After menstruation, the majority of women will experience dry days. For these women, their basic infertile pattern is dry. Other women may experience a pattern of unchanging mucus, sensation, and discharge after menstruation. For women who experience this same UNCHANGING discharge, mucus, sensation pattern for three cycles in a row following menstruation, they may have a non-dry basic infertile pattern. The keyword here is unchanging; any changing pattern would not indicate a basic infertile pattern. This type of pattern should only be established under an instructor if someone is seriously avoiding pregnancy. For women who establish this pattern with a mucus-only instructor (either Billings or Creighton are options), this pattern has the same level of efficacy for avoiding pregnancy as a dry pattern. Some examples of this pattern may be continuous moist days, continuous sticky days, continuous white mucus, or others!
DO NOT try to use these days for unprotected sex without establishing it for a minimum of 3 cycles with an instructor (it may take longer than this). When using these days, intercourse should be rotated to every other day in the evening before bed.
What causes this pattern? In cycles less than 35 days, it is caused by bits of the G mucus plug breaking off. While the plug is breaking off, it causes the visible mucus or sensation. However, the rest of the plug is still blocked. This means this time of the cycle can be considered infertile if an instructor works with you to make sure it is the G mucus plug breaking off. In cycles longer than 35 days, it can be caused by a combination of the G mucus plug breaking off and estrogen’s effect on the vaginal walls causing a sloughing effect. Read more about the types of mucus here.
Sympto-thermal methods like Taking Charge of Your Fertility also mention a “sticky” dry basic infertile pattern. Methods like SymptoPro claim that women do take on an elevated pregnancy risk when using these days. As sympto-thermal methods are not as strenuous on mucus observations as mucus-only, consider this risk when deciding to utilize this pattern. Again, ideally if someone is avoiding pregnancy, they should reach out to an instructor before using these.
In either of these cases, experiencing any dry days following menstruation means that you do not qualify for a basic infertile pattern of non-dry in regular cycles. This pattern needs to be re-established with an instructor following hormonal birth control usage or pregnancy.
For postpartum, perimenopausal, or people with cycles longer than 36 days, it is also possible to have a basic infertile pattern of non-dry after 14 days of the same UNCHANGING discharge, mucus, sensation. In addition, a combined basic infertile pattern is possible in the Billings Method. This should only be established with an instructor. For these transitions, the Billings Method is highly recommended.
In both regular and irregular cycles, working with an instructor can help you get more safe days for unprotected sex if you are experiencing a non-dry pattern.
I’m expanding my usual content to include book reviews of fertility, sexuality, birth control related materials. This is the first review in a series. The content will also be shared to my Instagram account.
Lactivism has been on my reading list for a while. As a fertility awareness educator, I run into a lot of breastfeeding glorification in online spaces. This book looks at breastfeeding from social and political perspectives. Jung outlines the ways that breastfeeding can be a privilege and how it should not be viewed as a moral imperative.
One of the most standout examples of breastfeeding related discrimination in the book is with WIC, a voucher system that lower income people who have a baby or are pregnant can use to purchase basics like milk, eggs, bread, and veggies. I was a cashier for close to 7 years, and WIC was always a really hard process due to the extreme restrictions on what can be covered by the vouchers. I often wondered the why behind WIC and who has access to what. Jung discusses how women who apply to WIC are pressured to breastfeeding exclusively if they want more food and benefits. What this pressure ignores is that mothers in the United States are not given maternity leave and may not be able to breastfeed exclusively for the suggested 6 to 12 months. In addition, all mothers may not be able to produce enough milk for their child or want to breastfeed exclusively if they have other duties (like providing for their family monetarily).
Jung also covers the pumping industry and workplace discrimination around pumping. I had no idea that the average pumping time to empty one breast is 30 minutes! She goes into detail about average pumping prices and time. This section is a must read if you are planning to pump at work.
On the flipside, Jung reviews the history of formula. This industry too is ridden with issues. One of the most shocking parts of the text discusses the promotion of breastfeeding over formula by organizations like La Leche League for mothers with HIV. Jung cites studies showing approximately 22% of babies in some cases have contracted HIV by 6 months of breastfeeding.
I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to learn about breastfeeding and formula from a more cultural angle. At 272 pages, it is a fairly quick read with all the eye-opening, suprising details about how organizations from WIC to La Leche League have promoted breastfeeding even when detrimental to mothers.
You may know that the Fitbit app has some built in menstrual cycle tracking features, but many people do not know that it has other features that may be useful for menstrual cycle tracking. In this article, I will review the pros and cons of the Fitbit app as it relates to cycle tracking for people who ovulate. For context, I use a Fitbit Charge III.
The most basic feature that Fitbit offers for cycle tracking is recording bleeding dates of menstruation and then displaying a predicted fertile window based on average cycle length.
The user needs to remember to input menstuation each cycle. Once it is inputted, Fitbit will generate the blue fertile window. This fertile window should NOT be used for avoiding pregnancy, as it is only based on cycle length and not real-time fertility signs like cervical mucus or basal body temperature.
Once menstruation is entered, it will also begin a countdown until your next predicted menstrual cycle.
Unfortunately, I do not find this basic feature very useful for anyone who has any cycle variation. Even though my cycle length has increased over the last year, Fitbit has not automatically updated my cycle lengths. The app does not appear to be very adaptive without user input.
