Click on the terms for more information. Some of the terms do not have accompanying links yet – but they’ll be coming soon! If there’s anything we’ve left out that you’d like us to include, let us know.
Amenorrhea: The absence of menstruation (one or more missed menstrual periods). Causes of amenorrhea include pregnancy, hormonal disorders, stress, fatigue, being overweight or underweight, and hormonal contraceptives, among other causes.
Anovulation: A cycle in which ovulation does not occur.
Basal Body Temperature: The temperature of your body at rest, taken upon waking and BEFORE getting out of bed or doing any other activity. BBT is one of the three primary fertility signs (along with cervical fluid and cervical position).
Basic Infertile Pattern: An extended pattern of sticky or dry cervical fluid that women may experience during anovulatory cycles (instead of the normal pattern of progressively wetter/more fertile cervical fluid).
Biphasic Temperature Pattern: A temperature pattern with two ranges of temperatures: a lower, pre-ovulatory range that lasts until ovulation and a higher, post-ovulatory range that lasts until the next cycle begins. Most women with ovulatory cycles will observe a biphasic temperature pattern.
Breakthrough Bleeding: Vaginal bleeding due to excessive estrogen production (and also usually due to a lack of progesterone production). This usually occurs during anovulatory cycles. Although breakthrough bleeding may seem like a menstrual period, it is not a true menstrual period if ovulation has not occurred prior to the bleeding.
Cervical Fluid (CF): The fluid produced by the cervix in which sperm can travel. The quantity and type of cervical fluid present are directly related to the body’s production of estrogen and progesterone. Cervical fluid is one of the three primary fertility signs (along with basal body temperature and cervical position).
Cervical position/cervix tracking: Refers to the height and softness of the cervix, and openness of the cervical os. Cervical position is one of the three primary fertility signs (along with BBT and cervical fluid).
Corpus luteum: What’s left of the follicle that released the egg at ovulation. The corpus luteum produces progesterone to support the endometrium. If conception occurs, the corpus luteum will continue to produce progesterone throughout early pregnancy. Otherwise, the corpus luteum will stop producing progesterone and dissolve 12-16 days later, and a new cycle begins.
Coverline: A line used to help distinguish pre-ovulatory temperatures from post-ovulatory temperatures on a fertility chart.
Creamy CF: Cervical fluid that is generally wet and may resemble hand lotion, yogurt, or heavy cream. It is considered fertile, but not as fertile as eggwhite or watery cervical fluid.
Dry Day Rule: One of the four rules of using FAM as birth control: You are considered infertile in the evening (after 6 PM) of any day that you observed no cervical fluid, and your vaginal sensation was dry.
Dry Days: Days that you observe no cervical fluid or vaginal sensation.
Eggwhite CF: Very fertile cervical fluid that is generally slippery, clear, and stretchy, and may resemble raw eggwhites. Eggwhite CF typically appears in the 2-3 days prior to ovulation.
Endometrium: The lining of the uterus that is built up by estrogen and supported by progesterone during a cycle. If conception occurs, the fertilized egg will implant in the endometrium. If conception does not occur, the endometrium is shed during menstruation.
Estrogen: One of the primary hormones that control the menstrual cycle. Rising estrogen levels in the follicular phase cause cervical fluid to become wetter and more fertile (i.e. friendlier to sperm) as you approach ovulation.
Fertile window: The days during a cycle in which it is possible to conceive. It includes several days leading up to and following ovulation.
Fertility Awareness Method (FAM): A method that allows you to determine when you’re fertile and when you’re not based on the observation of the three primary fertility signs: BBT, cervical fluid, and cervical position. Can be used to maximize one’s chances of getting pregnant or to avoid pregnancy naturally (or to learn more about women’s health).
First 5 Days Rule: One of the four rules of using FAM as birth control: You are considered infertile for the first 5 days of your cycle, unless any of your previous 12 cycles were less than 25 days long, in which case you are considered infertile the first 3 days of your cycle.
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH): A hormone produced by the pituitary gland during the follicular phase that stimulates the follicles in the ovaries to produce estrogen and mature eggs.
Follicular Phase: The pre-ovulatory phase, or the phase of a woman’s cycle lasting from the first day of menstruation until ovulation.
Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG): Commonly referred to as the “pregnancy hormone”. HCG is produced by the developing embryo after it has implanted in the endometrium.
Implantation spotting: Spotting/light bleeding that a woman may or may not experience after implantation occurs (a positive pregnancy test is the only way to truly confirm pregnancy).
Infertile phases: The phases during a cycle when pregnancy is not possible.
Kegels/Semen Emitting Technique (SET): An exercise used to strengthen the vaginal walls and to help push semen out of the vagina so as to not obscure cervical fluid readings.
Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM): A method of natural birth control that can be used by women who are breastfeeding, and whose periods have not yet returned. It is most effective in the first 6 months postpartum.
Luteal phase: The phase of a woman’s cycle lasting from ovulation until the start of the next cycle. It typically lasts from 12-16 days, but the luteal phase of each individual woman rarely differs by more than a day or two. A luteal phase of longer than 18 days is a strong indication of pregnancy.
Luteinizing hormone (LH): A hormone produced by the pituitary gland that is released in a surge just prior to ovulation, causing ovulation and the development of the corpus luteum.
Midcycle/ovulation spotting: Spotting/light bleeding that occurs in between menstrual periods, generally around the time of ovulation.
Multiple Ovulation: When two eggs are released separately in one cycle. Both eggs are released within 24 hours. This is how fraternal twins are formed, and happens in as many as 5-10% of all cycles.
Os: The opening of the cervix, leading to the uterus.
Ovulation: When an egg is released from one of the ovaries. The egg will survive for 12-24 hours unless fertilization occurs.
Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs): Testing kits that predict when ovulation is about to occur, typically by the presence of Luteinizing Hormone in urine.
Patch rule: One of the two rules of using FAM as birth control during anovulatory cycles: As soon as you see a change in your Basic Infertile Pattern to a wetter type of cervical fluid, you must consider yourself fertile until the evening (after 6 PM) of the 4th consecutive non-wet day after your Peak Day.
Peak Day: The last day of fertile cervical fluid/wet vaginal sensation during a cycle. Peak Day usually occurs the day before ovulation or the day of ovulation.
Peak Plus 4 Rule: One of the four rules of using FAM as birth control: you are considered infertile the evening (after 6 PM) of the 4th day after your Peak Day.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): A hormonal imbalance that affects between 5 and 10% of all women of childbearing age. PCOS may affect a woman’s ability to ovulate. Also see Charting with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
Pregnancy test: A urine or blood test that can determine if a woman is pregnant based on the presence (or absence) of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), the pregnancy hormone.
Primary fertility signs: Basal body temperature, cervical fluid, and cervical position.
Progesterone: The hormone produced by the corpus luteum in the ovary after ovulation. Progesterone supports the growth of the endometrium. It also causes BBT to rise, and cervical fluid to dry up after ovulation. If fertilization occurs, the body will continue to produce progesterone throughout early pregnancy. If fertilization does not occur, the corpus luteum stops producing progesterone 12-16 days after ovulation, and the endometrium is shed during menstruation.
Secondary fertility signs: Physical and emotional changes that may help to confirm when a woman is fertile. Secondary signs include mittelschmerz (pain during ovulation), midcycle spotting, breast tenderness, swollen vulva, heightened senses, increased libido, and mood changes. Secondary signs do not occur in all women, and do not necessarily occur in every cycle for individual women, and as such should not be depended upon by themselves.
Short Luteal Phase: A luteal phase that is less than 10 days. Short luteal phases are often due to a progesterone deficiency and indicate that a woman may have difficulty sustaining a pregnancy.
Spotting: Small amounts of blood occurring at times other than during the menstrual period.
Sticky CF: Cervical fluid that is generally sticky, pasty, or crumbly and may resemble drying rubber cement or grade school paste. Sticky CF is usually the first type of cervical fluid to appear after menstruation. It is difficult for sperm to survive in sticky CF.
Temp plus 3 rule: One of the four rules of using FAM as birth control: you are considered infertile the evening (after 6 PM) of the third consecutive day that your temperature is above the coverline.
Temperature shift: The sustained rise in BBT that separates the lower, pre-ovulatory temperatures from the higher, post-ovulatory temperatures in a biphasic chart. The temperature shift occurs due to an increase in the body’s production of progesterone and is typically at least two-tenths of a degree higher than any of the previous 6 temperatures.
Triphasic temperature pattern: When a woman experiences two sustained temperature shifts during a cycle – one at ovulation and another one typically 7-10 days later. A triphasic pattern can be a result of pregnancy, but many women who become pregnant do not experience a triphasic pattern (and some women who are not pregnant DO experience a triphasic pattern).
Unchanging day rule: One of the two rules of using FAM as birth control during anovulatory cycles: If your 2-week Basic Infertile Pattern is dry or the same-quality sticky CF each day, you can consider yourself infertile the evenings (after 6 PM) of any dry or sticky day.
Vaginal sensation: The way that the inside of your vagina feels throughout the day – typically either dry or wet (sort of like when the inside of your nose or mouth feels dry or wet). A wet vaginal sensation indicates that you may be fertile.
Watery CF: Very fertile cervical fluid that is wet, slippery, and may resemble gushes of water or skim milk. Watery CF may follow eggwhite CF, but not all fertile women observe watery CF.