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Fertility Awareness: The Guide to Achieving or Avoiding Pregnancy

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

A photo of a man and a woman in bed for a blog about fertility; how to achieve and avoid pregnancy

As a young woman, I was never told anything about my fertility and how and when I could get pregnant. I was told about periods and how long they lasted. I was taught about using birth control regularly. I wasn’t aware that there was really only 3-5 days my body was capable of conceiving each month.

I know this is many women’s story. It wasn’t until I was trying to get pregnant on purpose (with our second baby) that I looked up anything about ovulation, fertility, and trying to conceive. Fast forward 11 years and with 9 years of midwifery practice under my belt, and it is a huge aspect of how Kelly and I counsel and care for women in their cycle health and knowledge.

Kelly and I learned how this information was lacking in our circles when we were student midwives. As new midwives, we became “that lady” women go to and ask their vagina, sex, or period questions. The knowledge of reproductive health doesn’t have to be a secret only professionals understand.

Understanding your cycle is more than just trying to achieve or avoid pregnancy though. A normal cycle is a marker for general health, and an abnormal cycle can point to a bigger issue going on in your body, something we like to call the "root cause". Learning how to pay attention to the signs of your cycle can both educate and empower you.

There is a roadmap of education and concepts that we like to cover with our clients, and we are sharing it with you today:

  1. Learning More About Your Menstrual Cycle

  2. Learning More About Your Reproductive Hormones

  3. How to Chart Your Cycle + Why You Should!

  4. Signs of Fertility + the Power of Using Them

  5. Understanding Fertility Amidst Irregular Cycles

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Learning More About Your Menstrual Cycle

There are 4 phases to your menstrual cycle. You likely know all about menstruation, and may have some understanding of ovulation, but what happens in between and why should you care? Most women do not know what is going on in their cycles each month, even though it is the most important aspect of working on your hormone imbalances.

One of our very first podcast episodes breaks this down in the most simple yet profound way. Learn how understanding where you are at in your cycle on any given day can foster self-awareness and self-compassion to care for your body as it changes throughout the month. Listen to Episode 10: Understanding Your Cycle.

Learning More About Your Reproductive Hormones

The trickiest and most complex of all fertility awareness is what your hormones are doing. They essential drive the reproductive system, and every other body system, to do what it does. Estrogen drives the phase leading up to ovulation and progesterone drives the phase leading up to menstruation. For women who are wondering if hormone imbalances are causing menstrual problems, the answer is usually "yes".

In Episode 27: Understanding Your Hormones we break down how the sexual and reproductive hormones interact with each other, how they influence each other and how women can honor and understand the natural rhythms, the signs and the symptoms of a healthy cycle.

How to Chart Your Cycle + Why You Should!

Once you have some knowledge about what your body is doing and why, you can begin to track what you’re experiencing each month. Tracking your cycle helps you see over time what days you’re fertile, when to expect your period, and often helps you get to the bottom of some pesky pms and period symptoms.

In Episode 39: Charting Your Cycle we go into all the ins and outs of what to track, methods of charting and how to fine tune your reporting skills when it comes to your menstrual cycle. To get started, you can decide if you want to chart on paper, a cycle app or use a fertility coach. You'll learn to chart the length of your cycle, the beginning and end of your period and the symptoms you have on which day, and your signs of ovulation. Some women don't understand the correlation between their cycle issues and food craving, acne breakouts, energy levels or mood swings until they see it in their cycle tracking.

Signs of Fertility + the Power of Using Them

Ovulations is queen! Most women track when their period starts, but knowing symptoms of ovulation give so much more info about women's health or dysfunction.Understanding that ovulation is the only time during the cycle that women can get pregnant, it’s helpful to know exactly when this is occurring each month. It can be tricky pinning down exactly what days the fertility window is open, which is usually only 3-5 in a month.

We share over half a dozen signs to know in Episode 43: Signs of Fertility so you can observe and keep track of when you’re ovulating each cycle. These objective signs include:

  • Cervical mucous- the texture and consistency, which is sticky, thick and resembles egg whites during the fertile window

  • Basal body temp- a temperature taken first thing in the morning, you'll notice rising just before and then falling during the fertile window

  • Cervical position- it's high, soft and open when you are fertile, as compared to other times in the cycle

Subjective (self-reported) signs of fertility:

  • Mood can change to more optimistic and creative

  • Emotions can feel more romantic or social

  • Sexual desire can increase

  • Energy levels often increase

Understanding Fertility Amidst Irregular Cycles

Irregular cycle are defined as an 8 day fluctuation from cycle to cycle, or less than 9 cycles in a year. If your cycles are normally consistent, the one “off” cycle is not a concern. The main causes of irregular cycles is an issue with delayed ovulation, usually because estrogen levels can not get high enough to release an egg. Some of the health issues that can be root causes of irregular cycles include:

  • Hormonal contraceptives, certain medications, PCOS, hypothalamic amenorrhea (famine-type stress that ceases normal hormone production), thyroid disease, IBS/Crohn's/Ulcerative Colitis, SIBO, and chronic infections.

Women who suspect one of the above issues is a part of their cycle irregularities have some options. We recommend:

Use this information as a piece in your natural family planning method of birth control (you can hear/learn about birth control options HERE). Or use this information to get pregnant- our personal favorite, can you blame us? Check out our recommendations page for additional support items to get you going in your fertility awareness journey.

If you're struggling to understand your own cycle and what all the tracking details mean, we've also created a course all about fixing your period that you can check out HERE!

Although we are licensed midwives by profession, we are not YOUR midwives. All content and information on this website is for informational and educational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice. Although we strive to provide accurate general information, the information presented here is not a substitute for any kind of professional advice. For more information, click here.

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