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Getting to Know Your Menstrual Cycle

Do you know when you are ovulating? Do you know what day to expect your period? Do you know when you absolutely need to use birth control to avoid pregnancy? Can you tell which vaginal discharges are normal and cyclical vs when there is a problem?

Get to know your menstrual cycle, and you'll know the answer to these questions and more. You'll know when you could get pregnant and when you won't. Be responsible. Take charge. Know your body and protect yourself. If you don't who will? Also, part of protecting yourself, is making sure you use condoms, not everyone knows what viruses they carry.

Here's how. The first step in natural birth control/fertility awareness is charting your cycle. First you will need a calendar, what ever size is handy will do, though a pocket size one can be carried with you easily. If you use a calendar all by itself and use it to make contraceptive decisions on, then this is called the Rhythm method or Calendar Method. It only has an effectiveness rating of 79%, due to the fact that you use a calendar to make an educated guess on your fertility based on previous cycle patterns. Guessing when it comes to avoiding pregnancy isn't the best way to go. To be safe, we'll use the calendar as a guide, and use fertility signals your body gives you to determine when fertility passes.

Keep this in mind when you are just learning about your cycle, if you have not been keeping track of your cycle, or if you have been on the Pill or other hormonal contraception, you can't know for sure when you will ovulate next. Most women don't feel ovulation occurring, but some women can feel ovulation occurring, which is great, but won't give you enough warning of approach to protect yourself. You need to protect yourself at least a week before ovulation occurs, and when ovulation occurs can vary.

The main reason the Rhythm Method fails is because the body starts producing fertile mucus 4-6 days before ovulation. Most sperm die in two to three hours in normal non-fertile vaginal acidity. The fertile mucus is naturally alkaline which protects the sperm from the acidic secretions of the vagina. Once in the cervical canal sperm can remain alive and vigorous for three to four days, and some sperm can live for as many as 6 or 7 days.

Most women have never heard of fertile mucus, but it may be interesting to note that most women have noticed a discharge at some time during their cycle, and may have interpreted it as an infection, yeast or some other problem, when in fact it is their bodies natural secretions, and is perfectly normal and healthy. Its time to break through the cultural taboos and start educating ourselves about our bodies.

If you rely on the calender alone, (Rhythm Method) you can expect that at some point you will become pregnant. The calander alone is not a reliable form of birth control. To reduce the risk of pregnancy and increase the effectiveness it is best to use the calander as a basic guide. It becomes a historical record of your cycle and will enable you to make educated decision based what has been. When the calender is combined with other methods of natural birth control you get more detailed information about what your body is doing right now, making the information you observe much more valuable and reliable.

There is a myth, its called an average 28 day cycle. This myth is perpetuated by the medical community who needs a nice text book example so they can learn and tell us what is "normal" and what our bodies "should" be doing right now.

Its normal and natural for the length of each cycle to vary a little. Through observing your own fertility patterns you can discover what is normal and natural for you. This information is useful in many ways. If there is a medical problem charting is a useful tool in helping to identify problems. For women who have long cycles and conceive, their doctor will go by their last menstrual period, and then report that the fetus is small for the dates, when because she knows her cycles are longer and a pregnancy wheel would be incorrect, she knows everything is just fine.

There are many reasons to chart. I encourage all women to do so. Its great to have the record to look back over. One fun chart I keep is a lunar calendar and color in the days when I bleed, its neat to see the patterns.

So watch and observe your cycles. Just because your cycle is one way this month doesn't mean it is going to be the same next month, so be careful. Observe closely. It takes time and energy to know your body. Protect yourself, by using a reliable barrier method as you learn and never have unprotected sex unless you are certain ovulation has passed for this cycle, and that you are positive your partner doesn't have any virus you guys don't know about, viruses like HPV cannot be tested for in men at this time, so they don't know they carry it, and its hugely common.

Read on to learn more about using a calendar to keep track of basic information. Here's How.....

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