Tracking the menstrual cycle with the Fertility Awareness Method can be used to either achieve pregnancy or avoid pregnancy as it is used to define and identify the fertile window. Menstrual cycles range from 21-35 days with an average of 28 days. Cycle day 1 is the first day of menses.
There are four phases of the menstrual cycle: menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase. During the follicular phase, multiple follicles are developing that contain a maturing egg. The follicles release estrogen, making it the predominant hormone during this phase. Only one egg is chosen and released during ovulation.
The egg released is viable for 12-24 hours waiting for potential fertilization. Sperm can live in the female reproductive tract for up to 5 days, making the fertile window a total of 6-7 days each month.
During the luteal phase, progesterone rises as the corpus luteum degrades. Progesterone is the dominant hormone during the luteal phase. Progesterone is thermogenic, so it will cause basal body temperature to rise by 0.5-1 degree.
There are three important aspects to track when using the Fertility Awareness Method. The first is basal body temperature, which is the lowest resting temperature. To track, you either take your oral basal body temperature in the morning at the same time daily on waking or use a wearable device to track your temperature when sleeping. After ovulation, basal body temperature will rise and stay elevated. For ovulation to be confirmed, there needs to be three subsequent temperatures higher than the previous six pre-ovulation temperatures.
The second aspect to track is cervical mucus. Cervical mucus is produced by increasing estrogen levels. Cervical mucus may change from dry to white and sticky to creamy and then finally stretchy, wet and resembling egg whites. The egg white cervical mucus is an indication that ovulation is likely near and is a great sign of fertility. Cervical mucus allows sperm to survive in the female reproductive tract for multiple days prior to ovulation.
The third aspect is cervical position. During the fertile window, the cervix will sit higher in the vaginal canal and it will feel soft and slightly open.
Tracking only the days of the menstrual cycle is not accurate enough when trying to identify your fertile window. Using the above methods will help determine the fertile window and when ovulation is approaching.
For a more detailed overview, watch the recent webinar here: