The 3 Rules For Using Fertility Awareness
Updated: Jul 23, 2019
If you’re reading this you’ve probably already done some research and know that fertility awareness is the practice of tracking our hormonal shifts on a monthly basis as a necessary health care practice, birth control method, and pregnancy support tool. You’ve heard terms like cervical fluid and basal body temperature, yet don’t quite know what they actually mean. And, that one article you read said that you have to touch the inside of your vagina - uhhh, what?!
Don’t panic. It’s not as overwhelming as it all sounds. Today, I’m demystifying the 3 main rules for using fertility awareness and giving you simple, practical steps for getting started with the practice.
To practice fertility awareness - whether it be for health care, birth control, or pregnancy support - there are 3 simple things you need to track on a daily basis. Those 3 things are your cervical fluid, basal body temperature, and cervical positioning. Together they can inform you of upcoming ovulation, when and if you’ve ovulated, and when and if you’re capable of becoming pregnant in any given month. They can also inform you of hormonal imbalances, cervical abnormalities, the presence of cysts, and more severe conditions like PCOS and endometriosis.
Let’s deep dive into each of these fertility rules and explore how they work, what they tell us, and how we can get started tracking them….
1. Cervical Fluid
Cervical fluid is the most prominent sign of impending ovulation. Generally speaking, a few days after the last day of a woman’s period she will begin to notice increased wetness in vaginal fluid. Wetness usually becomes watery at first, then transitions to a creamy fluid, and then to a stretchy and clear fluid like egg whites. Does this sound familiar?
These changes in fluid are triggered by rising estrogen levels in the body and tell us that ovulation is on its way. These types of fluid are needed for sperm mobility because without it sperm is like a driver without a road map - while they may know where to go, they don't know how to get there. Eggwhite-like fluid is the most fertile type of fluid because it best type of fluid at effectively transporting sperm.
Ovulation tends to occur within 48 hours of the last day of eggwhite-like fluid. Immediately following the ovulatory process, estrogen levels experience a sharp decline as progesterone begins to rise which dries up vaginal fluid and leaves a sticky fluid or dry sensation in its place. This stickiness or lack of vaginal fluid signifies that the body has likely ovulated and will soon be outside of its fertile window - aka unable to get pregnant. How cool is that?! You can get all this information simply by noticing what type of fluid your body is producing on any given day.
Cervical fluid shifts can also provide us with information about hormone imbalances like too little or too much estrogen, a lack of progesterone, and the presence of cysts. All this information delivered to you daily straight from your vagina!
It's important to note that each woman experiences her own unique cervical fluid variations and what is normal for one woman may not be for another, which is why it's recommended that women work with a fertility awareness educator should they be looking to use fertility awareness as a birth control method.
*Note - There are very specific rules that need to be followed to understand when exactly YOUR fertile window begins and ends each month. As it's meant to be an introduction only, this post does not address those rules. To learn more about them I HIGHLY recommend the book Taking Charge Of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler.
2. Basal Body Temperature (BBT)
To measure your basal body temperature you’ll need to invest in a basal body thermometer (between $10 & $30) and take your waking temperature each morning. This means you’ll need to take your temperature immediately upon waking up and before getting out of bed or doing anything else. It only takes about a minute.
Your basal body temperature can confirm when and if ovulation has occurred due to the slight rise in temperature that occurs following ovulation and lasts until the start of your next period. BBT doesn’t tell us anything about upcoming ovulation like cervical fluid does, rather it confirms that ovulation has occurred and within a few days we will exit our fertile window.
It’s also a great tool for predicting pregnancy. For example, if a woman has 18+ high temperature days in a row it is usually a sign that she has become pregnant and should test to be certain. Again, how cool - all this information simply from taking your temperature each morning!
BBT can also inform us of any deficiencies in progesterone - a crucial hormone for preventing pms, balancing estrogen, and ensuring implantation for those looking to become pregnant. If there is a clear sign of increased temperatures following ovulation, yet those increased temperatures still hover pretty low close to the pre-ovulatory levels it can be a sign of low progesterone levels.
3. Cervical Position
Often considered an optional fertility awareness practice, I enjoy tracking cervical positioning not only because it gives us further confirmation that ovulation is approaching and has occurred, but it is also an easy way to check for cervical abnormalities potentially requiring medical attention.
To check your cervical position, you must enter a finger into the vagina and locate the cervix, usually deep inside the vagina. Many tend to say it feels a bit like the tip of the nose. It’s essentially a rounded nub at the back of the vaginal canal. During the times of the month that a woman is considered outside of her fertile window, the cervix feels firm, hard, closed and dry. However, when a woman is approaching ovulation the cervix becomes soft, open, and moist to allow cervical fluid (and sperm!) to flow freely.
*Again for those in the back - This blog post is not meant to provide comprehensive information on using fertility awareness to prevent pregnancy, but rather an approachable introduction to the practice of the fertility awareness method. In fact, this is definitely not enough information to begin using the fertility awareness method of birth control. If you’re interested in more seriously pursuing fertility awareness practices, I invite you to schedule a complimentary consult call with me!
Another great resource for practicing fertility awareness is the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Welscher.
Interested in learning how to use fertility awareness and cycle tracking as a health care tool to recognize signs of hormonal imbalance and explore how to balance your hormones naturally? Head over to my work with me page to learn all about my VIP coaching program and set up a time to chat with me 1-on-1!
Disclaimer: Brandy Oswald is not a medical provider and cannot give medical advice or provide any information concerning the diagnosis or treatment of any health condition. The information provided by Brandy Oswald and Do It Naturally is of a general nature and is intended only for educational purposes to help with your personal health improvement goals and should not be relied on as medical advice. Always consult a physician with any health concerns and prior to changing your diet, lifestyle, supplements, or prescription medicine routine. Should you choose to use the information provided by Brandy Oswald it is of your own volition and you recognize that neither Brandy nor Do It Naturally is not held liable for any intended or unintended outcomes.