What is Fertility Awareness?

Fertility Awareness Methods (FAM) (sometimes also called natural family planning or rhythm method) are a combination of practices that help someone determine when they are most likely to get pregnant.

How does FAM work?

It is a way to predict fertile and infertile times in your cycle.

FAM is based on body signs, which change during each menstrual cycle in response to the hormones that cause ovulation (the release of an egg).

If you use FAM and don’t want to get pregnant, you must abstain (not have intercourse at all) or use another contraceptive during the times you may get pregnant.

FAM relies on the following assumptions:

  • An egg is usually released once in each menstrual cycle.
  • The egg lives 12 to 24 hours.
  • Sperm can live up to 5 days in the uterus, and be able to fertilize an egg during this time.
  • This means that a person could get pregnant as long as six days before ovulation and 2 -3  days after ovulation, a total of 7-8 day in each menstrual cycle

How effective is FAM?

Because FAM may include multiple methods and is dependent on many factors (such as the length of a person’s cycle) it is difficult to determine how effective it is and may range from 77% – 98% effective.

  • Inexpensive.
  • No health risks.
  • Convenient (no devices or hormones to use).
  • May fit within faith-based/cultural values.
  • May develop greater communication, cooperation, and responsibility for partners.
  • May help determine optimum fertility time to achieve a pregnancy
  • May help track and improve PMS symptoms
  • High failure rate.
  • May be difficult to accurately predict ovulation or fertile times.
  • Requires commitment from both partners.
  • Decreases spontaneous intercourse.
  • Does not protect against STIs.
  • Only as effective as the contraceptive used during fertile times (e.g., abstinence, condoms).

Seems confusing? We’re here for you!

We know it can be confusing to choose a method. We are here to help. Our Options for Sexual Health Clinics are staffed by health care professionals who are there to answer your questions.  They can help you learn how to use the method you choose and bring you back to check in on how the method is working for you.

Between visits or anytime, our Sex Sense team is there to answer any questions you might have by phone (1-800-739-7367) or by email at

This is general information and should not be used in place of individual consultation with a qualified healthcare provider.

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