At A Glance:
- Fertility awareness tracking.
- Cooperation between the couple is important.
- Fertility awareness tracking does not involve hormones and so much money.
- With perfect use: 95-99% effective; with typical use: 76-88% effective, depending on which method.
- No protection against STIs.
- No side effects.
What Is It
Fertility awareness-based methods are commonly known as natural family planning. They involve tracking and monitoring the menstrual cycle to determine the days you can get pregnant, which is very tricky. By tracking when you ovulate—when an egg cell is released—you can prevent pregnancy. There are various methods to track your fertility. Some may be easier than others, but they all take time and diligence to maintain. You’ll have to pay very close attention to your body and its patterns. Listed below are the fertility awareness methods you can practice.
How It Works
Fertility awareness methods work primarily by preventing the sperm from getting into the vagina during the days near ovulation, when a woman is most fertile and has the greatest chance of getting pregnant.
During their fertile days, women can refrain from having vaginal intercourse, use condoms, or enjoy other kinds of sexual activity aside from vaginal intercourse to avoid pregnancy.
Becoming familiar with your menstrual cycle is the best way to know which days you are most likely to get pregnant. For pregnancy to happen, a woman’s egg cell and a man’s sperm cell must join together— this stage is called fertilization. A healthy woman with a well functioning reproductive system has days when fertilization is very likely to happen and days when it can’t, as well as some days when it’s unlikely to happen but still possible. The days when the egg cell and sperm cell can join are called fertile days, and a woman should have vaginal intercourse without protection if she wants to get pregnant.
Fertile days depend on the life span of the egg cell and sperm cell. A woman’s egg cell can live for up to a day after ovulation, while a man’s sperm can survive for up to seven days inside a woman’s body.
There are about seven fertile days during every menstrual cycle of a woman. This is compromises the five days before ovulation, the day of ovulation, and a day or two after ovulation—even though fertilization is less likely to happen.
Determining when your fertile days are can help avoid or ensure a pregnancy. The key is figuring when you will ovulate, which will signify when you are fertile. From there, you can track the pattern of your fertility—the days of the month when you are fertile and the days of the month when you are not. This is very crucial and must be done carefully. Fertility pattern may vary for each woman, but most have cycles that fall between 26-30 days. Some can have shorter or longer cycles, and other women can also experience varying patterns for each month.
How To Use It
There are a number of different fertility awareness methods, but they are easier to follow if you have regular cycles, which lasts between 26-32 days, and you get your period every 26-32 days. Below are the most common and easiest methods to use in the Philippines.
Cervix Mucus Method
The hormones responsible for your menstrual cycle also prompt the cervix to produce mucus. The mucus accumulates in the cervix and vagina, and changes in quality and quantity just before and during ovulation. This method relies on the type of mucus you produce to determine when are the safe days for you to have sex.
- Your cycle starts on the first day of your period. Your period flow covers the mucus signs, so you don’t have to check on them on these days. After your period, you will have “dry days,” which is a few days without mucus produced. These may be safe days if your cycle is long.
- More mucus is produced when an egg cell begins to ripen, and often appears at the opening of the vagina. It is usually yellow or white and cloudy, and has a stick or tacky feeling. These days are considered unsafe.
- Usually, your body produces the most mucus right before ovulation, and these days are called “slippery days.” This is the peak of your fertility, and you have the highest chances of getting pregnant. The mucus you produce are clear, and feels slippery, like raw egg whites, and can be stretched between your fingers.
- Slippery days last about four days, and you may suddenly produce less mucus after these days. You may have a few more dry days before the start of your period, and these days are considered safe, which means that pregnancy is less likely to happen if you have sex within these days. This method will require you to consistently check your mucus, mark a calendar every day, and record your period days, dry days, tacky days, cloudy days, wet days, and slippery days. Your mucus may feel different in between those stages.
