While there are many ways to avoid unplanned pregnancies – use of condoms, birth control pills, hormone shots, IUD, hormone plants and so on – there are many couples who do not prefer these “artificial” birth control methods. At the same time, they want to make love without worrying about getting pregnant. How do they go about doing this? By calculating the safe period during the woman’s monthly cycle and making love on days that are considered “safe”.
So how do you calculate the safe period? Read on.
The first step is to understand your menstrual cycle better.
Phases In Menstrual Cycle
You get periods every 30 days or so. Did you know that the days in between are divided into three with each phase doing a uniquely different thing? The three stages of menstruation cycle are as follows:
- Follicular phase: This starts from the first day of the period and lasts about 12-14 days. It is also called pre-ovulatory phase. In this phase, hypothalamus triggers your pituitary gland to release FSH (follicle stimulating hormone). FSH in turns triggers the production of follicles (which contains an immature egg). During the course of the follicular phase, the egg continues to mature
- Ovulation phase: This phase happens in the mid-cycle. It starts approximately 12 or 14 days after the start of periods. During this phase, the follicle releases the mature egg, which moves towards the fallopian tube. This is the most fertile period in your cycle as your body produces estrogen, gonadotrophin-releasing hormone, FSH and luteinizing hormone – everything required to set the stage for the egg to meet the sperm. A mature egg has a lifespan of 1 day – and if no sperm comes in contact with the egg,it will die
- Luteal phase: The follicle from which the egg came out continues to remain on the ovary. It triggers the production of progesterone which thickens the uterus walls. If pregnancy happens, then the follicle (transformed into something called corpus luteum) continue to produce progesterone to make the uterus walls thicker. If pregnancy does not happen, the follicle dies stopping the production of progesterone. This will start the shedding of the uterus lining, which is periods. This phase also lasts 12-14 days
Now that you know the different phases and functioning of each of the phase, it is easy to calculate the safe period.
How To Calculate The Safe Period For Not Getting Pregnant?
The first 7 days of your cycle are usually safe as the eggs are not mature yet. Of course, you might be experiencing bleeding in the first 3-4 days and intercourse might not be preferred during this time. The first 3-4 immediate days after periods should be your target then. Similarly, the last few days of your cycle – the days after day 21 – are also considered to be safe days because by then the mature egg, which has a lifespan of one day, would have withered away. Now this period is safe for women who have a cycle length of 28 or lesser days, and they generally ovulate on the mid-term. For women whose cycle length varies, or is greater than 28 days, this safe period is not valid.
If the above calculations are confusing for you, there are many online “safe period” calculators available which will predict your safe period.
Calculate Your Safe Days
What Are The Other Methods To Calculate The Safe Period?
Natural family planning (Fertility Awareness-Based Methods
These methods work by identifying various signs in your body that indicates the ovulation phase. Once ovulation phase is identified, then you can avoid making love during this period (or use a condom or contraceptive only for those days) and rest of the days you can enjoy sex without worrying about an unwanted pregnancy. Various fertility awareness-based methods are:
- Basal body temperature method: Where you track your body temperature every day and identify ovulation by noting a spike in body temperature
- Cervical mucus method: Where you track the color of the cervical mucus every day and identify ovulation phase by noting a change in the color of the mucus
- Sympto-thermal method: Where you track both body temperature and the mucus color, along with other symptoms of ovulation such as abdominal pain, heaviness in the stomach and tenderness in breasts
- Cycle Beads method: Which is very similar to the safe day calculator mentioned in the section before, but it involved moving a rubber ring over a cycle of beads colored differently for each stage of your menstruation
- Standard days method: For women whose menstrual period cycle falls between 26 to 32 days, days expect 8th to 19th are considered safe for sex
It should be noted that these methods are based on some standard assumptions such as:
- Fertility period lasts 6 days before ovulation and 2-3 days after it
- An egg can survive for 24 hours for getting fertilized
- A sperm can survive for 6 days in the uterus, and can fertilize an egg in this period
- Only one egg is released in each cycle
How Effective Are Fertility Awareness Methods To Avoid Pregnancy?
“Safe days” cannot be 100% reliable when it comes to avoiding a pregnancy. Though some women swear by their reliability, there is a good chance of failure as your periods may get irregular or some unforeseen hormonal changes may happen which you may not be aware of. If you are skeptical to the use of condoms, the obvious choice of contraception that remains is either getting a contraceptive shot or taking oral contraceptive pills. Deviations can also take place if there is any error in calculations. You are more likely to increase your chances of not falling pregnant during safe days provided you take the below precautions:
- Be thorough with the safe period calculation and follow it religiously and accurately
- Have a partner who is equally committed to have sex as per safe days
- Know,understand check and chart your signs of fertility
- Use other forms of contraception during the rest of the days
What Are The Advantages Of Using Fertility Awareness Methods To Avoid Pregnancy?
If used correctly, they can give you considerable protection from an unwanted pregnancy. Listed below are some advantages of using FAMs:
- Costs you practically nothing – except stationary – calendars and thermometers that are easily available
- No hormones or devices are used
- Couples become more responsible and co-operative
- If you have any religious concerns over using artificial contraceptive methods, it is a good option to consider
- No medications allowed
What Are The Disadvantages Of Using Fertility Awareness Methods To Avoid Pregnancy?
Though effective, fertility awareness methods do carry a considerable rate of failure owing to reasons like hormonal fluctuations and irregular cycles.
- FAMs offer no protection against sexually transmitted diseases
- Close tracking of periods and days is required which may not be always possible
- Some medicines may render the calculations inaccurate
- Prediction of fertility may be difficult for some women
- Your partner may not be interested in practicing in the same
Things To Know When Having Sex In The Safe Period
- One of the most important things to understand about the safe period is that no period is 100% safe. Hormones can behave funnily and erratically, resulting in pregnancy even during safe periods, although that is not very common
- The safe period calculation generally works if your menstrual cycle (days between the start of one period and next) is between 26 to 32 days. If the cycle is less than 26 days or more than 32 days, then the safe period calculation does not work for you
- The calculation will not work for you if your menstrual cycle days vary by more than 8 days in a six month period
- In case of emergencies, use emergency contraceptive pills to avoid getting pregnant