Background: Fertility awareness-based methods (FABMs) educate about reproductive health and enable tracking and interpretation of physical signs, such as cervical fluid secretions and basal body temperature, which reflect the hormonal changes women experience on a cyclical basis during the years of ovarian activity. Some methods measure relevant hormone levels directly. Most FABMs allow women to identify ovulation and track this "vital sign" of the menstrual or female reproductive cycle, through daily observations recorded on cycle charts (paper or electronic).
Applications: Physicians can use the information from FABM charts to guide the diagnosis and management of medical conditions and to support or restore healthy function of the reproductive and endocrine systems, using a restorative reproductive medical (RRM) approach. FABMs can also be used by couples to achieve or avoid pregnancy and may be most effective when taught by a trained instructor.
Challenges: Information about individual FABMs is rarely provided in medical education. Outdated information is widespread both in training programs and in the public sphere. Obtaining accurate information about FABMs is further complicated by the numerous period tracking or fertility apps available, because very few of these apps have evidence to support their effectiveness for identifying the fertile window, for achieving or preventing pregnancy.
Conclusions: This article provides an overview of different types of FABMs with a published evidence base, apps and resources for learning and using FABMs, the role FABMs can play in medical evaluation and management, and the effectiveness of FABMs for family planning, both to achieve or to avoid pregnancy.
Keywords: family planning; fertility apps; fertility awareness; infertility; menstrual cycle; natural family planning; reproductive health; women's health.
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