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When you think about getting pregnant and trying to conceive does it look a little something like this…
Be super nonchalant and carefree. Have sex a few random times in a month when you’re feeling fun and in the mood. Take a pregnancy test a few weeks later. And, voila, two pink lines. Excited, teary-eyed, and a little nervous you and your partner are overjoyed as you begin dreaming of your growing family.
While this was the case for me and most of my clients, this is not the case for many couples when trying to conceive. While there are a large number of reasons why folks struggle when trying to get pregnant, at the foundation for nearly everyone is that we were not ever taught how to actually GET pregnant - only how not to get pregnant.
That's where I come in! My name is Brandy Oswald and I am a fertility awareness educator, menstrual cycle expert, and founder of Sauvage Wellness. I teach women around the world how to get pregnant easily when they're ready by tracking their natural fertility signs, nourishing their menstrual cycles, and knowing when they can and can't get pregnant each month.
The truth is that it’s not always as easy as just having sex whenever we want, peeing on ovulation strips, using fertility apps and rings, or even tracking our temperature. Why? Because we can only get pregnant from intercourse on a maximum of 6 days of any given menstrual cycle, so getting those days right is crucial to pregnancy achievement. That window of time is called our fertile window.
The Fertile Window
The fertile window includes the 5 days leading up to ovulation and the 24 hours after ovulation. This is because sperm can live inside the menstruating human’s body for up to 5 days in optimal fertile cervical fluid. That means it can wait around after sex for up to 5 days in hopes of being there lingering when ovulation occurs. The egg once released during ovulation, however, is only viable for conception for 12 to 24 hours. Rarely we may release two eggs per cycle. They are always within the same fertile window and, in fact, within the same 24 to 48 hour span of time. This is the case with fraternal twins. This means that 5 day lifespan of sperm, plus a 24 hour lifespan of the egg, gives us a 6 day window during which pregnancy can take place. Before or after that window it is biologically impossible to get pregnant. (Source: Wilcox et al, 1995, Timing of Sexual Intercourse in Relation to Ovulation: Effects on the Probability of Conception. The New England Journal of Medicine, 333:1517-1521)
Ovulation strips, temperature tracking, and fertility apps and devices attempt to help us locate our fertile windows in any given cycle. However, they can be inaccurate at doing so for a variety of reasons. Let’s take a look…
Ovulation strips test for luteinizing hormone, or LH, which spikes just before ovulation. Using only ovulation test strips to determine one’s fertile window isn’t always accurate because we can get multiple elevated LH readings in one menstrual cycle This means that someone might concentrate pregnancy achievement attempts with a earlier rise in LH and discontinue using the test strips for the remainder of the cycle only to have a larger LH spike that actually correlates with ovulation later in the cycle. This would mean their previous pregnancy achievement attempts were too early and too far away from ovulation. Another tricky thing with ovulation strips is that we have to have sex ASAP once we start getting elevated readings which can catch us off guard and leave us rushing to *cough* get it in if we’re not prepared.
Tracking basal body temperature, or our temperature first thing in the morning after waking up, has become a very popular strategy for determining one’s fertile window. However, when used on its own, temperature tracking might be the most useless tool for trying to conceive. Why? Because temperature spikes AFTER we have already ovulated and as we discussed above most of our fertile window is BEFORE we’ve ovulated. By the time we register a temperature rise in the cycle we’re very likely too far past ovulation for conception to occur. Temperature tracking is used to determine the close of the fertile window, which is not helpful if we’re trying to have sex and conceive during the fertile window. In addition, any thermometers or temperature tracking apps that determine the opening of one’s fertile window are doing so using past cycle data, not real-time temperature tracking. This means that they are *guessing* when you will be fertile in the current cycle based on when you were fertile in previous cycles. This isn’t very accurate because we’re not robots and we don’t always ovulate at the same time in every cycle. Simple things like illness, travel, and stress can all change when we ovulate any given month.
