Frequently Asked Questions
WHICH FERTILITY AWARENESS BASED METHOD DO YOU TEACH & HOW DO I KNOW IF IT IS RIGHT FOR ME?
I teach the Sympto-Thermal Method, which relies on the daily tracking and charting of both cervical fluid and waking temperature in order to recognize the fertile window and to confirm ovulation. This is a secular practice and does not require abstinence, although it remains an option. I also teach contraceptive options such as withdrawal, herbal allies and menstrual promotion/extraction within a framework of full-spectrum fertility management, which is not traditionally taught in STM. Full-spectrum fertility management supports the entire fertility cycle from pregnancy prevention to menstrual health promotion.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO LEARN TO CHART AND HOW SOON CAN I USE IT FOR CONTRACEPTION?
There are some variables that can affect how long it takes you to learn to chart your fertility signs, which in turn, affect how soon you may feel confident relying on the practice for contraception.
The current health of your menstrual cycle is a big one. If you have “textbook” cycles (ie 28 days without variation), you'll probably find it pretty easy to apply the rules and track. If you have irregular cycles, you may have a harder time troubleshooting the rules, as you may need to learn to use variations of them.
Along those lines, another piece to consider is how familiar you are already with you body and cycle and how much trust you feel in that relationship. For some women, checking her cervical fluid feels like big step in embracing her female body, for others, it is no big deal. The longer you chart and are able to see your cycle patterns, the more trust and comfort you can establish in recognizing your body's rhythms. This is enormously helpful when it comes to making contraceptive choices.
Another factor to consider is that all of us need repetition and review in order to learn new information and implement new habits. Therefore, the more committed you are to learning and the more support you have during that process, the more you can speed up this learning curve.
Of course, when considering contraception, the support of your sexual partner is also a huge factor, as is the general support of the community and culture you are surrounded by.
Perhaps the biggest challenge couples may encounter is re-incorporating condoms if you have been on some form of hormonal contraceptive. This is an opportunity for both partners to share responsibility for their fertility, knowing that in time, other contraceptive options (such a withdrawal or herbal allies) can be incorporated as you become more clear of your fertile and infertile times.
Generally speaking, I recommend giving it three month of charting (more if you are just coming off the pill) as this will give you a sense for your cycle and ensure that you have enough time to implement the rules and get the learning support you need.
WHEN & WHY SHOULD I HAVE A CONSULT & WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Primarily, private consults give me the time to do an in-depth intake of your menstrual health history, diet/lifestyle habits and any emotional/psychological factors that you feel might be influencing your cycles/fertility. With this information, we can better assess your charts and any health indicators that may be presenting. While I do not diagnosis or treat, I offer you educational support materials, a holistic perspective, and resources and referrals that best serve your needs.
Secondarily, private consults enable you to have any questions about your FAM practice, contraceptive choices, or sexual/reproductive health answered. Honestly, you can ask me anything!
You can schedule a consult any time, although I highly recommend that you have at least 3 consecutive charts to use as reference. If you don't have enough charts but still need some support or you have a quick question, I recommend you book a 30 min Q&A.
As far as the benefits go, there is a lot I could say to that! To start, I have a background in counseling psychology, traditional medicine perspectives and folk herbalism, all of which I weave into my consults. I have studied deeply in the realm of women's spirituality, which will help you access all levels of healing, mind-body-spirit.
Private consults also give me a chance to personally educate you about healthy hormones, feminine life design principles and practices, clinical tests, inspirational resources and so much more...
IS WHAT YOU TEACH DIFFERENT FROM WHAT MY PERIOD-TRACKING APP DOES?
Most likely. Depending on which app you are using, many rely on algorithms to predict your fertile and infertile times, or they offer information that is too general and therefore arbitrary to your personal cycle. Some apps are structured very similarly to what I teach, but don't provide in-depth instruction on how to best use FAM in a way that works for you.
The only way to know where you are in your cycle and whether or not you are fertile, is to track your fertility signs on a daily basis and to rely on this daily observation when making contraceptive choices. While some apps may offer guidance on how to do this, the education provided by a certified FAE stands apart.
*also check out the answer to the question, "What is the role of a professional educator" above...
HOW EFFECTIVE IS THIS METHOD?
The short answer is that the effectiveness of all Fertility Awareness based methods vary according to how well the rules are applied, as this is a behavioral method of birth control. This of course has many implications, ranging from how well the rules were learned in the first place to the level of caution taken when applying them with regular practice.