In addition to tracking bleeding the app offers options for:
Plan B (morning after)
Ovulation tests (better called luteinizing hormone tests)
Cervical mucus (Taking Charge of Your Fertility categories)
Cyclical symptoms like acne
It is rather disappointing that the app does not include options to mark pregnancy when it occurs, especially since we know that this changes daily calories burned and heart rate, to name just two effected areas of the app.
A really cool feature that I do like is the ability to show cycle trends like flow intensity and cramps. The same screen that displays this will also let you scroll through all past cycle lengths.
In the settings of this screen, you can also decide to toggle off predictions. For people avoiding pregnancy, I do recommend either ignoring or toggling off predictions in the Fitbit app. The app allows you to choose your current birth control method as well.
Outside of the designed menstrual cycle tracking features, I want to highlight resting heart rate as a potential exciting thing to track for those who are not taking hormonal contraception. Why do you need to not be taking hormonal contraception to utilize the heart rate feature for menstrual cycle tracking? Hormonal contraception suppresses ovulation, and ovulation changes our heart rate charts!
Heart rate in people who are ovulating is at its lowest point during menstruation, rises during the fertile window, and continues to be elevated in the luteal phase.
When heart rate begins to drop again, this is an excellent way to predict menstruation will soon occur. For example, I have been tracking my heart rate in Fitbit for 2 years, and I always bleed when my heart rate dips back down to 70 beats per minute after my luteal phase!
I do think this feature is worth tracking for anyone interested in a more precise period prediction than cycle length. If you have Fitbit premium, you can also find a setting for sleeping heart rate under restoration. This may be more steady than resting heart rate for some individuals.
Lastly, I want to address Fitbit temperature for menstrual cycle tracking. Unfortunately, wrist temperatures are not a compatible parameter for fertility awareness when it comes to avoiding or achieving pregnancy. It can be incredibly erratic. When we track temperature, we want the temperature as closest to the core as possible.
Fitbit does not give precise temperatures, instead it gives deviations from a range. I likely ovulated near 18, 19, or 20 on the photo above. While Fitbit did detect a slight shift, it is not particularly clear, and it dropped back down.
As depicted above, my luteal phase the previous month was extremely undefined, and I could not determine a confirmed temperature shift with it.
For now, I do not recommend Fitbit for precise temperature tracking. Instead, I recommend a basal body thermometer.
Fitbit offers some really unique options for cycle tracking, but it should not replace your birth control or fertility awareness method. The heart rate feature may be useful for identifying cycle phases, but the temperature readings are not suitable for tracking cycle phases.
Marquette allows sex any time of day within their rules. My calculation rule lasts until the end of day 7.
Sympto-thermal method allows sex any time of day during first 5 days of menstruation, but the first safe day in the luteal phase must be used in the evening. My calculation rule is day 5.
Billings Ovulation Method allows sex in the evenings only and on rotated days in the pre-ovulatory time of the cycle. Days of bleeding where mucus cannot be observed are not allowed. However, since you can have sex any time of day post-ovulation with Billings, sometimes cycle day 1 is available if you have sex before bleeding occurs.
DOT allows sex any time of day within their rules. It automatically opens my window on day 7.
Consecutive Fertile Window for Expected Abstinence:
Billings: 8 days
Sympto-thermal: 12 days
Marquette: 12 days
DOT: 12 days
General remarks: This is an extremely standard cycle in length and mucus patch (the average person will have a 5 to 6 day mucus patch when charting). I believe this is a great example of what methods would look like for someone of the average cycle length.
Consecutive Fertile Window for Expected Abstinence:
Billings: 9 days
Sympto-thermal: 21 days
Marquette: 15 days
DOT: 12 days
General comments: My average coverline is 96.8 to 97.0, so regardless of earlier high temperatures and some illness I felt confident marking this coverline and temperature shift. Due to continous long, clear-ish mucus, my sympto-thermal peak was extremely delayed. Billings is a sensation focused method so I was able to mark my peak at an earlier time and have less expected abstinence.
DOT gave me a very risky day on this one. It is possible I could have been ovulating near the safe day. However, that would have only left 9 to 10 days for implantation and I had spotting, so whether this truly could have ended in pregnancy is up in the air. Even with well-timed sex, pregnancy will not always occur.
Consecutive Fertile Window for Expected Abstinence:
Billings: 6 days
Sympto-thermal: 12 days
Marquette: 12 days
DOT: 12 days
General comments: This small fertile window in Billings might look scary to some, but it is not possible to get pregnant when the cervical mucus plug is truly closed. I have about one cycle like this every 13 cycles. I was also using the Kegg device during this cycle which is placed internally and reads electrolyte levels to determine the fertile window. It gave me the same 3 day dip for a fertile window, so I feel even more confident that those days were truly dry. I am missing temperatures on this one because my thermometer glitched and would not give me readings on these days. Sex day 1 was allowed because menstruation didn’t start until 5pm.
Consecutive Fertile Window for Expected Abstinence:
Billings: 8 days
Marquette: 11 days
DOT: 12 days
General Comment: This was an extremely heavy period so I had no period days available in Billings. Even though the other methods gave me available days, I couldn’t have used them due to the pain, so ultimately the other methods didn’t really help out on more safe days.
