There are about a billion different products on the market for tracking and monitoring fertility. When you're trying for a baby, you often want to try these different products, to find one that works and helps you successfully conceive.
The Ovulation Sticker
One such sort of fertility product is the ovulation sticker. No, you don't stick these on your torso as a sign to your significant other that you're ready to try. They're stickers meant for use with a calendar or day planner, as a way to track fertility, ovulation, intimacy, and attempts at conception.
Since ovulation stickers are just that – stickers – they're incredibly easy to print on demand. As such, there are hundreds of different designs out there. For example:
- Etsy's dozens of different designs
- A variety of designs on Nash's Print Works
- A handful of choices from Paper and Thread
If you're the kind of person who prefers to track things digitally rather than on a paper journal, there are even digital sticker sets like these from KFK Creative, for use in a digital planner app that can use Goodnotes stickers.
But if they're just stickers, then how do they work? Enter the F.A.M.
F.A.M. for Family
F.A.M. stands for the Fertility Awareness Method, which is another name for the Rhythm Method. This method is a means of tracking your periods and your fertility, using bodily signs, to determine when you're going to be fertile and most likely to conceive. It's a way to plan out your intimacy for the best effect.
F.A.M. can be used both to avoid and to encourage pregnancy. As a contraceptive method, you track when your most fertile days are and either abstain from intercourse, limit yourself to non-penetrative acts, or use backup contraceptives on those days. Conversely, if you're trying for a baby, those are the days you go to town.
It all begins with a chart. You can use a paper chart, that looks something like this:
Alternatively, you can use a digital tool like the one provided by WebMD. It doesn't necessarily matter which one you choose, so long as you're consistent and detailed with using it.
On the chart, you specify the first day of your period, as determined by the menstrual flow. This is the first day of your cycle.
Seven days after the first day of your cycle is when your eggs are preparing to be fertilized. Once it is ready, around day 11, it starts to travel down the fallopian tube towards the uterus. If it is fertilized, it attaches to the uterus to grow into a fetus. If no, it breaks apart and is flushed out of your system with your next period.
Your fertile zone is some time between day 11 and day 21, but it typically only actually lasts from 12-24 hours. This is why it can feel incredibly imprecise; the window you're trying to hit is quite small.
On the last day of your cycle – whether you have a shorter cycle or a longer one, with the average being about 28 days – your body will either shed the lining of your uterus or will begin growing the fetus. This is determined by hormone levels in the body, which is why many substances you might consume throughout your life that affect hormones – like alcohol, trans fats, and so on – can be disruptive both to your cycle and to your chances of getting pregnant.
Using the Fertility Awareness Method
The F.A.M. is an interesting form of family planning. On the one hand, when used properly, it can be extremely accurate and greatly increase your chances of getting pregnant when you want to. On the other hand, it's very difficult to use properly.
Appropriately using the F.A.M. means tracking your fertility cycles for at least a year before attempting to use it for conception. It also often means taking your basal temperature down to tenths of a degree before you even get out of bed in the morning, because one of the changes your body goes through on this cycle is minor changes in temperature. Some methods also involve tracking the consistency of your cervical mucous, using the method described here.
Making Use of Stickers
So where do the ovulation stickers come into play? They help you chart without needing to make fiddly marks with a pencil or pen. You can use a simple calendar or a day planner instead of a chart, and use pre-designed, often cute stickers to help you track the whole process.
Sticker sets range in detail. Some of them are little more than simple stickers indicating the day of your cycle, with slightly different stickers for fertile days. Some of them include stickers you can use to mark the days you've had sex, to help track when you should be looking for results. Some of them include more precision, with individually labeled stickers for each day of your cycle, days past ovulation, and results of thermometer tests.
You can also use these kinds of stickers in conjunction with other tests, like ovulation test kits. A sticker set like this one, for example, allows you to record results. You'll need to be using some kind of advanced test kit to get the results to record, but maybe that's a method that works best for you.
So, essentially, you layer different charting methods. You track your calendar days, you track your basal temperature, you track ovulation test results, you track cervical mucous consistency, and anything else you feel like tracking that correlates with fertility. Using months' worth of this data, you chart it all out and figure out the most fertile days of your cycle. On those days, you have sex with the intent to conceive and you're tracking those attempts as well. With luck, this detailed tracking will help you conceive without all of the trial and error many people go through, and with fewer visits to fertility clinics and doctors.
