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| June 14, 2013

Fertility Awareness as Power: Why accurate information is important

Remember when you were just entering puberty and learning about the human body for the first time? Chances are you encountered rumors about sexuality, fertility, and family planning. Perhaps you still hear rumors today. Accurate understanding and awareness about human fertility is surprisingly low around the world, regardless of age, sex, or education level.

While fertility is the physiological ability to become pregnant (or to cause a girl or woman to become pregnant), Fertility Awareness is much more. Fertility Awareness is actionable information about fertility throughout the life cycle and the ability to use this information to care for one’s own sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and support the SRH of others. It includes basic information about:

  • the menstrual cycle
  • when and how pregnancy occurs
  • the likelihood of pregnancy from unprotected intercourse at different times during the cycle and at different life stages
  • the role of male fertility
  • how specific family planning methods work, how they affect fertility, and how to use them

If we could lift the taboos and improve fertility awareness, would people be informed and empowered to make better SRH decisions? At IRH, we believe the answer to this question is YES.

According to the most comprehensive definition, fertility awareness includes the ability to apply this information to one’s life, requiring individual knowledge, personal experience and skills as well as an environment within the family and community that enables people to take appropriate actions.

We believe that by placing accurate information about fertility in the hands of women, men, girls, and boys, they will be able to understand how sex, reproduction and family planning interconnect, ultimately improving SRH and addressing unmet need for family planning.

Fertility awareness can empower people to identify what is healthy and normal for them, and know when to seek reproductive health care. It can help youth understand their changing bodies and recognize their reproductive responsibilities. It can also foster communication between future or current partners, parents and children, health care providers and patients, teachers and students to advocate for one’s own SRH and that of others. Fertility awareness reinforces the need for reproductive rights, gender equality and social norms that help people develop the behaviors that have a positive effect on SRH for all.

We’ve seen positive results by incorporating Fertility Awareness into our work. You can find out more about our experiences here:

We want to know what you think about this hypothesis and what you are doing to improve Fertility Awareness in your own work. Share your thoughts in the comments or connect with us on Twitter (@IRH_GU) using the hashtag, #FertilityAwareness.


On July 9, we will convene a team of experts in the SRH field to discuss findings from a comprehensive literature review of Fertility Awareness. Stay tuned for outcomes of this technical consultation and the white paper.


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