The following is adapted from an article under Family Planning on our site entitled "Fertility Awareness Method." For further information, contact Michal Schonbrun (author of the article) or see the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Wechsler.
A woman can decide whether to chart one, two, or three fertility signs. The more signs she checks, the more information and effectiveness she has, and the more confidence she will feel in interpreting her chart and applying the method rules. Charting initially requires 1-2 minutes every day. Within two learning sessions, most women are able to interpret their fertility signs independently. In order to be effective, FAM should be learned with a qualified teacher.
Basal Body Temperature (BBT) is the temperature of the body at rest. It is taken upon waking with a special digital thermometer for one minute. A woman's BBT rises approx. 0.5 C (half of one degree Celsius) after ovulation occurs, and the BBT stays relatively high for two weeks, until her menses begin. Once this rise is verified, a woman is no longer fertile for the rest of the cycle. In order to recognize these changes, it is best to chart the entire month. Furthermore, a daily habit is easier to remember than one that is done only part of the month. Therefore, a woman should take her temperature every day, including while she has her period.
Cervical Secretions or fluids appear naturally and normally throughout the cycle. For most days of the cycle (regardless of length), secretions are dry, sticky, thick and acidic. In effect, these dry secretions act as natural spermicides. During the fertile days, at ovulation time, the secretions become milkier, wetter, and thinner, and resemble egg-white. These wet secretions are responsible for nourishing sperm and helping them reach the egg. Few women have been taught that these fluids are not only healthy and normal, but are essential for fertility and for conception. Learning one's unique secretion pattern is like learning a new (body) language. Once she has learned, a woman can feel ‘fluent' and confident within a few cycles. Furthermore, she can learn to differentiate between normal and abnormal secretions (e.g., those that indicate a yeast or bacterial infection).
Cervical Position changes occur only at the time of ovulation. When inserting a finger deep in the vagina, every woman can recognize the changes before, during and after ovulation. On infertile days, the cervix is lower, closed, and hard. At ovulation it move upwards towards the uterus, opens, and softens. The purpose of these changes is to allow easy access for sperm on their journey towards the egg. This is the only fertility sign which requires internal checking.