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Fertility Awareness Method

To track your fertile days using the calendar method, begin by keeping a written record of your menstrual cycle for 8 to 12 consecutive months, using the first day of menstruation (actual bleeding, not spotting) as Day 1 of your cycle. Once you have recorded your cycle for several months, identify your longest and shortest cycles and subtract 18 from the length of your shortest cycle - this is the first fertile day. Then subtract 11 from the length of your longest cycle - this is your last fertile day. For example, assume your shortest cycle was 26 days and your longest cycle was 31 days. Subtract 18 from 26 to get the first fertile day, Day 8. Subtract 11 from 31 to get Day 20, your last fertile day. Ovulation will occur sometime during this fertility window, between days 8 and 20. To maximize your chances of conceiving, you should have sexual intercourse every day or every other day from your first fertile day to your last fertile day.

As you start each new cycle, add the number of days between your periods to the chart and re-calculate your predictions of fertile times. As your chart grows, cross off the oldest cycles and only consider the past 12 months.

Basal Body Temperature

Monitoring your basal body temperature can help you identify the change in temperature that occurs just before and after ovulation. After charting a few cycles, you will be able to distinguish a pattern in your temperature and anticipate ovulation.

Take your basal temperature orally every morning before you do anything, even get out of bed (even the slightest activity can elevate your temperature), and record it on your fertility tracking calendar. You can also chart it using graph paper to see the pattern more clearly. Use a basal thermometer instead of a conventional fever thermometer; your body temperature will only rise between 0.4 and 1 degree F when you ovulate and a basal thermometer is more sensitive to small changes in your temperature. Your temperature will probably be fairly consistent in the first half of your menstrual cycle; however, as you get closer to ovulation, you may notice a slight drop in temperature followed by a sharp increase, indicating that ovulation has just occurred. The temperature spike occurs within 12 hours of ovulation and it will remain elevated until your next menstrual period begins. Your fertile days are just before the temperature spike, and for the three days following. Keep in mind that illness, lack of sleep, and alcohol or drug use can affect your temperature and make it difficult to establish an accurate reading. To increase your chance of conceiving, you should have sexual intercourse every day or every other day from the ninth day after the start of your menstrual period until three days after your BBT rises.

Cervical Mucus Observation

The cervical mucus method is also called the Billings Method and monitors the amount, appearance, and consistency of cervical mucus in order to anticipate ovulation.

The consistency of your cervical mucus changes during your menstrual cycle. In an average cycle, there are three to four dry days after a five-day menstrual flow. After the dry days, the mucus wetness increases daily, lasting approximately nine days until it becomes abundant, slippery, clear, and very stretchy, similar to egg whites. Ovulation occurs within two days of when your mucus becomes clearest, slippery, and most stretchy.

To monitor your cervical mucus, collect it from the vaginal opening every day with your (clean) fingers by wiping them from front to back, or examine the mucus that collects on your underwear. Record the consistency (thick, sticky, or stretchy), color (clear, white, yellow, cloudy), feel (dry, wet, sticky, slippery, stretchy), and amount of mucus daily on your calendar.

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