1. Is the Symptothermal Method effective?
Yes. Studies have shown the Symptothermal Method (STM) to be highly effective in avoiding unplanned pregnancies. For the 168 Canadian couples who participated in the Fairfield Study , among those who used the method correctly and consistently, the study showed an effectiveness rating of 0.5 unplanned pregnancies in 100 women. These rates match the effectiveness rates published for hormonal contraception.
When a pregnancy is desired, the knowledge that a woman is ovulating in each cycle provides basic information about the woman’s reproductive cycle. This enables a couple to plan the timing of intercourse prior to or at ovulation in order to conceive.
The Symptothermal Method does not protect against sexually transmitted disease.
2. How does this method differ from the Calendar Rhythm Method?
The Calendar Rhythm Method was the only natural method known between the 1930’s and 1950’s. With the Calendar Rhythm Method, an attempt was made to establish the infertile phase based on previous cycles. Irregular cycles introduce an element of uncertainty into the calculation. Ovulation and fertility can vary without the couple being aware of it. This can lead to unexpected pregnancy.
The Symptothermal Method (STM) is a modern, effective, and natural method. STM works equally well for women with regular or irregular cycles because it is based on the observation of day-to-day changes of fertility symptoms. The STM focuses on confirming fertile and infertile times within the cycle by charting changes in mucus and basal body temperature, as well as observing other fertility signs.
3. Is it true that you'll have long periods of time when you have to avoid intercourse if you use this method?
It is true that to avoid pregnancy, couples need to abstain from sexual intercourse during the fertile phase of the woman's cycle. This is a fundamental aspect of all natural methods. However, studies comparing rates of intercourse between those practicing natural methods and those using artificial methods have found little difference. And couples using natural methods report significantly higher levels of satisfaction. Most loving couples, however, are surprised to find that voluntary postponement of intercourse can promote greater communication, mutual respect and cooperation, sexual fulfillment, and a stronger total relationship.
4. Is supplementing Natural Family Planning with barrier methods or withdrawal effective?
Natural Family Planning is as effective as it is because the couple does not have intercourse during the fertile days.
Opting to use barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms, diaphragms, spermicides or withdrawal during the fertile time, reduces the effectiveness rate down to the effectiveness of the particular barrier method used. Using such methods is not Natural Family Planning. Pregnancies may occur. There is no method more effective than abstinence during the fertile time.
5. Can you use STM during breastfeeding?
Yes. After childbirth, the use of the Symptothermal Method (STM), as taught by Serena, will provide a way to detect the return of fertility. Following the STM will be easier for a woman who is already experienced in observing her fertility signs. Regular follow-up is recommended when using the STM post-partum. With the expertise and guidance of a Serena teacher-couple, the Symptothermal Method of family planning can continue to be effective. Please contact Serena for assistance.
The Lactational Amenorrhoea Method (LAM) is another form of Natural Family Planning that may be used in the first 6 months postpartum, if there has been no bleeding, and the baby is totally breastfed. Each of these criteria includes certain exceptions that require precise explanations. If a woman is intensively nursing her baby on demand for a prolonged time, amenorrhoea (the absence of menstruation) can, on average, last ten months.
For maximum effectiveness, it is important to consult a Serena teacher couple during the breastfeeding period. The teacher-couple will provide detailed instruction in LAM and in the use of the breastfeeding chart to detect signs of returning fertility. Please contact Serena for complete information about LAM.
6. Are two ovulations possible during the same cycle?
Occasionally, two ovulations may occur during the same cycle. This is what can lead to fraternal twins. However, due to the nature of the menstrual cycle, they will occur close together and well within the 24 hour period which Serena allows for in chart interpretation.
7. I am presently using the pill, what can I do?
Whether you wish to conceive a child or switch to a natural method, the Symptothermal Method may be just what you are looking for. The information that Serena provides can assist in your decision even before you discontinue use of the pill. Contact Serena for more particular information.
Since the contraceptive pill acts upon the normal hormonal system, when a woman discontinues the pill, her body sometimes takes a while to return to normal, particularly if the cycles were irregular before taking the pill. By using the Symptothermal Method, a couple can observe the return to fertility after discontinuing the pill.
8. I have irregular cycles. Can I use this method?
A woman is said to have irregular cycles when the difference between her shortest and longest cycle (during one year) is more than 6 days. How long it takes for a woman’s body to prepare for ovulation varies, and it is the variation of this pre-ovulatory phase that determines the cycle length. Ovulation occurs sooner (creating a short cycle) or later (creating a long cycle) depending on stress, season, emotions, nutrition, health, and other factors.
