The Sympto-Thermal Method

The Sympto-Thermal method is a type of fertility awareness-based approach used to predict when a menstruating individual is fertile using different menstrual signs and ovulation symptoms.


We have to start by debunking some myths regarding the menstrual cycle. It is believed that menstruating individuals are fertile every day, but, truth is they can't get pregnant whenever they experience intercourse. They are only fertile for a specific period during the menstrual cycle. This is called the fertile window, which can last for up to 48 hours. Because menstruating individual's cycle days vary, you can't predict precisely when a woman will start ovulation. Still, you can learn to observe the symptoms that are closely related to your ovulation period. By observing and learning about the different changes, your body goes through each period of the cycle to gather enough information to comprehend where you are.


The sympto-thermal method is a temperature method of fertility control and includes the self-observation of symptoms of the ovulatory period, particularly the increased cervical mucus discharge. - National Library of Medicine.

Effectiveness

As explained before, this method is a natural and healthy approach to family planning. By observing our cervical mucus, basal body temperature, and changes in our cervix, we can determine whether we're fertile or not. This method can be used both to conceive or to prevent pregnancy. The Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science suggests that the Sympto-Thermal method is 99.4% - 99.6% effective in avoiding pregnancy, which implies it is as strong as long-acting hormonal contraceptives. The National Library of Medicine studied 180 women with 3542 cycles and determined the effectiveness of 0.7 unwanted pregnancies per 100 women years of exposure.

Note: The Symptothermal Method does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases or infections.

How-to: Record your symptoms

For each phase of your cycle, you will suffer different hormonal changes and symptoms regarding your body, as well as changes in your vaginal discharge. To plan a pregnancy or prevent one through this method, you will need to keep a record of the following biomarkers:

Cervical mucus

Your cervical mucus is one of the most important factors to analyze because it is susceptible to estrogen and progesterone changes. In terms of fertility, it helps the vagina create an ideal atmosphere for sperm to live. Without its presence, our vaginal flora would become too acidic, and sperm would die immediately.

If progesterone is present, our cervical mucus becomes very thick, denying the pass of sperm and their survival. At this point, we can feel a sort of dryness in our vaginas. The term dryness can be relative to each woman, and it means there is less cervical mucus than what our vaginas usually expel.


Our fertile window is when estrogen is most present, which is when we have an optimum environment with a well-balanced pH where sperm can live and thrive. Because of the high water levels that flow throughout the vaginal canal, the cervix is finally open for business. This type of cervical fluid will indicate when your body is ready to start trying.


Basal body temperature

The basal body temperature is usually the first temperature you have upon waking up, meaning your temperature right after opening your eyes. Your temperature will be stable throughout your menstrual cycle except for the ovulation period due to progesterone's thermogenic effect on the body. The first thing to note is that to take your body basal temperature, you will need at least 3 hours of interrupted sleep, and always take your temperature at the same time everyday and with the same method (preferably oral). You will need to record your temperature daily and look for patterns that will tell you when your temperature has increased. Typically, basal body temperature can increase up to 0.3 C when ovulating, and it will remain steady for a maximum of 3 days until it drops again. Your body will be most fertile two days before your temperature rises but remember: sperm can live for up to five days in your reproductive system.

Your Cervix

Your cervix also changes throughout your monthly cycle, meaning that you can also use it to track when you're ovulating. Usually, on a "normal" basis, your cervix will feel firm (like the tip of your nose) and very tight, while close to ovulation, you can feel your cervix soft and slightly more open. Feeling your cervix daily will help you get a glimpse of what your cervix feels like when you're not fertile.

"If you think of your vagina as a hallway, your cervix is the door at the end. Locate the cervix. While your vagina has a sort of spongy feel that gives way to pressure, the cervix is like a firm, round dimple. If you're not close to ovulation, you should find your cervix easily." - Rachel Gurevich, RN for Very Well Family

Other biomarkers

Other biomarkers that can help you complement this method include looking at body symptoms like breast tenderness, cramps, mood, and body changes to understand your body better and help you find when your ovulating. Even if you're not following the sympto-thermal method, try out looking for all these changes. Keeping track of your symptoms can also prevent any problems that may appear before your doctor detects them. Learn to know what is normal for your body and what is not. Become best friends; your body will thank you later!





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