Statistical ratings range from 75%-98+%. The trouble with these lower ratings, however, is that the studies have grouped a variety of different approaches. Each approach is in fact a different method with different rules, so naturally, they have different statistical effectiveness ratings.
I have made a choice as a FAE to not reference statistical effectiveness ratings as I find them highly misleading (both for the better and for the worse). Instead, I encourage and teach women to use a “spectrum of risk” when it comes to making contraceptive choices during their fertile window.
The reason for this is simple: if *ANY* contraceptive method is going to fail, it is going to fail when you are fertile. Therefore, rather than rely on an arbitrary statistic, I encourage women to recognize the inherent risk in having sex when they are fertile and to empower their conscious choice making by teaching a variety of contraceptive options that range from no risk to high risk sexual intimacy.
Knowledge is power. This is the foundation of Fertility Awareness. When we know what is happening within our bodies, we can make fully informed and personally specific choices about how we choose to be with our fertility.
The "radical" idea here is that women are smart and sovereign about our bodies; we do not need to out-source this power by deferring to external or general information sources or by relying on chance, unless we so choose.
We can consult our inner knowing and the truth of the moment when it comes to making the right contraceptive choices in sexual intimacy.
I AM COMING OFF OF HORMONAL CONTRACEPTION, HOW LONG UNTIL MY NORMAL CYCLES RETURN?
Each woman responds to hormonal contraception differently, therefore, its effects can vary within each woman's body. Some women's cycles return the following month, others take a year or more... Sometimes, the cervical crypts (where cervical fluid is produced) have been damaged or atrophied, which can make it difficult to determine your fertile window when you start tracking. There can also be excess estrogen stored in your system as a result of sustained high hormone levels, and this can cause confusing cervical fluid patterns or even secondary health issues that suddenly show up. If there were original hormonal imbalances that hormonal contraception was used to “cover up,” it is likely that these will return and need to be addressed from a more holistic approach.
All of that said, it is entirely possible, and super valuable, for you to use FAM to support your transition! By charting your BBT and cervical fluid pattern, you can gain a wealth of information that can you help pinpoint and better support your body's unique needs.
I also recommend for women who are returning to natural cycling and TTC that you schedule a private consult with me to review your menstrual health history and to assess what health indicators your charts might be revealing.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF A PROFESSIONAL EDUCATOR? (Can't I learn this from a book or an app?)
You can definitely consult the classic FAM resources, and I recommend that you do! But what I will say from my own experience is that book learning is S-L-O-W, especially for those with irregular cycles or menstrual health issues. It can take a long time to digest and integrate general information and to troubleshoot on your own. Even apps, with their tutorials and learning support communities, don't often provide the best or most accurate advice.
I chose to become certified as a FAE because I could see how vital and yet how lacking this education is in our culture... and how easily mis-information about it can spread. We live in a digital information age and I wanted this valuable wisdom to reach modern audiences in an accessible and accurate way. Hence, my online offerings.
However, this work isn't just about the practice of charting your fertility cycle... it's about meeting women's health needs across a broad spectrum. A professional FAE understands the many facets of your menstrual health and sees your cycle as a vital health sign, within the context of your whole being. We can help you draw together the pieces.
I am trained to look at your cycle health holistically, however, unlike a healthcare provider, I am not here to tell you how to “fix” your body. I don't diagnose or treat; instead, I am here to support your understanding and encourage your own independent choice making.
WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL HEALTH CARE PERSPECTIVE?
My personal health care perspective comes from that of the Wise Woman Tradition, outlined by herbalist Susun Weed in her book Healing Wise.
The Wise Woman tradition differs from other health approaches in some very fundamental ways, most notably is that the role of the practitioner is not to "fix" you or give you "answers." Instead, I am here to help reflect your own knowing, wisdom, truths, insights, and answers back to you while also helping you understand your body's sypmtoms better.
My role as a holistic sexual/reproductive health educator is to provide a framework of self-knowing (which starts with the practice of tracking your cycle) for you to use on your path to greater and greater self awareness and understanding. Whatever insights you gain from this practice, I support you in identifying the health approaches, lifestyle changes and/or contraceptive choices that feel most aligned for you.
Overall, I encourage simple nourishment (mind-body-spirit) and a whole body / whole life perspective rather than focusing on fixing the "broken" parts and "imbalanced" pieces...
What I have discovered from my own journey is that health/healing/wholeness is very different from symptom remission. I see our symptoms, especially those womb-related, as allies/teachers that, when embraced as such, gift us with immense wisdom. If you choose to work with me one on one, I will encourage you to entertain this perspective as well!