Understanding Your Cycle
A recent survey revealed that only 27.5 percent of Ivy League students were able to correctly identify when a woman is most fertile during her menstrual cycle. This page can help change that.
Find out in this section:
- What happens during your cycle.
- How ovulation is an important function of your body and the risks associated with suppressing it.
- What does it mean to chart your cycle?
- The signs that show when you’re fertile.
If you’re like most women, your monthly cycle is not “average.” Only 5 to 10 percent of us have an “average” and “regular” 28-day cycle.
Whatever the length of a given cycle, which starts the first day of your period, it is composed of several distinct phases. These phases are regulated by hormones, triggered by your brain. The cycles are all related to the most important phase: ovulation.
When you ovulate, an egg is released by your ovaries. It’s only when an egg is present that you can get pregnant. If the egg is not fertilized by sperm, it will only live 12-24 hours. Since sperm can live up to 5 days, intercourse within 5 days of ovulation may result in a pregnancy. That’s why it’s important to know when ovulation is approaching and when it actually occurs.
These days are clearly signaled a few different ways by your body. Once you learn to recognize these signs, you can know with certainty any day whether you could get pregnant or not.
Read why ovulation matters below or see how you can know exactly when you’re fertile by reading the clear signs of your body.
Why ovulation matters
Many birth control methods work mainly by blocking ovulation through the use of synthetic hormones. These methods include:
- The Pill
- Vaginal rings (Nuvaring®)
- The skin patch
- Shots (Depo-Provera®)
- Hormonal IUD (Mirena®)
Your ovulation is a healthy and normal process, not an illness to be cured or suppressed with drugs. The effects on your body of blocking ovulation go far beyond just preventing pregnancy. Studies show how it impacts you and your relationships:
- You have a natural intuition for good genetic matches for you. The Pill can rob you of that ability, as one study shows. A good genetic match for you is someone who has a different genetic make up from yours or that of your family members. In fact, when you’re pregnant, your body produces an hormone that makes you feel closer to your family. Since hormonal contraceptives like the Pill make your body think you’re pregnant, you’re more attracted to men who have a similar genetic make up to yours—men who are not a good match for you. It’s a bad love potion: the guy you fall for while taking the Pill might not be the guy you fall for when your body is functioning naturally. If you fall for a guy while you’re on the Pill, you might suddenly find him a lot less attractive when you quit taking the pill. Awkward.
- Women on birth control give up the invisible power of their natural pheromones to attract men. One research study showed that men find even supermodels on hormonal contraceptives such as the Pill less attractive than average women who are naturally ovulating. In fact, a woman’s physical attractiveness actually increases at the time of ovulation. Another study showed that women who were ovulating even earned much higher tips at their jobs than those who weren’t (just saying). This video documents this interesting phenomenon.
The good news is that blocking ovulation isn’t necessary to avoid pregnancy when you know how to read your body’s clear signs of fertility.
What is charting?
Charting is the basic tool of fertility awareness methods. Each day, you make a note of your body’s signs, so that you can see the patterns. Charting will allow you to make accurate predictions about your approaching ovulation and let you know exactly when you’re past the fertile time in your cycle.
Your chart is also a valuable tool for a doctor trained in NaPro Technology to precisely diagnose and treat reproductive health problems. Charts for the various methods are similar but adapted to each particular method. Charts can be kept on paper or online, and many excellent phone apps for charting are now available.
When are you fertile?
With training, you can learn to accurately read and chart the signs of your body. Your knowledge will give you as much control over whether you get pregnant or not as most contraceptive methods. The rate of success in avoiding pregnancy is 99.5 percent, higher than real women get using the Pill.
To learn how to chart these natural biomarkers of fertility to the point where you can avoid pregnancy at better typical effectiveness rates than the Pill, your next steps are to choose an evidence-based Fertility Awareness Based Method, and become trained by a certified instructor. Click here to learn more about getting started.
Nuvaring® is a registered trademark of Merck & Co., Inc. Mirena® is registered trademark of Bayer, Depo-Provera® is a registered trademark of Pfizer, Inc.