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FAMnerd development is on hold

We get emails pretty regularly asking when FAMnerd will be released. We want to be as transparent with this process as possible, so we felt like we should make an official announcement here.

Our efforts to develop FAMnerd are on hold until early 2013. We’re trying to develop FAMnerd on our own without incurring debt or being tied to investors or partners, but the bids we received from developers were substantially higher than we anticipated.  For us personally, this  means that we have some financial goals that we need to accomplish first, before we can set our attention on FAMnerd. We think we’ll be in a better place to fund FAMnerd in early 2013.

We’re sorry for the delay. We’re excited about using FAMnerd, too, so the longer we have to postpone development, the longer we aren’t able to personally use the iPhone app.

Thanks to everyone for your interest and support. We’re looking forward to having a product for you, and we’ll get it done as soon as we can.

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FAMnerd is a Natural Family Planning (NFP) iPhone app

FAMnerd is an iPhone app that can be used for both Natural Family Planning (NFP) and the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM).

The main difference between NFP and FAM is that NFP doesn’t allow for the use of barrier methods of birth control (like condoms and diaphragms) during the fertile phase, and FAM does. NFP is generally used by folks who don’t agree with the use of contraception, particularly Catholics. FAM doesn’t have any religious affiliation.

Wherever you choose to stand on barrier methods, FAMnerd will work for you. FAMnerd allows you to record intercourse on your chart, and choose whether it was protected (like with a barrier method), or unprotected. FAMnerd includes charting rules that will work with both FAM and NFP, and allows you to choose the rules that best meet your needs.

Whether you’re trying to get pregnant, really needing to stay not pregnant, or somewhere in between, whether you use FAM or NFP, FAMnerd will make it easy to chart on your iPhone.

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What’s the difference between the Fertility Awareness Method and the Rhythm Method?

If the answer to this question were better understood, FAM would be more well-known and respected – especially by the medical community.

As a natural form of birth control, FAM is continually lumped in with the Rhythm Method, even though Rhythm has been essentially defunct and discredited for over 20 years. This is especially frustrating considering FAM’s impressively high effectiveness rate, which is on par with that of the birth control pill.

So let’s settle this thing once and for all. What is the difference between FAM and the Rhythm Method? Is it possible for systems of natural birth control to be fundamentally different, or are they all the same? What could makes FAM highly effective and Rhythm justifiably laughable?

First, let’s define our terms.

For a detailed description of the Fertility Awareness Method, read our What is FAM? page.

How does the Rhythm Method work?

From Wikipedia:

To find the estimated length of the pre-ovulatory infertile phase, nineteen is subtracted from the length of the woman’s shortest cycle. To find the estimated start of the post-ovulatory infertile phase, ten is subtracted from the length of the woman’s longest cycle. A woman whose menstrual cycles ranged in length from 30 to 36 days would be estimated to be infertile for the first 11 days of her cycle (30-19=11), to be fertile on days 12-25, and to resume infertility on day 26 (36-10=26).

Another variation of Rhythm has you count back 14 days from your period, assume that this was the day you ovulated in your previous cycle, and assume that this is the cycle day when you will ovulate again in the current cycle. (There’s a lot of assuming going on here.) You then avoid unprotected intercourse around the time when you think you will ovulate.

Hopefully you can see some obvious problems with this.

So what is the difference between FAM and the Rhythm Method?

1) FAM is a symptoms-based method while Rhythm is a calendar-based method.

FAM uses biological symptoms of fertility (including basal body temperature, cervical fluid and cervical position) to assess day-to-day fertility. Scientifically proven rules are then used to interpret the symptoms and inform your choice of whether or not unprotected intercourse is safe.

Rhythm uses past cycles to predict future fertility. There is no day-to-day assessment of fertility. Rhythm hinges on future cycles proceeding exactly like past cycles. Any cycle length variation outside of a narrow range can cause Rhythm to fail.

2) The requirements of Rhythm are not realistic for most women. Because Rhythm doesn’t account for natural fluctuations in cycle length, it can require long periods of abstinence or using a barrier method.

Lifestyle factors such as stress, travel and exercise all affect cycle length. I have had cycles as short as 28 days and as long as 52 days, with the long cycles easily attributed to stress, travel or intensive exercise training. If I were to follow the requirements of the Rhythm Method, I wouldn’t be able to consider myself infertile until cycle day 42. Considering that the vast majority of my cycles are only 30-something days long, this really doesn’t make any sense.