Consecutive Fertile Window for Expected Abstinence:
Billings: 10 days
Marquette: 14 days
DOT: 12 days
Consecutive Fertile Window for Expected Abstinence:
Billings: 9 days
Marquette: 11 days
DOT: 12 days
General Comments: Marquette monitor missed my peak on this cycle. It misses peak on up to 10% of cycles. I relied on meeting LH rules instead of the monitor. Sex day 1 was allowed because menstruation didnt start until 1pm.
Reflecting on What’s Best for Me
I’m currently on cycle 59 charting, and I have tried a ton of methods. Right now, my ideal method is Billings and LH tests as a bonus marker.
While it may appear that Billings gives less safe days in some instances, what is most important to me is having the smallest consecutive fertile window. Having less expected abstinence actually makes me more likely to follow the rules. I was completely unsatisfied with only being allowed period sex in the sympto-thermal method because I have period pain issues. That means that I basically had no safe days at all in reality before ovulation with sympto-thermal.
I originally felt very enthusiastic about Marquette method. However, after 6 cycles of using the Clearblue Fertility Monitor, I realized that it always caught my LH surge after the cheap LH tests. In addition, it missing my peak even once is frustrating for the cost of the product. For that reason, I have decided to stop using the monitor when I run out of tests. I can use a 15 cent LH test and get the period prediction aspect (LH is my most steady indicator).
The DOT app tends to give me a risky cycle whenever I ovulate late and have a shorter luteal phase. I do not rely on this for pregnancy prevention. Overall though, DOT has not given me many risky ways. I use it for long-term period prediction, and it is the most accurate period predictor I’ve ever used for planning months in advance.
What to Consider Before Switching Methods
1. Why are you unsatisfied with your current method? Is it the amount of safe days, or is it the routine that you don’t like?
2. Do you have medical needs that could be addressed by another method?
Sometimes the grass isn’t greener on the other side, but if you are like me and can’t have period sex or don’t want to have period sex, methods like Billings without calculation rules will almost always include more safe days if you are dedicated enough to learn the method and chart it accurately.
Folks in irregular cycles like in postpartum time or with PCOS may benefit from more flexible methods without calculation rules
*DISCLAIMER: DO NOT TRY TO LEARN FROM MY CHARTS. MY CHARTS ARE NOT YOUR CHARTS.
I began this certification having been quite dissatisfied with my previous certification in the sympto-thermal method. I found the sympto-thermal method inadequate for irregular cycles or postpartum cycles, as well as for any cycles with continous mucus.
This certification 100% cleared up all doubts I had about being able to teach people in these situations! I love that Billing’s motto is “Keep it simple.” Ultimately, this certification gave me the confidence to give up temperature taking as a part of my fertility awareness routine.
Before beginning the certification, I took an introductory class with my spouse in the method. This gave me about 6 months to try to apply the principles to my charts before beginning training. I had previously certified in a “Billings-based method” but learned quickly that authentic Billings is a different creature altogether.
I recommend that anyone who is going to train in this method learn to practice it first for at least 6 to 12 cycles under the guidance of an accredited teacher. Joining this program without learning the method first is going to leave you lost on your charts – when you should be confident in your charts before helping others.
The class began in December 2019 and ran through September 2020. We met once a month for approximately an hour (sometimes a little more or less). Inbetween meetings, we were expected to read one to two chapters of material and complete 5 or more worksheets that included chart evaluation and quizzes.
I really appreciated the live classes because my previous certification had no live component. I’m a strong believer that synchronous connection is really important for learning something new.
During class, we were shown PowerPoints and given time to ask questions about the homework. Hearing from long-term accredited teachers about different charting circumstances did wonders for my existing knowledge base. It was incredibly valuable.
Full disclosure: It is important to know that Billings was founded by and is primarily run by Catholics. These meetings often began with prayer or referenced God. Teachers are not required to teach the religious component of the PowerPoint. That means that Billings can be presented in a secular manner. The WOOMB International head organization notably does not include religious elements in their presentation of the method. The science of the method is solid regardless of any ideology attached to it.
The next step after passing an exam on the material was to begin practicum. Practicum is the supervised portion of the certification where you teach 6 to 10 clients minimum in the method while submitting charts and questios to a supervisor selected for you by the organization.
Practicum was the most enriching part of the experience, and I recommend that anyone who does the training utilize this time to your best advantage. I learned how to help people identify complex basic infertile patterns where they never have dry days. This was not possible in my previous method. I was able to support multiple postpartum women as well as folks with PCOS or who were trying to conceive. I learned so much by meeting with my clients and sending charts to my supervisor.
The follow-ups and classes in Billings are mandatory live meetings (video calling, phone call, or in-person). The follow-ups generally last 15 to 30 minutes depending on the client and how early they are in the process. Follow-ups and classes are required to be live, and this is based on what was done to reach efficacy in the Billings studies. We generally meet with clients seven or more times in the first 6 months, and then every 1 to 3 months. Some people may have more or less follow-ups depending on when they reach autonomy and things like cycle characteristics (postpartum people tend to meet up until the third ovulatory cycle after return of fertility.)
After having enough clients in different situations (postpartum, trying to conceive, trying to avoid, regular and irregular cycles), I had a final meeting with my supervisor. Before this, I had to compile a document of every client chart. This was a bit laborious as the Billings charts cannot be exported to PDF without losing part of the chart. I had to screenshot segments of the charts and then re-assemble them. This meeting with my supervisor lasted about two hours, and we discussed all of my client charts and any corrections that needed to be made.
