Fertility tracking, also known as the fertility awareness method, was always a vague concept in my mind. I knew that it entailed tracking your body’s cues to discover when you are most fertile. However, I didn’t know the details and it felt untrustworthy and scary. It wasn’t until this past year when I felt frustrated with my hormonal IUD and its side effects that I decided to give fertility tracking a try. Now I can say that I am wholeheartedly happy that I chose this method. It has turned out to be a journey of empowerment and learning to understand my body better.
What is fertility tracking?
Fertility tracking is just that: a way to pinpoint your fertile window and when you are ovulating. This is done by tracking your menstrual cycle. Contrary to popular thought, women are not fertile all of the time. In fact, there is a very small window of time in a woman’s cycle in which she can get pregnant. This window occurs right before ovulation, during ovulation, and the day after. Therefore, once this fertile time is known, women can consciously choose whether or not to have unprotected sex during that time. While some use this method to plan a pregnancy, in this article I will only be talking about its use as a birth control method.
How does it work?
There are a few different signals that your body will give off when you are fertile. Fertility tracking involves following your menstrual cycle by tracking these different signs. The three main things that are normally tracked include basal body temperature (BBT), cervical mucus, and the number of days in your cycle.
One of the easiest signs to track is temperature. After ovulation, levels of progesterone in the body increase, which leads to an increase in BBT (the body’s temperature at rest). In order to track your BBT you will need a thermometer showing two decimal places. The best way to track BBT is in the morning right when you wake up, before you move around too much.
Another variable to track is cervical mucus, also known as discharge. The consistency of a woman’s cervical mucus changes throughout her cycle. It can range from sticky and dry to slippery and wet. In less fertile times cervical mucus is generally more sticky, dry, white and creamy. During the fertile window it is usually wet, slippery, clear, and has the consistency of egg whites. You can check your cervical mucus by using your fingers at the entrance of your vagina or at your cervix. Pay attention to how color, consistency, and amount changes throughout your cycle.
The last variable to track is the number of days in your cycle. By counting the days of your cycle you can predict when ovulation will occur and either use barrier protection or abstain from sex during that time.
Fertility tracking is not for everyone. If you have a very irregular cycle it can be much harder to pinpoint your fertile window, and therefore can be difficult to rely on this method. Additionally, if you are just getting off of hormonal birth control it can take several cycles until your body is back to its natural rhythm. Lastly, tracking all of these variables on your own can be tricky. Not to mention it doesn’t always account for the diversity of women’s cycles and leaves room for human error. This is why I chose to use a fertility tracking app to make the process a bit easier.
After doing a lot of research on fertility tracking apps I decided to use Natural Cycles. I chose Natural Cycles because they have a solid algorithm backed with loads of research, not to mention they are approved by the FDA. Natural Cycles works by using your BBT as well as ovulation tests to determine ovulation and your fertile window.
I like using Natural Cycles because it feels like a safer option than traditional fertility tracking, mainly because its algorithm reduces the amount of human error involved. In fact, the app claims that with normal use it is 93% effective and with perfect use 98% effective. In contrast, the traditional fertility awareness method is only 76-88% effective and oral contraceptives are 91% effective. As you can see, Natural Cycles is an effective and science-backed form of non-hormonal birth control. Personally, I have enjoyed using it and have learned so much about my cycle and my body along the process.
Your body your choice
The bottom line when it comes to fertility tracking is yes, it does take dedication and commitment. It takes more time and effort than having an IUD or implant placed, or even taking a pill once a day. However, for me it has been very empowering to learn about my body and how my cycle works. Furthermore, having a trusted and research driven app like Natural Cycles has helped me feel supported and safe throughout the process. That being said, it is your body and your choice! No form of birth control is bad or wrong; it’s all about what is the best method for you. Trust yourself and take heart in the fact that there are many resources and options out there waiting for you!