August 4, 2017

Fertility Awareness Method + Wink

Fertility Awareness Method + Wink

I am an advocate for curiosity and getting to know yourself extensibly as opposed to just adapting the habits that you see others doing that work for them. By knowing yourself more, if an issue presents itself, you’re able to be an active participant in your patient care, guiding your practitioner based on your unique symptoms, rather than having the practitioner project the average woman’s symptoms onto you. And this is what the fertility awareness method is. To quote the Bible that is Taking Charge of Your Fertility, “it’s about more than understanding female hygiene and menstruation. At its core it’s a philosophy of taking control of, understanding and demystifying the menstrual cycle and all its effects on you.”

Please keep in mind, this type of birth control (if you are using it as such) takes a lot of mindful energy and detective work to get to know your body and yourself. You must dedicate yourself to it and pay incredibly close attention in order for it to be a safe, effective, and reliable means of birth control. All of the information below was extracted entirely from the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. It is a vast textbook of information covering everything form Fertility Awareness Method to Endometriosis to PCOS to causes of unusual bleeding, menopause, PMS, to even appreciating your sexuality. It covers it ALL and I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend it if you plan to pursue some of the methods below.

PS. this post does contain the words vagina and cervical fluid multiple times so you’ve been warned and enter at your own risk.

So what is the Fertility Awareness Method anyways? The only practical, noninvasive way to reliably identify that fertile time is through observing the woman’s waking temperature and cervical fluid, as well as optional sign of cervical position. It involves charting temperature, cervical fluid, and (optional) cervix feel and location throughout the duration of the month. Women and couples can become active participants in their health care, and “couples facing fertility issues can reduce their feelings of vulnerability and increase their chances of pregnancy, whether medical intervention is required or not.” Through charting, women become so aware of what is normal for themselves that they can help their clinician determine irregularities based on their individual symptoms rather than on the average woman’s symptoms.  Herein lies the concept of body literacy: being able to read by own body to tell me the crucial information needed to take control of my reproductive and general health.

Every woman’s cycle is extremely different and individualized. The time from ovulation to menstruation (the luteal phase) is a finite length, usually around 12-16 days. The follicular phase, however, is affected by external factors like stress, travel, moving, illness, medication, strenuous exercise, and sudden weight change. Your cycle could vary depending entirely on what stage of life you’re in. And for this reason, the idea that peak day is on Day 14 for every woman is a common misconception.

For this reason, getting to know your own cycle based on your temperature shifts and cervical fluid is crucial whether or not you’re trying to get pregnant or not get pregnant (using the FAM as a means of birth control).

What the temperatures mean:

  • temperature shows whether a woman is ovulating at all and whether the second phase of her cycle (from her ovulation until period) is long enough for the egg to implant in the uterus, and whether she has conceived in that particular cycle temps rise within a day or so after ovulation and are result of heat inducing hormone, progesterone
  • preovulatory temps are suppressed by estrogen
  • postovulatory temps are increased by heat inducing progesterone – phase that cycle is warmer, as if designed to act as human incubator to nurture an egg that may have just been fertilized
  • rise in temps signifies the ovulation has already occurred – peak day usually occurs one or two days before the thermal shift
  • once the temps rise, it’s typically a set 12-16 days until your period
  • things that affect temperature:
    • fever
    • alcohol
    • getting less than three consecutive hours sleep before taking it
    • taking it at a substantially different time than usual
    • using an electric blanket or heating pad when you normally don’t
  • suggested to take it first thing upon awakening

While charting temperatures is useful for tracking when you have ovulated, tracking cervical fluid is crucial for recognizing when you are most fertile.

What the cervical fluid means:

  • Cervical fluid is to the woman what terminal fluid is the man.
  • It has several functions: provides an alkaline medium to protect the sperm from the otherwise acidic vag, it catches the sperm, acts as a filtering mechanism and serves as medium in which sperm can move
  • what the different textures mean:
    • dry: not fertile – usually happens right after your period
    • sticky: some type of cervical fluid – could be considered possible fertile
    • creamy: somewhat wetter – wet but not the most fertile type
    • eggwhite: most fertile type of cervical fluid – often resembles raw egg white and is stretchy – very watery
  • after estrogen levels peak, the cervical fluid changes abruptly, often within a few hours due to sudden drop in estrogen and surge of progesterone as egg is about to be released, which results in the drying up of cervical fluid

secondary signs of ovulation:

  • ovulatory spotting
  • pain or achiness near the ovaries
  • fuller vaginal lips or swollen vulva
  • swollen lymph gland
  • increased sexual feelings
  • abdominal bloating
  • water retention
  • increased energy level
  • heightened senses of vision, smell, and take
  • increase sensitivity in breasts and skin
  • breast tenderness

How to identify your Peak Day:

  • last day of either: egg white or lubricative vaginal sensation
  • if you don’t have eggwhite, you would count the last day of the wettest-quality cervical fluid you do have

How FAM can be a form of birth control:

  • you’re safe the first 5 days of the menstrual cycle if you had an obvious thermal shift about 12-16 days before (sperm can survive a maximum of 5 days, and even tat is only in fertile-quality cervical fluid) (this is NOT valid if any of your last 12 cycles are 25 days or shorter – you should assume only the first 3 days are safe OR if you did not have a thermal shift or peak day about 12-16 days before your period OR if you’re approaching menopause with signs as hot flashes and vaginal dryness

