Fertility awareness is a collection of methods using your body’s natural functioning to determine the days of the month you are most likely to get pregnant. It is also called Natural Family Planning (NFP). The menstruation calendar, basal body temperature, and cervical mucus methods are combined to give you the awareness of when your body is most fertile.
Menstruation calendar method
As you become familiar with your body’s ovulation and fertile window, it provides you the opportunity to abstain from sexual intercourse or use a barrier method during that time.
The first objective within fertility awareness is to become familiar with your menstrual cycle and to begin charting your fertility pattern. The average menstrual cycle is between 28 to 32 days.
Here is a glance at an average cycle to give you a gauge for examining your own cycle:
- Day 1: The first day of your menstrual flow is the beginning of your cycle.
- Day 7: By day seven your egg is preparing to be fertilized by sperm.
- Days 11-21: (based on 28-day cycle) Hormones in your body cause the egg to be released from the ovary, which is known as ovulation. The egg travels through the fallopian tube towards the uterus and is only available to be fertilized for 12-24 hours during this window. If sperm penetrates the egg, the fertilized egg will attach to the lining of the uterus and begin to grow. If fertilization does not happen, the egg breaks apart.
- Day 28: If the egg is not fertilized, hormone levels drop around this day, causing the lining of the uterus to be shed, which is known as menstruation.
It is important to realize that the first part of the menstrual cycle (before ovulation) is different in every woman and can even change from month to month. The number of days before ovulation can typically range from 13 to 20 days. The last half of the cycle is usually more similar for every woman because there are about 12-16 days from the day of ovulation until the start of the next period.
Basal body temperature method
The basal body temperature method helps identify a change in temperature that occurs after ovulation and remains elevated until your next period. By looking at charting from a few cycles, your temperatures can reveal a pattern from which ovulation can be anticipated.
Your body temperature dips a bit just before your ovary releases an egg. Then, 24 hours after the egg’s release, your temperature rises and stays up for several days. Before ovulation, a woman’s basal body temperature averages between 36.1°C and 36.4°C. After ovulation, it rises to 36.4°C to 37°C.
You can track your cycle by taking your basal body temperature every morning. Take your temperature at the same time every day before getting out of bed. Next, record the results on a chart. If you have a somewhat regular cycle, the chart will help you predict when you will ovulate next.
Cervical mucus method
The consistency of your cervical mucus changes during the menstrual cycle. In the average cycle, after a 5 day menstrual flow, there are about 3 to 4 dry days.
The mucus wetness increases daily, lasting approximately 9 days until the wettest day. Your mucus is easily recognized at this point. It should be slippery, clear, stretchy, and look like egg whites. It can be difficult to conceive without this “egg white” cervical mucus, but there are natural products that can help improve mucus production if that is a concern.
Ovulation generally occurs within 1-2 days of your peak day of stretchy mucus.
When using the fertility awareness method, do not douche or use spermicides, which increase your risk for infection and may wash away or change the appearance of the mucus.
How effective is natural planning?
When fertility awareness is used correctly and consistently, it may reach rates of effectiveness around 90%. The effectiveness depends on your diligence to track and record your fertility pattern and your commitment to abstain from sexual intercourse or use a barrier form of birth control during your fertility window.
Average use shows a failure rate of approximately 25%. If you are committed to tracking and recording your fertility information, you can achieve much higher success rates.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.