There is a good chance that what is going on in between your periods is a mystery to you. Most people have no idea that a woman is only fertile part of her cycle, let alone for how many days and when that might actually happen.
And the prospect of knowing exactly when you are fertile and infertile without any help from a doctor sounds ludicrous.
Yet, for about as long as we have had "the pill" we have known with scientific rigor how to teach a woman to find those fertile days and use that information in such a way that she can have an entirely natural, 99.6% effective birth control method at her fingertips. Has the fact that we've known this been trumped by our infatuation with the pill? Perhaps, but a huge chunk of women are now getting off of hormones and looking for a natural alternative. Since we have spent such a long time not talking about what those natural methods are (or making them endlessly confusing when we do talk about them), I want to help you understand the best of these methods.
What I'm talking about here is the sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness. This is one of a variety of fertility awareness based methods (FABMs). Some of these methods include outdated and ineffective methods like the rhythm method (I strongly recommend that you NOT use that method), and some are more modern and scientific (like the sympto-thermal method). What they all have in common is that they identify your fertile phase during your cycle and you avoid intercourse or use a barrier during that time if you are trying to avoid pregnancy or you concentrate intercourse during that time if you are trying to conceive. The reason some methods are worse is because they do a terrible job of actually finding your fertile phase.
You see, methods such as the rhythm method only use calculations based on past cycles to determine when you are probably fertile and probably infertile. The reason this doesn't work is because your current cycle can change, even if you've had regular cycles in the past.
Enter the beauty of the sympto-thermal method. This method is all about using scientifically proven fertility signs (that you can check in the comfort of your own home) that help you answer daily and with confidence "Am I fertile? Yes or no."
The signs that you use? Cervical fluid and basal body temperature.
Cervical fluid is a substance created inside of your cervix (that's the lower part of your uterus) to help make your vaginal environment more alkaline and easily swimable by sperm. It's not created all cycle, though, it's created only when estrogen levels are rising and high, which happens to be when the egg is maturing just before ovulation. That's why cervical fluid works as such a perfect indicator of fertility. Without cervical fluid your vaginal environment is like a death trap for sperm, since it's so acidic that sperm can only live for a few hours, tops. So when your egg is maturing and getting ready for ovulation, that's when your body produces this substance that will help sperm live and that you can actually see and feel. How do you see it? It conveniently comes right out to your vaginal opening. In fact, if you haven't been on hormonal birth control for all of your reproductive years you've probably noticed it as a slippery sensation when wiping or like some kind of egg whites coming out of your vagina. Yep, that's the baby-making juice in action.
Basal body temperature is a way of saying "your temperature at rest." To be most accurate with this sign you are taking your temperature first thing when you wake up on a daily basis. The reason you do this is because you can actually see a jump in your temperature after you ovulate. While that as help as knowing in advance that you are close to ovulation, like with the information you get from your cervical fluid, it's very help in that it can confirm that you are indeed ovulating and be a second sign confirming that ovulation has already passed.
When you put those two signs together, chart them so you don't forget anything, and apply a few rules to the chart you have one of the most awesome (and effective) birth control methods around. Not only are you getting a natural method of birth control, but it will teach you a huge amount about your body and leave you feeling in control and empowered.
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