  • before ovulation, you are safe the evening of every dry day. But the next day is considered potentially fertile if there is residual semen that could be masking your cervical fluid – ONLY days considered safe are evening of dry days when no cervical fluid is present
  • first sign of wet cervical fluid is point of change and you are now considered fertile
  • you’re safe the evening of the 3rd consecutive day after your peak day (which is the last day of egg white or lubricative vaginal sensation)
  • You are safe the evening of the 3rd consecutive high temp past your Peak Day, as long as that 3rd temp is at least 3/10s above the coverline.
  • if a woman is nowhere near ovulation and is therefore not fertile, the sperm won’t survive more than several hours. However, if she is approaching ovulation and has wet-quality cervical fluid, the sperm can live up to five days.
  • Being able to recognize when you are fertile and when you are not makes this an extremely accurate form of birth control FOR SOME WOMEN. If you don’t devote time and energy to performing this method correctly, then this is ABSOLUTELY NOT the method for you. ***Seek the advice of a fertility awareness method practitioner if you are going to try this as a means of birth control.***

If you’re coming off the pill:

  • temps: you may have false high temps / temps that seem out of sync with cervical fluid
  • cervical fluid: you may have absence of typical ovulatory cervical fluid; continuous seemingly fertile watery or milky cervical fluid; erratic pathless of varying types of cervical fluid
  • luteal phase: you may have shorter (meaning unsuitable ovulation) luteal phases
  • bleeding: heavier and redder bleeding; irregular preovulatory bleeding and spotting in the luteal phase; poor menstrual flow following ovulation

Ways to balance hormones:

  • herbal supplements (vitex)
  • avoid trans fat
  • use more unstirred vegetable oils (nuts, seeds, cold water fish)
  • decrease saturated fats
  • choose slowly digested carbs (fresh foots and begetables, whole grains, beans – rich in fiber, control blood sugar and insulin levels)
  • get plenty of iron from plants (spinach, tomatoes, beets, beans, pumpkin)
  • drink a lot of water to stay hydrated
  • take a multivitamins
  • achieve ideal body fat ratio (20-24)
  • exercise
  • stress reduction
  • sleep (at least 8 hours per night)
  • night lighting – small amounts of light (moon, night-light, digital clock) pass through eyelids while we sleep, which is picked up by the pineal gland – this gland produces melatonin, which directly affects the hypothalamus (center of woman’s universe) – s if you’re having problems with your cycles (irregularity, short luteal phases) you want to completely remove sources of light
  • avoid hormone disruptors (parabens in makeup and shampoos / phthalates in plastic)
  • dealing with thyroid disorders

I chose to use the wink as my means of temperature tracking and Fertility Awareness Method. You can snag one of your own here.

As you can see in my chart below, my temperatures are erratic. This is a combination of drinking more than usual (alcohol affects temperatures) as well as not being entirely diligent with my thermometer. There were times when I checked my temperature far later in the morning than usual, or I hadn’t had 3 consecutive hours of sleep before checking it. I was also slightly sick and possibly fevering when taking my temperature one day. I’ll continue to track and update and leave the charts in this post. 

Notes / recommendations from you guys!!!

  • I have a non hormonal copper IUD now because you really have to keep a consistent circadian rhythm for BBT (basal body temperature) monitoring to work properly. I don’t / can’t with a 6-month-old who still wakes up twice a night. And I’m usually so delirious in the morning that I wouldn’t remember to take my temp anyways. So the BBT method isn’t for everyone in every situation – I think that is my biggest takeaway.
  • I’ve been sort of doing the fertility awareness/natural family planing. I don’t take my temperature at alk but I honestly don’t need to, or care to. I’m not trying to get pregnant but I’m using it to prevent any more babies haha. So, your body sends out so many other “ovulation” signals so I know when I am. Not to be TMI but since you’ve already read about it I guess it’s not TMI lol but your discharge changes and increases and you are more in the mood. My husband can even tell I’m ovulating because he senses my pheromones more and actually that makes him more in the mood. When we are intimate he feels more stick afterwards and when I am ovulating it’s not like that. I used to be on the pill for years and it took a while for my body to tell me these things and I don’t think I will ever go on the pill again.
  • I am married and have used this method for almost 2 years now! I’ve had an irregular cycle since I went through puberty and I was put on the pill to “fix” it. 2 years ago I decided to look into natural forms of birth control  and I discovered this method. Since getting off the pill, my body has gone through A LOT of issues trying to get back on track. However, practicing fertility awareness (as well as eating real food and taking a few supplements) has helped me SO much. I actually know what’s going on in my body and I know what to do to help it function properly. I would highly recommend this method to anyone needing a form of birth control, but I also think EVERY woman should read “Taking Charge of Your Fertility.” It’s so empowering!
  • “Don’t forget about to check cervical mucus. That is REALLY important and very essential part to the method. A lot of people don’t do that and they are missing out on SO much knowledge about their body and what it is up to/about to do! Temp just tells you after you’e ovulated (basically).

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  • Alicia @bridges Through life

    I found this post really informative. I have seen more natural trackers popping up and am curious to try. I have been on the pill for years and prior to the pill never got a regular period. Since I have changed my diet a lot in the last few years I am wondering what will happen when I go off of it. I will probably try one of the apps for tracking to see how my cycle is getting back on track.

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