How to Use Fertility Monitors to Space or Avoid Pregnancy

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Fertility monitors to space or avoid pregnancy
Wellness Mama » Blog » Motherhood » How to Use Fertility Monitors to Space or Avoid Pregnancy

As many of you know, I’ve had six children in nine years. I’m certainly open to having more children in the future, but I feel like my body would benefit from a break from pregnancy/nursing, especially as I am working to overcome my autoimmune disease and heal my thyroid.

Why Not Hormones?

I’ve written before about why I choose not to use hormonal or artificial contraceptives and what I use instead. I explained in that post:

Hormonal contraceptives are made from artificial hormone-like substances that attempt to mimic the effects of naturally occurring hormones in the body. Hormonal contraceptives work by:

  • suppressing the release of hormones that trigger ovulation;
  • stimulating production of thick cervical mucus, which prevents sperm survival and ability to travel to a ripe egg in the fallopian tube in the event that ovulation does occur;
  • disrupting the ability of the cilia (whip-like cells that line the fallopian tube) to move a fertilized egg toward the uterus in the event that conception does occur;
  • preventing buildup of the uterine lining, and thereby inhibiting implantation of a fertilized egg in the event that one arrives in the uterus.

Personally, the mere possibility that conception could occur and then the fertilized egg could be prevented form implanting is enough to keep me from ever wanting to use hormonal contraceptives.

Problems With the Pill

Artificial hormones like those found in hormonal contraceptives aren’t good for Mom either (or the water supply for that matter).

Sam Epstein, MD and author of The Breast Cancer Prevention Program, explains:

More than 20 well-controlled studies have demonstrated the clear risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer with the use of oral contraceptives. These estimates indicate that a young woman who uses oral contraceptives has up to ten times the risk for developing breast cancer as does a non-user, particularly if she uses the Pill during her teens or early twenties; if she uses the Pill for two years or more; if she uses the Pill before her first full-term pregnancy; if she has a family history of breast cancer.” (emphasis added)

Doing the math, this means a woman who takes the Pill for even just two years before the age of 25 and before she’s had a pregnancy to term increases her risk of breast cancer tenfold.

As I’m not personally a fan of increased cancer risk, and I’m also not a fan of altering my hormones with artificial means. For these reasons I’ve used alternative methods to track my fertility.

How to Test for Fertility

A woman is only cyclically fertile, and within a normal cycle will go from infertile to fertile (for a short window) and back to infertile. Couples who have tried to conceive a child know all too well that there are infertile periods of the month.

Natural methods of achieving or delaying pregnancy depend on knowledge of a woman’s cycle and body to be able to pinpoint the fertile window and use that time accordingly. There are ovulation calculators (and see the other suggestions below) that make this easier to calculate and track based on your specific cycle.

I often hear it said in the health sphere that every body is different and the path to health depends on being able to tune into one’s individual needs. I think this holds especially true when it comes to fertility. So how to listen and know what is going on with your fertility?

Good question!

Natural Family Planning Made Easier

Natural Family Planning or NFP as it is called requires observations of indicators like Basal Body Temperature (BBT), mucus production, cervical position, and other symptoms to predict ovulation. This often means charting these observations to interpret an overall picture of fertility.

You can find a class to teach you how to practice these methods, or there are several apps (this is one of them) that make charting easier. Better yet, there are even computerized devices that connect to these apps and make this process of tracking fertility more accurate and easier to do.

Most fertility monitors are recommended for achieving pregnancy but aren’t labeled for use in avoiding pregnancy or recommended while breastfeeding. I tried to find information on using fertility monitors for these purposes, but there was limited information available.

My Experience Using Fertility Monitors

When given the chance by Fairhaven Health, I decided to test four of these fertility monitors side by side for six months and compare the results to see:

  1. which were the most accurate;
  2. if they could be used during breastfeeding or to delay pregnancy.

The four methods I compared side by side were:

  1. Fertile Focus Ovulation Microscope
  2. iBasal Thermometer
  3. Ovulation Sticks

Plus I charted my fertility using the Sympto-Thermal method of Natural Family Planning. I also tried a device called OvaCue, but that company is no longer around. This is what I found:

1. Fertile Focus

What It Is: The Fertile Focus uses a microscope to track the changes in the saliva that correspond with changes in fertility. The website explains the FertileFocus microscope:

“Designed by leading fertility expert, Dr. Amos Grunebaum, ObGyn, Fertile-Focus is the affordable high-quality saliva-based fertility test (or personal ovulation microscope) that predicts ovulation with 98% accuracy – up to 72 hours in advance.

