Lately I have been hearing more about the Fertility Awareness Method. I wanted to know how this method could help couples that were struggling with infertility. I know when I was going through infertility when my cycles became irregular I was advised to go on the pill. This only masked the problem and didn’t address the root cause of why my cycles were irregular.
The Fertility Awareness Method is a natural method for women to really understand how her body works. It’s about getting familiar with cervical mucus, which can seem a little “icky” at first, but hey it’s part of our body so embrace it! It’s also about tracking the basal body temperature and position of the cervix. If you are nodding your head in agreement, you’ll learn exactly how this will impact your fertility or maybe you don’t even know how to find your cervix, so we’ll cover the basics for you too!
When we really listen to our body and get familiar with how it works we are empowered to take care of our health.
I was excited to connect with Lisa Hendrickson-Jack. She is a Fertility Awareness educator and founder of the podcast Fertility Friday. She is on a mission to share how the Fertility Awareness Method can help improve fertility naturally.
Can you share a little bit about yourself and your background?
After learning how to chart my cycles on my own with the help of Toni Wechler’s Taking Charge of your Fertility, I joined up with an amazing group of women in my community and we hosted monthly sessions to teach women how to chart their cycles. We began working with Geraldine Matus, founder of Justisse Healthworks, and I successfully completed the Justisse Body Literacy Advocate training which enhanced my ability to teach fertility awareness and help women to interpret their charts.
I have a blog and podcast at Fertility Friday at: Fertility Friday
Describe the Fertility Awareness Method.
The Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is a way for women to identify what days in their menstrual cycle they are fertile. It can be used to prevent pregnancy or predict when the most fertile days are during the menstrual cycle.
Women are only fertile for about one week during the menstrual cycle. The FAM allows you to track your cervical mucus, your basal body temperature and the change of the cervical position.
What types of infertility will benefit from using the Fertility Awareness Method.
I like to first say that I am not a doctor, however the Fertility Awareness Method can be quite helpful when dealing with certain types of infertility.
Since a woman is only fertile three to seven days each cycle, if someone is missing this fertile window every month they will not be able to get pregnant.
The FAM has helped to pinpoint the exact time to have sexual intercourse.
If you have PCOS – when you start to chart your cycle, it helps to identify a problem a lot sooner, since you will know that you are not ovulating.
The FAM also helps with a shortened luteal phase. A woman could be getting pregnant every month, but if the post ovulatory phase is not long enough she will not be able to conceive. This can be identified with Fertility Awareness Method.
In order for a woman to get pregnant she needs to have cervical mucus. Without cervical mucus sperm die. Cervical mucus allows the sperm to survive in the woman for almost 5 days. The FAM will help you discover how much cervical mucus you have and identify the days that you are fertile.
How do you know when you have peak cervical mucus? I understand this is when you are at your most fertile.
Peak Cervical Mucus
You have peak mucus when you wipe across your vulva it is slippery or “lubricative”. Peak mucus is clear and stretchy. It looks like egg whites. For some women it is very wet and slippery too.
Non- Peak Cervical Mucus
Non-peak cervical mucus is like lotion and is non stretchy. When you wipe your vulva it feels smooth, but not lubricative.
It generally takes at least 3 full cycles to be able to identify the differences in the fluid.
The reason to distinguish between peak and non-peak cervical mucus, because in a healthy cycle a woman will have a least 1 day of peak mucus. If there is zero peak mucus this could be an indicator of sub optimal fertility"
Since the general rule of thumb for couples trying to conceive is if the woman is under 35 years old they should try for one year and if she is over 35 they should try for six months before consulting a physician. Knowing when ovulation occurs or if there is no cervical mucus is a valuable tool to discovering if there is a potential health issue. This will allow a couple to seek medical advice sooner.
The key to remember is that all cervical mucus is fertile. If you are trying to get pregnant the optimal time to have sexual intercourse is on a peak cervical mucus day. However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get pregnant on a non-peak cervical mucus day.
The peak day is the last day that you observe mucus that has peak qualities. Ovulation is highly correlated with peak days. About 75% of the time ovulation happens either on the peak day or the day before or the day after. As well, 90% of the time ovulation happens on peak day and plus or minus two days.
For more information about how to check for cervical mucus visit the Fertility Friday Blog at http://www.fertilityfriday.com/the-4-rules-for-using-the-fertility-awareness-method-for-birth-control/
How do I check for cervical mucus?