Following that, I was recommended for the final step. I recieved a mailed in exam that involved correcting a full paper chart and writing why I made those changes and what mistakes were originally made.
I turned in this exam to two graders. They then met with me and discussed the chart and any necessary corrections. They approved my certification at the end of the meeting.
Billings Ovulation Method teachers are required to do continuing education to maintain their certification. This is an investment of approximately $300 to $600 every three years. While this is costly, it is really important to attend further training where the teacher can see more advanced charting techniques and learn about health conditions, efficacy, and more!
My Final Thoughts
I would recommend this certification program to anyone who is interested in having an in-depth understanding of cervical mucus charting. The Billings Method teaches about things like the “pockets of shaw” and the cervical mucus crypts. My previous certification did not include close study of the patterns of cervical mucus. This program fundamentally changed my thinking about temperatures always being a necessary part of charting. I ended up dropping temperatures completely after 3 years of using basal body temperature.
Billings allows teachers to order all supplies, including digital materials, for clients. This means I do not have to produce my own materials, and it is super useful for quickly mailing clients what they need.
To make the most of out of this program, I recommend also reading the scientific studies on the side. Unfortunately, the program did not go into a lot of depth on the previous research studies. As someone in academia, I really like understanding all the different correct use and typical use statistics. I’m often questioned about efficacy, and I want to be able to answer people’s questions. If this also describes you, I recommend the following articles:
This article is for the husbands, boyfriends, spouses, or sexual partners of anyone using a form of fertility awareness for pregnancy prevention.
Charting cycles for pregnancy prevention is a big life change, especially for the female charter. While the charter has to learn to interpret their cycles, it is fundamental that they have a supportive partner in the process.
So, What is Fertility Awareness?
Fertility awareness involves tracking one or more bio-markers of the female cycle. These bio-markers include: cervical mucus, basal body temperature, cervical position, urinary hormones, and cycle start dates. The bio-markers are used to draw a fertile window. Fertility awareness has been studied scientifically for nearly a hundred years. There are a plethora of studies on the topic. Click here to read the 2018 Overview of FABMs. In general, you can expect approximately 98 to 99% efficacy across all modern fertility awareness methods.
Your partner will be tracking based on whatever method she chooses. A method is a way of categorizing bio-markers. For example, I teach the Billings Ovulation Method. This method tracks the bio-marker cervical mucus along with sensation felt at the vulva.
One of the first things you will learn when charting is that MALES ARE FERTILE 24/7. Females are fertile only cyclically, and on average the fertile window will be for less than 1/3rd of the female menstrual cycle.
In the beginning, there is sometimes a steep learning curve with tracking these signs. Your partner may forget to check cervical mucus at every restroom break or they may be erratic in taking their temperatures. Your role at this time is be supportive. If you are living with your partner, you can help remind her to take her temperature upon first waking (if they are choosing to chart this sign!) You may also want to take part in keeping the chart.
While it is relatively rare for the partner to help chart, it is encouraged that you learn how to help classify her fertility signs or read the chart if possible. In the very least, you need to learn to respect your partner’s fertile window and not expect to ejaculate inside the vagina in the fertile window. I’m being blunt here. You will get used to “TMI” with charting! You can learn to understand the cycle by taking a class together. This is a great activity for bonding, and so that you have more equal responsibility in your family planning.
An easy way to get involved in your partner’s charting routine is to use a paper chart. I keep a paper chart on the bedside table. It is always visible. My chart is pretty easy for my partner to read because the “baby” symbols mean possible fertility. You could do this with any method. Sit down together when you record the observations. Have your partner to explain what the fertility status of the day means.
But Why Would I Attend a Class or Learn About Charting if I’m NOT the Female Partner?
Because you want to be a good, supportive partner!
When you understand your partner’s chart, you understand the chance of pregnancy that you both have. This can prevent mistakes from occurring if there is more than one set of eyes on the chart. When you become attuned to your partner’s menstrual cycle, you will also begin to realize why their mood might change throughout the cycle. This is fantastic for relationship communication. Your partner is not perfect. They may make mistakes when charting. Two is better than one for catching these!!
How Will We Avoid Pregnancy in the Fertile Window?
One of the first things you will learn when reading a fertility awareness book or taking a class is that you are expected to abstain from penis-in-vagina sex in the fertile window.
The reason for this is simple: it is only possible to get pregnant in the fertile window.
If you have penis-in-vagina sex in the fertile window, there will always be a chance of pregnancy. If you are avoiding pregnancy, this means that sex in the fertile window could result in an unintended pregnancy.
During this time, it is suggested that the couple work on other aspects of the relationship. Go on dates, cuddle, talk, play games.
If you decide to break the rules by having sex, you should be prepared for the possibility of pregnancy.
For Catholics, this is the only “licit” option for the fertile window.
For non-Catholics, oral sex and sex involving hands is safe in the fertile window as long as no semen ever gets near the vulva or the vagina. If semen touches this area, pregnancy can occur.
To determine how you will proceed in the fertile window, you and your partner should place yourself on the intentions scale. In the context of fertility awareness, intentions means how open you are to pregnancy.
The basic possible intentions follow. Select which is most appropriate to you as a couple. TTA means “Trying to Avoid” a Pregnancy.