Fertile-Focus allows women to identify their most fertile days by testing and viewing the visual changes that take place in saliva throughout the monthly cycle. Just prior to ovulation, women experience an “estrogen surge,” and a distinct fern-like pattern becomes visible in saliva due to the hormonal changes. Fertile-Focus provides the highest quality, powerful 50x magnification lens for easily identifying these crystal “ferning” patterns.”

How I Used It: The Fertile Focus predicts ovulation several days in advance based on the patterns in the saliva. Since I was using the OvaCue while nursing a baby and creating “cycles” for it to track, I used the Fertile Focus as a backup method to show ovulation if the OvaCue missed it. All that is required is to place a small amount of saliva on the fertile focus each morning (before eating or drinking), let it dry and then look at it with the microscope.

The Fertile Focus showed the ferning pattern in my saliva at the same time that my charting showed a rise in fertility and the same time that the OvaCue predicted ovulation. It only gave me about 3 days advance notice, compared to the 7 day notice with OvaCue but it was fascinating to see the change in my saliva.

I liked how portable and easy to use the Fertile Focus was, but prefer the extra data with the OvaCue. The Fertile Focus is also the least expensive of the methods I tried. Though it didn’t provide as much advance notice of ovulation, it did predict it accurately.

2. iBasal Thermometer

What It Is: The iBasal Thermometer is a device that relies on the Basal Body Temperature (BBT) method for tracking fertility and pinpointing ovulation. The iBasal has a built in alarm clock to remind you to take your temperature each morning and it measures temperature to 1/100th of a degree. I’ve charted with the BBT method before but the iBasal charts for you to make the process easier.

The website explains:

Basal body temperature (BBT) charting is a tried and true method for determining precisely when during your menstrual cycle you ovulate. Your basal body temperature is the temperature at which your body rests, which tends to be a bit lower than your “normal” temperature, usually 97 point something degrees F versus 98.6 degrees F. By measuring your BBT each morning (after a full night’s sleep) throughout your cycle you can detect the natural and subtle rise in your basal body temperature that occurs just after ovulation. This post-ovulatory shift in BBT is caused by increased production of the hormone progesterone, sometimes referred to as the “warming hormone.”

How I Used It: I kept the iBasal by my bed and took my temperature with it each morning. While I was nursing and didn’t have a cycle, it showed slight variations in my temperature, but not enough to indicate a shift in fertility. Also, since I was working on improving my thyroid hormone levels during this time, it registered a few false ovulations, though most women (even while nursing) wouldn’t have this variable to deal with.

It did confirm that ovulation had happened after (which corresponded with the other methods I was using) but it didn’t give advance notice.

3. Ovulation Sticks

What It Is: Ovulation sticks use urine to identify a rise in LH (Leutenizing Hormone) that occurs 12-48 hours before ovulation. They are very accurate but don’t give much advance notice of ovulation.

How I Used Them: I use these mainly to confirm what the fertility monitors were saying and confirm that ovulation did occur. They can be pricey and must be bought each month, so they aren’t the best option but they do give an extra way to confirm that ovulation has occurred and that LH levels have dropped. I won’t use these long term but they were useful as an extra way to verify the data from the other machines.

What I Use Now

After comparing all four methods side by side for six months, the Fertile Focus is my top option. The device I use the most often is no longer being made, but Fertile Focus is a good alternative. Another option to try is the Kegg fertility monitor which relies on cervical mucus so it’s more accurate.

There is also a great community at Fairhaven Health of women using these different methods and they have forums where you can ask questions and get advice.

As I’m trying to temporarily avoid pregnancy, I’m using these methods to pinpoint my fertile window so I can avoid getting pregnant, but the same technology is excellent at helping pinpoint ovulation to achieve pregnancy.

With this existing technology and as more research and innovation happens, fertility monitors provide an alternative to hormonal contraceptives and also allow women to know and understand their bodies and possibly identify hormonal problems.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Anna Cabeca, a gynecologist and obstetrician and a menopause and sexual health expert. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Have you ever used a fertility monitor or natural family planning method? Please share what worked for you below!

How to Use Fertility Monitors to Achieve or Avoid Pregnancy Without Hormones

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


231 responses to “How to Use Fertility Monitors to Space or Avoid Pregnancy”

  1. Julia Avatar

    Hi! The Daysy is not on your list? Do you have any advice or thoughts about using that option?

  2. Audrey Avatar

    I know this post is over 3 years old, but can you give some tips on how to use the Ovacue while breastfeeding before my cycle returns? We just had our 3rd baby in 4 years and I need a break. I’m trying to figure out how to check for fertility before my cycle returns so we don’t have a surprise baby next year. Thanks!

