Not as Easy as it Looked
Denise Hawks thought that getting pregnant would be easy, but after several months of trying with no success, Hawks decided to track her fertility to discover when her most fertile days were each cycle. This technique of noting fertility signs on a chart is sometimes called Natural Family Planning (NFP) or the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), and it helped Hawks recognize her problem.
"I had always been pretty irregular and never knew why," she says. It turns out that in most of her cycles she did not ovulate, meaning that her ovaries did not release an egg. "Because of this, my doctor wanted me to take Clomid [a fertility drug]," says Hawks. She conceived after three cycles on Clomid. "If I had not been charting, it would have taken much longer to identify the problem. I feel really lucky to have charted; it saved me a lot of time and trouble."
Kathryn Golbeck of Penticton, British Columbia, recalls a similar experience. "I was having really long and irregular cycles, and my sister suggested I try FAM," she says. Golbeck found that unlike the "textbook" woman, she didn't ovulate exactly two weeks after her period started. "I didn't ovulate on day 14, but rather on day 18 and often later. My cycles were regular for me what I had thought was irregularity was actually just late ovulation."
With better timing, she and her husband were able to successfully conceive their son. "I have suggested FAM to many friends who are trying to conceive, and they can't believe they didn't know about this!" she says.
Exactly, agrees Melissa Wodzinski, a certified teacher of the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP in Santa Paula, California. "Monitoring fertility signs is the easiest and cheapest way to achieve pregnancy or to find a problem on your own," she explains. "In fact, many women who go to see a fertility specialist will find that before the doctor prescribes medications or starts a sophisticated testing regimen, he or she will ask the woman to track her fertility signs."
A woman who charts her fertility signs and has well-timed intercourse with her partner is encouraged by NFP teachers to consult her doctor after three cycles with no success—compare that with the 12 unsuccessful cycles that doctors suggest waiting when a couple tries to conceive simply by stopping birth control.
NFP/FAM is also cheaper than ovulation predictor kits. The kits will cost the average couple between $15 and $60 per month, but a $10 thermometer is all that is needed to use fertility signs to predict ovulation.