The entire fertility process is an emotional roller coaster. If you and your spouse have decided to embark on this wonderful journey of starting a family, it’s important to always be informed. Knowing how your body works and practicing good fertility awareness methods can give you a clearer picture of your health and how to achieve pregnancy.
Or perhaps pregnancy is not part of your timeline today. You could have stumbled upon this article hoping to learn of inexpensive birth control methods that are safe with no known negative side effects. We got you!
Fertility awareness is a great alternative to hormonal birth control. There’s definitely a reason why it’s also called “Natural Family Planning”
From tracking your body temperature, cervical fluid or days in your cycle, fertility awareness methods have the same goal: to help you learn your most fertile days. Your “fertile window” or the five days leading up to ovulation are the best days to attempt or avoid getting pregnant. These methods can be used individually but provide the most accurate information when used together. This also gives you vital information about your body and overall health. Understanding your personal cycle can be a source of vial health empowerment!
Before we start talking about the fertility awareness methods available for us, always remember that everyone is different. And we ovulate in our own time!
Establish the habit of tracking your cycle. Not just when you start and end your menstruation. But also pay attention to how your moods, energy, sleep, or cravings spike up or go down throughout your menstrual cycle. You often feel more energetic, creative and happy during ovulation.
Taking on this practice will open a new way for you to appreciate the wonders of your body. It’s going to be a beautiful self-discovery!
Menstrual Cycle Tracking
You may already know when your period is supposed to come every month. You might have encircled the day already on a calendar somewhere. Here’s a hard truth: to rely solely on this information is inaccurate.
You see, cycles can change. Studies reveal that women who claim to have 28 day-cycles, in reality, can have shorter or longer cycle lengths.
Menstrual cycle tracking is the simplest and least expensive of all methods of birth control. Paired with the other methods, it is most effective.
Here’s how you can start tracking. Get a trusty pen and paper or an existing notebook or planner. Record the first day of your period and the last day of your period. Do this for at least three consecutive months.
Don’t just stop here. Include in your tracking the changes your body is going through. Observe your daily moods and energy levels. Note how your emotions change as you begin or end your cycle. Pay attention to your preferences and drives. You may be more creative today than the week before. Note the highs and lows in your ambitions. You may doubt this now. But the more information you can capture, the better understanding you will gain of your cycle AND your body!
As we’ve mentioned earlier, relying solely on your menstrual cycle isn’t enough. You will also need to record your cervical fluids and body temperature.
Cervical Fluid Tracking
The cervical fluid or cervical mucus is a normal liquid that your cervix produces throughout your menstrual cycle.
In this method, you must track the color, thickness, and texture of your cervical mucus.
After your period is your least fertile days, you may have little to no discharge at this point. So when do you know you’re ovulating and fertile? Your vaginal discharge will be clear and stretchy. (Think: egg whites!) It should be more stretchy compared to secretions when you are sexually aroused.
The number of fluids produced will vary from woman to woman. But it is generally more plentiful than at other times in your cycle. This is the best time to get pregnant.
As you make the habit of tracking your cervical fluid, you will know when you are less fertile – with paste-like or drier discharge.
To start tracking, check your cervical mucus each morning for the next 6 weeks. Jot down your findings. Note the days when you are dry, wet, sticky, cloudy or slippery.
Even if your cycle is not regular, we encourage you to track the pattern. You may check the discharge on your underwear each day. Or you can wipe your vaginal opening with toilet paper before you pee. Look at the color and notice the texture.
Basal Body Temperature Tracking
Tracking your basal body temperature is another method you can use. You will need a basal thermometer (which can be bought in most drug stores or on line), and track your temperature for several cycles.
Check your BBT first thing every morning. It should be done ideally at the same time every day. Moving around, drinking, or eating can affect the reading of your temperature, as does stress and travel.
After ovulation, your temperature increases approximately 0.5-1 degree Fahrenheit. It will stay up for about ten days until your next period.
Record your BBT for at least 3 months to give you a better grasp on your ovulation days. If you find that your BBT hasn’t gone up, that may mean you are not ovulating.
While there is a belief that you can use only one method to track your cycle, we want to encourage you to combine ALL THREE methods of tracking. Make it a part of your daily routine and you will be rewarded with a clear picture of your fertility health.
Some more FAM facts:
- Before you decide to embark on your conception journey, talk to your midwife or other healthcare provider to help you choose the best plan for you. Here are some more facts to help you decide.
- According to the NHS, if natural family planning is followed consistently and correctly, it can be up to 99% effective.
- There are no physical side effects.
- Your fertility signals can be affected and may change depending on your stress level, health, illness, or traveling.