Cycle Tracking Apps & Fertility Devices
Cycle tracking apps and fertility devices have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years for folks who are trying to conceive. While they can be better than just blindly trying to conceive, they too have similar faults to temperature-only tracking. Nearly all of these apps and devices attempt to determine the opening of one’s fertile window using past cycle data, which as we know is a flawed way to do so. While they allow you to enter and save data other than just temperature, they rarely use that information when determining the opening and closing of the fertile window. In essence, they’re really just fancy notebooks filled with our cycle data, which brings me to my next qualm with these devices - privacy. Many of these apps and devices have come under fire in recent years for their poor protection of our intimate health data. If you wouldn’t want your medical charts from your doctor’s office floating around the internet, you shouldn’t want your detailed menstrual cycle and fertility health data doing so either.
By now you might be wondering - What the heck are we supposed to do then to help us when trying to conceive naturally?
That’s where fertility awareness methods come in.
What are fertility awareness methods?
Fertility awareness methods, or FAMs, are 100% natural, specialized cycle tracking methods of pregnancy achievement that work by observing our naturally occurring fertility signs and symptoms - signs and symptoms that tell us about where we are in our menstrual cycles and whether or not we can get pregnant on any given day.
There are a variety of fertility awareness methods to choose from. As a professional fertility awareness and menstrual cycle educator, I use and teach the symptothermal double check method.
What is the symptothermal double check method?
The symptothermal double check method of fertility awareness requires users to track BOTH daily cervical fluid secretions and daily morning temperature, as well as optional cervix tracking and more. This is so effective because cervical fluid secretions and changes in cervix position and texture can *actually* tell us that our body is trying to ovulate BEFORE it happens, which means they can help us accurately open our fertile windows.
Cervical fluid is simply what you see and feel in your undies and on toilet paper when going to the bathroom and moving throughout your day. Depending on what that fluid looks like it tells us whether we’re about to ovulate, nearing our periods, or somewhere in between. Rising estrogen levels as the body gears up for ovulation leads to the creation of very specific and noticeable changes in cervical fluid, what we call “fertile-type” fluids. Because cervical fluid can tell us when our bodies are gearing up for ovulation we can use that information to prioritize intercourse on those fertile days leading up to ovulation.
How does the symptothermal double check method know exactly when the fertile window is?
There are 4 specific rules that must be applied when using the symptothermal double check method to open and close the fertile window - two rules to open and two rules to close. The rules to open the fertile window are based on real-time cervical fluid observances and cycle length. The rules to close the fertile window are based on real-time cervical fluid observances and daily temperature tracking. I teach my clients how to use all four of these rules in my Cycle Wisdom Course.
But, does it really work?
My son is living proof that it does! When my husband and I were trying to conceive I got pregnant on the very first try using this method. What’s even better is that the symptothermal double check method also allows us to see where potential hormonal imbalances might exist in our cycles so that we can spot them and get the support we need so that they do not hinder our fertility.
Several years prior to trying to conceive I noticed a concerning shift in my cervical fluid production and temperature readings that pointed towards having too much estrogen and not enough progesterone which could have absolutely kept me from getting pregnant had I not spotted it and made changes to my diet and lifestyle before trying to conceive.
And it’s not just me, so many of my clients have also gotten pregnant quickly and easily using this method - some even after years of trying! See for yourself…
Okay, I NEED to learn more about this!
You’re not alone! That’s why I created this *Free* 5 Day Cycle Tracking Mini-Course. If you choose to join me, over the next 5 days I’ll teach you…
Exactly how hormonal birth control changes your brain and the surprising ways the pill, patch, shot, ring, and IUDs impact our bodies and our fertility
Why cycle tracking apps, rings, the Apple watch, and even devices like Natural Cycles are not the most effective when trying to conceive
How to get started cycle tracking the right way using cervical fluid and basal body temperature
How to use the cycle tracking to get pregnant naturally and to, wait for it, have better periods