TTA Seriously Avoiding: For these people, an unintended pregnancy may be devastating, whether to health, the relationship, or finances. A pregnancy is being avoided very strictly. These people should adhere to the rules of their method as closely as possible.
TTA Regular Avoiding: For these people, pregnancy is being avoided and the rules are followed. A pregnancy wouldn’t be convenient, but it would not endanger their life.
TTA Loosely Avoiding: For these people, a broken rule isn’t the end of the world. They may do strategic risk-taking like breaking rules on the cusp of the fertile window, or using something like the withdrawal method in the fertile window. They are not actively seeking a pregnancy, but they are okay with some chance of it happening.
TTW Whatever Happens: For these people, pregnancy would be okay whenever it happens. They break whatever rules they want. They aren’t actively timing sex for the most fertile days, but it might happen.
TTCTrying to Conceive: For these people, the rules do not have to be followed. They actively try to have sex in the fertile window.
You and your partner should discuss this scale and decide where you land before utilizing the fertility awareness method for sex.
What If We Decide to Use Barriers in the Fertile Window?
Remember, while you are fertile 24/7, your female partner is not. It is really important that if you are avoiding pregnancy that you respect your partner’s fertile window.
Some couples decide to use condoms, the withdrawal method, or diaphragms in the fertile window.
The most likely time for a barrier to fail is in your fertile window. After all, you aren’t using them at the other times of the cycle.
I personally believe that a couple has the right to make an informed choice in the fertile window. In particular, the male partner should realize that he is the one putting on the condom or pulling out. If he fails to do either correctly, a pregnancy can result. If you use these methods, do the research and inform yourself about how to use them correctly and what their efficacy is. If you are okay with this risk, you can use barrier methods. At the point you use a barrier method – you are outside of correct use for the fertility awareness method. Always remember that. An unintended pregnancy would be classified as a user error or barrier method failure.
How Long Does it Take to Practice Fertility Awareness Confidently?
On average, you will want to do at least 3 to 6 cycles of follow-up with an instructor to be completely autonomous and confident in charting. When you work with an instructor, you may be able to start utilizing the method to avoid pregnancy as sooln as the first cycle charting! (This is assuming that your partner has been diligent in their charting).
If you have PCOS, are coming off hormonal birth control, or are breastfeeding, you may need close instruction for longer. The Billings Ovulation Method recommends following up until the third ovulatory cycle postpartum. This could take a year or more if fully breastfeeding.
To Male Partners:What Advice Would You Give Male Partners Who Are New To Fertility Awareness?
These responses are taken from a 2019 survey I did on the male partners of FAM users. Enjoy!
“At first it seems backwards since science has a simple fix for conception: hormonal birth control. Some women are fine on hormonal birth control. Some can be really crazy on it. With some women, it can even kill their sex drive. With mine, she becomes so crazy that it kills both of our sex drives. So we’re doing this weird fertility awareness thing. Here’s my advice if you have a woman like mine. Even though she’s so beautiful and sexy that you just want to risk ejaculating in her to possibly get her off, you can’t do it with this. Yes, it puts more pressure on you to wear a condom and/or pull out, but at least your wife isn’t batshit crazy. And she’s still horny. So it’s worth it. Plus you learn a lot about the female body because I guarantee she’ll keep you up at night telling you about it lol. So don’t complain. We’re still getting laid. Unlike our friends who’s wives are on the pill or IUD. It just puts more pressure on us to prevent a baby. If she gets pregnant again, it’s probably our fault with this. And I’m ok with that. War Eagle!”
“You will wish you had always known this information. Test your pre-cum under a microscope for sperm if you are going to use withdrawal.”
“Knowledge is power and pleasure.”
“To do the research to fully understand the anatomy and physiology which will give you confidence in trusting the fertility awareness method.”
“Good luck m’a friend.”
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions!”
“Be patient and understanding whilst always at least attempting to understand the technicalities surrounding the practice of the method.”
“Read as much information as you can and stay informed.”
“Trust your partner, but do some cursory research as well. You both need to understand it to trust it.”
“Learn the actual science (as in the research literature) behind these technologies. Much of the medical establishment unfortunately has both insufficient and badly-outdated knowledge about FAM. Also, such will only be successful if the couple are both wholly on-board and possess the necessary knowledge, discipline, and self-control to utilize the method(s) correctly, whether trying to conceive or to avoid.”
“Get ya woman on it like yesterday.”
“Talk to your significant other and learn from her.”
“Learn about which days are the best to get pregnant; if you want to get pregnant together there is a way to learn the best days with a good degree of certainty. I think other men could benefit from learning this information about their partner.”
“Learn how the world works, and use that knowledge.”
“Listen to your woman and trust what she says about her observations. It’s not like the guy is the one using the method, but it’s good to be aware of it.”
“If you think it’s burdensome, remember the health and relationship benefits far outweigh the daily minor inconveniences. Encourage your SO to do the research to make sure they’re doing it right as well.”
“Shut up, pay attention.”
“If you are concerned about the well being of your partner, you’re more likely to succeed in supporting her and have an involved role in fulfilling both your reproductive goals through fertility awareness.”
“Take a lesson yourself or attend one with your partner, you are only going to trust it if you understand how it works yourself. When you actually see that it makes sense, it’s not some weird alternative thing, you can trust it a lot more.”