The Pros and Cons of Using Stickers for F.A.M.
There are always going to be pros and cons to using any method. So, let's discuss the pros and cons of this method, or synthesis of methods as the case may be.
Pro: Stickers can be a cute addition to the process. Family planning should be about having fun and growing your family, and it should be about love. When you're dealing with charting and paperwork and temperature readings, it can feel a lot more like work. It takes some of the joy out of the process and makes it harder to feel good about it. Stickers aren't a lot, but they can liven up the whole process. Some of the designs are quite cute, so look for one that feels right for you.
Pro: It can be fairly accurate when done properly. The charting method is one of the oldest and potentially most reliable methods for getting pregnant ever devised by humans. People often disparage it as a poor method for birth control and contraception, and indeed it's less reliable at keeping you from getting pregnant than a barrier method or a method that disrupts your hormones, but that's for preventing pregnancy. When your goal is to get pregnant, a "failure" is simply a fun time in bed that didn't have the same result you wanted, right? And, sure, if you've been trying for months with no success, that can be frustrating, but don't let it get you down. Everybody is different - remember not to compare yourself to other couples, as everybody is different. The process taking months or even years is not uncommon. Stay calm and minimize stress and it will help your chances at conceiving.
Pro: It can reduce the number of doctor visits when tracked properly. Ideally, the charting method will take a lot of the doctor visits out of the picture, at least until you've confirmed that you're pregnant and need to start visiting to maintain and monitor the health of the developing fetus. More often than not, one of the first things a fertility clinic will do is help you with charting, so you're taking some of the processes into your own hands. Plus, if you need to later on down the road, visiting a fertility clinic with documentation in hand helps streamline the entire process.
Pro: You generally don't need expensive tests or machines to do the tracking for you. Generally, all you need is a thermometer, your hands, and something to record data. If you choose to use an ovulation monitoring kit, you're getting basically the same information with a slightly different machine. Granted, there are hundreds of products out there, so there are a bunch of different options. Find something that gives you data you feel like you can trust.
Pro: Assuming you're charting accurately, you'll have data on hand if you need to escalate to a fertility doctor. We mentioned this already, but if you need to visit a fertility clinic because you haven't been having success, you can present your charting to them and they can review it to see if there are any abnormalities, or if you're doing something wrong, and can use it as a starting point for other options.
Con: It takes a long time. Any of the charting methods require at LEAST six months' worth of charting before you have enough data to start making predictions. Usually, a year of data is more reliable. The more data you have, the more accurately you can make predictions. It's not something you can start up and ensure a pregnancy by the end of the next cycle. You need to take it seriously, record data as accurately as possible, and make sure you aren't "cheating". When they say you need to take your temperature before getting out of bed, they mean it.
Con: You have to be very precise and accurate, or else it doesn't work. If your thermometer is off, if your estimate of mucous consistency isn't accurate, if you're off by a day or two, or whatever other "roadblock" comes up, your entire chart is thrown off. Shortcuts, misreading - it all jeopardizes the efficacy of the method. Since the differences you're looking for are so minor, it can be difficult to record them accurately. Since you're trying to find the right 12 hour period in a 28-day cycle (or however long your cycle is), you need precision above all else.
Con: You can't rely on data from other women, as everyone's cycle is different. Quirks in biology, hormone balances, diet, stress; all of these can change how your cycle works. Every woman is different, which is beautiful when you're talking about motivational speeches, but it's frustrating when you're talking about family planning.
Con: A lot of different external forces can throw your cycle out of rhythm. When you're trying to get pregnant, you're probably making a number of different lifestyle changes in an attempt to make things easier. Some of them are fine, but others can have an impact on your cycle and can throw off charting. Changing your diet and exercise habits, for example, can have far-reaching effects on your hormones throughout your body, which can affect your cycle. Even if it generally improves your fertility, it might mean your charting isn't accurate and can't be used as a predictor.
Con: Stickers don't really add much. Ovulation stickers are, again, just that; stickers. They're a cute little aid to help you track your information, and that's it. They don't do anything to make your fertility any better, and they don't make charting any easier. They save you a little bit of writing and make the process a little more fun, and that's it.
Have you used ovulation stickers? What sets did you like the most? Tell us your story in our comments section if you feel like sharing!