Fertility awareness

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Fertility awareness (FA) refers to a set of practices used to determine the fertile and infertile phases of a woman's menstrual cycle. Fertility awareness methods may be used to avoid pregnancy, to achieve pregnancy, or as a way to monitor gynecological health.

Methods of identifying infertile days have been known since antiquity, but scientific knowledge gained during the past century has greatly increased the accuracy of these systems. From 1930 to 1980, all research and promotion of fertility awareness was done by those associated with the Roman Catholic Church. Fertility awareness organizations continue to be predominately Catholic, but some secular organizations now exist.

Systems of fertility awareness rely on observation of changes in one or more of the primary fertility signs (basal body temperature, cervical mucus, and cervical position), tracking menstrual cycle length and identifying the fertile window based on this information, or both. Other signs may also be observed: these include breast tenderness and mittelschmerz (ovulation pains), urine analysis strips known as ovulation predictor kits (OPKs), and microscopic examination of saliva or cervical fluid. Also available are computerized fertility monitors.

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