This resource is a simple overview of the rules with examples. It links to other resources on understanding the female and male reproductive system. This is a good, fairly quick read for men who want to understand the basic rules.
Jessie discusses her symptoms that lead her to stop taking hormonal birth control. She then does a brief overview of how the fertility signs change throughout the cycle and how sperm life plays into fertility.
This also leans religious but may be useful for men who are having trouble adjusting to avoiding unprotected sex in the fertile window.
“Use of Natural Family Planning (NFP) and Its Effect on Couple Relationships and Sexual Satisfaction: A Multi-Country Survey of NFP Users from US and Europe.” Front Public Health. 2017; 5: 42. Published online 2017 Mar 13. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2017.00042
This is a recent scientific article that studied the effect of NFP on relationships.
I purchased a Fitbit device close to two years ago, and within months I noticed that my heart rate appeared to be correlating with the phases of my cycle. Now eighteen cycles into comparing my heart rate to other fertility signs, I can say with confidence that it has lined up every cycle. This shouldn’t be too surprising because we already know that progesterone causes basal body temperature to rise, but heart rate does not exactly follow that pattern.
We have known about the possible connection between heart rate and the menstrual cycle for over a century, but in the last 50 years a few studies have taken a closer look.
Palmero (1991) studied 64 women for 3 consecutive months and created a PMS group versus a non-PMS group. They found that “in the premenstrual phase, PMS group showed significantly higher resting HR levels than NPMS group.”
Moran (2000) followed 26 women and found that “resting-heart rate was significantly higher in both ovulatory (P < 0.01) and luteal (P < 0.01) phases than in the menstrual and follicular phases.”
Shilaih (2017) followed 91 women and found that they “observed a significant increase in pulse rate (PR) during the fertile window compared to the menstrual phase (2.1 beat-per-minute, p < 0.01). Moreover, PR during the mid-luteal phase was also significantly elevated compared to the fertile window (1.8 beat-per-minute, p < 0.01), and the menstrual phase (3.8 beat-per-minute, p < 0.01).”
I want to highlight these last two studies in particular, because many of the other studies have an issue. Marco Altino explains why:
“The great majority of studies looking at HRV and the menstrual cycle collected one single data point during the follicular phase and one single data point during the luteal phase. I don’t have to tell you how little sense that makes, considering the high day to day variability in these parameters.”
This is an excerpt from his blog on heart rate variability in the menstrual cycle. Read the full blog here.
The 2017 study published in Nature by Shilaih, et al found that heart rate may rise up to 5 days before ovulation occurs. This means that heart rate could potentially be a used as a way to time intercourse for conception.
My results are so steady with resting heart rate that I dream of someone using it in a long-term study with other fertility signs. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could avoid pregnancy using heart rate too?
Below is an example of my results with resting heart rate. To convert my heart rate to fit in a fertility awareness app, I use a conversion. Essentially, one heart rate beat = .1 Farenheit change on my temperature scale. A heartbeat of 69 becomes 96.9, 70 becomes 97.0, 71 becomes 97.1 This preserves the original ratio, and it allows me to show the data with other fertility signs. For your own conversion, you may model this. If you have a lower heart beat rate, you can still convert, but you may need to do an additional equation.
In conclusion, I believe that resting heart rate is a very unique sign to track, especially if you already use a wearable fitness tracker. I will note that a false heart rate rise can be caused by illness, alcohol or food close to bedtime, nightmares, and more! This is not dissimilar to what can obscure a temperature. I hope that in the future more studies are done so that we can see if heart rate can also be used for avoiding pregnancy purposes.
Shilaih, M., Clerck, V., Falco, L. et al. Pulse Rate Measurement During Sleep Using Wearable Sensors, and its Correlation with the Menstrual Cycle Phases, A Prospective Observational Study. Sci Rep7, 1294 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-01433-9
Have you ever wondered what it was like to chart with the Marquette Method? This blog attempts to give an overview of what it is like to chart with the Marquette method (monitor/hormones only) for one cycle. Since I am in regular cycles, this is only an overview of what that looks like. Postpartum charting involves a whole lot more testing!
Day 1: Record Heavy Bleeding.
(This is an available day for safe sex based on my Marquette calculation rule. Marquette calculation rules rely on the earliest peak in the last 6 cycles minus 6. For me, this is Day 7, with Day 8 being automatically the first “unsafe” possibly fertile day. Any time of day is allowed within Marquette calculation rules).
Day 2: Record Heavy Bleeding.
Day 3: Record Heavy Bleeding.
Day 4: Record Medium Bleeding.
Day 5: Record Medium bleeding.
Day 6: Do absolutely nothing! My testing window opens on Day 8.
Day 7. Do absolutely nothing! My testing window opens on Day 8. This is my last day to have sex pre-ovulatory per the rules of the method.
Day 8: I wake up at 6:30am, pee in a cup, dip the stick for 15 seconds, and wait 5 minutes for the Clearblue Monitor to read my test. I get a “L” or low estrogen reading. The Clearblue monitor reads both estrogen and luteinizing hormones.
Day 9: I wake up at 6:30am, pee in a cup, dip the stick for 15 seconds, and wait 5 minutes for the Clearblue Monitor to read my test. I get a “L.”
