If you have chosen to read this article, you are probably already aware of the side effects of using a chemical contraceptive? And this being the case, you are probably wondering what you can do to prevent conception naturally without having to use a condom each time you have intercourse?
Let me introduce you to the Sympto-Thermal Method of Fertility Awareness; a medically endorsed, highly effective tool that women or couples can learn to:
- prevent conception without having to use chemical contraceptives
- enhance the chances of conception, especially if conception isn’t happening as quickly as you would like
So, what’s it all about?
STM is the researched and scientific practice of observing your body, understanding its changes and knowing when you are fertile and when you are not.
STM is a scientific method because it uses observations of up to three unquestionable signs of fertility: waking body temperature, cervical fluid/mucous and cervical changes. This differs from the Billings Method which uses only cervical mucous signs; or the Rhythm Method, which is an old style of fertility awareness method that relied solely on dates on a calendar.
The STM is at least 98% effective  (same as the mini-pill) when taught by an accredited Natural Fertility NZ educator; and recent research in Germany in 2007 showed an effectiveness of 99.4% . It is endorsed by the World Health Organisation , as well as being used by gynaecologists world-wide.
What will I learn by working with you?
Well let’s start with this… did you know that a man is fertile every day, but as a woman, you are fertile only six days per menstrual cycle? In short, your fertile days are the five days before ovulation (because that’s how long sperm survives in fertile conditions), and the one day after ovulation (because that’s how long the egg survives).
By working with an accredited Natural Fertility NZ Educator such as myself you will learn to confidently observe your own body and establish when you are fertile. You can then choose to either abstain from intercourse or use a barrier during the fertile phase of your cycle to prevent pregnancy.
STM involves carefully recording:
- Waking body temperature – a rise in basal body temperature during your cycle indicates a release of the reproductive hormone called progesterone. The release of progesterone directly after ovulation causes your body temperature to rise, which makes it easy to identify your post-ovulation infertile or safe days. In addition to this, specific guidelines must be adhered to too ensure you known exactly when your safe days start, and these guidelines are taught during personalised consultations.
- Cervical mucous symptoms – in the days leading up to ovulation a woman will usually see specific changes in cervical mucous/fluid which indicate that ovulation is about to occur. Learning the STM guidelines around changes in cervical mucous/fluid in additional to taking your waking temperature daily will ensure you know when you are safe for unprotected intercourse in both the pre-ovulatory and post-ovulatory phases of your cycle.
It is important to note that although cervical mucous/fluid is generally most obvious in the days before ovulation you may see it any time you have high oestrogen compared to progesterone. For example, if you see it early in your cycle you may have too much oestrogen; and if you see it in the days following ovulation you may not be producing enough progesterone .
- Changes to the cervix – the softness and position of your cervix are the final physical signs of ovulation. When you are infertile your cervix will be low, hard (feels like the tip of your nose) and closed. As you approach ovulation, your cervix will be higher and softer. Observing this can provide an extra tool to help determine approaching ovulation in those who do not have many symptoms of cervical mucous/fluid.
I also think it is important to note that using the STM can be really helpful in assessing what is happening with your general health and well-being. Using the STM can help identify if you have specific hormonal imbalances which are affecting your reproductive and general health.
Who can use it?
STM can be used by women at any stage of their reproductive life – pre or post children, post oral contraceptive pill or Depo Provera or peri-menopausal women and it does not depend on a regular cycle. Breastfeeding women can use a different form of fertility awareness called Lactational Amenorrhoea Method (LAM) or partial breastfeeding charting method.
- World Health Organisation, “Family Planning/Contraception,” WHO, 08 02 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/family-planning-contraception
- Oxford Academy, “The effectiveness of a fertility awareness based method to avoid pregnancy in relation to a couple’s sexual behaviour during the fertile time: a prospective longitudinal study,” Human Reproduction, 20 02 2007. [Online]. Available: https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/22/5/1310/2914315
- Briden, Period Repair Manual, Sydney: Pan McMillan Australia Pty Ltd, 2018.