The beginning stages of trying to conceive (TTC) can be so confusing. With an overload of information online, it can seem difficult, complicated, and extremely lonely.
At times, you may feel overwhelmed with lots of questions going through your head, such as: what supplements should I be taking? What foods shall I cut out? And, most importantly, when shall I have sex?
In this post, we are going to discuss when in your cycle you are most fertile, and how you can identify those key days!
The best time to have sex to get pregnant
The NHS website states that to increase your chances of getting pregnant you should “have sex every 2-3 days without using contraception”. Whilst this may work for some, for others, it is exhausting (both physically and mentally).
Menstruating people are typically only fertile between 2-6 days per cycle. These days include the day of ovulation and 5 days before. And within this window, there are certain days you will be extremely fertile!
But how do I track my fertile days?
This is where Natural Family Planning (NFP) comes in! With NFP, you learn to apply methods for planning or preventing pregnancies by observing biological signs/symptoms throughout your menstrual cycle. By charting these signs, you will know when to avoid or have sex, depending on your family planning goals.
The 3 biological signs
By observing and charting these signs, you will be collecting real time data from your body, and you will know when to have or abstain from having sex.
Basal Body Temperature (BBT)
The first sign is the Basal Body Temperature (BBT), the temperature of the body at rest. Throughout your cycle, hormonal changes affect the BBT and it rises slightly after ovulation has occurred.
To obtain the BBT, you must:
- Record your temperature every day in the morning before beginning ANY activity (this includes getting out of bed)
- The temperature can be taken orally, rectally or vaginally, but MUST be taken in the same body location throughout your cycle
- The same thermometer must be used every day
When charting this sign, I recommend using a digital thermometer with 1 decimal place. This makes the temperature reading totally objective, and makes plotting the chart that much easier.
Collecting and plotting your BBT data on a chart is truly beautiful because you end up with a clear visual representation of when ovulation occurs during every cycle. (add Manpreets example)
In the past, you may have noticed your cervical fluid changing throughout your cycle. It is such a useful sign, and really tells us so much about what is going on inside our bodies. However, many are unaware of what exactly to look for, and what the changes could mean.
Cervical fluid is secreted by the lining of the cervix. It’s a whitish or clear alkaline discharge and acts as a clear indicator of the onset of fertility. Unlike BBT, observing your cervical fluid is subjective and based on physically feeling it (at your vulva) or seeing it (in your underwear).
Fertile & infertile fluid:
During your infertile phases, you may feel a dry sensation or see a thick, tacky opaque liquid in small quantities. This fluid is acidic and sperm do not survive very long in it. It is not very stretchy, which reduces the likelihood that sperm will be able to travel up the cervix and in to the womb.
In comparison, during your fertile phases, you may feel a slippery sensation and see a stretchy, smooth liquid. This fluid is alkaline, meaning sperm can survive up to 5 days in it (as opposed to 3 hours in the air). It is also very stretchy and great and transporting sperm through the cervix and into the womb.
This is the third and final sign, and is optional to observe. In my experience, many people feel too embarrassed or shy to chart this sign. If that’s you, please do not feel pressured to do so. Do whatever you feel comfortable with. And even if you choose not to track this sign, I do believe it is important to understand it.
During each cycle, the cervix prepares itself for a pregnancy by moving into an ideal state through which the sperm can easily and efficiently pass through to find the egg. When the cervix is in this “optimal” position, it is soft, open and higher than usual, so it is closer to the uterus.
After ovulation, the cervix will revert back to it’s “infertile” state by becoming low, firm and closed. This means that the likelihood of sperm passing through to the uterus is significantly lower.
How to observe your cervical positioning:
I would advise to start once menstruation is over because at this point, the cervix lies lower down in the vagina and is easier to feel.
Choose a time later on in the day if possible (the cervix lies higher early in the morning) when your bladder and bowels are empty, ensure your hands are washed and use your index finger to feel your cervix.
There a different positions you can assume, so take time to figure out which works best for your body. Whichever position you decide should be the same position used throughout your cycle: consistency is KEY!
Positions to try:
- Standing with a foot on a stool or chair
- Squatting low down
As I said before, some people shudder at the thought of examining the cervix, whilst others are very willing. Whichever you decide is absolutely fine. And please remember, if you do choose to observe this sign, it can take around three months to become confident in identifying your cervical changes.
NFP is more than just tracking your fertility
I’m sure you will agree when I say, the human body is beautiful. It is in constant communication with us through its unique language. Our body is always telling us what is it going through; we just need to listen a bit harder! And using NFP is one way we can do this. It can really strengthen your relationship with your body, help you identify fertile/infertile phases, and even spot potential fertility concerns very early on.
And to think, the most memorable thing we are taught about our cycle is whether to opt for tampons or pads.
This post is written for The Positive Birth Company by Health Coach and Natural Family Planning Teacher, Juspreet Kaur, guides you through how to identify when you’re most fertile…