Day 10: I wake up at 6:30am, pee in a cup, dip the stick for 15 seconds, and wait 5 minutes for the Clearblue Monitor to read my test. I get a “L”
Day 11: I wake up at 6:30am, pee in a cup, dip the stick for 15 seconds, and wait 5 minutes for the Clearblue Monitor to read my test. I get a “H” or high estrogen reading. This means that my real fertile window is likely opening and ovulation could be around the corner.
Day 12: I wake up at 6:30am, pee in a cup, dip the stick for 15 seconds, and wait 5 minutes for the Clearblue Monitor to read my test. I get a “H.”
Day 13: I wake up at 6:30am, pee in a cup, dip the stick for 15 seconds, and wait 5 minutes for the Clearblue Monitor to read my test. I get a “H.” Based on having high quality mucus (which is not required to notice for monitor only), I crosscheck with a LH test because I know ovulation is likely approaching soon.
Day 14: I wake up at 6:30am, pee in a cup, dip the stick for 15 seconds, and wait 5 minutes for the Clearblue Monitor to read my test. I get a “P.” This means the monitor has now detected my LH surge. I crosscheck this same urine with another LH cheapie test, and it is also positive.
This means I have peaked for the cycle! All other readings after the “P” are automatic, and I do not have to take any other tests. Marquette requires me to meet PPHLL before resuming intercourse on the day after the second L.
At this point, if I desired, I could be done charting for the whole cycle! This means that I only had to really chart for approximately 7 days this cycle. How easy is that?!
If I desire, I could also take a Proov progesterone test around the second L at the end of my count. This would provide proof that the hormone progesterone has taken over.
Some of the downsides to this method could be:
The Monitor missing peak (happens in up to 10% of cycles and many people crosscheck with LH for this reason, or even add temperatures or Proov)
The Monitor will not tell you if you are going to ovulate early. The only way to detect earlier ovulation is to track cervical mucus very carefully.
The sticks are approximately $1.50 each. This could get very pricey for delayed ovulation!
The method may not be appropriate for people with very irregular cycles or elevated LH levels (some PCOS users may have elevated LH).
Disclaimer: Do not try to learn how to chart from this post. Everyone has their own unique cycle and this is just an example of charting with Marquette in a regular cycle. I recommend finding an official Marquette teacher here. Because the Marquette method uses the Clearblue monitor which is designed for trying to conceive, you will need to get instructions to use this monitor for avoiding pregnancy.
Have you ever wanted to know what it is like to chart with the Billings Ovulation Method? This blog attempts to give an overview of what it is like for one individual to chart with the Billings Ovulation Method (BOM) over a single cycle. I go through each day of the cycle and explain my overall charting habits. All times are just approximate. I get personal and discuss some challenges I experience with natural family planning. BOM involves tracking sensation felt at the vulva along with the visible appearance of cervical mucus as a person goes about their day to day activities.
Day 1: Record heavy bleeding. Heavy bleeding feels wet. Done! Users are not allowed to use heavier days in the Billings method when avoiding pregnancy. This is a true day one of a cycle because it was preceded by a Billings peak day.
Day 2: Record heavy bleeding. Heavy bleeding feels wet. Done!
Day 3. Record medium bleeding. Medium bleeding feels wet. Done!
Day 4: Very light bleeding. It is now possible to observe my basic infertile pattern of dry.
8am: I feel dry and see a small amount of blood.
10am: I still feel dry.
8pm: I still feel dry. I see no mucus. Sex is allowed in the evening of this day. We use this day.
Day 5: Extremely light bleeding. Technically this day is not allowed for intercourse since I used the day before and Billings method rotates alternative evenings. We use this day anyway #rulebreaker
Day 6: I feel dry. I do not see anything. I record this day as “possibly fertile” since I broke a rule and used the day before. Every day after intercourse gets this white stamp in the pre-ovulatory time of the cycle.
Day 7: My basic infertile pattern of dry is still there! I notice nothing the entire day in the bathroom and my vulva sensation is dry. Sex is allowed in the evening. I consider my evening 8pm because I go to bed around 9pm on average. We use this day.
Day 8: I feel dry all day and see nothing. However, this day is not allowed since Billings alternates days. We skip this day.
Day 9: I feel dry all day and see nothing. However, we do not use this available day because we are both tired. It happens!
9am: I feel a bit moist. I don’t see anything when wiping in the bathroom.
11am: Still feel moist. I do not see anything in the bathroom.
2pm: Still feel moist. I do not see anything.
4pm: Still moist. Nothing seen.
4:45pm: Walking to my car from work. Still moist!
8pm: Overall observation for the day is moist. I record it. The fertile window has opened. This is known as the point of change.
7am: I feel moist as soon as I walk to the bathroom. I see very scant clear mucus on the tissue.
I do not see or feel anything for the rest of the day.
8pm: Overall observation for the day is “moist, clear”
7am: I feel moist, but see nothing.
10am: I feel moist, but see something white.
8pm: The feeling remains the rest of the day. I record “moist, white” for the day.
7am: I feel dry.
11am: I still feel dry.
1pm: I feel wet sensation when walking to my office. This is a change, so I keep that in mind.
I feel damp the rest of the day. I never see anything in the bathroom. I record “wet” as the most fertile sensation that day.
6:30am: I immediately feel moist.
9am: I see long clear strings when wiping in the bathroom.
11am: I have a wet sensation when walking around.
3pm: I walk around my work place. I still feel moist.
5pm: I see clear strings again.
8pm: I record “wet, clear strings” on my chart.
