Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)

Last Updated: June 8, 2019

Definition - What does Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) mean?

Fertility awareness method (FAM) is the recognition and tracking of a woman’s primary fertility signs (waking temperature, cervical mucus, and cervical position) to determine when she is or is not fertile. FAM may be used to decrease or increase the odds of pregnancy.

FertilitySmarts explains Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)

A woman's monthly cycle begins on the first day of her period. At that point, one egg begins to mature in her ovaries. Approximately 14 days later, the egg has reached the appropriate level of development, and hormones in the body cause the egg to leave the ovary.

Once out of the ovary, the egg is in the fallopian tube. If no sperm is present, the egg lives for 12-24 hours in the fallopian tube. Once that time period has expired, the egg dies and is flushed from a woman’s body in her vaginal discharge.

However, sperm can live in a woman’s body for up to 5 days. Therefore, a woman can become pregnant at the time of ovulation, even if she has not had sex for several days. As a result, a woman is capable of becoming pregnant for approximately 6 days per month:

  • Five days before ovulation
  • The day of ovulation

FAM is the method of determining which days those are based on physiological symptoms of an individual woman’s cycle. Effectiveness is impacted by the regularity of a woman’s period and the ability to track and monitor the body's cycle.

Strategies used in FAM include:

  • Cervical mucus: recognizing how changes in vaginal discharge indicate each stage of the cycle
  • Temperature method: using basal body temperature (BBT) to indicate when ovulation is occurring
  • Cervical position: using the position of the cervix to determine ovulation
  • Symptothermal method: a combination of the above methods

Fertility awareness method differs from natural family planning (NFP) in that practitioners of FAM generally support the use of barrier contraceptives during a fertile phase, rather than adhering to abstinence, as is common in NFP.

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