13 September 2016

Signs and Symptoms of Fertility

By Emily Jean Roche

Paying attention to the signs and symptoms of fertility is empowering to many women. Fertility Awareness-based Methods (FAM) are natural methods that woman can use to track the fertility cycle. FAM is also called Natural Family Planning (NFP). These methods provide a woman with a deeper understanding of her own body. By paying close attention to her body's signs and symptoms, she knows when she is fertile. Signs include: cervical mucus, basal body temperature (BBT), cervix portion, and calendar.

People use FAM for many different reasons. A woman may simply want to learn more about her own body. Some couples track fertility when trying to conceive a baby. Others want to postpone pregnancy naturally with no artificial hormones or side effects. With knowledge of her fertility, a woman and her partner can make informed decisions about family planning.

Keep in mind that no two women have the exact same cycles. Some of these signs will work for some women and not others. By coupling multiple methods, she can know her fertility even better.

1. Cervical Mucus

The simplest explanation I've heard on how to use cervical mucus is: "when you're wet, a baby you will get." Of course, it's far more complicated than that! A woman's body goes through various mucus stages each cycle. The consistency of cervical mucus fluctuates though out the cycle-dry, sticky, creamy, egg white, watery, etc. To test the consistency, wipe with a flat piece of toilet paper before and after going to the bathroom. See if there is any discharge on the tissue. What does it look like? Can you pick it up between two fingers?

Many women experience a dry time following menses. This indicates she's in her relatively infertile time. As she approaches her fertile time, the mucus becomes clear and stretchy, similar to raw egg whites. Sperm can live up to 5 days in this fertile-quality mucus. Remember, every woman is different. Some have nearly constant vaginal discharge, and other can have very little. Take some time to get to know your body to learn if cervical mucus is a good sign for you to use.

2. Basil Body Temperature

Basil Body Temperature (BBT) is a person's resting temperature. Women in their menstruating years have a bi-phasic BBT. The first phase, called the follicular phase, has low resting temperatures. This phase begins when the period starts and ends at ovulation. During the second phase, the luteal phase, BBT is higher. The release of hormones that signal the start of ovulation cause BBT to rise.

The exact temperatures vary from woman to woman, the important thing is to track compare your BBT during each phase. This only works when cycling naturally, as artificial hormones can mask this symptom. Also, it's important to take your BBT upon waking at the same time each day. Someone who does shift work or wakes erratically may not be able to accurately track her BBT.

3. Cervical Position

Checking cervix position takes some practice. With clean hand and trim nails, gently insert one or two fingers into the vagina and feel for the cervix. During the infertile time, the cervix is low and hard, feeling like the tip of your nose. When the woman is fertile, her cervix is high and open, feeling soft like the inside of your cheek. Some women are squeamish about doing a cervix check on themselves. In that case, it can be skipped for one of the other methods.

4. Calendar

As a woman gets to know her body better, she can find certain patterns that are unique to her. For example, a woman who's tracked many cycles might notice that, because of her longer follicular phase, she's never fertile any earlier than a certain day. Once she really gets to know her body's patterns, she can apply calendar rules. She may not need to take her temperature or check her mucus until passed a certain day of her cycle. Some women have irregular cycles. In that case, Calendar methods are not effective for them.

Not every method will work for all women. With a variety of Fertility Awareness Methods to choose from, a woman can take time to get to know her own body in the way that works best for her.

Emily Jean Roche wants to live in a world where her two daughters can eat straight from the garden and drink directly from the stream. A self-proclaimed crunchy mom, she shops at the local farmer's market while wearing her baby. Early in the morning (while the kids are asleep) you can find her writing her next YA fantasy novel and dreaming of being published.

Emily is editor at http://www.ThinkGreenParenting.com, an online magazine about keeping the world green for future generations.

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