Since the Symptothermal Method does not rely on cycle length, but rather on simple observations and interpretations of the body’s fertility signs, a woman who experiences irregular cycles can still use the Symptothermal Method. Sooner or later, fertility signs will appear and indicate that ovulation may soon occur.
The Sympto-Thermal Method helps the couple to understand each and every cycle as it unfolds. So by using the Sympto-Thermal Method, a couple can follow the method quite effectively even if the woman’s cycles are irregular.
9. We have been trying to conceive for months. Can the Symptothermal Method help us?
Yes. Through the Symptothermal Method, it may be possible to discover the reason for your lack of success. The method will show if the woman is ovulating or not, as well as help identify other health concerns that could be affecting your chances of conceiving.
Also, by identifying the fertile days of the menstrual cycle, you'll be aware of when you are most fertile, which lets you maximize your chances of conceiving. Past studies indicate that couples were, on average, more successful in achieving pregnancy sooner when they learned, with the help of a teacher-couple, how to discern the period of ovulation.
10. My doctor did not mention the Symptothermal Method as an option. Why not?
Natural methods of family planning, also called Fertility Awareness-based Methods, may be just what some women are looking for, but most physicians do not learn about them during medical school or residency training. Some dismiss Natural Family Planning as the “Rhythm or Calendar Method” and consider it ineffective, unaware of modern methods of Natural Family Planning which are much more precise and highly effective.
Hormonal contraceptives are an 8 billion dollar per year industry. This allows pharmaceutical companies to more widely promote and sell chemical products of family planning.
SERENA is a registered charity with Revenue Canada. We rely on donations and volunteers to promote Natural Family Planning. Although we are working to educate professionals about the benefits of natural methods of family planning, we have limited means.
11. Can I learn the Sympto-Thermal Method from a book?
“Planning Your Family the ST-Way” by Dr. Suzanne Parenteau-Carreau, Medical Adviser to Serena Canada, is a great overview of the Symptothermal Method of Natural Family Planning. It is the most complete written guide to the Symptothermal Method available from Serena; covering subjects form general physiology, the method, to using the method to achieve conception, while breastfeeding, during pre-menopause and much more. It cannot replace the couple-to-couple teaching provided by Serena but is used to complement such instruction. It can be used as an introduction to the Symptothermal Method, and it is also an invaluable reference for those who do not live near a teacher-couple.
It would be ideal if, either before or after reading this book, you register for a teaching session with your local Serena team.
Every woman is unique in her situation. Our teacher-couples are especially trained in fertility awareness and are able to provide instruction in how to practice the Symptothermal Method reliably, even for those with irregular cycles, or those going through different phases of life. Serena can offer you personalized guidance and ongoing support. A well-informed and motivated couple is the key to the success of the Symptothermal Method.
For more information, email the coordinator in your province.
12. How long will it take before I become self-reliant in using the STM?
It all depends on your expectations, your motivation to learn, and your cycles. Most couples learn to observe, record and interpret the signs of fertility very quickly. An initial effort is needed to obtain good teaching and to learn how to observe and chart the symptoms. With time, bodily changes become obvious and less effort is necessary. After 3 cycles using the method, most couples become self-reliant in using the STM.
Serena stresses the importance of receiving training and materials from accredited teacher couple to assure comprehensive, good quality training. A teacher-couple offers the couples help in learning and gives support until the material taught is mastered. They also remain available to repeat or add to information that they have given and, if necessary, help in future cycles.
13. In using this method, do I need to note all observations daily, in order to obtain reliable information?
When a couple is learning the Symptothermal Method (STM), recording the basal body temperature daily is important. It is best to take the temperature every day from the fifth day of the cycle to the cycle end in order to learn to identify the lower temperature level, the type of shift, and the upper temperature level. Symptoms are recorded every day, regardless of experience.
After several months of STM experience, the woman can decide, with the help of a Serena teacher-couple, to stop taking her temperature once the definite infertility of the post-ovulatory phase has been confirmed, until the fifth day of the following cycle. After one year, if short cycles are unusual, and if pre-ovulatory symptoms are regularly observed, a woman with good self-knowledge will only require about ten days of recorded temperatures per cycle in order to verify the changes in the two temperature levels. However, symptoms must continue to be recorded daily.