Fertility awareness-based methods, sometimes called natural family planning, are all about tracking your menstrual cycle to determine the days you can get pregnant. The tricky part is actually learning when those days are. To do that, you’ll need to pay very close attention to your body and its patterns.

Fertility awareness methods aren’t among the most effective. For best results, you have to do it perfectly.
Thermometers are less than $10. CycleBeads are $10—$25. Free or low-cost classes available.
Supplies are available online or from clinics. Classes can be taken from some clinics or churches.
Hormone free
Daily tracking is required to use fertility awareness-based methods correctly.


There are many different fertility awareness-based methods. However, they’re not really recommended for teens. They take a lot of work, and some are best for older women with very regular cycles. As a teen, your cycle is still trying to figure out what it’s doing.

Standard Days Method

For this one to work for you, your menstrual cycle must be between 26 and 32 days long. This method incorporates CycleBeads, a handy string of colored beads that help you mark off the days of your menstrual cycle and track your fertility. Get more info here.

To get the hang of it, check out the Fertility Awareness Center. It has lots of information including where to find workshops in your area. They can even coach you over the phone.

Two Day Method

Every day you check to see if you have any cervical secretions. If you notice secretions of any type—that day or the day before—you consider yourself fertile. That means no sex or using an alternative form of birth control if you notice any of your body’s natural goo. Get more info here.

Cervical Mucus Method

Ready to check your goo? This involves monitoring changes in your cervical mucus on a daily basis. The idea is that you can get pregnant from the onset of your secretions (i.e., when your goo is clear, stretchy, slippery and wet) until three days after it stops. It’s best when used with the Symptothermal Method or Standard Days method.

Body Basal Temperature Method (BBT)

You’ll take your temperature every morning before you get out of bed and write it down on a fertility awareness chart. Download one here. Best when used with the Symptothermal Method or Standard Days Method.

Symptothermal Method

This method predicts fertility by combining more than one of the other fertility awareness-based methods, most often the Body Basal Temperature Method and Cervical Mucus Method. It won’t work for women whose cycles are shorter than 27 days or longer than 32. Get more information here.


There are entire classes you and your partner can take to learn how to use this one, so we’re not going to go into the details here. Churches teach some classes; health care professionals teach others.



You’re worried about hormones.

Many people who use this method want something that doesn’t affect their bodies. However, there are other, more effective hormone-free methods—like the copper IUD or condoms.

There’s (not quite) an app for that.

You can download lots of apps to help you track your period and allegedly prevent pregnancy. Research has shown that many of these apps don’t work and might tell you to have sex on a danger day.

You might still need condoms.

Fertility awareness methods don’t prevent STIs. Only drop the condoms after you and your partner have been tested and have talked about your STI statuses.

You wouldn’t mind getting pregnant.

Failure rates are kind of high if not used correctly—so if getting pregnant would be disastrous for you, choose another method.

No prescription necessary.

If you don’t want to use hormones, this is one option.

Total self-discipline.

Both you and your partner need to be completely down with the program.

Bomb-ass communication skills required.

If you’re not totally cool with abstaining from time to time, and asking your partner to do the same, then fertility awareness-based methods aren’t for you.

Fertility awareness-based methods come down to this: Track your menstrual cycles and don’t have sex on the days that you can get pregnant. If you do have sex on those days, use an alternate method of birth control, like a male or female condom or a diaphragm.

There are several different methods you can use to track your cycle, and ideally you’ll use a combination of them to help with accuracy and success. They all involve observing changes in your body and calculating where you’re at in your menstrual cycle. This takes effort and commitment, so before you decide this is the method for you, be sure you really understand what you’ll need to do. Be prepared not to have sex for at least seven days out of every month. And if you do knock boots on your fertile days, have backup birth control on hand.

Fertility awareness-based methods—and tracking your body’s natural rhythm—take time and commitment, but they don’t cost a lot.


  • Thermometer – About $10 or less at any grocery, drug or superstore
  • Fertility Awareness Chart – Free (download one here or here).
  • CycleBeads  A color-coded string of beads that represent the days of a woman’s cycle and help her use the Standard Days Method correctly. Available online in regular and deluxe versions, $10–$25.
  • Classes – Sometimes free, but can cost $25–100+ per hour depending on where you go. Ask your health care provider or local health center if they know qualified instructors, or check out the Fertility Awareness Center to find out about workshops in your area. The Center also offers instruction by phone, for a fee. Some church-based organizations offer free classes, but they may require you to be married or engaged and want you to skip sex, rather than use protection, during your fertile times.
  • Additional birth control method – Depends on what additional method you choose. You’ll need this only if you choose to have sex during your fertile time of the month.

You might still need condoms.

Fertility awareness methods don’t prevent STIs. Only drop the condoms after you and your partner have been tested and have talked about your STI statuses.

There are positive and negative things to say about each and every birth control method. And everyone’s different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friends experience.

The Positive

  • Doesn’t cost a thing—except for the price of a basal thermometer or CycleBeads. Or an oopsie baby if you calculate wrong!
  • No prescription necessary
  • No hormones added to your body
  • No worries about side effects, other than the possibility of getting pregnant
  • Helps you learn more about your body and how it works

The Negative

  • Safer for adult women
  • Takes planning, record-keeping and self-control
  • Requires abstinence or the use of alternate types of sex for at least a week per cycle
  • Both partners need to participate 100%
  • The Calendar Method and the Standard Days Method don’t work for women with irregular periods
  • Not something you should try if you’ve just gone off a hormonal method, because hormones affect your cycle. You’d need to use a nonhormonal method while you’re learning to track your cycle.
  • Hard to stick to the plan if you’re using drugs or alcohol

Don’t take our word for it. Check out the videos below to hear folks talk about their experiences with fertility awareness-based methods.


Rachel, 26, fertility awareness-based methods


Lindsay, 20, fertility awareness-based methods


Angela, 22, fertility awareness-based methods


Andre, 29, fertility awareness-based methods

Expert dirt: “A lot of work and not as trustworthy as some people claim.”