Interpreting Your Fertility Signs

[Are you just starting here? If so, you should stop and really start here and read those two posts first. It will be better that way. Trust me.]

You guys, we are almost ready to start charting. I know I promised you last time that charting was next, but I really thought this might be easier to digest if I divided it in half.

So, today we'll talk about how to interpret and read your fertility signs, and next time we'll talk about charting. I promise.

As I've mentioned before, pinpointing your fertile/non-fertile days rely on three primary fertility signs: your waking temperature, cervical fluid, and cervical position. Paying attention to these signals will help you understand when you can and cannot get pregnant.

Let's dive into them one at a time and take a look at how each sign changes over the course of your cycle.


You will need a thermometer (kind of obvious, but you know...I thought I'd mention it anyway), which you can get at almost any grocery store or pharmacy. Most people have a thermometer hanging around, but check to make sure it's not just a fever thermometer. Fever thermometers usually go up and down in one degree increments (99, 100, 101, etc), and you'll want something more sensitive than that. Find a thermometer that goes up in tenths of a degree (98.1, 98.2, 98.3, etc) and you should be fine. You may have luck searching for a basal body thermometer.

Here are some guidelines to follow when taking your temperature:
  1. Take your temperature orally.
  2. Always take your temperature first thing upon waking, before you get out of bed. Don't get up, brush your teeth, shower, or eat breakfast.
  3. Get plenty of rest. Your temperature can be affected by less than three consecutive hours of sleep before taking a reading.
  4. Try to take your temperature around the same time each morning (within an hour or so).
That's really it--the biggest part is starting the habit of doing it. I'm not going to lie, it's become an addicting thing for me--I couldn't wait to see my temperature shift and know that I ovulated. Granted, I'm kind of a dork about it, but still. It's exciting.

You'll record these temperatures daily on the chart, which we'll go over next time.  Eventually, you should be able to see something similar to this pattern:
  • First half of your cycle until ovulation (Follicular Phase): range of low temperatures
  • Ovulation: temperature jumps 3/10 - ½ a degree usually the day after ovulation
  • Second half of your cycle until menstruation (Luteal Phase): range of elevated temperatures
  • First day of your period (Start of next cycle): temperature drops; period arrives
That's really all there is to it for your temperature until we get into recording your temperatures next time. See? Easy peasy! 


This is probably the part where most women may get squeamish, because I am going to tell you to check your cervical fluid every day, and preferably several times a day. 

I know, I know--it's weird, you may think it sounds gross, you've never had to do that before, etc etc. Let me just say this: once you realize that your body is not just creating weird fluids seemingly at random and you begin to see a clear pattern emerge, you will be blown away at how amazing your body is. You'll wonder why you never noticed it before, because the patterns will seem so clear to you in retrospect. If you can, I encourage you to work through any squeamishness you feel, and realize that your body is perfectly normal, healthy, and in all honesty, MIRACULOUS. 

With all of that in mind, let's move forward!

You can start checking for cervical fluid the day after your period ends. So, how do you actually check your cervical fluid? You can do it two ways: pay attention to the toilet paper when you wipe, or use your finger to check your cervical fluid. The latter is far more accurate and not as weird as you might think. Before you use the restroom, wipe or touch the vaginal opening and check for fluid. You'll be looking for four different types of sensations:
  • Dry: your vagina will always be slightly wet, but if there's no fluid you can see on your finger and it seems thin, this qualifies as dry. Wave your finger for a minute, and if the moisture easily dissipates, it's considered as dry.
  • Creamy: think lotiony. There's no stickiness to it, but it's more wet than a dry day.
  • Sticky: this can be gummy, rubbery, pasty, etc. 
  • Stretchy (egg white): as soon as you see this type of fluid, you'll know why it's called egg white. It's the easiest to recognize because, well, it looks like egg white--it's stretchy and clear. It's also the most important cervical fluid because it can indicate that your body is about to ovulate.
Once you start checking and recording your cervical fluid, you'll be amazed at how much information about your body is right at your fingertips. 

(See what I did there? So clever.) 

I know it's hard to talk about because we just don't talk about things like this, but take a leap of faith and try it. 

