About 3 months into year two of marriage we went on a spiritual retreat with the faith based ministry were were newly on staff with. It was a difficult time for both of us, and sex would have been a good way to connect. But we forgot the condoms. And none of the other married couples had any. And we couldn’t drive anywhere to get any. It really sucked. A couple other wives told me about what they do, one with many many health problems, and one normal and healthy. They both used a method called Fertility Awareness. Not the rhythm method or the calendar method, fertility awareness tells you what your body is doing right now, today, no matter how long or short your cycle is.
Sadly I did not convince my husband that condom free sex that night would be fine, but it did start me on a journey for information. They pointed me to a book called Your Fertility Signals: Using Them to Achieve or Avoid Pregnancy Naturally, by Merryl Winstein.
When we got home from the retreat I bought the book. It was old, and kind of hokey with the illustrations, but I could tell it had good information. I learned that when a woman ovulates, there are physical changes you can pay attention to in order to avoid having sex on what is called a fertile day.
When a woman ovulates, at whatever time in her cycle her body is ready, usually 2 weeks before her next period, there will be an increase in vaginal discharge, specifically cervical mucus. Cervical mucus is the bodies way of insuring egg and sperm meet. It provides channels to speed up the sperm on their journey towards the egg, and helps the egg make it safely to the uterus for implantation. It also keeps sperm alive longer, providing a hospitable atmosphere for them to wait for an egg to be released.
Most women will be able to see cervical mucus for about 4 days in a cycle. If you did not see mucus you probably did not ovulate.
To avoid or achieve a pregnancy, you will check vaginally every time you use the toilet, looking for cervical mucus, or CM. CM is like egg whites, (abbreviated EWCM), clear or whitish, and stretchy, up to an inch of stretch between your fingers. Vaginal discharge is wet, or sticky, and will not stretch.
Here is the basic idea, read on knowing that I am not a medical professional. I suggest you do your own research and/or talk to your doctor before starting this or any other health related plan. Also the book I mentioned and others like it explain the how to do this in much greater detail. This is to give you an idea and encourage you to look for yourself more in depth.
To avoid pregnancy:
Beginning on the first day your period ends, until you have your next period, you will check for CM before and after every time to the toilet (with clean hands). If you have no egg white cervical mucus, you may have sex that night! But not the next day as sex will change the liquids in your lady parts, and sperm can look very similar to EWCM (egg white cervical mucus). When you start seeing EWCM when you wipe, you stop having sex at night (and any other time), and for four days after you last see any CM. You wait 4 days because absence of EWCM does not mean the egg is gone. There is still a potential for pregnancy in this window of time. Once the four days have passed, have as much sex as you want whenever you want, but keep looking for signals until your next period starts.
To get knocked up:
Check your cervical mucus daily, as if above. When you start seeing EWCM, have lots of sex! Your body is telling you there is an egg available, provide some sperm. Have lots of sex in the days after you see EWCM also.
It took me a few months of tracking to feel comfortable enough...and my husband! This is not a one woman show, both partners need to be comfortable with the method, and communication is vital! We stopped using condoms as a back up, and only used the fertility awareness method. We successfully did not get pregnant for about a year the first time around, and for over 18 months after the birth of our daughter. When trying to get pregnant it took us about 9 months the first time and 6 months round 2. When we really want sex on fertile days, we use a condom if we are preventing pregnancy, knowing that if it fails there is a high likelihood of a baby.
This is not for everyone, but I greatly enjoy knowing I am not putting hormones into my body, and if a baby is conceived it has a chance to live and grow. It is also free, requires no supplies, and available whether you have insurance or not. If you have very long or short cycles, you will be able to find out when you are ovulating, and act accordingly. If you have no cycle, you can start tracking to see if you are ovulating (like while nursing a baby).
The book Your Fertility Signals: Using Them to Achieve or Avoid Pregnancy Naturally also teaches you how to temp daily to track exactly when you ovulated. I choose not to do this because I am lazy. Plus you will only know looking back which day you ovulated, and you would still be tracking your bodies signals on a daily basis to know when your fertile days are. The book includes charts to track mucus and temperature. It is available used from several sources.
Here are some resources for more information:
FAQ’s and more information: http://www.fertaware.com/awareness.html
Fertility Awareness Counselor(I have not personally used) http://www.hannahshopefertility.com/
There are also many apps to track your cycle, I use “My Days X” for android, it was free.
For my family, this is what works, and what my husband and I are both very comfortable with. Do your research, decide if this is something you want to do for you, and know that you have to keep track all the time or you can get pregnant. If you forget a few days of tracking, use a barrier method or know you risk pregnancy.
Codi is a mom of almost 2 from Southern California. She spends her days getting ready for baby #2 and giving her daughter those last only child days. If you'd like to connect with Codi or ask her questions, please comment!