Fertility Awareness

Art by Catie Atkinson @spiritysol

CNM Anne Margolis talks about fertility awareness, why it is important, what to look for and how to track your cycles. Charts from 'With Child" by Jamie Eloise Bolane and 'Taking Charge of Your Fertility' by Toni Weschler. Subscribe to Ask the Midwife Newsletter: bit.ly/askthemidwife

Fertility awareness begins with charting your cycle dates and fertility signs and your peak fertile days so you can either conceive or prevent pregnancy, noting what symptoms are normal for you, along with your typical cyclic changes so that you can also be aware of when something is off. So let’s begin learning how to chart our monthly cycle together!

Materials Needed

·         You of course

·         Pencil

·         Ruler and Watch

·         You can work directly on the online charting programs, or practice by printing out several of the Classic (Fahrenheit) Fertility Charts from Taking Charge of Your Fertility.

·         Calendar

·         Basal Body Oral Thermometer - NOT any other type, such as a digital thermometer or those applied to the ears or forehead.

Art by Catie Atkinson @spiritysol

Art by Catie Atkinson @spiritysol

Fertility Awareness Method

The more you chart and practice paying close attention to the clues your body gives you, the better the odds you’ll achieve your goals. It is done by charting the dates your cyclical symptoms occur, tracking your cervical fluid, and your basal body temperatures; it includes noting when you have sexual intercourse, taking notes of significant life events that may impact your cervical fluid, your temperature, the length of time between your period and when you ovulate. You can also record other cyclic symptoms you experience.

Begin by choosing a day in the week you want to begin charting…it is easiest to start on the first day of your period, which is cycle day one. Each subsequent day, you record on the chart M for menses or P for period bleeding, and the characteristics of the vaginal discharge and cervical fluid you note on the other days. The number of days goes up until you get your period again, and then you start another chart, on day one for the first day of bleeding; or, the number of days of no menses increases because, for example you are pregnant – once pregnancy is confirmed you do not need to continue charting. Charting during breastfeeding is resumed when your cycles return postpartum, although how to chart your cycles when breastfeeding and not cycling, as well as when experiencing a variety of other reproductive health issues, are covered in the book “Take Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Weschler.

1.      Print out the Fertility Chart http://bit.ly/2afSoGe

2.      Write the cycle day in the box corresponding to date “cycle day”. For example, if your period begins July 26, 2016…you will write in that box“1”. The next day, July 27, is your cycle day “2” and so on.

3.      Check how your vaginal and cervical fluid by looking and feeling it a few times each day when you go to the bathroom, using your thumb and index fingers; this is done by swiping or gently inserting your index finger into your vaginal opening, or looking and touching the discharge on your underwear or the tissue you used to wipe.  Then put index and thumb together and separate them- what do you see? Or don’t see?  

4.      Write your observations, the characteristic of your vaginal discharge - Dry, Sticky, Moist, Creamy, Wet, Stretchy, Egg white? Place the appropriate initial in the box under the corresponding cycle day.

5.      On the Wet days, you can note and record the increasing peak wetness sensations by coloring in more squares each progressive day or in a way you can understand.

To record your Basal Body Temperature

6.      Before you get out of bed on each morning (begin after your period has ended), place your basal body thermometer under your arm.

7.      Wait a few minutes and then remove thermometer. Read the temperature and record it on the chart. For example, there’s one line with only 98’s on it. If your temperature is 98.3° F, then you will note the mercury level is 3 line measures above 98. Circle 98.3 on the chart.

8.      Pencil in, in the time in the “Time Temp Taken” on the top.

Basal Body temperature (BBT) refers to your internal body temperature before, during and after after you ovulate; it rises significantly from your preovulatory temperature after ovulation, due to the increase in progesterone produced by  the corpus luteum in your ovary that released the egg. Why is this so important? Temperature changes are a great predictor that you have ovulated. Typically, it is said that you will ovulate between the first and third day of your temperature shift. For women seeking to conceive, consistentlyelevated BBTs beyond cycle day 16-18 can signify you are pregnant; and if you did not conceive or having a possible early miscarriage, it will drop back down. The rise in temperature after ovulation is not like a feverish high, rather it is a few degrees above your temperature range between eachperiod and ovulation. Typically, your BBT can rise about 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 0.2 degrees Celsius higher than your normal BBT on non-ovulation days, but the rise may be slightly less in some cases. What is really important to remember here, is that your charting your temperature so you can see the “changes” to better predict ovulation, this is referred to as your biphasic pattern (showing two levels of temperatures).