Your pattern of cervical fluid throughout your cycle typically looks like this:
  • First half of your cycle until ovulation (Follicular Phase): menstruation, then dry to creamy to sticky to stretchy (eggwhite)
  • Ovulation: 1-2 more days of eggwhite/sticky
  • Second half of your cycle until menstruation (Luteal Phase): usually dry, interspersed with sticky days
  • First day of your period (Start of next cycle): menstruation
As you can see, your cervical fluid has a lot to tell you about your own body. Don't discount its importance and its vital role in conception.

Another thing to start being aware of is something called your vaginal sensation. How many of us have been on our period and had this thought: "OH CRAP I THINK I'M LEAKING I'M PRETTY SURE I'M LEAKING WHERE IS THE NEAREST BATHROOM AND A TAMPON EVERYBODY MOOOOOOOVE!!" That sinking feeling of horror is because of your awareness about your vaginal sensations. Pay attention to it throughout the day; the more you practice being aware of your cervical fluid, the easier it will get. Do you feel dry? Do things feel slippery or wet? It may take some practice, but from personal experience, the longer you do this the more natural it will feel. After charting for a year and a half, it's like second nature now.


This last sign is an optional sign, but it's one that I would recommend using if you want to be the most accurate. It's also one of the most difficult signs to get a read on, so give yourself at least a cycle or two before you get the hang of it. 

If you're planning on using FAM as a method of birth control, in my opinion, you should be looking at all three signs. Your cervical position is a great "verification" sign that will back up what the other two signs are telling you. 

As you might remember from the menstrual cycle post, your cervix is the gateway to your uterus. It is found at the very end of your vagina. Your cervix is a ring-shaped muscle that keeps bacteria and other foreign objects from entering your uterus. Most of the time, it is closed and firm, but in the days leading up to ovulation, it withdraws further back into the vagina and opens up ever so slightly. This allows a bigger opening for sperm to get through to fertilize an egg. Around the same time, it also produces cervical fluid that provide easy channels for the sperm to swim up. Without an open cervix and fertile cervical fluid, the sperm stand no chance. 

To check your cervical position, wash your hands thoroughly and insert a finger into your vagina. Find the end of your cervix and note the position and firmness. Does it seem lower in the vagina than normal? Is it sitting higher up? How soft or hard does it feel? When your cervix feels firm like the tip of your nose, that is considered hard. When it feels softer like your cheek, that means it's soft. 

Remember, it will take you a couple months to establish a pattern of anything, so be patient the first couple months. You do not have to check your cervix while you're on your period; you can start checking it after your period ends and stop checking it three days into your luteal phase. You may find it easier to check your cervix in the shower, so you can start with clean hands and wash them right afterward. 

Your cervical pattern usually looks something like this during your average cycle:
  • First half of your cycle until ovulation (Follicular Phase): closed, low, and firm cervix, gradually opening and softening in the few days before ovulation
  • Ovulation: soft, open, and high cervix
  • Second half of your cycle until menstruation (Luteal Phase): closed, low, and firm cervix
  • First day of your period (Start of next cycle): closed, low, and firm cervix

And now you know way more than you ever thought you would know about your own cervix!


Here's how an average cycle will look with all three fertility signs put together:
  • First half of your cycle until ovulation (Follicular Phase): low range of temperatures, period to dry to sticky to eggwhite cervical fluid, closed firm cervix to slightly open
  • Right before ovulation: temps stay in a low range, sticky/eggwhite cervical fluid, cervix begins to open and soften
  • Ovulation: temperatures jump up day after ovulation, cervical fluid starts to dry up, cervix is open
  • Second half of your cycle until menstruation (Luteal Phase): temperature stays elevated, cervical fluid is dry, cervix is closed
  • First day of your period (Start of next cycle): temp drops suddenly, period arrives, cervix is closed

And that's a brief overview of how your fertility signs change in time over the course of your cycle! Armed with this information, you're ready to get down to the nitty gritty: charting your signs to start interpreting your own fertility cycle.

Remember...any questions you have you can throw at me! Find me on Twitter and Instagram at @Know_Fertility.  Keep an eye out for my next post on charting--it should be up in a week or two!

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