Fertility Awareness Method of Birth Controlby Maggie McCormick
A woman can only get pregnant in the 24 hours after ovulation. By accurately predicting when ovulation occurs, you can have unprotected sex without getting pregnant. The fertility awareness method of birth control involves tracking your menstrual cycle to determine your "fertility window"--a period of time before and after you ovulate. If you don't want to get pregnant, you simply don't have sex or use barrier methods of birth control during this time.
Weight gain, depression and decreased sex drive are all common side effects of hormonal birth control methods, like the pill or a shot. Birth control pills can cause serious complications in women over 35 who smoke. A barrier method, such as the male or female condom, doesn't feel as good. Using fertility awareness allows couples to take control of their fertility without these methods. Another benefit of the fertility awareness method is that you can use it to become pregnant when you decide that it's time. Hormonal methods may take time to exit your body.
Several methods are available to track your fertility and estimate your most likely day of ovulation. With the calendar method, you simply write down the days that you get your period, estimating that ovulation occurs around Day 14 of the cycle. By tracking your basal body temperature, you'll be able to note when you ovulated the day after it happens through a sharp increase in temperature. Regular monitoring should tell you exactly which day you ovulate if you are fairly regular. You can also track changes in your cervix. If the mucus is clear and stretchy and high in your vagina, it's a sign of ovulation. Ovulation testing strips can test your body for a surge in the luteinizing hormone, which spikes just before you ovulate. By combining all these, you'll have a fairly accurate picture of when you may ovulate.
One way to track these is to keep a calendar where you count the days and list the signs you see. You can do this with a paper calendar or an online one. You can also purchase Cycle Beads, which you wear around your wrist, moving a ring to each bead to note where in your cycle you are.
It can take several months of tracking your cycle to get a complete picture of it. Sperm can live up to five days in your body, so you must abstain or use a barrier for five days before your expected date of ovulation. Understand that "pulling out" during your fertile time is not an effective way to prevent pregnancy.
Changes in your stress level, diet or routine could affect your fertility cycle without you knowing it. With diligent use, the American Pregnancy Association states that the fertility awareness method has about a 90 percent success rate, but that the average success rate is only around 75 percent. This is significantly less than hormonal and the barrier methods of birth control, which range from 85 to 99 percent.
- old calendar image by Allyson Ricketts from Fotolia.com