Hormonal birth control methods are not for everyone. They can cause depression and other health problems, such as an increased risk of stroke. Fortunately, by understanding when you are most likely to conceive, you can plan the best times to have sex to avoid pregnancy. Fertility monitors help you track your cycle.
A woman can only become pregnant up to 36 hours after ovulation. If you can pinpoint the time of ovulation, you can learn when you are most fertile and avoid having sex on those days. It’s important to note that sperm can remain viable inside your body for up to seven days, so you should be able to predict when ovulation is likely to happen so that you can avoid sex up to seven days before.
Types of Fertility Monitors
A digital fertility monitor tests your urine for luteinizing hormone (LH) and estrogen to determine which days you are most fertile. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of monitoring your fertility, but it isn’t foolproof. Once the monitor detects a spike in your LH, it stops testing, assuming that you’ll ovulate soon. Some women, however, may have more that one LH spike, meaning ovulation occurs later than predicted by the monitor.
A basal body thermometer is another tool to track your fertility. You will notice a sharp spike in your temperature the day after you ovulate.
Combining Technology with Self-Awareness
Since technology isn’t 100 percent effective, it’s smart to look for other signs that ovulation may occur. Through tracking your cycle over a period of time, you may find that you tend to ovulate on a particular day of your cycle. You should also look at your cervical mucus, which becomes stretchy and clear like egg white as ovulation approaches. Some women experience slight cramping around the time of ovulation. Combine these signs with your fertility monitor to prevent pregnancy.
When Not to Have Sex
If you want to avoid pregnancy, you need to avoid having sex up to seven days before you ovulate and five days after you think you ovulate, just to be safe. If you want to have sex, you can use a barrier method like a condom during this time to avoid pregnancy.
Benefits and Success Rates
The benefits of using fertility monitors is that you can maintain some level of spontaneity in your sex life without relying on hormones to prevent pregnancy. Should you decide that you want to become pregnant, you can immediately start trying to have a baby, without having to wait for the hormones to leave your system. The American Pregnancy Association reports that success rate with fertility awareness is around 90 percent, assuming that you follow it correctly. The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops — who supports natural family planning — reports effective rates up to 99 percent.