Fertility awareness-based methods of family planning are methods that rely on a woman understanding when she is fertile and using that information to plan or prevent pregnancy. It simply means learning to read your body's special fertility signals. Becoming more conscious of your unique fertility cycle can help you, whether you are hoping to improve your chance of conceiving or would like to avoid conception. Becoming knowledgeable about your body’s own rhythm also helps you to better predict the date of your next menstruation, can help you know early on if you are pregnant, and can alert you to possible unhealthy changes if you detect a deviation from your typical patterns. This body awareness can be the ultimate in early preventive health care.

There are two broad kinds of Fertility Awareness based methods: Calendar-based and Symptoms-based.

Calendar-based methods rely on tracking a woman's cycle and identifying her fertile window based on the lengths of her cycles. By far the easiest to use and most effective of these methods is the Standard Days Method which is based on a fixed formula. It is designed for women with cycles between 26 and 32 days long, and identifies the fertile window as days 8 through 19 of a woman's cycle.

Symptoms-based methods rely on identifying physical symptoms that are signs that a woman may be in her fertile window. They involve tracking a woman's temperature and/or mucus secretions. These methods include the TwoDay Method, the Sympto-Thermal Method, the Ovulation Method, and the Billings Method.

To prevent pregnancy while using a fertility awareness-based method, a couple uses either a barrier method such as a condom or diaphragm, or abstains from intercourse during a woman's fertile window.

How can you become more aware of your personal fertility signals?

Becoming familiar with your body’s fertility messages involves looking at three basic fertility signs -- basal body temperature (BBT), cervical secretion changes, and cervical position. All three of these markers of fertility change throughout a woman’s cycle. By observing these changes each day, and recording them you will begin to discover your own fertility rhythm.

Your menstrual cycle: A key to understanding your fertility

In understanding your fertility signs, it is very important that you become aware of the changes that take place in your body during the menstrual cycle. Menstruation is the shedding of the inner lining of the uterus when a pregnancy does not occur in that particular cycle. Your estrogen and progesterone levels are very low on the first day of menstruation, day one of your cycle. Estrogen levels begin to increase, stimulating the growth, or proliferation, of the lining of the uterus, in preparation for a pregnancy. Estrogen is the dominant hormone in the first two weeks of the menstrual cycle. Around day 14 of your cycle, and immediately prior to ovulation, estrogen levels peak, triggering a release of an egg from one of the ovaries. Once an egg is released, it can be fertilized for approximately 12 to 24 hours. This is the best time to have intercourse to achieve a pregnancy. Following ovulation, estrogen levels drop and progesterone rises and becomes dominant for the next two weeks. Progesterone causes the uterine lining to mature, becoming more compact, so that it is able to support and nurture a fertilized egg. If implantation of a fertilized egg does not occur, progesterone levels drop, causing the onset of menstruation, within 48 hours (around day 28).

How do you measure your basal body temperature?

When beginning to take your basal body temperature, it may be helpful to follow these guidelines:

  • When measuring your BBT it is important to use a special thermometer intended for this purpose.
  • Shake down your thermometer before you go to bed --if using a mercury thermometer.
  • Keep your thermometer in easy reach, next to your bed.
  • Keep a notebook/graph next to your bed along with a pen to record your temperature.
  • Take your temperature first thing in the morning -- even before getting up to go to the bathroom.
  • It is important to take your temperature as close to the same time every morning as possible.
  • Keep your thermometer in place for five minutes before reading.

What basal body temperature changes can you expect during your cycle?

Basal body temperature, or the temperature of your body at rest, is lower during the first two weeks of the menstrual cycle, prior to ovulation. The presence of the hormone estrogen keeps the BBT low. Typically it will range from 97.0 to 97.5 degrees Fahrenheit (F). Immediately following ovulation, progesterone “turns up the heat” a bit, and there is typically a rise of at least 0.4 to 0.6 degrees until the time of your next menstrual period. This temperature rise will let you know that ovulation has occurred. If your BBT remains elevated even past the time that your menstrual period is due, it could be a very early indicator of pregnancy.

Cycles of moisture: How can you check your cervical secretions?

Cervical mucus can be looked at as the “gatekeeper” to the uterus -- guarding what may and may not pass through the cervix. Your secretions change in response to hormonal shifts occurring during your cycle. Once your menstrual flow has abated, you will typically have a few "dry" days. Within the first week you may notice your cervical secretions become sticky or tacky feeling. As the time of ovulation approaches your cervical mucus will become creamier, changing to clear, slick secretions that can be stretched between your fingers. This is your time of peak fertility, with your mucus acting as a slippery highway for any sperm that are present.

In observing changes in your cervical mucus, you will be looking for changes in consistency, quantity and color. Pick one time of the day to check your cervical secretions. Many women find it convenient to observe changes while using the bathroom. Though changes can be observed externally, when wiping yourself with white toilet tissue, it can be more accurate to check cervical secretions by inserting one or two fingers into your vagina.

What does the position of your cervix tell you?

The position of your cervix, the lower portion of the uterus, can also be very helpful in gauging your fertility. In the first half of your menstrual cycle, prior to ovulation, your cervix will feel firm, and be low in your vagina. It will feel closed and dry. Around the time of ovulation, the cervix softens, opens, lifts and becomes very receptive to sperm, allowing them to more easily make their way to meet the waiting egg. Within a few days following ovulation, the cervix again becomes firm and the entrance is closed.

Here are some guidelines for checking the position of your cervix:

  • Wash your hands prior to checking your cervix.
  • Check the position of your cervix around the same time each day.
  • Many women find it easy to check their cervix while they are sitting on the toilet.
  • Gently insert one or two fingers into your vagina. Reaching back you should be able to feel your cervix.
  • Does your cervix seem easy to reach (low) or difficult to reach (high)?
  • Does your cervix feel soft (like your lips) or firm (like your nose)?
  • Does the entrance of your cervix feel slightly open or closed?
  • Does your cervix feel dry, moist or very wet?
  • If you are charting your fertility signs, record your observations.




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    The results of the calculator may vary if your periods are irregular. Do not use it to predict your ovulation dates if your periods are irregular.