Fertility Awareness

Knowledge, an empowering tool!

When a woman reaches her hormonal maturity amazing things take place in her body every month in a cyclical manner. Giving attention to her fertility cycle enables a woman to observe, understand and take charge of an important part of herself and her reproductive life.

During each fertility cycle, there is a sequence of events, influenced mainly by the 2 ovarian hormones: estrogen and progesterone, resulting in times of fertility and times of infertility during each menstrual cycle.

Many women today are unaware of all these and other amazing things that take place in their bodies every month. Knowing about the menstrual cycle enables women (no matter their age) to observe, understand and take charge of their bodies.

The Menstrual Cycle:

The length of a menstrual cycle is the interval between the first day of one menstrual cycle and the beginning of the next. It averages about four weeks, though the actual length varies from woman to woman.

Signs of Fertility:


Cervical Mucus

Prior to ovulation, mucus is released from the cervix into the vagina and appears at the vulva.  Many woman notice the secretion even without knowing what it means. The mucus is a major sign of fertility.  Serena can help you by teaching you what the different types of mucus signal, and how it can help you better understand your cycles and your fertility.

Changes in the Cervix

The cervix changes in various ways throughout the cycle.  Being able to note if it is straight or tilted, its position, its height, if it is open or closed, and if it has a soft or hard feel, all aid in being able to tell what phase of the cycle the woman is in.

Pain will occur much lower than shown in photo. 


Sensitive Breasts

When present, this symptom is noticeable around the ovulatory phase, especially after ovulation, and may persist throughout the premenstrual phase.

Pain on either side of the lower abdomen

Around the time of ovulation a woman sometimes feels a pain either in the full lower abdomen or only on one side.  This pain may be felt as a dull, diffuse and prolonged ache or as a sudden sharp jab.  This symptom should not be noted in isolation as a sign of fertility, but always in association with mucus symptoms and temperature.

Basal Body Temperature

 The woman’s basal body temperature (taken at approximately the same time every morning before rising) is affected by the hormones in a woman’s cycle. Progesterone produces a rise in the basal body temperature.   Charting the temperature helps the woman determine what phase of the cycle she is in. 

Other Symptoms

 Basal thermometer

Some women may notice special symptoms of a temporary nature around ovulation, such as skin eruptions (acne), migraine, nausea, variations in body odor, variations in sexual receptivity and desire, feelings of elation, or depression.


Some women may observe other, regularly-occurring symptoms that are not listed here.

How can this information help me?

Knowing and understanding the menstrual cycle is helpful in a variety of circumstances.

In ordinary life:

It is convenient to be able to predict your next menstruation. Knowing your symptoms of fertility can also help you to be aware of your energy levels, mood changes, cravings and help you to explain these changes in your life.  Being aware can help you to take charge of your body and your life.

Health concerns:

Irregular cycles may alert to some health problems.  Regular charting helps to document the possible nature of these health concerns.

For Family Planning:

Fertility awareness that Serena more often calls: “The Sympto-Thermal Test” consists of identifying each and every phase in the woman’s cycle, from beginning to end.

young family with new baby    

With the help of the Sympto-Thermal test, a couple can observe the effects ofestrogen and progesterone in the woman’s body and thus identify the time of ovulation. Through the knowledge gained by the self-observation of external signs influenced by these hormones, a woman can understand her cycles. This is the basis of the Sympto-Thermal Method of Natural Family Planning, which is taught by Serena.


To follow the onset of puberty - identify when the cycles become more regular as the girl nears the end of puberty.  It may help to follow the mood swings linked to the hormonal variation.

Irregular Cycles:

Charting can help a woman identify if she is having regular cycles or irregular cycles (this  varies woman to woman), and help her identify the times in the cycle when problems are occurring, which can help with identifying the causes.



Charting can help the woman identify when she has conceived as fast and more economically than drug-store pregnancy tests, because pregnancy is confirmed after 20 days of raised temperatures.  Also, knowing the date of conception can help avoid pre-maturely inducing labour.


If the couple’s goal is still to postpone a pregnancy, knowledge that the first cycle is usually longer will help to lessen the stress of transition to another family planning method.  If pregnancy is desired the couple may sometimes be frustrated that conception does not occur as quickly as desired.  Fertility awareness can help couples to better understand the disturbances caused to the menstrual cycle by the pill.  Expectations will be more realistic with that knowledge and support.


This knowledge can help identify and perhaps eliminate potential causes of subfertility.


After delivery there may be a delay in the return of a woman’s cycles or ovulation may occur before the return of menstruation.  Knowing what is going on with her cycle can help identify the return of regular cycles.

mature woman looking away day dreaming  


Being able to distinguish true menstruation from abnormal bleeding, and ovulatory cycles from anovulatory episodes, can help a woman understand what is going on with her body and make decisions based on this information.

If you are interested in learning more about the fertility cycles as it unfolds in different situations we have a number of resources available for purchase (please see our store if you are interesting in ordering any materials):

  • The Menstrual Cycle – Knowledge and Self-Observation by Dr. Suzanne Parenteau – Carreau, M.D.
  • Planning your family the S-T Way by Dr. Suzanne Parenteau–Carreau, M.D.

Information taken from The Menstrual Cycle – Knowledge and Self-Observation by Dr. Suzanne Parenteau–Carreau, M.D.

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