At Quantified Self (QS), people share data about themselves that they’ve measured to improve their lives. My favorite posts are about coffee and productivity, a change in body image, and tracking symptoms of myasthenia gravis and heart disease. The mission of QS is “to support new discoveries about ourselves and our communities that are grounded in accurate observation and enlivened by a spirit of friendship.” The QS community is full of citizen-scientists, who have power over their bodies and minds because they’re attuned to them.
Everyone wants data, and people are measuring it to gain insight and live better. QS is just one example of folks taking charge of their own health by being informed and self-observant. Healthy living websites, food diary apps, and exercise trackers are all the rage. Quickie example: the most popular alarm clock is a smartphone with one of the sleep cycle apps.
If you use non-hormonal birth control (condom, diaphragm, sponge, cap, withdrawal, certain IUDs), I challenge you to do the same with your fertility. Try out all this “fertility awareness” stuff risk-free, without putting aside your current method. You can only gain from the self-knowledge you’ll acquire, and it’s not hard.
Let’s not add anything to your busy day and let’s keep the observation simple. (All the “rules” and “signs” and lingo and charts are actually a pet peeve of mine.) Pick one of the following data sets to collect.
Easy Data Set One: Sensations
Ladies: have you ever noticed a particularly slippery feeling as you walk around or as you wipe when using the toilet? That’s mucus produced by the cervix and that has descended to the vulva (the skin around the opening of the vagina), and it’s a great indicator of fertility. Ask yourself: did I feel or see slippery or clear mucus today? Did I note any of those secretions yesterday? If you answer “no” to both, you are probably infertile. If you answer “yes” to one or both questions, you are probably fertile. Asking yourself these two questions at the end of every day about this mucus, you’re using (immediately, for free, and with no extra or gross work) the TwoDay method, which is as effective as condoms in ideal and typical use for avoiding pregnancy (not for preventing STIs).
Cervical mucus normally appears five to seven days before ovulation and increases in slipperiness, stretchiness, and wetness to a high point very close to ovulation. After ovulation, cervical mucus usually decreases in quantity and becomes less like egg white and more like glue (thicker and more opaque).
Easy Data Set Two: Temperature
Do you have a thermometer at home? If you take your temperature every morning at the same time, before you get out of bed, you can watch your body ovulate. You don’t have to write things down, but if you chart it on graph paper, your body’s hormonal clock will jump out at you. Before ovulation, your waking temperatures are lower than they will be after ovulation.
A basal body thermometer is best, since it is accurate within 0.1 of a degree; but if all you have is a regular thermometer, don’t let that stop you! Typical thermometers are accurate to within 0.2 of a degree, so you’ll probably still observe your shifts.
What have you got to lose?
Self observation can only add to your freedom to act and your quality of life (like those QS contributors who have quit coffee, worked on their body image, and kept track of their health). The time for New Year’s resolutions is approaching, and this would be an awesome one. Keeping track of sensations during the day or your temperature every morning is an easy way to go about it. You only live once!
Accepting the challenge? Questions about collecting your data? General opinions? Let us know!