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What are Fertility Awareness Methods

fertility awareness methods, toronto naturopath

Fertility awareness methods allow the opportunity for people to track their cycle, with the goal of knowing when ovulation occurs. There are a variety of methods (as listed below) and are about 76-88% effective, with a possible increase in effectiveness if you use multiple methods together. 

With most of these methods, it’s wise to track your period and these particular signs for at least 3 months (6 months for calendar methods) to get an idea of your body’s rhythms before you use any of the methods for contraception. 

The Temperature Method

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might remember a blog post discussing basal body temperature and fertility.

A quick recap: body temperature changes throughout the menstrual cycle. It’s lower in the follicular phase and slightly higher in the luteal phase. This slight rise in temperature occurs after ovulation, and happens after the formation of the corpus luteum which releases progesterone (the hormone responsible for the temperature change). 

By following this method, you would measure your basal body temperature everyday and chart it (on an app or on paper).  

Days are considered safe once 3 days has passed since the initial rise of temperature, as well as a drop in temperature before the onset of the next menstrual cycle. This is an opportune time to have unprotected vaginal sex (with or without ejaculation). 

During your fertile days, you can avoid sex or use another birth control method. 

The Cervical Fluid Method (The Billings Method)

This method is based on cervical fluid changes, another topic I covered a while back. 

A quick recap: During the follicular phase, increasing estrogen levels will lead to the production of cervical fluid. Cervical fluid will change in colour, texture, and amount during the period, and is considered especially fertile around ovulation. 

Similar to the Temperature Method, cervical fluid needs to be charted everyday, starting from the end of the menstrual cycle. The changes that you may see will give you an idea of when ovulation may occur – which is great if you are hoping for pregnancy (unlike temperature, where it tells you that ovulation has passed).  Record everything daily: your period days, dry days, wet days, sticky days, cloudy days, and slippery days.

There are 3 ways to check your cervical fluid: (1) Before urination, wipe the opening of your vagina with white toilet paper or tissue. Observe the colour and feel of the fluid. (2) Look at your underwear for any discharge – note the colour and texture. (3) Insert your clean fingers into your vagina, and note the colour and texture of cervical fluid on your fingers. The best way to feel the consistency of your fluid is to rub it and stretch it between your thumb and index finger.

This fertility awareness method may not be best for people who don’t generally produce any cervical fluid. 

Source https://pregprep.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/131107_pregprep_chart1.jpg

The Symptothermal Method

This method combines cervical fluid, cervix changes, basal body temperature, and calculation to determine the beginning and the end of the fertile period. At the very least, you should be tracking cervical fluid and basal body temperature to determine when to avoid or engage in sex (depending on your goals, obviously). 

The Calendar Method (The Rhythm Method)

This is one of the methods that need at least 6 months of charting your period. 

Mark the first day of your cycle on an app or on a calendar. Remember, the first day is when you notice significant bleeding – not spotting. Mark the first day of your next cycle. Count the number of days in between your period. You’ll find the fertile part of your cycle, once you subtract 18-21 days from the shortest cycle (of the 6 cycles that you have tracked). You would find the end of the fertile part of your cycle by subtracting 9-11 days from your longest menstrual cycle. 

A real life example:

Dec – Jan = 30 days
Jan – Feb = 33 days
Feb – Mar = 28 days
Mar – April = 26 days
April – May = 32 days
May – June = 27 days

My shortest cycle was 26 days 
My longest cycle was 33 days

Start of my fertile phase is (26 days – 21 days) and (26 days – 18 days) = Days 5 to 8
End of my fertile phase is (33 days – 11 days) and (33 days – 9 days) = Days 22 to 24

Therefore, I would be considered fertile between days 5 to 24 of my period. Many couples may find this way a bit constricting, and may need to have another means of contraception if they still want to engage in vaginal sex. 

This method may be unreliable if you experience irregular menstrual cycles. 

The Standard Days Method

This fertility awareness method identifies a standard window in which someone may be fertile. You can only use this method if your cycle is really regular and is never shorter than 26 days and never longer than 32 days. You must also be cool with not having vaginal sex or using another contraceptive method between days 8 and 19 of your cycle – as they are considered the most fertile. 

Final Thoughts

There are at least 5 ways of practicing fertility awareness. Your best bet is paying attention to your basal body temperature and cervical mucus, and doing so for at least 3 cycles if you’re choosing this as your primary method of birth control. Speak to your Naturopathic or Medical Doctor to determine if these methods are right for you.

Are you paying attention to your cervical fluid?

November 20, 2017
cervical fluid, fertilty, toronto naturopath, naturopathic doctor toronto

Cervical fluid is not something many women completely understand or pay attention to. It’s often thought to be some sort of vaginal infection due to a perception that things should always be dry ‘down there.’ Nevertheless, once you start observing this, you’ll be able to recognize it as an important sign of fertility. 

