Fertility Awareness & Natural Family Planning: Understanding Your Body

Fertility Awareness & Natural Family Planning: Understanding Your Body

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to our bodies and reproductive health. Fertility awareness and natural family planning are powerful tools that can help women better understand their reproductive cycles and take control of family planning decisions. For some, these methods serve as effective, all-natural alternatives to hormonal birth control and other forms of contraception, while others may use fertility awareness to increase their chances of conception. Regardless of the individual goals, understanding the intricacies of your cycle can provide invaluable insight into your unique reproductive health.

In this blog post, we will explore the basics of fertility awareness, the various methods of natural family planning, and practical ways to track your cycle. Additionally, we will discuss the benefits and potential drawbacks of these techniques, empowering you with the knowledge to make an informed decision about whether these methods align with your reproductive goals. Dive deep as we demystify fertility awareness and natural family planning, and learn how to harness the power of these methods to take control of your reproductive journey.

Basics of Fertility Awareness and Natural Family Planning

Fertility awareness involves understanding a woman’s menstrual cycle to determine the days of the month when conception is most likely to occur. These methods rely on observing and recording various fertility signs, such as basal body temperature, cervical mucus changes, and menstrual cycle length. Natural family planning encompasses various approaches that utilize fertility awareness to either prevent pregnancy or optimize the chances of conceiving.

By learning to identify and track your fertile window, you can use natural family planning methods to make informed decisions about your reproductive health.

Methods of Natural Family Planning

Several methods fall under the umbrella of fertility awareness and natural family planning, with some relying on a single fertility sign while others combine multiple signs. The main methods include:

1. Basal Body Temperature Method: This method involves tracking your basal body temperature, which is your body’s temperature at rest, to identify changes that typically occur before and after ovulation. An increase in basal body temperature signals that ovulation has occurred and that your fertile window has closed.

2. Cervical Mucus Method: This technique monitors changes in cervical mucus consistency throughout the menstrual cycle to predict fertility. Fertile cervical mucus is clear, slippery, and stretchy, resembling raw egg whites.

3. Calendar Method: Also known as the rhythm method, this approach involves recording your menstrual cycle length for several months to estimate your fertile window based on the shortest and longest cycles.

4. Standard Days Method: Applicable for women with regular cycles between 26-32 days, this method considers days 8-19 of the cycle as fertile.

5. Symptothermal Method: This combines multiple fertility signs, such as basal body temperature, cervical mucus changes, and menstrual tracking, providing a more comprehensive and accurate prediction of your fertile window.

How to Track Your Cycle

To practice fertility awareness and natural family planning, you’ll need to track your menstrual cycle consistently. Here are some practical ways to do so:

1. Use a basal body thermometer: These thermometers are specifically designed to measure small changes in body temperature. Take your temperature daily immediately upon waking, and record the results to identify patterns linked to ovulation.

2. Observe cervical mucus: Familiarize yourself with cervical mucus changes by checking the consistency daily when you are not menstruating. Record your observations to track changes throughout your cycle.

3. Maintain a menstrual calendar or use fertility apps: Keep a record of your cycle length, fertile window, and fertility signs using a calendar or specialized fertility-tracking apps to predict your fertility patterns more accurately.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Natural Family Planning

Fertility awareness and natural family planning methods offer several benefits, including:

1. No side effects: Unlike hormonal birth control, natural family planning methods don’t have side effects and are suitable for women who cannot or prefer not to use hormonal contraception.

2. Cost-effective: Apart from the basal body thermometer, these methods don’t require expensive tools or devices.

3. Increased self-awareness: Tracking your fertility signs enhances your understanding of your body’s unique reproductive health.

However, there are also potential drawbacks:

1. Efficacy rate: The effectiveness of these methods depends on the accuracy of tracking, personal discipline, and consistency. When used correctly, the efficacy rate ranges from 76-99%, though the practical effectiveness varies for each individual.

2. Requires daily commitment: Tracking fertility signs daily may be time-consuming and challenging for some women.

3. No protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs): Natural family planning methods do not offer any protection against STIs.


Fertility awareness and natural family planning empower women with the knowledge to better understand and manage their reproductive health. By learning to identify and track their fertility signs, women can choose to prevent pregnancy or enhance their chances of conception, depending on their goals. Barbara A. Hessel, MD. FACOG is a trusted guide in helping women navigate their unique fertility journeys, offering professional insight, compassionate care, and fertility treatments. By mastering these techniques, women can harness their bodies’ natural rhythms to make informed decisions about their reproductive health, achieving a sense of control and confidence in their reproductive choices.

