"THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE IS LIKE A FINE-TUNED SYMPHONY, A FASCINATING INTERPLAY OF HORMONES AND PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSES."
These pages are designed to be read in order. Please follow the navigation links to read through all sections before charting.
Using the Fertility Awareness Method relies on tracking and recording three primary fertility signs: your waking temperature, your cervical fluid, and your cervical position. These three signs together can help you pinpoint information about your cycle, such as when you ovulate or the date of your next period.
In this section, we'll learn how to measure each sign and how it changes throughout your cycle.
We'll learn how to chart in the next cycle, and I'll be showing you what it looks like on the chart for each fertility sign. I recommend charting on paper for a few cycles, mostly because it teaches you to rely on the things you have learned rather than what the app tells you. However, for clarity, I've included side-by-side images of the same chart--one on paper, and one in --so you can see what each would look like.
Here's what an entire cycle looks like with all three fertility signs recorded:
Don't worry if it all looks like Greek to you--we'll go over filling out the paper chart in the next section. I just wanted you to see the breakdowns of the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase, so we can see the changes that occur throughout your cycle for each fertility sign.
Your waking temperature is also referred to as your basal body temperature or BBT. Your BBT is the . It's important to make sure your BBT is measured accurately, because your temperature usually starts rising higher upon waking. This means that for the most accurate reading, you should try to do the following things when recording your BBT:
For most women, their BBT during their follicular phase (pre-ovulation) is anywhere between 97.0 to 97.7°F. After ovulation during your luteal phase, your BBT will jump up and remain elevated throughout your luteal phase (usually 98.0 - 98.6°F). If you're pregnant, your temperature will remain elevated; if you're not, it will drop back down and you'll get your period.
We'll go over how to fill out your chart in the next section, but here's what your temperature changes will look like over the course of an entire cycle:
Your temperature maintains a biphasic pattern during your cycle, the first being a lower range and the second, after ovulation, a higher range. This jump in temperature is due to the increase of progesterone, which raises your basal body temperature (see previous section on the menstrual cycle).
The day of or after ovulation when your temperature rises is called your temperature shift. A temperature shift is defined as an increase of at least .2°F above the six temperatures directly preceding ovulation. Note that you may have to wait until day 2 or 3 of your luteal phase to confirm an actual temperature shift. (More about that and the coverline later.)
Your cervical fluid is the normal fluid produced by your cervix throughout different parts of your cycle. Paying attention to the type, amount, and consistency of cervical fluid will help you accurately time conception.
. Cervical fluid is one of the primary reasons the sperm can survive the acidic environment and make it to the egg before it dies. Without cervical fluid, even if you ovulate, it is almost impossible for the sperm to make it far. Cervical fluid has special properties that not only nourish and sustain sperm, but also provide "channels" for it to swim up the cervix to the fallopian tubes. Without cervical fluid, sperm can only live about 4-5 hours. With cervical fluid, sperm can live up to 5 DAYS, hanging out in the fallopian tubes and waiting for an egg to fertilize.
I'm telling you this because some women balk at touching themselves to check for cervical fluid, and others may not think it's that important. Trust me, it is. (Especially if you're using fertility awareness as birth control.) Once you realize that your body is not just creating weird fluids seemingly at random and you begin to see a clear pattern emerge, you will be blown away at how amazing your body is. You'll wonder why you never noticed it before, because the patterns will seem so clear to you in retrospect. If you can, I encourage you to work through any squeamishness you feel, and realize that your body is perfectly normal, healthy, and in all honesty, MIRACULOUS.
With all of that in mind, let's move forward!
How do you actually check your cervical fluid? You can do it two ways: pay attention to the toilet paper when you wipe, or use your finger to check your cervical fluid. The latter is more accurate and not as weird as you might think. Before you use the restroom, wipe or touch the vaginal opening and check for fluid. You'll be looking for four different types of sensations:
Once you start checking and recording your cervical fluid, you'll be amazed at how much information about your body is right at your fingertips. (See what I did there? So clever.)
The presence of Sticky and/or Fertile Cervical Fluid should ALWAYS be considered potentially fertile. What I mean by that is, if you are using FAM for birth control and you randomly have a sticky or FCF day, you should abstain from sex or use a barrier method for the duration of its presence.
Your pattern of cervical fluid throughout your cycle typically looks like this:
Another thing to be aware of is something called your vaginal sensation. How many of us have been on our period and had this thought: "OH CRAP I THINK I'M LEAKING I'M PRETTY SURE I'M LEAKING WHERE IS THE NEAREST BATHROOM AND A TAMPON EVERYBODY MOOOOOOOVE!!" That sinking feeling of horror is because of your awareness about your vaginal sensations. You can feel wetness down there, same as feeling dryness. It may take some practice, but if you start paying attention to it throughout the day, you'll soon be able to feel a difference. The more you practice being aware of your cervical fluid, the easier it will get. Do you feel dry? Do things feel slippery, lubricated, or wet? It may take some practice, but from personal experience, the longer you do this the more natural it will feel.
Tracking your vaginal sensation can add an extra layer of interpretation with your cervical fluid. You should feel more slippery, wet, or humid on days when you are about to ovulate, and dryer or sticky throughout the rest of your cycle.
As you can see, your cervical fluid has a lot to tell you about your own body. Don't discount its importance and its vital role in conception.
Your cervical position refers to the position of your cervix.
(I know, I know...thank you, Captain Obvious.)
Some FA followers see this as an optional sign, but I think it can be an important way to double check the accuracy of the first two signs.
You can check your cervical position by inserting a clean finger into your vagina, slightly up and toward the back, until you can feel your cervix. It may take some practice to find your cervix, as well as practice to tell the difference between a firm and soft cervix. For me, it took about five cycles before I truly felt comfortable, and even now I still have trouble sometimes.
During the majority of your cycle, your cervix will sit a bit lower in your vagina, and it will remain firm, low, and closed. When it's firm, it will feel a bit like the tip of your nose--not rock hard, but not soft either.
In the few days leading up to ovulation, it will soften, open up slightly, and withdraw back toward the uterus. When it's soft, it will feel more like your cheek. Your cervix opens slightly around ovulation to allow sperm a bigger passageway to the fallopian tubes.
Here's what it looks like on your chart:
Lastly, here are few tips to help you check your cervical position:
Now that you've learned about how your body works, what happens during the menstrual cycle, and how the different fertility signs change during the course of your cycle, it's time to learn how to record all of this information you're learning on a chart.