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20 Essentials Reading Time: 2 minutes

20 Essential Resources: Fertility Awareness and Fertility Awareness Methods (FAM)

This is a curated collection of resources for integrating FAM, including the Standard Days Method, TwoDay Method, and Lactational Amenorrhea Method, into family planning programs as well as introducing Fertility Awareness (FA) education into health and youth programs. Adding FAM into the contraceptive method mix is a proven way to introduce new people to family planning, reduce unmet need, and increase contraceptive choice. Additionally, building FA knowledge among women, men, and adolescents helps them care for their own sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and support the SRH of others.

Historically, science-based natural family planning methods, or fertility awareness methods (also known as FAM), were not available for those seeking a nonhormonal option. And at the foundation of taking care of one’s reproductive health is understanding body literacy and fertility. Yet so many women, and men for that matter, have inaccurate information about how fertility works and limited contraceptive options when it comes time to plan or prevent pregnancies. With an established protocol in WHO’s Medical eligibility criteria for contraceptive use, the different forms of FAMs—the Standard Days Method (SDM), TwoDay Method, and Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM)—have proven acceptable to providers and users, and are offered by the public sector, NGOs, faith-based organizations (FBO), and community-based organizations worldwide. In addition, since these are knowledge-based methods, they can be offered by providers outside of the health system. Research shows that adding FAM to the method mix increases contraceptive choice and prevalence and reduces unmet need, partly because they are natural and side effect-free.

What is Fertility Awareness?

Around the world, there are misconceptions about sex, menstruation, pregnancy, and familiy planning: fear of side effects, opposition, postpartum, amenorrhea, and infrequent sex are the top reasons cited by women for not using family planning. Placing accurate information about fertility in the hands of women, men, and adolescents can have positive impacts on sexual and reproductive health outcomes by empowering them to understand their pregnancy risks. This collection provides documentation on interventions, evidence, tools, and curricula to accomplish that goal. Fertility Awareness is actionable information about fertility throughout the life cycle, and the ability to apply this knowledge to one’s own circumstances and needs. It can enable people to identify what is healthy and normal for them, and know when to seek reproductive health care. It can help youth understand their changing bodies and recognize their reproductive options and responsibilities.

This collection of essential resources supports program managers, trainers, technical advisors, and other family planning and sexual/reproductive health program stakeholders in integrating FAM and Fertility Awareness education into family planning, youth, and health programs, as appropriate.

Shegitu, a health extension worker, facilitates a women's conversation on family planning (FP) at Buture Health Post. Since 2006, the Ethiopia Public Health Association (EPHA) has been building the capacity of the country's Health Extension Program and expanding access to quality community-based FP services. EPHA has trained numerous health extension workers in comprehensive FP with an emphasis on IUCD insertion, enabling many women to receive their contraceptive method of choice.
Jeannette Cachan

FAM Technical Advisor, Institute for Reproductive Health

Jeannette Cachan has 25 years of experience working with family planning programs domestically and internationally. At IRH, she has developed and implemented strategies for youth, FP and HIV/AIDS projects. She is responsible for designing, developing and evaluating appropriate solutions to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of learning, performance and instruction for different reproductive health initiatives.

Frances Walker

Program Associate, Institute for Reproductive Health

Frances Walker is an early career professional with research and practical experience working in family planning programs in different settings and contexts across the world. Frances supports the FAM-Passages Initiative, providing project management, administrative and operations support and developing products and other communication activities.

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