In my reading and discussing my decision with people, I've realized that what I've always known as "Natural Family Planning", a lot of people confuse with "The Rhythm Method", something I vaguely remember my health teacher mentioning in this context: "A lot of people use this method of counting back from their periods but it DOESN'T WORK because EVERY WOMAN IS DIFFERENT and DON'T USE IT." I've caught a little bit of flak and a little bit of concern from friends and strangers alike who don't realize there's a difference.
I'm going to say this in all caps so if you were confused, you won't be anymore because CAPS mean IMPORTANT (and also yelling):
THE FERTILITY AWARENESS METHOD IS NOT THE RHYTHM METHOD.
It's not even technically Natural Family Planning, although they are almost identical save for FAM allows use of a barrier during your fertile period.
What the Rhythm Method is:
The Rhythm Method "works" by counting backward from your period to predict when you will ovulate during your next cycle. You abstain from sex during this predicted ovulatory phase.
Why the Rhythm method is faulty:
The Rhythm Method assumes consistency from cycle to cycle. However, even women that have a typically consistent cycle can still have delayed ovulation due to stress and other factors. The Rhythm Method is based on assumptions and previous observations, not what is currently going on in your body. There is also no charting aside from keeping track of when your periods start.
What the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is:
FAM uses consistent observation and charting of three ovulation indicators to tell when in your cycle you are ovulating, close to ovulating, or finished ovulating. By tracking 1) your basal (waking) body temperature, 2) your cervical fluids, and 3) your cervical position, FAM tells you what is currently happening in your body.
This is the part where I rave about FAM for a while:
The thing about FAM is that it takes very little time (I take my temperature in the morning when I used to take my pill, I check my cervical fluid when I go to the bathroom, and I check my cervical position when I take a shower) but from just monitoring these few signs, you gain SO MUCH INFORMATION about what's happening in your body. You can tell when you're going to get your period, within a day. You can know whether or not you actually ovulated, or if your body only prepared for ovulation but delayed it. You have a much better awareness of potential gynecological problems, and if you need to talk to a doctor, you can go in informed rather than blind.
I'm barely scratching the surface here, but the point is, I am amazed they don't teach this stuff in high school. Obviously it wouldn't be smart to present it as birth control, but I think it's unfair to deny women the right to know how to interpret the changes in their bodies. I mean, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of how the menstrual cycle worked, but I learned stuff I didn't know by reading this book.
Heck, I learned how the pill works by recognizing the hormones it uses and their place in the menstrual cycle.
I'm excited to see how my first fully-charted cycle goes. They say that when you first come off the pill, your cycles may be a little wonky for a while, but I was only on the pill for not even a full three months after being off it for over a year, so who knows. I'm really trying to resist the urge to force all of my girlfriends to chart with me so we can compare each other's charts*. (I have already sort of done this to my friend Megan but SHE IS USED TO ME FORCING MY OBSESSIONS ON HER. I love you, Megan.) For the time being, I'm sating my desire to look at other people's charts by looking at charts posted on the author's website.
If you are a woman, I HIGHLY recommend you give FAM a look-see, even if you have no desire to use it as birth control or to get pregnant (which I didn't talk about here, but it works just as well for getting pregnant as it does for avoiding it), simply because there are so many benefits to be gained just by knowing how your body's a-tickin'.
If nothing else, I hope you've got a little clearer view of the difference between FAM and the Rhythm Method.
*That being said, if FAM piques your interest at all and you'd be willing to chart with me and compare and contrast charts, LET ME KNOW I am in my highly obsessive phase of learning something new™ and I would love someone to obsess with. :)