FAM allows you to assess your fertility on a day-to-day basis. The length of previous cycles doesn’t affect your assessment of your current cycle (unless you are using a Doring-based rule, but that is another discussion). Having previous cycle history can be helpful in knowing how your cycles usually progress, but ultimately your decision of whether you are fertile or infertile is based on your current cycle and your current biological symptoms.

3) FAM also allows you to choose the rules that best fit your situation and need for efficacy. If you definitely need to avoid pregnancy, you can choose very strict rules. If you aren’t as concerned about a potential pregnancy and want to allow yourself more days of unprotected intercourse, you can choose rules that are less strict. Rhythm only has one set of rules that aren’t especially conservative.

Example: In the first new cycle after we got married, I had an unusually short cycle that was 28 days long. According to Rhythm I would have been safe through cycle day 10, but in reality I ovulated only 4 days later. Since sperm can survive for up to 5 days in ideal conditions, this would have been close enough for pregnancy.

Ultimately FAM and Rhythm are different because FAM is conservative and flexible enough to deal with cycle variations, and Rhythm is not.

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FAMnerd featured in Vox Magazine

We’re happy to share that we and FAMnerd were recently featured in Vox Magazine.

We’re looking forward to moving ahead with FAMnerd. We just have one more task to complete before we hand it over to our developer.

Here’s to the near future of having a FAM iPhone app that actually works!

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Using the Fertility Awareness Method to achieve pregnancy

Today we have a guest post from Amanda, who used FAM successfully to become pregnant with her first child.

We had been married for four years, and we were ready to start thinking about having kids. All I knew about my body was that it had a relatively irregular cycle (meaning that it only happened every month and a half or so, as opposed to every 4 weeks), so we were not sure what to expect when it came to actually successfully making a baby.

Two of my good friends were using FAM to avoid pregnancy. They were also relatively health conscious individuals, and I respected their opinion when it came to making good choices in terms of life and love and the like of. It follows, that when they both encouraged me to try FAM for successful conception, I took their advice.

I started by reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility. In charting my cycle, I realized that it was in no way abnormal, simply because “normal” is relative to each woman. I actually had a very predictable and reassuring cycle. My body was not only working properly, ovulation created an optimal environment for conceiving. It was totally thrilling and very refreshing to realize that my body was not only doing what it was supposed to, but that I was fertile. “I can have a baby!” was the kind of thought that crossed my mind.

Turned out that I was not the only one who was fertile! It took us three cycles and four months, and by February of 2008, we were pregnant with our first. It seemed like an eternity then, but November came very quickly. Abraham is now a big brother to Isaiah, and they are 20 months apart. We were not as intentional with Isaiah as we were with Abraham.

The success we had in getting pregnant is a result of getting to know my body. It’s not complicated. I was not irregular or abnormal, contrary to what I had been told my whole life. The beauty of FAM is its basic premise: the female body is predictable when you get to know it. It’s empowering to know my body and to understand all the things at work within me.

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Myth: You can get pregnant at any time in your cycle

Once in the midst of a FAM-related conversation, I was faced with a challenging statement from a friend: this method can’t possibly work because I know that you can get pregnant at any time in your cycle.

Let’s deconstruct this and see if this is true.

What is required for pregnancy to occur?

1. A mature, live egg

2. Live sperm

Without both of these factors at the same time, pregnancy is impossible. You don’t hear stories of virgin girls becoming pregnant (Mary aside) because although they may be ovulating, their ovulated eggs are not exposed to live sperm. As an ovulating female, there is no chance for you to get pregnant until live sperm are introduced to your body. Neither do men become pregnant in themselves by just producing sperm. There has to be a live egg available for fertilization. I think we can all agree on this, yes?

After maturity, healthy men produce sperm every day of their lives. They are fertile every single day. That means any day a woman has intercourse, she is exposed to live sperm. In ideal conditions inside a woman’s body (determined primarily by the quality of the woman’s cervical fluid), sperm can live up to five days. In less than ideal conditions, their lifespan is much shorter.

A woman’s fertility, however, is different. She is not fertile every single day because she doesn’t have a mature, live egg available in her body every single day. An egg is matured in an ovary once per cycle, bursts out of the ovary and is available for conception for 24 hours. After 24 hours the egg is dead and can no longer contribute to a pregnancy. In rare cases double ovulation can occur, in that two eggs are released in the same cycle. This is rare, but it can happen. If this does happen, the second egg is always released within 24 hours of the first one. This is not controversial or disputed; this is basic biology.