- When you go to the bathroom you check before you go by taking a piece of toilet paper folded flat and wiping from front to back making sure you wipe across the perineum and pay attention to the sensation you feel as you wipe (does it feel dry, smooth, lubricative/slippery?)
- Look at the toilet paper. Do you see any mucus? Can you pick it up? Does it stretch between your fingers? What color is it? Is it creamy/smooth/white/clear/stretchy or just wet and lubricative?
- If there is no mucus is there anything on the toilet paper? Is the paper shiny?
- Now, go to the bathroom and CHECK AGAIN after you urinate or have a bowel movement. First dab or clean yourself off, and then make sure to take a fresh flat piece of toilet paper and repeat the steps I outlined above.
How do I find my cervix?
The position of a woman’s cervix changes over the course of her menstrual cycle. Typically, during and in the first few days after menstruation, the cervix is fairly low and firm like the tip of your nose. When the wet cervical fluid begins to show, the cervix begins to move up, become more soft, wet an open. During ovulation, the cervix is at its highest and most open. After ovulation, the cervix return to the firm, low and closed position.
To observe changes in cervical position, wash your hands, insert your middle finger and feel your cervix for softness, height, opening and wetness.
How do you determine the optimal time for conception using the basal body temperature (BBT)
If you are trying to get pregnant it is helpful to know exactly when you ovulate so you can time sex accordingly.
Your Basal Body Temperature is a measure of your basal or resting metabolic rate. To get an accurate reading you must take your temperature when you first wake up in the morning before you even sit up in bed. It can take a few cycles to figure out how to interpret your temperature changes . Your temperature rises after ovulation has occurred, so BBT won't help you predict ovulation ahead of time."
Describe how you use the Kindara app to chart your cycles.
The Kindara app uses the principles of FAM.
The Kindara app allows you to record your cervical mucus, changes in cervical position and changes in your basal body temperature. It has a detailed notes section to record breast tenderness, moods, cramps and headaches etc. You can record anything that helps to see patterns that are connected to the menstrual cycle.
Kindara also has thermometer attachment call Wink. Wink allows you to take your temperature and it is automatically uploaded into the app, so you can better track your cycle. https://kindara.com/wink/
To learn more about Kindara and to discover your fertility window: https://www.kindara.com/get-pregnant
How does Fertility Awareness Method help to improve the success rate of IVF/IUI?
Some people may only have one day to that they are actually fertile. They could miss this day every month and never get pregnant. The FAM helps to identify the day, which could save thousands of dollars in fertility treatments.
What type of lifestyle and diet changes do you recommend to enhance fertility?
Although I am not a doctor there are ways that diet and lifestyle can have significant impact on your fertility. Food sensitivities or allergies can have an impact on the menstrual cycle. It is important to have a diet that maximizes nutrient density. I recommend checking out Dr. Weston Price’s diet. For more information visit http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/abcs-of-nutrition/dietary-guidelines/
It is also important to get the male partner tested right away as 40% of infertility is due to male factor.
What books and resources do you recommend?
The Garden of Fertility – Katie Singer – discusses how different health conditions may show up on your chart
Taking Charge of Your Fertility – Tony Weschler – this is the book that helped me learn how to chart using the Fertility Awareness Method
Coming off the Pill
Justisse Method – Fertility Awareness and Body Literacy - A Users Guide
Fertility Awareness Educators – www.justisse.com - there is a list of trained practitioners
www.Fertilityfriday.com - podcasts and blogs on women’s health and the Fertility Awareness Method.
Great article - 23 Fertility Awareness Websites you should know about - http://www.fertilityfriday.com/22-fertility-awareness-websites-you-should-know-about/
The Fertility Awareness Method is another tool for couples to help them get to the bottom of what may be causing their infertility. Remember it takes time to understand the method, so seek out a practitioner if you need help. As you navigate the sometimes, confusing world of infertility, it’s important to realize that you know your body best. The Fertility Awareness Method helps you to listen to what you body is trying to tell you!
Sarah Clark empowers couples to discover how lifestyle and diet can dramatically impact their chances of conceiving. She was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure at 28 and had both her kids with donor eggs. Not until years later did she discover that the root cause of her infertility was a food intolerance. Ready to gaze into your baby's eyes....but struggling. Download 10 step Checklist here