So, I was finally ready to get pregnant. This was pre-internet so I actually had to find books on the subject or talk to people for information. I decided to try natural family planning to optimize the chances by tracking when I was most likely to be ovulating.
For those of you not familiar with this method, it has been around for centuries and is the only one approved by many religious organizations who forbid any other method of contraception. The premise is that by charting your cycle using a calendar and the change in cervical mucus and temperature, you are able to predict when you ovulate and can abstain from intercourse during that time. (If you’re interested, find out more information on the Planned Parenthood website.)
So armed with my new thermometer and fertility tracking chart, I got to work. Every morning for months, I would grab for the thermometer as soon as I was awake enough to remember and diligently record my morning temp on my chart. In theory, your body temp goes up a bit before you ovulate and stays that way until your next period. This never seemed to happen, but I did discover that my waking temperature, even in Florida, was about 95 to 96 degrees. No wonder I fell in love with the warmth of Florida when I visited from upstate New York during spring break in February. I’m just a few degrees above qualifying to be reptilian.
I also checked my cervical mucus every morning – a process not for the squeamish. Besides stirring your finger around inside your vagina gathering mucus, you then have to examine the product between the inserted finger and another one to check the consistency. Here’s what our Planned Parenthood pamphlet Tracking Your Fertility Pattern to Prevent Pregnancy has to say:
“Normal mucus is cloudy and tacky. It will become clear and slippery a few days before you ovulate. It will also stretch between your fingers. This happens on your most fertile days. These will be the tacky and cloudy and wet and slippery days after your period.”
Apparently my cervical mucus is also abnormal. I could rarely see that drastic a change and my husband got really tired of trying to help me decide if my mucus was cloudy, tacky, clear or sticky.
Despite my best efforts and 11 months of careful notes and charting, no pregnancy. Inching my way into my thirties at a time when 35 was considered old to begin a family, I became a bit panicky and decided to visit a fertility specialist. Since my husband was even more ancient than myself and heading into his mid-forties, we figured maybe his sperm count was the problem – turns out his count was about double what was normal. After carefully examining my charts, the doctor suggested we have more sex earlier in the month. We had been saving ourselves for the middle of the month around day 14 just to make sure we had a full load when I was most likely to ovulate. But the very next month, despite my husband claiming I was trying to kill him, we conceived.
On the other hand, one of my midwives had used this method to prevent pregnancy. She had even abstained the entire week before when she was supposed to be in “the danger zone” since she already was the mother of 3 and not planning any more. By the time I delivered, she was 5 months pregnant with number 4.
Before you rely on this method, which is reported to be 74 – 99% effective, ask yourself, “How much do I want to become pregnant?” If the answer is absolutely not, I would strongly suggest you look for a more reliable method.