So at the very most, a woman’s body contains a mature, accessible, live egg for a maximum of 2 days. Combine this with the understanding that healthy, live sperm can survive inside a woman’s body in ideal conditions for 5 days, and you have a total fertile phase of 7 days.

Outside of these 7 days, the woman can not get pregnant. With no live egg present, pregnancy cannot occur. The only time pregnancy can occur is in the days around ovulation.

So can you get pregnant at any point in your cycle? No.

The better question, though, and the one I didn’t think to ask until after the fact is: if you are not charting, how do you know what point of your cycle you are in? You don’t.

You may know what day your cycle began if you record the date your flow started and understand the difference between spotting and bright red flow. But even that somewhat obvious sign can be misleading.

Was it truly a new cycle with the flow originating from the shedding of the uterine lining?

Was it mid-cycle spotting?

Was it anovulatory bleeding?

Was it implantation spotting?

Was it bleeding completely unrelated to your cycles, caused by a medical condition?

If you’re not charting, you don’t know. You can guess, but you don’t know. It is nearly useless for women who don’t chart to speculate about the progression of their cycles. Without charting, you don’t know any of the above questions, nor do you know the length of your follicular phase, ovulation date or length of your luteal phase. You may know that there is blood coming out of your vagina, or that you haven’t had blood come out of your vagina in a while, and surprise, you’re pregnant.

You cannot get pregnant at just any time in your cycle. But more importantly, if you’re not charting, you cannot know what part of your cycle you’re in.

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FAM: No need to panic.

Cycle day 39. No ovulation in sight. If I weren’t practicing the Fertility Awareness Method, I would be panicking.

Even if I ovulate within the next day or two, this will end up being a 55-60 day cycle. According to the 28-day cycle myth, I should have started a new cycle, accompanied by flow, 11 days ago. If I weren’t charting, I would think I was pregnant.

Au contraire. In fact, since I am charting and practicing FAM, I know that there is no possible way I could be pregnant – because without ovulation there can be no pregnancy.

So although this cycle has been weird and a little frustrating because it has been so long, I haven’t had to worry about a life-changing pregnancy. We will choose to have children eventually, but we aren’t to that point in our life plan yet.

And on the other hand, if we were trying to achieve pregnancy, all the intercourse in the world in the last 39 days would not have gotten me pregnant. If I weren’t charting, we wouldn’t know that I haven’t ovulated. With no signs of a new cycle, I would think we had successfully acheived pregnancy. And at about day 60 I would be disappointed.

FAM allows you to both avoid pregnancy and know when you are most fertile for achieving pregnancy. Using FAM means there’s no need to panic.

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The Fertility Awareness Method is green birth control

There’s been some buzz online recently about “green” birth control. While I’m glad that FAM was recognized as a form of birth control at all, its efficacy was once again underestimated – as was its “greenness.”

FAM allows your body to work naturally, without chemical intervention, the way it was designed to work. This means no pharmaceuticals leaching into the water supply. No plastic packaging.

No metals being inserted in your body, then thrown away.

And even though FAM allows for the use of barrier methods like condoms, caps, sponges and diaphragms, it doesn’t require them. FAM can still be practiced successfully by abstaining during the fertile phase. This is the basis of NFP. Without barrier methods, the only material object required to practice FAM successfully is a thermometer. Digital thermometer batteries last for years, meaning very minimal waste.

Sterilization seems fairly green, but what about the gloves, equipment, scrubs or other medical supplies that would be used in the surgery?

For green birth control, it’s hard to beat FAM’s approach of allowing your body to function naturally.

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Hormone-free birth control

The laundry list of benefits of using the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is long, not the least of which is that it’s hormone-free.

Because FAM involves simply monitoring your body’s natural functions and making careful decisions based on that information, it is safe for all women to use. There are no products to cause allergic reactions, no pill to cause side effects and reduce your sex drive, no metal to puncture your organs. Why would we knowingly bring these things upon our bodies?

Here are some of the side effects of the birth control pill:

  • Breakthrough bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Stroke
  • Decreased libido
  • Decreased vaginal lubrication
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Acne
  • Gallstones

What are the side effects of using FAM?

…Uh, nothing. Unless you include greater knowledge and appreciation for the natural functioning of your body.

Experience highly effective birth control while keeping your body hormone-free with FAM.

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Why don’t you just use LadyComp instead of charting with FAM?

I looked into LadyComp and wasn’t too impressed. I looked at a study that compared the number of potentially fertile days (yellow days in LadyComp) using FAM vs. LadyComp, and LadyComp required you to consider more days as potentially fertile. That means more days abstaining or using a barrier method. No fun.

