘Chart Share Sunday’, ‘FAM Fail Friday’, ‘ROF Watch’ and more.

As someone who was originally self-taught, I credit this group with providing me the support I needed to accurately learn the Sympothermal Method. If you have the financial resources to afford an instructor, there’s also a group file with a great list of qualified instructors all over the world so you’ll definitely be able to find someone to work with.

NOTE: Remember how up above in Step One I mentioned that the Sensiplan protocol is the one that provides those really high efficacy rates that we always mention? Well, this Facebook group has a file that outlines the rules in English (as the method is a German method). It’s easy to find in the Files section of the group.

So there you have it. The four easy steps that I recommend you take if you would like to get started with the Symptothermal Method of Fertility Awareness. What are you waiting for?!

Jessie Brebner