There are several ways how you can check your mucus, but do what is most comfortable for you because you’ll have to do this several times a day. Use one of the following methods below:
- Before urinating, wipe the opening of your vagina with a tissue. Check the color and texture of the mucus you have collected
- Check the color and texture of the discharge on your underpants.
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap, and insert two fingers into the vagina and check the color and texture of the mucus on them.
The method may be difficult for women who do not produce much mucus.
Standard Days Method
The Standard Days Method is a type of calendar method which may be simpler to use than the other methods, and you may use it if your answer is ‘yes’ to the following conditions:
- You have regular cycles.
- Your cycle is never shorter than 26 days.
- Your cycle is never longer than 32 days.
- You will not have unprotected vaginal intercourse from day 8 through day 19 of each cycle.
On days 8 to 19, you should refrain from having sex or you can use a condom if you want to prevent pregnancy (remember, the first day of your menstrual cycle is marked by the first day of your period). If you want to get pregnant, between days 8 and 19 is the best time to have sex either every day or every other day. The Standard Days Method is best for those with regular menstrual cycles. Before using this method as contraception, it’s essential to track and observe your cycle for at least 6 months to confirm if your cycle consistently falls between 26-32 days.
With typical use, this method is about 88% effective (approximately 12 out of every 100 women using this method for one year became pregnant).
Basal Body Temperature Method
Hence the name ‘Basal Body Temperature Method,’ it’s based on your body temperature when you’re fully at rest because of the fact that during ovulation, your resting body temperature is slightly higher than it is during any other time of the month.
Before using the basal body temperature method, you should consult your healthcare provider first it:
- You recently gave birth or stopped taking hormonal contraceptives (such as pills)
- You’re breastfeeding
- You’re approaching menopause
To use the BBT method of fertility awareness:
- Take your basal body temperature every morning before getting out of bed. Use a digital oral thermometer to take the most exact reading of your basal body temperature. Some women take their temperature vaginally or rectally for a more accurate reading. No matter which way you take it, make sure that you use the same method every time you take your temperature. Getting at least three hours of uninterrupted sleep each night will also help ensure an accurate reading.
- Record your temperature readings on graph paper. Taking note of your daily basal body temperature will help you discover a pattern. Your basal body temperature may increase slightly by around less than 0.3 C when you ovulate. You can assume that ovulation has occurred when the slightly higher temperature remains consistently steady for three consecutive days or more.
- Plan sex carefully during non-fertile days. You’re most fertile for around two days before your basal body temperature rises, but sperm can survive for up to seven days in a woman’s body. If you want to avoid getting pregnant, every month you should refrain from having unprotected sex from the start of your period, until three to four days after your basal body temperature rises. If you want to get pregnant, this is the best time to have unprotected sex.
Before using any fertility awareness methods to prevent pregnancy, it’s essential to start tracking your menstrual cycle a couple of months ahead. This will help you become more familiar with the pattern of your cycle, and will help increase the effectiveness of whichever method you plan to use.
- It can be used even by breastfeeding mothers.
- It doesn’t involve any hormone.
- If you want to get pregnant, it can help you determine the best days to have sex.
- It has no side effects.
- It helps you learn more about your body and how it works.
- It’s free—except for the digital thermometer which you will use all the time.
- It requires practice and diligence.
- It requires keeping track of your menstrual cycle all the time.
- It requires a very regular lifestyle.
- It’s open to mistakes.
- It can interfere with spontaneity.
- It’s unreliable because it does not take variations in your cycle into account.
- Does not protect against HIV infection (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
- It’s not recommended if you’ve just gone off a hormonal method, because the hormones affect your cycle (you’ll need to use a non-hormonal method while you’re learning to track your cycle).
- Requires abstinence (or use of an alternate method) for at least a week per cycle.
- It does not harm men who abstain from sex.
- Does not require literacy or advanced education to be able to use this method correctly and consistently. However, it does require time and diligence.