Determining the most fertile days of a woman can sometimes be overlooked because it entails time, effort and consistency of constant monitoring of the woman’s cycle every month. This is specifically hard for women who have irregular menstrual cycles.
Nevertheless, the basics of knowing a woman’s fertile period is to simply determine the menstrual days in every cycle. From thereon, one can count the days of ovulation or the fertile period. Normally a woman’s cycle in a month starts from the 1st day of the menstrual period (the everlasting red days!) to the 1st day of the next menstrual cycle. That is an average of 28 to 32 days for some. Counting from the 1st menstrual period some women can ovulate between the 11th to the 21st day of the menstrual cycle. This can be considered as the fertility window of the woman. This tracking method should not only be done once but should be done for a few months for one to know the average days of menstruation and ovulation. If you plot this in a calendar, you are actually doing the calendar method of determining fertility.
Another method is the basal body temperature test. Here we are going to explain in detail how this should be done. Monitoring the basal body temperature started with Theodore Hendrik van de Velde in 1906. He noticed that there are certain temperature changes in women during menstruation. On the first day of the last bleeding until ovulation (follicular phase), basal body temperature (BBT) is in the lowest range (97-98 deg F). Approximately a day before ovulation BBT reaches the lowest temperature known as, nadip or dip.
Once progesterone is secreted (after ovulation), the BBT rises to 0.5 -1.0 deg F and peaks throughout the luteal phase (12-16 days from the day of ovulation) At the end of the luteal phase BBT returns to lower range within 1-2 days or at the start of the next bleeding. This should be monitored by the woman for a few months to establish her estimated days of ovulation. Some literature specify that fertility window happens a few days before and after ovulation because any days in those range a sperm can survive awaiting the release of egg within the period of ovulation. Even if an egg cell can only survive for 12-24 hours, the sperm can survive for about 5 days in the female body, enough time to wait for the release of an egg cell.
In addition to the first two methods, a woman can determine fertility by using the cervical mucus method (or Billings Ovulation Method). The cervical mucus of the woman changes in texture, color and amount throughout the menstrual cycle. The characteristic of mucus is noted on the chart for a few months in order to determine the estimated days of ovulation. As ovulation of the woman approaches and estrogen increases, the cervix secretes a waterier mucus thus, any mesh-like structure of the mucus that can probably prohibit the sperm from entering the cervix and uterus will loosen creating a good environment for sperm to travel to the cervical opening.
The increased watery discharges resemble an egg white during this period. Also, this kind of cervical secretion nourishes the sperm and protects them from the natural acidity of the vaginal environment. However, during dry days (or when you are not fertile), mucus may not be visible, or it may be thick, opaque white or cream colored. A woman can observe this when she wipes herself with a toilet paper or when it is leaving some marks on the underwear. She can also do a finger test by stretching the mucus between her clean thumb and index finger.
However, take note that a cervical mucus should not be foul smelling because if so, then it requires further evaluation by the doctor. In some sources if there is odor at all, cervical mucus during fertile days has a slight sweet smell because of its acidity. During the less fertile days, it is vinegary in odor. If the last two methods (basal body temperature and cervical mucus test) are combined, determining the fertile days of the woman might probably more efficient in contrast to doing either of the two alone. This is particularly known as the symptothermal method.
There are also over the counter kits to determine the fertility days. For women who have an irregular menstrual cycle, having this might probably be a relief. These devices measure the luteinizing hormone present in the urine. Luteinizing hormone which is secreted in the anterior pituitary glands triggers ovulation and development of the corpus luteum, a part in the ovary that secretes progesterone after an ovum is released. In addition to the over the counter, there are also downloadable apps that can track down the fertile days of the woman, although these apps can probably more appropriate to women who have regular menstrual cycles.
Although determining the fertile days is a sole responsibility of a woman, but within couples it should entail the participation of the significant other. It needs dedication, consistency and effort because this is not only done once, but should be observed for several menstrual cycles. Besides, having this teamwork set-up not only gives out expected results with regards to pregnancy but it develops the body between the couple.
Author: Sarah Catina RN