At A Glance:
- Fertility awareness tracking relies on daily tracking of the menstrual cycle to determine when a woman is least and most likely to get pregnant.
- It requires partner’s cooperation.
- Fertility awareness-based methods are inexpensive and hormone-free
- With perfect use: 95-99% effective; with typical use: 76-88% effective, depending on the type of fertility awareness method used.
- Does not protect against STIs
- No side effects.
What is it?
Fertility awareness-based methods—or natural family planning—are all about tracking your menstrual cycle to determine the days that you can get pregnant. The tricky part is knowing when those days are. By tracking when you ovulate–when an egg is released– you are able to prevent pregnancy. There are various ways to do this, some easier than others. However, fertility awareness methods do take time and diligence to maintain. You’ll need to pay very close attention to your body and its patterns. There are different types of fertility awareness methods you can practice, some of which are listed here.
Fertility awareness methods work by keeping sperm out of the vagina in the days near ovulation, when a woman is most fertile (most likely to become pregnant.)
To prevent pregnancy, women can abstain from vaginal intercourse on their fertile days, use a barrier method such as condoms, or they may enjoy other kinds of sexual activity instead of vaginal intercourse.
In order to know when you are most likely to get pregnant, you have to become familiar with your menstrual cycle. Before pregnancy can begin, a woman’s egg must join with a man’s sperm. This is called fertilization. For a healthy woman, there are days when fertilization can happen and there are days when it can’t. And there are some days when it’s unlikely — but still possible. To get pregnant, a woman has vaginal intercourse (without protection) during the days when it’s possible for the egg and sperm to join. We call those days your fertile days.
A woman’s fertile days depend on the life span of the egg and the sperm. A woman’s egg lives for about a day after ovulation. Sperm can live inside a woman’s body for up to 7 days.
A woman has about seven fertile days during every menstrual cycle. This includes the five days before ovulation, the day of ovulation and, the day or two after ovulation — even though conception is less likely to happen then.
Knowing when your fertile days are can help you avoid or ensure a pregnancy. The key is to figure out when you will ovulate, which will tell you when you are fertile. Then you can track your fertility pattern — the days of the month when you are fertile and the days of the month when you are not. You must do this carefully. Women don’t all have the same fertility pattern. While most women have cycles that fall between 26-32 days, some women can have shorter or longer cycles. Some women have different patterns from one month to the next.
There are several different fertility awareness methods that can be used. However, fertility awareness methods are easier to follow if women have a cycle between 26-32 days. That means that cycles are regular and that she gets her period every 26-32 days. Below are some of the most common and easiest methods to use in Myanmar.
- The hormones that control your cycle also make the cervix produce mucus. It collects on the cervix and in the vagina. And it changes in quality and quantity just before and during ovulation. This method determines safe days to have sex based on the type of mucus you have.
- The first day of your period is the beginning of your cycle. During your period, your flow covers the mucus signs. After your period, there are usually a few days without mucus. These are called “dry days.” These may be safe days if your cycle is long.
- When an egg starts to ripen, more mucus is produced. It appears at the opening of the vagina. It is generally yellow or white and cloudy. And it feels sticky or tacky. These days are not considered safe.
- Usually, you will have the most mucus just before ovulation. It looks clear and feels slippery — like raw egg white, and can be stretched between your fingers. These are the “slippery days.” It is the peak of your fertility, when you are most likely to get pregnant.
- After about four slippery days, you may suddenly have less mucus. It will become cloudy and tacky again. And then you may have a few more dry days before your period starts. These are safe days, which means if you have sex, you are much less likely to get pregnant.With this method, you have to check your mucus and mark a calendar every day. Record your period days, the dry days, tacky days, cloudy days, wet days, and slippery days. Your mucus may feel different in between those stages.
You can check your mucus in several ways. Do what is most comfortable for you. It is best to check several times a day. Use any one of the following methods to check your mucus.
- Wipe the opening of the vagina with tissue before you urinate. Check the color and texture.
- Check the color and texture of the discharge on your underpants.
- Put clean fingers into the vagina and check the color and texture of the mucus on them.
This method isn’t the best for women who don’t produce much mucus.
The Standard Days Method is a type of calendar method. It is a way to keep track of your cycle. You may find it simpler to use than other methods. You can only use it if
- You have regular cycles
- Your cycle is never shorter than 26 days
- Your cycle is never longer than 32 days
- You will not have unprotected vaginal intercourse from day 8 through day 19 of each cycle
To prevent pregnancy, you should avoid having intercourse or use a barrier method of birth control on days 8-19 (remember, the first day of your cycle is the first day of menstruation). To promote pregnancy, you should try to have intercourse between day 8 and day 19, either every day or every other day. The Standard Days method works best if your cycles are regular. Before you begin to use this method as contraception, it’s important to track your cycle for at least 6 months to confirm that your cycle is always between 26-32 days.
With typical use, this method is about 88% effective (approximately 12 out of every 100 women using this method for one year became pregnant).
This method relies on the fact that during ovulation, your resting body temperature is slightly higher than it is during other times of the month. Therefore it is called the basal body temperature method since it is based on your temperature when you’re fully at rest.
If you want to use the basal body temperature method (BBT) for birth control, consult your health care provider first if:
- You recently gave birth or stopped taking birth control pills or other hormonal contraceptives
- You’re breast-feeding
- You’re approaching menopause
To use the BBT method of fertility awareness:
- Take your basal body temperature every morning before getting out of bed.Use a digital oral thermometer to measure basal body temperature for the most exact reading. Some women find that taking their temperature vaginally or rectally gives them a more accurate reading. However, make sure to use the same method every time you read your temperature. Make sure you get at least three hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to ensure an accurate reading.
- Plot/record your temperature readings on graph paper.Record your daily basal body temperature and look for a pattern to emerge. Your basal body temperature may increase slightly — typically less than 0.3 C — when you ovulate. You can assume ovulation has occurred when the slightly higher temperature remains steady for three days or more.
- Plan sex carefully during non-fertile days. You’re most fertile about two days before your basal body temperature rises, but sperm can live up to 7days in your reproductive tract. If you’re hoping to avoid pregnancy, unprotected sex is off-limits from the start of your menstrual period until three to four days after your basal body temperature rises — every month. If you’re hoping to get pregnant, this is the time to have sex.
With all fertility awareness methods, it’s important to begin tracking your cycle for a couple of months before using it as a way to prevent pregnancy. This will allow you to become more familiar with your cycle and may increase effectiveness of this method.
- It can be used when breastfeeding
- It’s hormone free
- If you want to get pregnant, it can help you to know on which days you should have sex
- No side effects
- Helps you learn more about your body and how it works
- It’s free—except for the cost of a digital thermometer
- Using it takes practice
- It requires keeping track of your menstrual cycle all the time
- It requires a very regular lifestyle
- It’s open to mistakes
- It can interfere with spontaneity
- It’s unreliable as it does not take variations in your cycle into account
- Does not protect against HIV infection (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Not something you should try if you’ve just gone off a hormonal method, because the hormones effect your cycle (you’ll need to use a non-hormonal method while you’re learning to track your cycle)
- Requires abstinence (or use of an alternate method) for at least a week per cycle
- It does not harm men who abstain from sex.
- Does not require literacy or advanced education to be able to use this method correctly and consistently. However, it does require time and diligence.