Science makes all the difference
One of the biggest obstacles women encounter when using the symptothermal method, which is the “enfant prodige” of the family of Fertility Awareness Methods (FAM), is the mistaken belief that it is the same as the calendar method, or rhythm method, also known as Ogino-Knauss. Just to be clear, all apps that track the menstrual cycle use the calendar or rhythm method – with very few exceptions that can be counted on the tip of one hand and still require individual study before they can be used (read on to find out more about them).
You are right to distrust the rhythm method, which is only 75% effective. This means that out of 100 women who use this method in a year, 25 will get unintentionally pregnant.
The rhythm method and FAM are very different approaches to contraception, self-awareness and empowerment. In order to understand exactly how different, we need to understand the assumptions and scientific foundations behind them.
What is the rhythm or calendar method
The rhythm method is what is called a retrospective method. It assumes that past cycles are a good parameter for predicting future cycles, but unfortunately this is not the case.
The past simply gives a very vague idea of what might happen in the future. It’s like predicting the weather for next Easter based on what happened at Easter last year. Was it sunny? Maybe it will be sunny this year too, but maybe not. The climate depends on a multitude of factors and variables, and our menstrual cycle behaves in the same way.
Our body may decide to postpone or anticipate ovulation whenever we are sick, weak, stressed or traveling, which is why the methods in the calendar are not reliable. In addition, endocrine disruptors (found in cosmetics and hygiene products), lack of sleep or adequate rest, as well as an incorrect diet for us (the perfect diet does not exist), contribute to create hormonal imbalances that make our cycle variable. The result is that these retrospective methods are often wrong.
The menstrual cycle also changes with age – whether we are 16 or 40 – making the calendar method unreliable for this reason too.
Bottom line: there is nothing scientific in the calendar method.
The symptothermal method does not rely on the past to predict fertility in the future
On the contrary, it is based on direct observation of the physiological and scientific parameters that indicate fertility: cervical fluid, basal body temperature (or as an alternative to mucus, cervical opening and consistency) to accurately determine whether we are fertile on that specific day. Consciously armed with this information, we can decide whether to refrain from penetration (perfect use of the method), or to use barrier methods or withdrawal (typical use of the method). This depends on the specific situation of the individual and the couple.
Unlike the rhythm method, the symptothermal is 99.6% effective when used correctly.
Unfortunately, the myth that the rhythm method and the symptothermal are the same thing is continuously perpetrated by both the media and poorly informed doctors (yes, they too are human and imperfect. And it happened to me too on January 16, 2017 at the hospital in Cona, Ferrara, with the gynaecologist on duty). Many midwives think that the symptothermal is the same as the temperature method, another misconception. In short, there is a fair amount of confusion, and it is of course women who pay the price.
In fact, several scientific studies, including the largest study ever carried out to date, have shown that the symptothermal method is extremely reliable when studied with a professional. In particular, the German Sensiplan symptothermal method offers the highest efficacy (99.6% for perfect use and 98% for typical use).
The lack of informed choice takes a toll on women’s health and human rights
There is no such thing as the perfect contraceptive method – each one has specific benefits and requirements. What is alarming is that people do not have all the information they need to make an informed choice, and are often pushed towards contraceptive choices that do not respect their values or mental health. How many were told before prescribing the pill that, “Natural ovulation protects the breast, heart and bones from future diseases, and if you take the pill, which is classified as a known carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, you suppress it completely”? Or that until the age of about 30 the backbone is not mature, and that hormonal contraceptives can block or at least slow down its complete development? These are examples of information that every woman should have, before making a choice, whatever it may be, including the fact that our natural flow of hormones also modulates our creativity and emotional balance. Unfortunately, all hormonal contraceptive methods suppress the menstrual cycle.
Another reason why the rhythm method is often confused with the symptothermal method is the existence of various Apps which boasts to “predict ovulation” but are based on the retrospective method. Before choosing an app, it is important to understand the distinction and choose accordingly. However, it is necessary to attend a course with a qualified professional before you can use the apps for the symptothermal method. The symptothermal method is first and foremost centered and grounded into self-awareness and empowerment.
The symptothermal method is a competence that grows and improves with time and through qualified education
If you are looking for a contraceptove method that offers you very high percentages of effectiveness (equivalent to or higher than hormonal contraceptives – yeah, even the pill & friends are not 100% effective – the combined oral pill, for example, stops at 91%), it is worth investing some money (usually in the order of a few hundred euros), time and energy to learn the symptothermal method. Our founder Anna graduated as a Sensiplan teacher in 2018, after using it for four years on the advice of her German gynecologist (Goddess bless her).
The benefits are countless. Not only will you be able to know with scientific accuracy when you are fertile, but you will also have an effective method to diagnose disorders and imbalances at an early stage. Associated with the symptothermal, there are also a number of great emotional, energetic and spiritual benefits that go beyond the simple objective of contraception.
The symptothermal can be used for the physical, emotional and creative health of women, as well as for contraception.
We would like to thank Kim and Amy Sedwick very much for the original article, from which we took our first inspiration back in 2017, although we changed it quite a bit. Their website is full of valuable information backed up by scientific basis and accurate research. Find them at RedTentSisters.