Fertility Awareness Method Explained and Tracking for Health

Fertility Awareness Method of Birth Control
Fertility Awareness Method Explained and Tracking for Health

If you cringed when Rupi Kaur posted about her period on Instagram then this post is for you. And if you have ever been caught off guard by your period, then this post is for you. Going along with my last post on my health, I want to talk about something that is taboo for most: Reproductive Health.

More specifically, fertility awareness.

Fertility Awareness Method of Birth Control

Yes, that means this post may have some “TMI” included. It’s a little long, but worth every word.

How did I get here?!

When I was younger I learned that people could track their temperature and cervical fluids to help them conceive. One day I thought “If they can achieve pregnancy, then I can AVOID it” and thus my search for a new birth control began. I seriously thought I was a genius with this idea.

I wasn’t entirely sure how it worked as I had never been taught such basic things about my body. I knew that periods happened and the gist of them, but beyond that, I was clueless.

I was determined to make it work though. I have PCOS and Endometriosis and periods are no fun. Besides being painful and heavy, they don’t follow the text-book pattern we have been taught, and are irregular.

I’ve tried multiple forms of birth control including shots, pills, and even an IUD. For me, the synthetic chemicals provided by more mainstream forms of birth control were not working for me.

I wanted a more natural method that wouldn’t make me gain so much weight and feel yucky constantly. That’s when I found the fertility awareness method.

What is the Fertility Awareness Method?

It’s a natural form of birth control not to be confused with the rhythm method or natural family planning. The fertility awareness method is in a league all by itself.

First of all, it is not a guessing game (like the rhythm method is). And it doesn’t require that you completely abstain from sex while fertile like the catholic version of family planning. While the fertility awareness method is a “natural family planning” method, it isn’t quite the same.

There are a few different versions of the fertility awareness method, but most follow similar rules. I use the Sympto-Thermal Method which combines a few different methods. The basic idea is to be aware of and track your fertility at any given moment to help you make certain choices.

How is it done?

Upon waking in the morning you take your temperature and record it on a chart. This is called your basal body temperature. Your BBT varies depending on which part of the cycle your body is currently in. It is lower prior to ovulation and increases after ovulation. I set an alarm for 6am every day to do this. This helps me be consistent because I don’t always wake up at the same time on my own. Being consistent with temperatures is important to get a good reading. Taking your temperature at the same time every day is your best option.

Throughout the day, you check your cervical position and fluids and record those too. The most basic types are none or a dry day, sticky, creamy, eggwhite, and watery. When you piece all of this information together you get something that looks like this:

Interpreting a Cycle

Ovulatory Cycle using Kindara for Fertility Awareness Method - Natural Birth Control

This is a real chart of mine. I use the Kindara app to record all of my observations, but there are multiple other apps or even paper printables to use.

The numbers at the top coincide with the cycle day. So day 1 is the first day of a new period. The numbers on the right represent temperatures. I choose to track in fahrenheit. Some days I did not record a temperature.

Cycle day 1-5 was my period with some spotting on cycle day 6. As you can see, the day I start my period, I quit taking my temperature for a few days after. It’s a nice break from the alarm clock. Since my cycles are usually 5-7 days, I start taking my temp again around the 5th day.

Cervical Fluid

Cycle days 8-11 I recorded creamy consistency for cervical fluid. Days 12-17 are eggwhite. 18-20 I recorded watery. 21 was eggwhite, and 22 and 23 were creamy.

Eggwhite and watery cervical fluid are considered super fertile, but at the first sign of any fluid, one is considered fertile. Because sperm can live 7 days inside the vagina, even creamy or sticky fluid can be fertile.

Following the Rules

Because I am tracking for health purposes, this is pretty much all I chart. Depending on the rules you follow you may want to track more or less. I do check my cervical position, but don’t record it.

The P on cycle day 21 stands for Peak. This is the LAST day of fertile fluid. This does NOT mean the peak fertility day. The numbered blue circles are considered “days past ovulation”. Based on this chart above, I ovulated around cycle day 21 or 22. Despite what some may tell you, there is no way to chart WHEN you ovulated, just to confirm that you have.

Temperature Shifts and Ovulation

Remember when I said my cycles don’t follow a text-book pattern? Text-books state ovulation happens on day 14. This has never been true for me. I typically don’t see a shift, indicating ovulation until day 20 or beyond.

You can see two distinct temperature ranges in this chart. On cycle day 23 I had a temp shift. My temperature increased by at least 0.2 degrees above the last 6 temperatures which is what is required for a shift. In order to confirm ovulation, this rise in temperature must be sustained for at least 3 days.

Some people may experience a slow rise in temperature, but mine are usually sudden. After an egg is released, it dies within 24 hours if not fertilized.

Anovulatory Cycles

Sometimes I don’t have a temp shift at all, even though I experience fertile fluid. This means that I did not ovulate despite my body trying. This is a result of my PCOS, but anovulatory cycles can happen to anybody. This chart below is an example of an anovulatory chart. You can see that I observed fertile fluid, but nothing came out of it.

(Side note: The peak day is not marked correctly on this chart below. It should be day 41.)

