Talking To Your Doctor About The Fertility Awareness Method For Preventing Pregnancy (How doctors react, and how you could respond) By Holly Grigg-Spall

Once you decide to come off the birth control pill or get your IUD removed, once you’ve done your research into alternatives for preventing pregnancy, and once you’ve discovered the Fertility Awareness Method, then at some point you’ll probably have to have a conversation with your OB-GYN.

At first, if you have an IUD you’ll be asking for its removal; if you’re on the Pill or another hormonal birth control method you’ll be turning down the next prescription. At that point your doctor might want to know why you no longer want to use that method of contraception. They also might want to know what you plan on doing to prevent pregnancy in the future. Many of the women who’ve been there already report back that this can be a tricky conversation to have, made more so if you are dealing with side effects and don’t feel like your best self at the time.

Of course, there are doctors that know to support their patients’ decisions, especially well-researched decisions, and they will be open, curious, compassionate, and may even know a lot already about the Fertility Awareness Method. However, there are also doctors who – mostly due to lack of education in medical school about contraception beyond just the hormonal methods – who will have a different reaction. It’s possible you might experience some pushback over hormone-free birth control and cycle charting. Your doctor might prefer to persuade you to give another hormonal method a try – like the implant, shot, or ring – or to give the method you’re already using just a few more months.

Yet, when you have made the decision to practice the Fertility Awareness Method, it’s usually because you’re done with hormonal birth control and the side effects or you haven’t enjoyed the IUD and you’re absolutelyready to make the change. You know this is right for you.

So, what are some of the questions or concerns you might expect to hear from your doctor and how might you respond? We take a look at some of the ways this conversation can go.

Reaction: Do you want to try another, different, more effective method first? Like the implant/shot/ring/IUD? It has less side effects/lower hormone levels/a different formulation (delete as applicable).

Response: No. I’m done with hormonal birth control. Synthetic hormones are synthetic hormones and I’ve had enough experience with them now to know I don’t like what they do or how they make me feel. I know that another kind of pill or device might be different, but in the end they all have side effects of some kind and I’m tired of putting myself through this. Now that I know I don’t have to, that I can instead use the Fertility Awareness Method, which is definitely, completely side effect free – I honestly feel liberated from having to give anything else hormonal or invasive a try, and playing Russian Roulette with my health.

Or: The IUD isn’t working for me. Even though it’s low hormone/hormone free, I still experienced side effects. I thought this was going to finally be the solution for preventing pregnancy for me and it’s not. I’m sure it’s great for some of your patients, but it’s not something I’m comfortable with continuing.

Please support me in this decision, knowing that I’m serious, and that I need and appreciate your support.

Reaction: I’m confused, are you hoping to get pregnant sometime soon though?

Response: No, like I said, I’m not ready for a baby yet, and won’t be for some time. Fertility Awareness Based Methods can be as effective as the Pill for preventing pregnancy as long as you monitor the fertility signs – such as basal body temperature, cervical fluid, cervix position. I know that generally in mainstream medicine  you only talk about cycle charting when a woman is trying to get pregnant, and even then it’s often Rhythm Method-based (like saying all women will ovulate on the 14th day of a 28 day cycle). However, when you track fertility signs daily you can use this information to better achieve AND avoid pregnancy – you can pinpoint your most fertile day and know when you’re not fertile and cannot get pregnant. The principles are the same. When I’m in my fertile window I plan to either abstain from PIV sex, or use a barrier method like a condom/diaphragm/cervical cap. The Fertility Awareness Based Method I’ve chosen is the Daysy fertility computer, which is 99.3% accurate- it relies on the fertility sign of basal body temperature.

Reaction: I’m doubtful that you’ll find it easy to abstain from sex half the month and I’m concerned that the barrier methods you mentioned are not effective enough.

Response: I may decide to abstain from PIV sex (the kind that makes babies) for my fertile window – which is actually about 9 days for me right now, so less than half a month. However, there are a lot of other ways a couple can be sexually intimate without getting evem close to the possibility of pregnancy. I’m kind of looking forward to making this more a part of my sex life! I know that if I use a condom plus a spermicide like Contragel that I’m well protected, with an effectiveness of 95%. In addition, if something were to go wrong with my barrier method, like a break or slip, then I would know I’d need to react quickly to make sure pregnancy doesn’t occur. I’ll be making an informed, educated decision about what to do next.

Reaction: You know that when you come off your hormonal birth control you may find the reason you went on will come back i.e. your acne/heavy periods/cramps/bloating?

Response: I imagine some of those issues might return, at first, as the hormonal birth control did not work as a treatment (despite what I was told) and was actually only a band-aid to cover up my symptoms. However, there are many positive things about experiencing a cycle that I’m looking forward to, including being free of side effects, but also having my sex drive back; feeling more connected to the world and my partner; feeling more energized; my creativity, my changing/shifting emotions and abilities during each phase;  a stronger sense of touch, smell, taste; and experiencing the full spectrum of my hormonal cycle. Not to mention the longterm benefits of ovulating regularly – for my bone, heart and breast health.  One of the benefits of using the Daysy fertility computer is that I can share my charts with you via email. These charts can help a doctor diagnose certain health issues like thyroid problems more quickly and effectively than blood tests alone. I’d be happy to share my charts with you, if you might be interested. I also know now that there are ways to treat the root cause of problems like cramps and heavy bleeding and I plan on taking steps to change my diet, lifestyle and use supplements, as needed. I know I’m going to feel better than I do now with these side effects.

Reaction: It sounds like a lot of work, do you have the time to do what is needed to follow the Fertility Awareness Method? I’m worried you won’t be able to be consistent in doing this.

Response: I know I’m super busy all the time. I have a packed work schedule. But I took the time to research all the Fertility Awareness Based Methods out there. I decided that charting my signs with a regular basal body thermometer may take more time and effort than I am able to give right now. That’s why I chose the Daysy fertility computer. It takes 30 seconds a day for me to take my basal body temperature and get my fertility status for the day. It does all the analysis and interpretation for me. So, whereas charting manually and learning the rules of, say, the Sympto-Thermal Method of Fertility Awareness might be great for some women, I know it’s not the right choice for me. Just like there are lots of different hormonal birth control options on the menu; there are actually lots of different Fertility Awareness Based Methods on the other, hormone-free menu! Because I’m used to hormonal birth control/the IUD, I feel good using a medically certified device that gives me the confidence to learn more about my body and practice natural birth control.

To read “Reactions people have when you tell them you use the Fertility Awareness Method” click here.


by Holly Grigg-Spall, Marketing Consultant and Blog Editor

When she came off the birth control pill after 10 years in 2009, Holly decided to write a blog about the experience. That blog became a series of articles, and then book, “Sweetening the Pill,” which then inspired a feature documentary, currently in production and executive produced by Ricki Lake. She is a fertility awareness and body literacy advocate and educator, a Daysy enthusiast, and excited to help more women come off the birth control pill and find a natural, effective alternative.