At $485 USD, the LadyComp is basically a really expensive thermometer. The effectiveness rates of LadyComp and FAM are comparable, but you can get much more information with much much less expense when charting with FAM.

P.S. Charlie calls the LadyComp the Ladytron 2000.

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Why FAMnerd is THE iPhone app for the Fertility Awareness Method

When we first had the idea to develop FAMnerd, one of the first things we did was to see if someone had already developed a FAM iPhone app.

They had. I was bummed.

But after we took a closer look at the apps available, we realized we didn’t like any of them. The point of having a FAM app on your iPhone was to make charting easier, not to make it more cumbersome and less useful.

Here are some of the things we didn’t like about the other FAM iPhone apps, and why we created FAMnerd the way we did.

  • Using a calendar view to display FAM information. A calendar view serves absolutely no purpose in FAM. All of the signs you record in FAM exist to be put into a chart format, so you can see the big picture of fertility changes over time. A calendar doesn’t help with this at all.
  • When you use calendar view you’re forced to squeeze a pile of information onto a teeny tiny date on a calendar. The app developers had to create a legend of colors and shapes to represent detailed FAM information on the calendar, but if you don’t know what each color or shape represents, you’re out of luck. Icons used in FAM charting should be intuitive; you shouldn’t need a legend.
  • The interface for entering FAM information didn’t make any sense. Why use a touchpad to enter in 9-7-.-3 when you can use a scrollwheel to quickly choose your temperature? We wanted to use existing iPhone interfaces so you wouldn’t have to learn anything new to use FAMnerd.
  • One app forced us to create a password that we would have to enter every single time we opened the app. We understand that some people will want a password to protect their intimate fertility data, but not everyone will. You should be able to set a password if you want to, but the app shouldn’t force you into it.
  • Another app incorporated surprisingly nice design elements. The developers had obviously worked with a designer to make sure that the app didn’t look like a 4th grade science project. But the designer allowed the graphic elements to take over the app, to the point that part of the screen was always obscured by the pretty design. We like pretty, but we also want to be able to see the whole screen. The iPhone ain’t huge and there isn’t any room for wasted space when you’re displaying the detailed information that FAM requires.
  • The charts were TERRIBLE! The whole point of charting is to create a CHART. The design of the charts wasn’t pleasing and the icons didn’t make sense. None of the charts were interactive, so if you wanted to edit data for a particular day you had to go all the way back to the data entry screen. We wanted to be able to tap on a day on FAMnerd’s chart, pull up all the information entered on that day and edit it, if necessary. Plus we wanted the chart to be pretty. The chart is what you’re going to use to assess your fertility, so we wanted it to look nice and make sense.

So after looking through all the existing iPhone apps for the Fertility Awareness Method, we decided we’d just have to make our own. We hope you’ll enjoy using FAMnerd.

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Record your FAM information in FAMnerd while you travel

Traveling creates a challenge for Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) users when you’re tied to PC-based FAM software. If the software is on a desktop, you can’t bring the desktop with you and end up having to record your information elsewhere and enter it in later. Even having the software on a laptop can be a pain, because bringing your laptop with you means another thing you have to squeeze in your carry-on.

This is a lot of what spurred us on to create FAMnerd. While we traveled I would record my FAM information on my iPhone in Notes, and enter it into the software when we got home. I didn’t have a great system for recording everything, though, so some things got lost or messed up in translation.

Wouldn’t it be easier to just be able to enter your FAM information directly into a FAM iPhone app?

Enter FAMnerd.

You always carry your iPhone with you anyway, so why should you have to use something else to record and analyze your FAM charts? Use FAMnerd on the subway on your way to work, on a train touring Europe or on a plane flying to a conference (in Airplane Mode, of course!). FAMnerd is with you wherever you are.

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Benefits of using the Fertility Awareness Method

The Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) can be used as a natural and effective form of birth control. It can also be used to maximize your chances of achieving pregnancy.

And beyond avoiding or achieving pregnancy, there are a whole list of reasons to use FAM.

  • Always know when your period will start
  • If you have a longer cycle than usual, know if there’s a chance you might be pregnant or if stress, exercise or travel might have lengthened your cycle
  • Monitor your gynecological health and keep detailed records to share with your healthcare provider
  • Gain a bettter understanding of your body and know how your body is functioning on a day to day basis
  • Avoid putting hormones into your body and allow your body to function naturally

Use FAMnerd on your iPhone and your FAM information is always in your pocket.

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