  3. AJ Avatar

    I too would like to use this to postpone pregnancy. I have looked into it on their site for more details and wrote them but they can’t answer for using this to postpone..

    1. Do you feel the monitor sufficient or do you put all the info into the OvaGraph it talks about? Or not necessary?
    2. Did you do this before you first period came back after pregnancy and while nursing?

    Thank you!

  4. kathy Avatar

    I purchased the OvaCue based on ths blog and wound up using it for ten months in the postpartum after my sixth to avoid pregnancy than well wound up getting pregnant. I appreciate that you’re another faithful Catholic and hoping you can help :). Do you have any instructions anywhere on how to use it in the postpartum when you don’t have cycles to successfully avoid pregnancy? I see that you mention the need to be careful with how you track things but doesn’t go into further detail. I need help… seven kids and now my own health problems and NFP is hard to figure out. I haven’t had a real need to do so until now and my baby is six weeks old so I should have gotten on this much sooner.

  5. Leah Avatar

    I am getting married in December. We do not want to get pregnant right away & we both want to do this the natural way instead of me being on BC. I am currently on Nuva Ring, but plan to stop after we get married. I’m new to natural family planning & would love some advice on where to start. I did read this article & I am leaning toward the Ova Cue, but would love advice! I already track my periods. I am going to download the Fertility Friend app. I seem to have a monthly period now, but my average ranges from 25 to 34 days.

    1. Willie Avatar

      Fertility friend is for women who are trying to get pregnant, not delay pregnancy. And with such a variable cycle, you are going to find NFP really tough. If you don’t mind a little oops blessing, then go for it!

  6. Rachel katz Avatar
    Rachel katz

    Was wondering which days you abstained when using ovacue , and did you use it in addition to super Ice?

    1. Jacquee Avatar

      After I started using my Ovacue, I became much more aware of how my sexual response changes over my cycle. I have found that the orgasms I have in the days following my cue peak leading up to ovulation are much more intense and completely different from the rest of the month. It is also the only time I can orgasm while having penetrative sex because my natural lubrication especially starting a couple of days before ovulation is good enough that we don’t have to use anything extra, and I get just the right amount of friction I need to orgasm from feeling him inside me. It is a huge turn on for him to feel me orgasm when he is inside me, and he shoots off immediately when I do so we orgasm together. We try to have sex every night when I am in the “blue” days and we always take a long lunch a day or two before ovulation to just really enjoy ourselves. Our nanny teases us because we make her take the kids to the park or the movies if they are not in school. Discovering my body’s best days for sex has really improved our marriage. Of course we have to be careful. We both hate condoms, so I use the soft cup. It it not advertised for BC, but it works great without spermicide and is really comfortable, especially when we are having sex every day.

      1. Mindy Avatar

        Are you sure it’s safe to rely on a soft cup only for bc? I love having skin on skin bare sex with my boyfriend when I am all lubed up and full of hormones in the middle of my cycle, but I really don’t want to get pregnant.

        1. Jacquee Avatar

          A soft cup is great for delaying pregnancy for a couple who want to have babies but would prefer to space them apart. BC is always a trade off between good sex and good health and effectiveness. It is really important to our marriage for us to share simultaneous orgasm when he’s inside me. We hate condoms, and I really like to feel his semen in me and know it is good for my physical and emotional balance to have his semen inside me. There is no way I am going to use artificial spermicides. There have been a few times where it was really important not to get pregnant because of work or travel. Those times I have gotten him off first with my mouth and then had him go to the bathroom and come back and do it again, this time inside me. It really reduces the semen volume. And he lasts a really long time. I also have added a homemade spermicide of aloe and lemon juice inside the cup. That has worked well for us when we wanted to be extra safe.

  7. Ashley Avatar

    Do you have any opinions on the newer Ava Bracelet? Can it be used in the same way as the Lady Comp/Ova Cue and other ones you mentioned above? Is it as accurate? Thank you for always sharing so much helpful info!

  8. Elisabeth Avatar

    Adding my comment so I will be notified when the tutorial about using ovacue while nursing is posted. I just got mine, 2 months postpartum, and nervous to start tracking with nursing! Have used NFP before successfully though.

  9. Nicola Avatar

    I teach charting in our high school marriage and family class. I don’t call it NFP because our focus is solely on predicting the best window to BD. We do not cover how to chart the abstinence window if you are using NFP to TTA because I don’t want to encourage them to be active. But I do use the fertile days window to introduce and illustrate the concept of charting to know when to abstain. I find that focusing just on the few days of peak fertility makes it easier for the girls to understand the abstinence concept.

