Understanding your fertility is a very personal process. Cycle tracking can be used for a variety of reasons. Whether you are tracking your cycle for hormone health, as a form of birth control or for timing conception, understanding your monthly rhythms will help you achieve those goals.
What is Cycle Tracking
Cycle tracking is a process that allows you to track your menstrual cycles, fertile window, ovulation, periods and hormone health. Cycle tracking goes beyond just looking at your period. Keeping a close look at your monthly cycles helps you identify your follicular phase, ovulation and luteal phase. This tracking process is referred to as fertility awareness method, also known as FAM.
Fertility Awareness Methods
Rather than relying on an arbitrary 28 day cycle, utilizing FAM will help you better understand your cyclical phases and cycle length. As discussed in my previous post, there is no such thing as a standard 28 day cycle because a normal cycle can vary anywhere from 24 to 35 days. The Fertility Awareness Method relies on reading your body's cues to identify the phases of your cycle. So, understanding your individual cycles will help you establish what a normal average is for you, and don't be surprised if it isn't 28 days.
Phases of your Monthly Cycle
Your monthly cycle is marked by two phases. The first phase of your cycle is the follicular phase and the second is the luteal phase. The start of the follicular phase is marked by the beginning of your period. The transition of follicular to luteal phase is marked by ovulation. See below to learn more about what happens during each phase.
Can last 10-23 days
On average 15 days long
Starts with 1st day of your period
Rise of Estrogen begings
Presence of Cervical Mucus
Follicles grow and mature
Peak of Estrogen reached
Just before ovulation, LH (lutenizing hormone) and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) spike
Mature follicle ruptures and egg (ovum) is released
Ovulation may trigger mild pain/cramps
Occurs between cycle days 10 to 23
On average occurs between cycle days 14 to 18
After ovulation, increased basal body temperature (BBT)
Can last 10 to 16 days
Average 11 to 14 days long
Starts after ovulation
Rise of Progesterone
2nd half of luteal phase, both estrogen & progesterone begin to drop
Signs of premenstrual symptoms can begin
Fertility Awareness Method for Conception
What is the Fertility Awareness Method
Through the use of cycle tracking and FAM, you gain a closer understanding of your fertile window. It is important to note that your fertile window is the only time when you are able to conceive and become pregnant. At other points of your monthly cycle, you are not fertile and therefore cannot conceive. Utilizing FAM to track your body’s signals of hormonal shifts, will allow you to recognize as you move from the follicular phase, through ovulation and the luteal phase. Intimately knowing your monthly cycles will allow you to recognize your fertile window so that you can gain more agency over your reproductive health.
How does the Fertility Awareness Method Work
During your follicular phase, estrogen is on the rise. This estrogen release is also triggered by maturing follicles in your ovaries. The days leading up to ovulation are your fertile days. During this time, estrogen reaches its peak which stimulates the cervix to release cervical mucus. Cervical mucus is experienced as a vaginal discharge that can vary from white, cloudy or clear stretchy or watery discharge. This cervical mucus indicates your fertile days. If your goal is to conceive, this is when you want to time intercourse with your partner or self administered IUI (intrauterine insemination). On the other hand, if you are using FAM as a natural method of birth control and pregnancy prevention, then this is the time to avoid sex.
Once ovulation occurs, your cervical mucus production stops. About 3 to 4 days after ovulation, your progesterone is on the rise to ready your uterine lining for implantation. This post-ovulatory progesterone rise also increases your basal body temperature by about one degree. This rise in your basal body temperature is a confirmation that ovulation did indeed occur. This stage marks the beginning of your luteal phase, the latter half of your menstrual cycle. Progesterone is on the rise to prep your uterus for implantation of a fertilized egg. If the egg was not fertilized, progesterone begins to decline again about 7 to 9 days before the end of your current cycle. With your next period, a new cycle begins.
Markers of FAM:
Basal Body Temperature
To learn more about using nutrition to improve your hormone health and fertility, contact Aida Sadeghi, MS, CNS owner of FeelGoodEats Nutrition. Schedule a free consultation call with FeelGoodEats Nutrition. Together we will design a meal guide that works for you and your unique lifestyle while providing everything you and your baby will need over the next several months.