Many, many women use FAM or the "rythym method" but I find it extremely difficult and iffy. There is a lot of work to be done, every single day, with dedication. And then there is the periodic abstinence, which I just can't rely on.
I think there's an idea that birth control is all or nothing- it's either the iud, the pill, or some form of "winging it" be that withdrawal or infrequency or monitoring fertility. That's not the case at all.
There's also condoms, female condoms, the today sponge, diaphragm, cervical cap, and spermicide in film, foam, cream, or jelly. All these are barrier methods, which is a really great middle ground between hormonal/medical methods and the "natural" methods which I don't trust (sorry, I just don't, a woman can ovulate spontaneously at any point in the cycle after all). Some of these methods are probably covered by your health insurance, even my lousy HMO will cover over-the-counter contraceptives.
Spermicide is especially great. It is very easy to get at many drugstores, grocery stores, and target. You don't have to see a doctor or get a PAP to use it. The film is very easy, and it is very small, and I have not found it to cause any irritation in either partner. Some people are more sensitive to the foam and gel but that's usually because of the large volume of goo that the spermicide's in- the film has very little carrier media and stays in a glob where it belongs. It has no odor and very little taste. Neither partner can feel it. It's especially great for a back-up method to FAM during the fertile days mid cycle. It's fully reversible, if you decide you'd like to get pregnant, just don't use it any more.
Just a quick note--FAM and the "rhythm method" are not the same thing. ;) Also, the effectiveness is pretty high if you wait to have unprotected sex until AFTER ovulation. But, you're right, it can be a lot of work and the signs aren't always clear or easy to interpret. Plus it requires a lot of self-discipline, which is part of why I don't personally recommend it if you absolutely can't handle an unplanned pregnancy.
I agree with your suggestions for barrier methods and think they're good ones; I also agree that birth control is not "all or nothing" and there's a lot of middle ground.
I've tried the spermicidal film, however, and hated it. I couldn't get it to work right (I couldn't get it to unfold and dissolve properly), and my understanding of spermicide alone is that it's really not very effective unless used with condoms or a diaphragm. (Planned Parenthood's website gives a 15/100 pregnancy rate in the first year used properly, and a more likely failure rate of 29/100.)
Stay-at-home mama married to my best friend of 10+ years. Aspiring midwife loving parenting our beautiful Julian, born 5/24/09. Expecting a second bean in late July 2012!
Abstinence is my preference, but I lack a libido. Second to that is Fertility Awareness. And third, because I choose to take methotrexate, I also choose VCF. Vaginal contraceptive film. It is not hormonal, and not natural. It is spermicide in a sheet of a gelatine-like film that gets folded up and shoved up to the cervix. A few minutes later, the spermicide is spread across that area.
That way, when the doctor complains that I am not on "the pill" or "the shot" (which is none of their...), I can use abstinence and VCF as the two methods of birth control to shut them up about the two methods of birth control suggested for methotrexate use. Good luck!
Yes, I have this dilemma as well... We used FAM quite successfully for years, but after my dd was born it took a long time for my cycles to regulate again and we ended up with an oops baby. Granted it was a 5 day old sperm situation, so a little unlikely, but still. After ds was born I started charting again as soon as I noticed fertile CF and caught O a couple months later. My LP was very short so I figured it would take a while to regulate my cycles again, but then oops!! Baby #3 was conceived on a day with no fertile signs. So, I have to say that charting works great when you're not breastfeeding and co-sleeping and as long as you practice for a least a few cycles before relying on it, but post babies it has been my experience that it can take over a year to readjust to new body rhythms before being reliable again.
So now I'm on the hunt for something more effective after this baby comes. We considered a vasectomy for dh, but there are a lot of possible side effects to that. I am not at all interested in the copper IUD as I've read about way too many IUD babies, not to mention the heavier bleeding and all the other weird complications that a lot of women get like anxiety, severe mood swings, depression, fatigue, etc. I considered film, but if I'm going to bother with that, it seems like we might as well just go for condoms in combo with charting.
OP, sounds like you're getting going with charting, which is great, especially since you will be TTC soon. As others have mentioned I love TCOYF and use it in combination with www.fertilityfriend.com. FF is great, but I have often had to use my own judgment to pinpoint O, going against what FF thinks. For this reason, I highly recommend feeling confident on your own without the aid of a program before using a program to assist you. FF does have a charting "course" you can take and it can be good practice, but I still think the best way to get confident is simply to do it for several months.
Mama to Avalon 1/07 , Austin 1/10 in between and Avery 12/11
DH and I used condoms (inconsistently) + pull out + my own intuition (rhythm?) for the 2 years I was off the pill and we wanted to avoid conception. I actually thought we might have fertility issues when we did TTC because we weren't always on point with any of the above and we didn't get pregnant. I was on the pill for 7 years before that and I frequently missed days and I never got pregnant then either - hence my concern about our fertility.
Totally unnecessary - when we chose to TTC, the very first cycle I knew I was ovulating (I was hyper-sexual, which only happens when I ovulate), I told DH I was ovulating just before we DTD, and sure enough - two weeks later, BFP. DD is 12 months now and I still do not have AF. When I am fertile again, we will likely TTC since we would like our children spaced fairly close together. As for right now, we are not avoiding at all, but I doubt that I will be able to conceive until I nightwean. That being said, a pregnancy right now would be just fine!
When the second is born (assuming there is a second of course), we will have to be more diligent in actively avoiding because while we are open to a third, I don't know that I want 3 very close together. I have been thinking that in addition to the condoms + pull out + rhythm that I would also add charting. The problem is that I know I was not consistent with the pill, I am not sure I have the self-discipline to take my temp and check cervical mucous and position every day. In any case, I will be in the same position as the OP at that point because I refuse to use hormonal BC ever again and I've heard too many horror stories about IUDs (both copper and hormonal) to ever consider using one.
Happy , delayed/selective vaxxing, WOHM to DD1 4/10 , DD2 8/12 and partner/wife for thirteen years to SAHD DH.
Well, now that my 3 year dry spell is over, I'm using (latex-free) condoms. I don't abhor them like I used to; actually, so long as I use the Trojan Supra ones, I prefer them.
However, my cycle is pretty darn regular (if shorter than I'd like) & painfully obvious - I can pretty much determine where I am in my cycle just by how slippery it is when I wipe with my morning pee + how horny I am. So, I think I can start successfully charting & combining FAM + (latex-free) diaphragm, which I have an appointment to be fitted for next week. I loved my diaphragm back in the day, but developed a latex allergy. I look forward to having it again!