If you aren’t trying to conceive right now, this one’s for you. Back in the Spring, I joined the club of the 45 % people who accidentally get pregnant every year in the US (almost 3 million). I would have had a Christmas baby, had I not miscarried early on, right along with the other mama’s who were sexin’ like rabbits in the springtime. In all honestly, we had sex ONE single time over a couple month’s span, as we were in the process of moving to another state and I had a 9 month old baby nursing 24/7. One time is all it takes, as we all know, but what you may not know is how easy it is to fail while just using the Fertility Awareness Method. It’s called FAM for short and you may already be doing it without the intention. Avoiding your ovulation days, having sex on your period, and having your partner pull out are all things we often do that have been passed down as ways to avoid pregnancy. FAM is just that— being aware of your fertility in order to avoid your partner’s sperm during that time, and subsequently, an unwanted pregnancy.
The problem is— it seems foolproof but it’s anything but perfect. I’ve been using it as my sole source of birth control for 5 years and I still wound up with a bun in the oven. I am going to share 3 not – so – talked about reasons why FAM Fails.
There’s still sperm in pre ejaculate
Fondly referred to as precum, preejaculate is the nemesis of the pull-out method. You expect that your partner will be able to enjoy sex without a condom until the moment they “pull out”, right? No sperm, no problem, right? Not only can precum have sperm that is still viable for pregnancy (albeit, less common), it can be present without being readily visible. Just because you don’t see it , doesn’t mean it’s not happening at any time during penetration. The other tricky thing with penises is that they have a built in cleansing process that causes it to flush the urethra (the tube inside where urine and semen comes out) at some point before ejaculation. This sterilizes the tube for the good stuff — the seminal fluid which carries the sperm. You’re avoiding the end while you could be getting pregnant at the beginning, middle, backward and forward. Yikes!
You underestimate how often you can be fertile
Movies paired with period apps will have you thinking you can’t get pregnant on your period, you can’t get pregnant days after it, you can’t get pregnant underwater, you can’t get pregnant during a full moon… Please don’t be mad at me if I am the first person to tell you that you can get pregnant at absolutely anytime during the month as long as you’re ovulating. Pinpointing your ovulation has to be the primary step to FAM and that cannot be confirmed just using the calendar. Everyone’s body is different and will ovulate at different times in your monthly cycle. For further reading, look into how to check your basal body temperature and how to check your discharge for signs of ovulation. This addition adds the most accuracy.
You ovulate twice a month
This horror story comes to you from my birth doula, who decided to dig into some research after I had an identical birth with my second child. The same general concerns were present — my baby is measuring huge inside my belly (many many weeks larger), I go into labor very early ( I was only 8 months pregnant with my second son), the baby comes out and we are all scratching our head at what is supposed to be a preemie but is fully cooked baby. When she thought back to us trying to conceive for 5 months straight, focusing mainly on my ovulation days, she put some clues together with the theory that I may have been pregnant longer than I knew both times. You may want to sit down before you go visit this NIH study, titled “Women may ovulate two or three times a month” by Owen Dower.
If you make it through that one without fainting, try googling “women ovulate more than once” and “NIH” and you will find several other studies just like it. I was so taken aback that I immediately opened my period app, which I keep meticulously updated. I went back to early 2021 only to find around three months where I had a row of “ovulation “ dots overlapping on the first and the end of the month. It is absolutely possible to ovulate many different times, and sperm can last inside of your vagina for a few days after it is released!
If you really don’t want a baby right now, just consider a good ol condom or sleep in separate rooms until they head off to college.
Just kidding! Embrace all that the Fertility Awareness Method has to offer by truly learning your individual signs and you will be a FAM champ in no time.
Byline – Crystal Saiyge is a Black woman, sex-positive interfaith minister, wife, and mom in no particular order.