The Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) involves the charting of women’s cycle based on information gathered on a daily basis. This information includes vaginal sensation, cervical fluid, cervix changes, and the basal body temperature.
Using this information the woman has gathered can help her then to prevent pregnancy or to become pregnant. Additionally, a woman can look for patterns in her cycle, determine whether she is ovulating or not, determine if her hormone levels are in check, see how different lifestyle elements affect her cycle (dietary/sleep patterns, exercise, etc.), and if her thyroid is healthy.
Collecting the data needed for charting the cycle:
This information collecting begins with the first day of the new cycle (the first day of menstruation is day one) and continues daily throughout the cycle. The day of the cycle is also recorded (Day 1,2,3,etc.), as are the start date of the cycle, the number of days in this cycle, and the number of days in the luteal phase. The three main fertility signals recorded daily are the basal body temperature, cervix changes, and cervical fluid/vaginal sensation, all of which are described below in further detail.
The first act is taking the woman’s basal body temperature (BBT). This temperature is taken under her tongue or under her arm with a digital thermometer that reads to the tenth digit. The important notes for this are to attempt the take the temperature at the same time everyday, to make a note on the chart if the time is different than usual (at 8am rather than 6am), and to take the temperature before anything else is done.
Checking the cervix involves monitoring its the cervix’s location and its texture. It is also best to do this at a consistent time of day, best time is first thing in the morning. The way in which this is done is the woman inserts her middle finger into the vaginal canal until she feels the cervix. The differentiations she is feeling for include texture (Does it feel like the tip of the tongue or the nose?), the cervix location (Is it high, low, or midway?), and the os’s opening (Is it open, partially open, or closed?) (1). The cervix’s texture is marked as Firm, Medium, or Soft (F,M, or S) the os’s opening is depicted by the openness of a circle, and the cervix’s location is denoted by the placement of that same circle in the box (high, midway, or low).
The vaginal sensation is the cervical fluid at the labia. Cervical fluid is gathered three times a day before urinating by inserting a finger slightly into the vagina. The fluid gathered is looked at for its consistency (put in between two fingers is the simplest way to assess it) and color. The differentiations are tacky/sticky, creamy/lotiony, and egg white. The wettest sample of the day is recorded, as are notes regarding the flow and color during menstruation. Vaginal sensation is recorded daily as simply W for wet and D for dry (this can be more specific if desired).
From this information it is possible to know many things about a woman’s cycle. It is possible to determine when she is ovulating, when she is fertile, and when she is not. Generally Katie Singer author of the book Garden of Fertility states that when cervical fluid is present, the woman is fertile, unless it is after ovulation and the fluid is dryer than the Peak Day fluid. In her book she states that the Peak Day on the chart is the “last day of moist vaginal sensation or wet mucus, and it signals that ovulation is about to take place.” When charting the peak day is noted with a P, and then four days after are noted with the idea that the woman is infertile after that fourth day.
That fourth day though is not the only gauge determining fertility. The basal body temperature (BBT) determines if ovulation has occurred by looking for a rise in temperature two tenths a degree higher. Once this is seen, including that last low temperature before the rise, count six temperatures back. Mark a line across the chart above one-tenth a degree higher the highest of the six (so if in the six 98.6 is the highest temperature the line would be across 98.7). This is called the cover line and it is meant to separate the follicular and luteal phases of a woman’s cycle. The first three consecutive temperatures above the cover line signal ovulation, and together with the peak day can confirm ovulation, and that the woman is infertile for the rest of her cycle.
The cervix changes usually are not necessary to confirm when the woman is fertile and when she is infertile, but for more complicated cycles, the information can be really helpful. When the cervix is high, soft, and the os is open, the woman is fertile, and when the cervix is low, firm, and the os is closed, the woman is not fertile (1). Blank charts and more information can be found from Toni Weschler’s site www.tcoyf.com and this site will also calculate fertility for you through a computer application,