    1. Candi Avatar

      I also introduce fertility awareness in my marriage and family class for our high school seniors, and I agree with Nicola that it can be a tricky topic to introduce NFP for TTA without unintentionally encouraging the girls to start using it before marriage as BC and becoming active while still in school. I also try to focus my instruction just on predicting ovulation and thinking about fertility in terms of the best days to BD. I teach sort of a simplified Billings method to check mucus in the morning. “Egg white” days are the BD days. That produces about four BD days each month. The limit of our discussion of periodic abstinence is to point out that the change in mucus texture is a highly reliable indication of ovulation and a great way to TTA. I stop the discussion there and remind them that they should wait until marriage to begin using NFP and only after getting training at our parish. The girls are usually pretty surprised to learn that they are actually fertile for only a couple of days each month. We don’t really get into how long sperm can survive because that concept is more relevant for periodic abstinence than trying to conceive.

    2. Kc Avatar

      Would you be able to help me try to figure out how to use the ovacue for bc? All of the “potentially fertile” days confuse me, especially when sperm can live inside your body for awhile.

  10. Alicia Avatar

    Although I’m not Catholic, one of the local churches was doing a workshop on natural family planning. It was great instruction, very simple, and it works. They use abstinence during the fertility window, but we just use a condom.

    The very best I found was a book called “How To Not Get Pregnant”

    It goes into depth about your cycle, hormones and fertility. I use an app on my phone to help track my period and fertility, but I mostly just use a couple of the methods from the book.

    I also can’t use the BBT, as my sleep is very irregular (I wake up 8-10 times a night for unknown reasons at this point).

  11. Rachel Avatar

    Just delivered my “OvaCue” baby last week! He’s #7 for me…we were trying to avoid pregnancy but I missed the part about resetting the monitor! Critical detail as I had a long cycle (I was still breastfeeding my 1 year old), ovulated on day 40 but the monitor didn’t catch it since it had already predicted my ovulation earlier in the month. Oh well! We are in love with our new little one and wouldn’t change a thing…just not what we were planning. Sometimes the Lord knows best and turns our mistakes into blessings!

  12. Teresa Avatar

    Hi everyone,
    I’m 28 and I was on the pill for about 11 years of my life. As a teenager I had heavy bleeding, long periods, nausea, heavy cramps and really bad acne. I was sold the pill as a lifesaver for all my problems and because I was so young at the time I didn’t now better and didn’t have anyone giving me the other side of the story.

    I am now free of BC and never felt better! I can’t believe it took me such a long time to come around…I almost feel ashamed that I did this to my body for so many years. Fortunately I ovulated 2 weeks after coming off the pill, I can’t explain the relief and sheer happiness that came over me when my fertility app confirmed it (together with all the other signs). I still work! I’ve been using Natural Cycles for a couple of months now and everything is going smoothly, I can’t recommended it enough and it’s so easy to use (but it may not be for everyone). I use it to avoid pregnancy but like the other fertility monitors you can also use it to get pregnant.

    My point is that women’s health should be taught at schools, young girls should have the information it took me a decade to achieve because you won’t get it from doctors or nurses. There is another way and all women in the world should know about it. I guess it has to start with moms passing on the info to their children 🙂

  13. Jill Avatar

    Katie, the Facts About Fertility group did a fertility app study and showed how important it is to take instruction to interpret the observations (they are fine for tracking data). It would be a good study to include- as a certified instructor, I hear if too many “unplanned” pregnancies from people who think NFP failed because a particular tool was used beyond its capabilities. These are tools, not NFP, to be clear. While your article states your devices are not recommended for avoiding (just conceiving) you tell people how you use them against the recommendation. I am hoping people realize the implications if they also choose to use tools outside their recommended capabilities. Why not include NFP organizations that offer online classes with certified instructors to give full information to be successful?

  14. Kiley Avatar

    Thank you for advocating NFP through your platform! I wanted to share that Marquette University has a method of using the clear blue easy fertility monitor and tracking for use with achieving and postponing pregnancy. They also have a breastfeeding protocol! You can find info at Happy planning!

  15. Abby Davis Avatar
    Abby Davis

    Hi wellness mama,
    I am very interested in getting something similar to the ovacue to use for “birth control”. I saw that you had talked to Nicole Jardim about natural birth controls.. but she recommended the daysy. What’s the difference between these two? I noticed that the daysy had a higher percentage for effectiveness. Would you still recommend the ovacue over the daysy?

  16. Therese Avatar

    Katie– Do you have any suggestions for resources to learn how to accurately use/interpret data from the ovacue for TTA while breastfeeding?

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