Anovulatory cycle using Kindara and the Fertility Awareness Method of Natural Birth Control

On cycle day 44 of this chart I started bleeding. A bleed that happens after an anovulatory cycle is not a true period. If you are following rules like the Doering rule, you must remember that you are still considered fertile after this bleed and rules like the 5 day rule don’t apply. You can only use those rules if you confirmed ovulation in the pervious chart, along with some other requirements. Jennifer breaks it down in The Rules of the Sympto-Thermal Method.

Unprotected vs Protected Sex

When using this method to avoid pregnancy, you can have unprotected sex as long as you follow the rules. Because the egg dies within 24 hours after ovulation, once you have confirmed ovulation with a temperature shift of at least 3 temperatures 0.2 degrees above the last 6, you can have unprotected sex without risk of pregnancy.

For example, in the first chart above I could have had unprotected sex on cycle day 26, after ovulation was confirmed. In the second chart, since ovulation was not confirmed, unprotected sex on the 26th cycle day would have been risky.

In the first chart I also could have had unprotected sex on cycle days 1-5, 7, and from 26-34. The other days, protection would be needed to avoid pregnancy. Some of these days are based off of the dry day rule and Doering rule mentioned above and may not apply to you. Be sure you meet all criteria in order to use these rules.

Benefits of Fertility Awareness Method

Because I have charted for many many cycles, I am very in tune with my body. I know how long my luteal phase is and I can pinpoint the day I will start my period as soon as I have confirmed ovulation. Anovulatory cycles don’t apply.

Charting can also give you insight into problems such as low progesterone, anovulatory cycles (remember, bleeding doesn’t always mean you ovulated), thyroid function, and more.

In Conclusion

This method takes some work. If you can’t remember to take a pill every day, then you probably won’t be good at this. And just like a birth control pill, you can’t blame it’s effectiveness on a user that doesn’t follow directions. If you miss a pill, you could get pregnant. That isn’t the birth control pill’s fault. The same is true for this method. In this method, if you don’t follow the rules, you can have an unintended pregnancy. That is a USER error and not a result of ineffectiveness of the method.

If you are using this as a method of birth control, it is imperative that you follow ALL of the rules. I recommend the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. This book goes in depth and teaches you way more than this post could.

You can get it on Amazon using my affiliate link below:

Taking Charge of Your Fertility

Have you heard of this method before? 
Do you have any questions about it?
Do you use it or know somebody who does? 

Author: Aduke Schulist

Aduke Schulist is a 30 something content creator living in the heart of Arkansas. She enjoys blogging, vlogging, and spending way too much time on social media. Aduke is a big fan of true crime documentaries and advocating for people with special needs. You can find Aduke on social media as @AdukeSchulist.

22 thoughts on “Fertility Awareness Method Explained and Tracking for Health”

  1. This a very interesting idea! It’s important to do everything we can to ensure that we’re on the right track when we’re trying to get pregnant. It’s not as easy as people might think.

  2. I commend you for taking charge and control of your situation! You have to be very diligent and organized to do what you do but in my book natural is always better if it can be managed as well as you are managing it!

  3. This method sounds like a great way to get to know your body. I will have to share this with my friends that are trying to conceive.

  4. I have never heard of this method before. It would be great to know exactly what part of my cycle I am at.

  5. Very smart idea here! Using the information that other use to get pregnant, to keep you from getting pregnant. Quite genius I must say!

  6. I think this is great and never thought to do this. I studied a lot and tracked my cycle when I was trying to get pregnant, but never thought to use it to not get pregnant. I am going to have to try this since normal birth control makes me very sick.

  7. I would totally suck at this form of birth control. The pill also wasn’t my cup of tea. I was never consistent and would forget them. After my oldest son, I opted for an IUD because hormones made me cranky and fat.

    Now, I am not so worried about it since I had a tubal after my youngest was born. I had a csection so it just made sense to do it since I knew we were done. I had a hard pregnancy and with health problems mounting it was the right decision for me.

    I am glad that there is a vast array of non hormone birth control methods available for couples.

  8. This may take some work but it’s better than ingesting or getting a shot of anything that will prevent you from being pregnant. I think it’s a great way to track your ovulation as well, if you’re trying to get pregnant.

  9. I think this sounds a little complicated but worth it if it means being in control of your body. I agree, it’s only for people who can keep track of what needs to be done throughout the day.

  10. Very involved method, but looks like it works really well. There are many reasons a person may not be able to use medical methods to conceive (or avoid conception) and this gives a solid method that doesn’t involve that.

  11. I’ve never heard of this method before. I’ve only heard of the rhythm method, but I chose to take pills after my son was born – only for a few months though.

  12. I have heard of this before. With pcos and other issues that cause inconsistencies, I wonder if this would work for me.

    1. I have PCOS and I track. I would say with issues like PCOS it would be even MORE useful to track than not. It helps to see a pattern to your ovulation (or not).

  13. I have never heard of fertility awareness method. Sounds interesting, I wonder if it would be a natural birth control method? I hate the idea of all of the hormones in birth control.

  14. my goodness that’s an in-depth description of Fertility awareness method… I like that it helps women learn and know more about our bodies (the more we know the better!) I’ll have to pass this along : )

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