This is a misconception because there is a distinct pattern of cervical fluid during the cycle. Moreover, it has a distinct role in fertility, including:

  1. Protecting the sperm in an otherwise acidic vagina

  2. Nourishing the sperm

  3. Allowing sperm to move freely

The Menstrual Cycle and Cervical Fluid

Source | Note: This is a 30 day cycle.

As demonstrated with the above picture, cervical fluid changes depending where you are in your menstrual cycle. 

During your period, you likely won’t be able to distinguish your cervical fluid from your blood flow.

After your period, there may be some days were you don’t notice any cervical fluid. These would be considered dry days, and generally safe days if you are hoping to avoid a pregnancy. 

As your body approaches ovulation, the texture and colour of cervical fluid begin to change. Fluid can be yellow, white, or cloudy and have a sticky or tacky texture.

A day before ovulation, this is when you will have the most cervical fluid. It looks clear and slippery like an egg white. If you are hoping to avoid pregnancy, this is considered an ‘unsafe day’ to have unprotected and sex with ejaculation. If you are hoping for a pregnancy, this is one of the best days to have sex. 

As estrogen decreases after ovulation, cervical fluid production will be on the decline. These are considered safe days if you are hoping to avoid pregnancy. 

Types of Cervical Fluid

Dry

Once your period is completed, you may not notice any cervical fluid because estrogen levels are still low. The feeling of dryness also occurs shortly after the wettest day due to the drop in estrogen levels and rise in progesterone.  

Sticky

As estrogen levels begin to rise, you may begin to notice cervical fluid as it resembles a sticky consistency

Creamy

This fluid has more of a wet consistency and may resemble lotion. It may begin to stretch, but will end up breaking.

Egg white

This is considered the most fertile cervical fluid as it is clear, stretchy and has a slippery quality – that can provides a feeling of lubrication around ovulation. This type may also form a symmetrical circle on your underwear as it has a high concentration of water.

How to Observe Cervical Fluid

1. Start after you finish your period

2. Pay attention to your vaginal sensations – you don’t need to do this all the time, but check in a couple of times during the day (like when you’re heading to the restroom)

3. Check your cervical fluid. The best way to feel the consistency of your fluid is to rub it and stretch it between your thumb and index finger.

– Before urination, wipe the opening of your vagina with white toilet paper or tissue. Observe the colour and feel of the fluid.

– Look at your underwear for any discharge – note the colour and texture.

– Insert your clean fingers into your vagina, and note the colour and texture of cervical fluid on your fingers.  

4. Record any findings on your BBT chart or app 

Note: Arousal and semen can imitate fertile cervical fluid. 

Conditions affecting Cervical Fluid

Certain activities or conditions can alter cervical fluid production and make this method less effective and difficult to use. These include:

  • Breastfeeding

  • Surgery on your cervix

  • Douching

  • Early menopause

  • Hormonal birth control

  • Sexually transmitted infections

  • Vaginitis

Final Thoughts

It might take a couple cycles to get acquainted with the patterns of your cervical fluid. Pairing this sign with your basal body temperature might give you more insight into your cycle and ultimately fertility.

If you love learning about your hormones and your period, be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter called The Flow for great and informative content like this!

What basal body temperature reveals about fertility

November 13, 2017
basal body temperature, BBT charting, temperature and fertility, toronto naturopath, naturopath toronto

How often do you take your temperature? Some people never take it and others only do so when they’re feeling sick. Yet, many women measure it each morning to determine if they have ovulated. Let’s unpack this a little bit and review a small component of the menstrual cycle.

Why Basal Body Temperature is Important

We know that lutenizing hormone spikes at ovulation and causes the egg to be released from the follicle so it can meet sperm. That same follicle is then transformed into the corpus luteum, which ends up releasing progesterone and estrogen for the next 14 days.

Progesterone is the dominant hormone in the luteal phase, and one of its actions is increasing the basal body temperature. This increase is slight (about 0.4 to 0.8 degrees), but significant. It indicates that progesterone is present in the body and ovulation has occurred. A rise in temperature in the luteal phase will typically occur during the entire phase.

During the follicular phase, there is no corpus luteum producing progesterone, thus no rise in basal body temperature.

How to measure your temperature for fertility purposes:

  1. Take your temperature as soon as you wake up (this is known as your basal body temperature)

  2. Take your temperature at the same time every morning

  3. Take your oral temperature

  4. Wait until your thermometer beeps (if it’s digital)

  5. Jot it down on a piece of paper or record it in an app

  6. Take note of any significant events – travel, stress, etc.

While this test does not tell us if ovulation is occurring right this second, it can and should be used in conjunction with cervical fluid and position. Tracking these additional fertility signs will provide us with all the information that we need to determine if we are fertile and ovulating.

Final Thoughts

It might take a couple of cycles to get the hang of your temperature patterns. If you’re not noticing a rise in temperature, then you may want to get your progesterone levels assessed (by your MD or ND)!

If you love learning about your hormones and your period, be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter called The Flow for great and informative content like this!