Fertility awareness-based methods come down to this: Track your menstrual cycles and don't have sex on the days that you can get pregnant; if you do have sex on those days, use an alternate method, like a condom—male or female—or diaphragm.
There are several different methods you can use to track your cycle and ideally you’ll use a combination of them to help with accuracy and success. They all involve observing changes in your body and calculating where you’re at in your menstrual cycle. This takes effort and commitment, so before you decide this is the method for you, be sure you really understand what you'll need to do. Be prepared not to have sex for at least seven days out of every month. And if you do knock boots on your fertile days, have backup birth control on hand.
Standard Days Method
In order for this one to work for you, your menstrual cycle must be between 26 and 32 days long. This method incorporates CycleBeads, a handy string of colored beads that help you mark off the days of your menstrual cycle and track your fertility. Get more info here.
To get the hang of it, check out the Fertility Awareness Center. It has lots of information including where to find workshops in your area. They can even coach you on this over the phone.
Every day you’ll check to see if you have any cervical secretions. If you notice secretions of any type—today or yesterday—you’ll considers yourself fertile. That means no sex or using an alternative form of birth control if you notice any of your body’s natural goo. Get more info here.
Cervical Mucus Method
Ready to check your goo? This involves monitoring changes in your cervical mucus on a daily basis. This idea is that you can get pregnant from the onset of your secretions (when your goo is clear, stretchy, slippery, and wet) until 3 days after it stops. Best when used with Symptothermal Method or Standard Days method.
Body Basal Temperature Method (BBT)
You’ll take your temperature every morning before you get out of bed and write it down on a fertility awareness chart. Download one here or here. Best when used with Symptothermal Method or Standard Days Method.
This method predicts fertility by combining more than one of the other Fertility awareness-based methods, most often the Body Basal Temperature Method and Cervical Mucus Method. Get more information here.
There are entire classes you and your partner can take to learn how to use this one, so we're not going to go into the details here. Churches teach some classes, healthcare professionals teach others.
Lactational Amenhorrea Method
Breastfeeding can be used as a family planning method up to 6 months after having a baby. For this to work, you have to meet all three of the following criteria:
- No menstrual bleeding since your baby was born.
- You only breastfeed your baby (no other foods or liquids given).
- You feed your baby at least every 4 hours during the day and every 6 hours during the night.
If you are interested in LAM, read more about it here.