Why it’s best to work with a trained teacher when learning a Fertility Awareness Based Method (FABM) for family planning by Allison Dreher

When you learned to drive, did someone just hand you a set of keys and say, ‘good luck?’ What a silly question right? Nobody would do that. Yet, when learning about the female body and what our daily observations can tell us about our fertility each day, that is essentially what happens.

You might hear something that peaks your interest, then you go on an internet search, and figure stuff out on your own. That IS one way to do it. I know, because I did. But there was a lot of anxiety about whether I was “doing it right,” and besides that, I was coming off of hormonal birth control which can make observations difficult. Had I been working with a teacher, things would have been different.

So, why is it best to work with a teacher? Let’s take a look…

1. Unbiased highly trained eyes looking at your chart.

Certified teachers have undergone a rigorous training program and they know their method so well, that they can quote the rule book verbatim. They care about your cycle as much as you do, maybe more because they have a lot at stake since you are going to blame them if you get pregnant. I’m kidding, sort of.

Joking aside, trained teachers have seen all kinds of charts and they are not emotionally attached to it like you are. They look at it through the lens of how the science and method applies to what you have charted. They are willing to be the ‘bad guy’ and tell you what you don’t really want to hear, but what you probably know already, like, “sex isn’t available tonight if you are trying to avoid a pregnancy”. Plus, you can throw your teacher under the bus if you partner is irritated! It’s (insert teacher’s name)’s fault. She said my chart says no. Blame her.

2. Personalized attention.

Most chart reviews take anywhere from 30 min to 1 hour depending on the needs of the woman. Because a woman’s chart can be affected by things like stress and lack of sleep, the chart review can be a little like therapy helping you to see if you need some self-care. Your teacher will walk you through what is going on hormonally, and get you dialoguing about what you’ve observed. This dialogue speeds the learning process. You are not just listening; you are doing and reflecting on what has been charted.

3. The scientific data is method specific. Deviating from the protocols for intercourse will make the method less effective.

There is a lot of information about FABMs online, but if you are charting to avoid pregnancy it is important to follow each method as specified. When FABM educators say that their method is 90-99% effective in preventing pregnancy, those stats are based on ‘perfect use.’ That means that the person using the method is following all the rules and charting the method perfectly.

If a couple mixes methods, there are no studies that confirm the effectiveness of doing so. The chance of pregnancy is likely higher than the quoted effectiveness rate. **Example- a couple uses condoms in addition to an FABM. That couple may use the condom only during the fertile window since there is no reason to use one when the woman is infertile. If the condom fails, it is failing when the woman is most likely to become pregnant.

**Note** condoms separate the procreative aspect of sexual intimacy from the unitive and therefore are impermissible according to Catholic Church teaching. The Sisterhood does not promote the usage of condoms. We use this as an example of mixing methods because we know it is practiced by some, and want to address the higher probability of pregnancy.***

When a woman begins to chart her cycle there are a lot of things she will think about that she never thought before. She might feel overwhelmed by all the new information and the idea of charting every day. A teacher can help with all of this. She can keep you on track, make sure you are charting correctly, and answer any questions that may arise during the day. Most NFP teachers encourage their clients to email or call them any time. They are an invaluable resource.

If you would like help contacting a teacher let us know here.

May God Bless you.

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