5 Ways To Get More In Tune With Your Cycle: A TCM Doctor Explains
As a Chinese medicine practitioner specializing in women's health, I spend a lot of time helping women get pregnant. But maybe that's not your goal right now; perhaps you just want to be a healthy, vibrant woman who enjoys sex.
Throughout my studies, I've learned that Traditional Chinese Medicine is a safe, inexpensive, and effective contraception method. Thousands of years ago before drugs and technology, women tuned into their bodies better and tracked their cycles using the moon. When you use this as birth control, please remember that these methods only work if your cycle is regular.
I think these can be important tools for listening to your body, too, regardless of whether you want to be pregnant or avoid it altogether. The body sends signals through our cycles that we're not always hearing. Although you don't have to look at the moon to track your cycle, here are five ways to combine ancient practices with contemporary science. Your body will thank you when you empower yourself to know it better to tune in with your femininity.
1. Track your cycle.
Use the smartphone app Eve to track when your periods start and end, with associated symptoms like period pain, bloating, low-back pain, and skin breakouts. Once you understand your cycle better, you can feel more control over your conception and avoid slip-ups. You'll also be able to rationalize your emotional sensitivity if you know that your period is due.
2. Tune into ovulation signals.
Using the smartphone app Glow, you can track the subtle fertility signs that your body provides. (They exist, but there's not enough education about them.) When you're fertile, you may feel "ovulation twinges"—a tugging, dragging, niggling pain or twinge in one or both ovaries, or "cervical mucus"—vaginal discharge that can found in your underwear and fluctuates in appearance throughout the month.
3. Know how to read your cervical mucus.
Although this is a "sticky" subject (pun fully intended!), paying close attention to your cervical mucus (CM) helps you best determine your fertile window. This is the dangerous time to have sex if you're trying to avoid getting pregnant. Remember: All women are different, and your CM will vary—so get a feel for your patterns.
- Infertile CM: dry or little CM that's gluey, lumpy, or tacky. This environment makes it hard for sperm to travel through and is your safe zone.
- Possibly fertile CM: damp, creamy, and slightly sticky CM. You should be cautious during this time because ovulation is beginning.
- Fertile CM: wet, watery, slippery, stretchy, and egg-white CM. This is a danger zone, indicating the release of an egg.
4. Use this self-collected data to make educated decisions about when to have sex.
Once you've tracked your cycle and observed your CM to better understand your fertile window, you can make educated decisions about sex. Play it safe during your fertile phase with a condom. The old saying "No glove, no love" exists for a reason: Sperm are resourceful little guys who can survive for several days in a fertile CM.
5. Track your basal body temperature (BBT).
Take your temperature first thing in the morning before getting out of bed. It can be inconvenient to learn initially but will accurately determine if you're ovulating, due for a period, or even pregnant because your body temperature fluctuates when your hormones change. Use Fertility Friend to chart your own BBT data and obtain a graphical view of your cycle.
With these tips, whether you're trying a natural birth control method or just want to get to know your body, you'll feel a whole new level of connection with yourself. It might take a long time to get the hang of these things, and if your cycle isn't regular, again, none of this will work. One last thing to note is patience: It may take some time to gather enough data to predict these accurately. Don't be discouraged; your efforts will, at the very least, deepen your dialogue with the body and therefore increase self-confidence.