Health Insurance Card Checklist

Health Insurance Card Checklist

We understand your health insurance authorization can be a tedious process. To ensure you have an easy transition, we are providing you with a checklist of preparations that simplify the entire experience; this minimizes surprises while your insurance provider processes your medical claims. Beyond your name and policy number, your insurance card contains important information. Many insurance companies list special instructions on the card about pre-certification or prior authorization for services. Check your card. If it shows that you must call your insurance company for authorization, ensure that you or a member of your family calls the company immediately. You usually must do so within 24 hours. To meet your insurance requirements, ask yourself…

  • Have you read the information on the front and back of all of your, and your spouse’s, insurance cards?
  • If you are required to get pre-certification or authorization for services, have you called your insurance company?
  • If you’ve called your insurance company, have you given the hospital your authorization number?
  • Do you know if your insurance company will cover doctor and hospital charges?
  • If your policy has a deductible, how much is it?
  • If your policy requires a second medical opinion, have you received it?
  • If your policy requires a co-payment, how much is it?
  • If your policy requires a referral form for health services, have you received it and given it to the hospital’s admissions office?
  • If your policy requires a claim form, have you filled it out?
  • If you are scheduled for surgery, is it related to an accident? If so, have you given the hospital all information about when, where and how the accident happened?
  • Are you covered by more than one insurance plan? If so, have you given the hospital all the information about all plans, including the plan name, address, phone number, ID number, enrollee’s date of birth, completed claim form and/or completed referral form?

We do not want you to be surprised by anything, so we offer as much information regarding your health insurance as possible to assist in understanding your financial responsibility. If you have further questions, contact our office at (718) 275-7200.

Calcium: Not Just For Bones

We all need calcium, women especially. In addition to strengthening bones and teeth, calcium is also vital to muscle and nerve development and plays a fundamental role in blood clotting.

According to the National Institute of Health, many people don’t get enough calcium from their diet, and The University of Virginia reports that women are eight times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. A condition resulting from a loss of bone mass, osteoporosis may lead to bone fractures and dental problems later in life. Although calcium deficits can affect both men and women, the health consequences for women are much more serious.

PMS Management, Breast Health & More

In addition to the main benefit of promoting bone health, calcium provides other health benefits such as a balanced menstrual cycle and breast health. Did you know that breastfeeding affects a mother’s bones? While they recover it quickly, studies have shown that women often lose 3 to 5 percent of their bone mass during breastfeeding. This is because the growing baby has a great need for calcium, and until it can be obtained from breast milk, it is drawn from the mother’s bones. This is why it is so important to take a high-quality calcium supplement, especially during pregnancy.

Calcium has also been shown to lessen the symptoms of PMS. Studies have shown that a 500mg daily calcium supplementation has shown a reduction in tiredness, depression and appetite changes associates with PMS. It has not been proven beyond a doubt, but anything that might relieve PMS symptoms is worth a try, right?

How much do I need?

According to the University of Illinois Extension, the average U.S. woman only get 500 to 600 mg of calcium each day. This is significantly less than the recommended 1,000 mg that women between the ages of 19 and 50 years of age should have. The amount of calcium you need will increase after the age of 50. Women 50 and up need 1,200 mg of calcium per day to support healthy bone mass.

Calcium Sources

Aside from supplementation, foods are an exceptional source of calcium. An 8-ounce serving of milk or yogurt or a 3-ounce serving of cheese delivers about 300 to 450 mg of calcium. Canned sardines, green leafy veggies such as kale and spinach, and calcium-enriched foods, such as orange juice and soy milk, are also great sources. If you’re interested in taking an over-the-counter calcium supplement, contact Dr. Hessel’s office for more information. Balanced nutrition is the key to great health, and we look forward to helping you meet your needs!

Insurance Definitions

Insurance Definitions

Deductible: The amount you’re responsible for paying for covered medical expenses before your health insurance plan begins to pay for covered medical expenses each year. Deductibles generally range from $0-$3,000 and vary by plan and coverage type. Check with your insurance company for your plan’s deductible amount.

Coinsurance: Shared costs between you and the health insurance plan. For example, you pay 20 percent of costs and your plan pays 80 percent. These percentages may be different from plan to plan. Some plans may not have coinsurance.

Copayment: The payment you make, usually a fixed dollar amount such as $15, each time you visit the doctor or fill a prescription medication. Not all plans have copayments.  These typically do not accumulate toward the deductible.

Out-of-pocket maximum: The most you will have to pay for covered medical expenses in a plan year through deductible and coinsurance before your insurance plan begins to pay 100 percent of covered medical expenses.