7am: I feel a gush as soon as I wake up. I do not see anything in the bathroom.
9am: I see scant, clear mucus on the tissue when wiping.
11am: I feel very wet walking around my work place.
1pm: I do not see anything on the tissue.
3pm: I do not see anything on the tissue.
5pm: I feel wet sensation while making dinner.
8pm: I record “wet, clear” as my observation for the day.
7am: I do not feel or see anything when waking up.
9am: I still do not feel or see anything.
12pm: I go for a 20 minute walk. When I get back, I feel slippery sensation. I go to the bathroom and see copious amounts of long, clear mucus.
8pm: I felt slippery the rest of the day. I record “slippery, long clear” on the chart.
6am: I feel dry when waking up.
8am: I don’t see anything or feel anything.
11am: I don’t see anything or feel anything.
8pm: The day was nothing felt, nothing seen all day. I record dry. This means yesterday was my peak day because it was a changing and developing pattern ending in slippery followed by an abrupt dry up to no longer wet or slippery.
Day 18 and Day 19:
I have the same experience as day 17. I pay attention all day and observe no mucus or sensation.
Ovulation is expected to be over and the cervical mucus plug has re-closed for the cycle. Sex is available any time for the rest of the cycle until day one of menstruation occurs. I can chart, but it is not necessary to wait until the evening and observations are less important as sex may interfere at any time.
Day 28: I record heavy bleeding and the rules restart.
Real Talk: Diffulties / Obstacles With Billings Not Seen on the Chart
These are things that I find can be difficul in my own personal experience. I know that people in really long cycles or with other irregularities may have different issues than me.
Challenge One: Alternative evenings only can be a struggle, and it seems even harder for me right before the fertile window opens due to my mood at this time of the cycle. This follicular phase is much longer for me than my luteal phase on average, and this means alternative evenings is the rule for most of my cycle. If someone has a partner with a conflicting schedule, this can especially be offputting. I think anyone who is going to practice this method should consider whether this is practical for their lifestyle.
Challenge Two: Expected abstinence in Billings can be hard, and I have fairly short fertile windows on average. I originally practiced sympto-thermal, and I switched to Billings when I realized that overall consecutive abstinence was much less overall (for my own cycle, Billings: 9 days, Sympto-Thermal: 14+ days). I tend to break some rules still, but this is much more suitable for my fertility intentions level than sympto-thermal.
Look out for my next blog on “A Day in the Life of a Marquette User.”
Disclaimer: Do not try to learn how to chart from this post. Everyone has their own unique cycle and this is just an example of charting with Billings in a regular cycle. Please reach out to me if you would like to learn this method with me as your guide. Alternatively, you can find a teacher here.
For the last 5 cycles, I have been using the Kegg device that reads the electrolyte levels present in the cervical mucus in the vagina. To use this device, someone would insert Kegg in the same two hour period of time during the day. Kegg takes approximately two minutes to give the user a reading on the graph. Click here to read an article on the science behind Kegg.
This product is an exciting development in the femtech field because it actually does read a real-time fertility sign. Cervical mucus is completely necessary for natural conception to occur. Without the presence of cervical mucus in the cervical crypts, sperm cannot to get to their destination to reach the egg. For this reason, anyone trying to conceive needs to track cervical mucus or use an alternative device such as Kegg (or a device that reads estrogen levels) in order to time intercourse for when they are most likely to conceive.
Here is what a Kegg chart looks like while lined up with my real-time Billings Ovulation Method cervical mucus observations.
Who is Kegg right for?
I know that the question on everyone’s mind is whether Kegg can be used to re-place cervical mucus observations for avoiding pregnancy. Unfortunately, the answer is that Kegg is not suitable for avoiding pregnancy. It is designed to find the most suitable days for conception. For those avoiding pregnancy, the fertile window has to be much longer than the window that Kegg gives. Until Kegg has been studied for pregnancy avoidance, I cannot recommend it as an alternative to cervical mucus checks which must be made multiple times of day until the evening when someone is strictly avoiding pregnancy.
Kegg may be right for someone who wants to conceive without needing to take a class or read a book on cervical mucus. In my experience, for the most part, it detected my most fertile days in a way that would likely lead to conception if used.
Kegg may not be right for you if you have a very erratic schedule. Since it has to be used in the same two hours and cannot be used up to 8 hours after sex, this may make Kegg harder to use. I personally experienced some issues timing Kegg correctly because of the nature of practicing a fertility awareness method meaning that I have sex at different times of the day based on what part of the cycle I am in.
The following images are my five cycles with the Kegg device compared to urinary hormones and cervical mucus observations. The three chicks in the egg represent the three most fertile days with Kegg. All of the charts are from Read Your Body by the Body Literacy Collective.
My Overall Impression of Kegg
I am often very critical of femtech that gives predictions, and Kegg does give calendar predictions at the beginning of the cycle. However, overall, I believe that the readings I got with Kegg did line up with my real-time signs for the most part. Since this device is for conception purposes, it does seem to highlight the most fertile days. I did have to switch from mornings to evenings on my Kegg readings to get clearer charts. I also find Kegg extremely hard to use in my luteal phase when sex may occur at any time of day, but this isn’t a huge problem since you can stop using Kegg once it has detected your rise. For those who want to add an extra layer to your chart or chart to conceive only, I can recommend the Kegg device.