Updated: Jul 8
AUTHOR: Lee Reicheneder
Gaining an understanding of our own fertility and how our bodies work is something that has always been quite lacking in our society. We are progressive enough to educate about the vast range of contraceptive products on the market and the various disposable menstrual products that can be used; however, we still seem to frequently fail at teaching people about the fertility signs that may appear in those pf the female sex and how to identify them or about the re-usable menstrual products they have as options for themselves as well. This knowledge is incredibly important for us as informed women regardless of whether we choose to utilise contraceptives on the market to help avoid pregnancy or not. Being aware of fertility signs can often provide insight into when the body may be fertile (allowing informed choice to be made regarding intercourse timing) and also may give early warning signs for underlying health issues which in turn allows for calling a Doctor about those early warning signs or concerns. For this reason this article attempts to cover signs of fertility for those trying for or avoiding pregnancy, the bodies warning signs,and how being aware of the fertility signs can support your path. Another article will cover menstrual products and options.
Menstrual cycles are often seen as a sign of fertility with fertile periods commencing in the menarche and ceasing with menopause. Menstrual cycles often range from 20-40 days (the cycle is the days you count between the menstration (moon bleed) start date and your next moon bleed date). Each month the inner lining of the uterus (endometrium) sheds through the moon bleed with the last months unfertilized egg and then regenerates itself to ready itself for a fertilised egg (once released from the ovaries usually around day 14) to implant. In a healthy reproductive system several eggs ripen each month usually releasing only one egg from one ovary (left or right) to be fertilised by the sperm. On occasions both ovaries will release an egg which produces non-identical twins if both eggs become fertilised by sperm. For the first 2 weeks of the menstrual cycle you are regarded as "1 week and then 2 weeks pregnant"; however, if sperm fails to fertilise the egg after it is released around day 14 the "pregnancy" will not get any further as their will be no sperm, egg magic that forms the zygote (a single cell), which forms into an embryo (a division of cells- starting formation of a baby) and over time becomes a baby. Instead the unfertilised egg will be shed with the endometrium again in your next months moon bleed. Over the duration of this month the body will often provide a range of signals to indicate what it's situation is in terms of fertility levels, health and even whether a conception has occurred the month or not.
The common signals provided by the body to indicate fertility, health issues or pregnancy are:
Early Morning Basal Body Temperature ( before fully awake and still lying down)
Position and Feel of the Cervix
BASAL BODY TEMPERATURE
Basal body temperature is the temperature of the body fully at rest and can be used along other contraception methods to reduce the chances of pregnancy or conversely it can assist in the planning for pregnancy. The reason for this is ovulation often results in a slight increase in basal body temperature and after recording the temperature over a few cycles patterns often tend to emerge giving you indicators of when you are likely to be fertile. However, temperatures from each morning without fail for roughly four cycles one after each other must be recorded to start establishing any form of pattern to help you indicate your fertile times in future cycles. For the readings to be accurate it is important to remember the following:
Get at least 3 hours of unbroken sleep each night
Take your temperature using the same method each morning
Take your temperature immediately on waking (ideally at the same time each morning)
Ensure your temperature is taken before you sit up in bed, get out of bed, eating or drinking
Use the same thermometer throughout the cycle (DO NOT change the thermometer mid cycle)
The most fertile days are often the 2-3 days before your temperature rises. During the pre-fertile stage the basal temperature should be stable and this continues into the fertile stage; however, during the fertile stage some women notice a dip of 0.2◦-0.3◦ at 12-24 hours before ovulation. A rise of 0.2◦-0.5◦ will often occur before, during, and after the release of the egg. Predicting fertility with this method can help plan when to have intercourse, not have intercourse, or have intercourse with additional protection such as a condom. However, on it's own to prevent pregnancy it can be unreliable, it is estimated that 25 out of 100 who use basal temperature as their only form of protection/prevention without the inclusion of other methods or protection fall pregnant each year. Things like broken sleep, oral or hormonal contraceptives, breastfeeding, a recent birth, antibiotics, illness, not taking temperature at the same time each day, alcohol, changing thermometer or the checking methods mid cycle, doing something before taking the temperature on waking, travel and time zone differences. Therefore, it is worthwhile utilising other methods from the body signals listed and/or other protection methods such as condoms alongside the basal body temperature method if you are using this to help avoid pregnancy.
Basal Temperature recording is also a good way to pick up on reproductive health concerns you may not have been aware of previously which allows you to seek out medical advice. The basal temperature can identify:
Short time frame of 10 days or less between ovulation and your next moon bleed (luteal phase). A short luteal phase results in the body not being able to develop enough uterine lining to support a pregnancy, as a consequence it can make it harder and take longer to conceive, it may also increase early misscarriage risk.
Long time of 18 days or more between ovulation and the next moon bleed (luteal phase) when not pregnant. Long luteal phase may indicate hormone imbalance conditions like Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Rise in body temperature after ovulation sustained for less than 3 days or low temperatures through the entire luteal phase (between ovulation to next bleed) may indicate other reproductive health concerns