Safe Days - How can I know?
“When I’m I really safe during my cycle?” Perhaps you are tired of the side effects of your contraceptive and wonder if there’s a natural way to avoid pregnancy and still have unprotected sex. The truth is, there is no 100% safe time during the menstrual cycle that you can have sex and avoid the risk of pregnancy. However, there are times when you could be more fertile and able to conceive and other times when you are less likely to conceive. To understand when you are fertile and when you are not, you first need to understand your menstrual cycle.
Understanding your menstrual cycle
Your menstrual cycle begins on the first day of your period and continues up to the first day of your next period. Also, referred to as a cycle length. Although menstrual cycles can vary from person to person, the average length is 28 days.
You're considered most fertile at the time of ovulation (when an egg is released from your ovaries), which usually occurs 10 to 16 days before your next period starts depending on your cycle length. The time around ovulation is called the fertile window because these are the most fertile days in the menstrual cycle and the time of the month when you're most likely to get pregnant.
Having sex without protection during your period or outside your expected fertile window isn’t a guarantee that you won’t get pregnant. An egg can survive for up to 24 hours after release, and sperm can survive for up to 5 days after sex. Therefore, though less likely, it is also possible to get pregnant in the 2 days after ovulation.
If your cycle is naturally shorter than 28 days you could ovulate within days of your period ending. This means it may be possible to get pregnant soon after your period finishes if you ovulate early. Using birth control, condoms, or another barrier method is typically the best way to prevent pregnancy.
When I’m I likely to get pregnant?
There are around 21 days in the menstrual cycle on which pregnancy is less likely. Let’s take the example of a 28-day cycle
Day of cycle
Least fertile stage
Possible to conceive
Days around ovulation
Possible to conceive
Thickening of the uterus lining
Less fertile, unlikely to conceive
Keep in mind that your cycle days can still change each month. Factors like stress, diet, or heavy exercise can affect the number of days in your cycle. The day of ovulation can also change every month.
How to use fertility awareness methods to avoid pregnancy?
Fertility awareness methods (FAMs) are ways to track monthly menstrual cycles and identify the least fertile days. They are sometimes known as natural family planning or the rhythm method. If you want to avoid pregnancy you can plan to have sex on these days and opt to abstain from vaginal penetrative sex or use birth control on the days you are most fertile.
Some people use one type of FAMs others use multiple. Let’s have a look at some of the most popular FAMs methods.
Tracking temperature throughout the menstrual cycle can help predict ovulation. Body temperature typically rises around ovulation, from 35–36ºC to 36–37ºC.
To use temperature as a FAM will need to take your temperature every day and track it. It’s recommended to monitor temperature for 3 months before using it as a reliable FAM.
Observing cervical mucus
Cervical mucus changes throughout your cycle in texture, colour and volume. During the fertile window, it will feel slippery, similar to raw egg white. On the less fertile days, there will be little to no mucus at all. The Grace app allows you to track your cervical mucus/ vaginal discharge every day.
The calendar method involves tracking the menstrual cycle and identifying which days are most and least fertile. This method may be harder to use for people with varying cycle lengths and cycles that are shorter than 27 days.
Thinking of using this method? You’ll need to follow your cycle for at least six periods before using the calendar method as a form of birth control. The Grace app makes it easy for you to see when you are fertile or not and will even send you prompts via chat so you know what to expect.
How effective are the FAMs?
With a very consistent cycle, knowing your fertile window can help prevent pregnancy. FAMs are approximately 76–88% effective. Meaning that 12–24 couples out of 100 who use FAMs may still conceive. If you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, talk with your doctor about the best birth control for you.
Having unprotected sex during your least fertile days could decrease your probability of pregnancy. But it is NOT a guarantee.
While tracking ovulation and determining your fertile window can decrease your chance of getting pregnant each month, more research still needs to be done to understand the effectiveness of natural family planning. For FAMs to be effective, it is essential to track several months of fertility signals to chart high fertility and low fertility days. The best way to prevent pregnancy remains to consult your doctor and choose a reliable contraceptive method for you.
Stay informed, stay in control
Share with us what you have learned about your “safe” period?