Sex ed leaves out a lot of information. We’re taught that you can get pregnant on any day of your cycle, that natural birth control methods aren’t reliable, and that you can ovulate at random, or at multiple times throughout your cycle. (None of these things are true, by the way!)
The fertile window in humans is actually very short. The egg only lives 12-24 hours. You only ovulate ONCE per cycle, and the day of ovulation is the ONLY day you can get pregnant. That’s it. One day.
However, the fertile window is a few days longer than that, because sperm can survive for up to 3-5 days when cervical mucus is present to keep them alive. (You’re probably already familiar with cervical mucus: it’s that sticky, stretchy stuff you sometimes see in your panties or on your toilet paper. It’s totally normal and a healthy sign of fertility). The sperm can hang out inside the cervix for several days and bide their time until the egg drops.
So, you can tell when your fertile time starts by tracking your cervical mucus, because then you’ll know that sperm can survive in your body. You’ll know your fertile time is over when your mucus dries up.
Tracking one other little thing – your temperature first thing in the morning – will also help you confirm the end of your fertile time. Your temperature goes up after you ovulate, so once it goes up and stays up for 3 days in a row, you’ll know that you’re not fertile for the rest of your cycle.
Fertility Awareness Methods
If you keep track of your fertile signs for the purposes of birth control, this is known as Fertility Awareness. Once you identify the fertile time, you either avoid intercourse during that time, or use barrier methods conscientiously. The effectiveness of these methods can rival the birth control pill, with a reported effectiveness rate of 99.6% with perfect use.
There are several Fertility Awareness Methods that rely on the science of how your body works. Once you understand your fertile signs, you are empowered to make decisions about your reproductive health. If your goal is to become pregnant, Fertility Awareness can help you identify the best days to try, so that you can maximize your chances each cycle.
Cycle charting is the general term for tracking your fertile signs for any reason, whether or not you are avoiding or achieving pregnancy. It is a form of body literacy that can help you read and understand your hormonal cycles at any stage of life. There are lots of reasons why you might do this!
- Cycle charting can help you understand your body better, so that you feel more in tune with yourself
- If you have irregular cycles, charting can help you figure out when you are ovulating and when your next period is coming
- If you experience challenging PMS symptoms or heavy/painful periods, cycle charting can help you plan ahead for these days so you can care for yourself. It can also help you understand the nature of your symptoms so that you can get appropriate support and treatment.
- If you experience positive cycle patterns (such as times of higher creativity, or higher libido), cycle charting can help you anticipate these times so you can enjoy them!
- If you have a complex hormonal health issue (as I did), cycle charting can help you get an accurate diagnosis
- If you are taking hormones for any reason (such as during perimenopause or as part of a gender transition), cycle charting can help you monitor your dosages and side effects
Why Ovulation Matters
Cycle charting allows you to keep track of when or whether you are ovulating. Ovulation is an essential event of the menstrual cycle. The balance of estrogen and progesterone released when you ovulate is integral to your whole body health.
Many people don’t realize that they don’t ovulate on the birth control pill. With young girls and others who have the potential to become pregnant commonly starting synthetic hormonal birth control in their teens and staying on it for a decade or more, it’s possible to pass through through your key reproductive years without hardly ovulating at all.
This has HUGE implications for menstrual and overall health. The intricate balance of hormones from ovulating helps maintain bone density, cardiovascular health, mood stability, and hormonal vitality well into old age. Plus there are obvious implications for those who struggle to conceive after years of chemically suppressing ovulation with synthetic hormonal birth control drugs.
I believe that everyone deserves to make empowered, informed choices about their health and fertility. Whether it’s going off the pill, sorting out your problem periods, or finally having the baby you’ve been waiting years to conceive – why not take the plunge now? Better ovulate than never!
Interested to find out more? Schedule a free initial consultation.