 

Next, circle the dates you have had intercourse in, write in other symptoms on days related to your cycle, and anything that may affect your cervical fluid (like lubricant and intercourse), or temperature (like an infectious illness or frequent waking in the middle of the night), or time between your period and ovulation (like travel, unusual stress or sudden weight changes).

When to have sex to get pregnant or to avoid pregnancy?

A woman’s fertile window is limited, unlike that of men. A woman is only fertile for 12 to 24 hours per cycle (the lifespan of her egg) BUT sperm can live inside a woman’s body for up to 5 days in fertile cervical fluid. The window for possible conception is around 6 days in total. Women have what is called “dry days”. These are the days in your cycle that you notice your vulva and vagina are dryer, your discharge is very scant; you become moist only through sexual stimulation but other than that your discharge,  vulva and vagina feel more dry. Once you begin to notice your normal vaginal discharge is increasing to include cervical fluid (regardless of sexual stimulation), you’re then considered fertile;  that is when to time sexual intercourse (this does not take into account health issues, etc.) – every day or every other day of your wet days, including your peak day of wetness which indicates imminent ovulation.

·         If you have sex 6 or more days before you ovulate you will not conceive, especially if on the evening of a dry day.

·         If you have sex 24 hrs. after you ovulate you’re not very likely to conceive.

·         If you time it right and have sex three days leading up to and including the day you ovulate, your chances of conception are at their peak. After day two of ovulation, your chances drastically fall.

·         IF you’re looking to prevent pregnancy, consider either abstinence or using other forms of contraception during the six (6) days of your peak fertile time, plus a few additional days after ovulation, to be extra cautious, allowing for the potential lifespan of the sperm. On average, that means that you should not have unprotected sexual intercourse the approximately 6 days BEFORE you ovulate (during your wet days) and for extra confidence, you should abstain 3 days after ovulation.  So the evening of the 4th dry day and consecutive BBT rise you are not fertile, pregnancy is highly unlikely from having unprotected sexual intercourse during this time.

·         To use this method to prevent pregnancy, make sure you chart several cycles and know your fertile and non fertile times, before relying on it alone.

Additionally, This chart gives you many other options to record, for example, if you’re on IVF,  medications, taking supplements and herbs, had any relevant diagnostic or treatment procedures. You can note if you experience any premenstrual symptoms (PMS), one-sided low pelvic pain or ache around ovulation and track it in this chart as well. In this chart you will also find boxes relating to your cervix- it is an optional assessment to learn what your cervix feels like throughout your cycle. Was it high? Low? Open? Closed?

In conclusion

Once you record several cycles, you will notice a pattern. Your range, your normal variations during each cycle and from cycle to cycle. Then you can more easily use this information to get pregnant or prevent pregnancy. You can use this information to know about your reproductive cyclic details and health – like when you ovulated, when you most likely conceived, when you are probably pregnant, when you may be miscarrying, when you are not fertile, when you did not yet ovulate, when something is not normal for you.  Remember, you are most fertile during your wettest days, peak wetness and on day of ovulation.  Once your basal body temperature rises you know you have ovulated. 

Remember, this chart is an example of the many possibilities of charting your cycles. There are app’s, websites, printable sheets like this one and even journals (here is a journal sample http://amzn.to/2a8srHi).

Tweak them, add lines, markings and pages- most importantly use it daily and make it your own!

Photo by Megan Hancock Photography

Photo by Megan Hancock Photography

Congratulations if you do get pregnant!!!

For more information about what you can do to have a healthy pregnancy to birth and beyond journey that you love, prepare your mindset for a deeply positive and rewarding childbirth experience, learn skills of relaxation and coping you can practice to easily tap into during labor and birth, understand about the anatomy and physiology of labor and pregnancy, and for all the inspiration you need to feel confident and empowered, take my Online LOVE YOUR BIRTH Course!  It is everything you need to help you give birth YOUR way!  

Click here for more info and to purchase this course, so unique, comprehensive, refreshing and inspiring, it is recommended by midwives and physicians to their clients around the globe!

For a free sample of the course, download my a 60 page eBook on optimal health in pregnancy and beyond.

Check below for a must read for all women! It is life-changing, outrageously divine, and revolutionary now, but really a return to who we are and always were before we were told otherwise.

Pussy: A Reclamation
By Regena Thomashauer