Fertility Awareness Isn’t Weird or Hard
But it is effective, so here’s a day in the life
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I thought I would give you a peek into what it looks like to practice fertility awareness. If you’re new here and/or you’ve never heard of the fertility awareness method, it’s otherwise known as FAM, FA, FABM. It can be effectively used for contraception and conception, but it’s also good for health monitoring and personal growth. When it comes to contraception, it’s hormone free, chemical free and 98% effective at prevent pregnancy during perfect use. It is not the rhythm method, as I hope will shortly become clear.1 Like any other life skill, once you’ve learn it and practiced it a bit it takes very little time every day.
There are two main fertility signs which practitioners of the Symptothermal method track daily: basal body temperature (BBT) and cervical mucus (CM).
I use the Read Your Body app to track my cycles.2 Read Your Body is 100% non-predictive and there is no algorithmic settings on.3 It’s data storage only. I don’t want an app telling me when I’m fertile and when I’m not, because chances are it wouldn’t be accurate anyway. I have to assess the data for myself.4
So here’s how my day with FAM goes…
Wake up to my alarm. Roll over. Remove my blackout eye mask, open my eyes to the smallest degree, and put my basal body thermometer in my mouth. Turn it on and let it do its thing. When it beeps, I may or may not look at the temp. It holds sixty temperatures so I can go back and get my data later.
Finally, I’m getting up. After putting on my glasses, I check the temp I took earlier and then go get my phone to put the temp into my Read Your Body app (I don’t keep my phone in our bedroom). I do love seeing the new data point come up each morning. This is the first day of my temperature rise—that is, I see a sudden increase in my temperature—which tells me I have likely ovulated. I have to wait to see three days of elevated temps before I can confirm that I’ve ovulated though.
The rise in temperature is because of progesterone. After the egg bursts out of the follicle at ovulation, the leftover follicle space heals over with a temporary gland called the corpus luteum (“little yellow body”). The corpus luteum secretes progesterone, which is a thermogenic hormone. In other words, it elevates body temps.5
Morning bathroom visit. First cervical mucus assessment of the day, which I do by being aware of what it feels like at my vulva and then wiping with toilet paper to see if there’s any visible mucus. I’m seeing my typical post-ovulate cervical mucus pattern, which is the tiniest bit sticky that dries instantly. I mark this down in my chart.
I have non-fertile mucus going on, and a suspected temp rise. I’m likely trending towards the infertile part of my cycle. However, as I’m presently using FAM for birth control, this is a day to abstain from sex or use a barrier method until I confirm ovulation, which will be when I have a sustained temp rise for three days (or four, if you want to be super careful).
Visit the bathroom again. Check cervical mucus again. Yep, still looking the same.
I take a minute to enter in some other data I like to track in the Read Your Body App, namely activity, mood, and protein intake. It fleshes out the picture of what’s happening with my body. I also mark down the inner season I’m in.
Which makes me realize…I need to change the little inner seasons cards I have on the fridge. I have little slips of a paper with the inner season written on them and I put out the one for the season I’m in. It’s a helpful reminder to me and to my husband, so he knows where I am in my cycle. He also cooks all our dinners and tries to make things that suit where my hormones are.
Realize I don’t know what day I’m on. Go into my app to double check. Right, day 16. I’m definitely feeling that dip of estrogen—I just feel a little dreamier, a little more untethered.
I can also calculate with a relatively good degree of accuracy when my period will be. The luteal phase, the part of the cycle after ovulation, varies only by a couple day. Mine is 13-14 days long, consistently. What changes in length is the first part of the cycle, before ovulation. I believe I ovulated on day 14, so I’ll likely get my period on day 27 or 28.
One more cervical mucus check. Yup. It’s the same. Ok. That’s that then.
Getting ready for bed, I make sure my thermometer is in place on the edge of my bedside table so I can do it all again tomorrow.
And that’s it! Here’s what the section of my chart looks like.
👂Have you heard of fertility awareness?
🩸Have you considered learning the method and practicing it? Would you? It’s ok if not! Let me know why.
✍🏻Come let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Also why are there no emojis that relate to menstrual health?! I want a uterus emoji! After all, we’ve already got the eggplant…
Resources and links for and about cyclical living.
March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. How can we observe these odd “awareness month” things, I wonder? They are arbitrary but I think it can be an opportunity to do good. The best I can figure is that we need to educate ourselves and then reach out to any people in our lives who experience these conditions to offer support and/or a listening ear. And then not stop doing that after March comes to a close. If you have endometriosis, I would love your thoughts on this matter in the comments.
On that note, researchers in England and Scotland have been awarded $300,000 to research a drug called dichloroacetate to see if it’s an effective treatment for endometriosis pain. If it works, it would be the first ever non-hormonal and non-surgical treatment for endometriosis and the first new treatment for endo in 40 years.
This ad from an Indian menstrual product company is stunning (and highlights a problem that isn’t restricted to India).
A Kenyan senator went boldly into parliament with a period stain on her white pant suit, highlighting menstrual stigma and period inequality.
Intrigued by these reuseable pads from Knix. I’ve tried GladRags’ in the past and I can’t say I liked them much.
Moon Time Sisters is doing good things. They’re an Indigenous-led menstrual equity group working to support period equity for Indigenous communities in northern Canada.
An interesting article on free bleeding. Would you try it?
Making the case for paid menstrual leave in Australia.
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I may pull this apart more another day, if for no other reason than I’ve had multiple medicinal professionals have zero idea of the difference. I’m not even sure they knew what the rhythm method was, only that they were opposed to it.
I previously used the Kindara app and would no longer recommend it.
In contrast to predictive, algorithmic apps like Daysy and Natural Cycles. I wouldn’t recommend these to anybody.
To be clear: I am not a fertility awareness educator (yet!). This is my own experience as a person who uses the method.
And the corpus luteum would be what facilitates the early development of an embryo until the placenta takes over around week 16 of pregnancy. But this month…no embryo for me. So the corpus luteum will eventually disintegrate.