Tracking Your Cycle: The Billings Method
Karaz’s Shahrazad consults the experts to learn how to read the signs of cervical mucus used to track a woman’s ovulation cycle every month.
Knowing how to read your body is important if you want to understand your cycle, when you ovulate, when to expect your period, and even try to use the information to prevent or plan for pregnancy. The Billings Method, also known as the Ovulation Method or what I think is more appropriate, the Cervical Mucus Method, consists of learning to analyze the variations in consistency and volume of your cervical mucus to determine when you’re ovulating and where you are in your cycle.
Cervical mucus (CM) is liquid that is secreted from your cervix and vagina as a result of hormones that control your cycle. There is a pattern that happens as these hormones change throughout your cycle that affects the amount and quality of your cervical mucus.
Typical Mucus Pattern
Stage in Cycle
What is happening?
Cervical Mucus Signs
|Period||Menstrual Flow||Blood covers signs of CM|
|Post-Period||Days right after you end your period, before the egg starts to develop||Dry Days, No visible CM|
|Mid-Cycle||Egg starts to mature so more CM is produced.||CM is usually white, yellow and cloudy. Sticky and Tacky|
|Fertile Days||The days right before, during and 1 day after ovulation, when an egg is released||You will have the most mucus before ovulation. It feels slippery and is usually referred to as Egg White CM because it has the same consistency. It should be clear, and stretchable without breaking fast. This is the most fertile time in your cycle|
|Post-Ovulation||After the egg is dissolved, and is no longer there to be fertilized||After 4 or so days of slippery CM, you may suddenly have a lot less. It will get cloudy and tacky again and you might have dry days before your next period|
Tracking Your Pattern
Print out a simple calendar and record the information every day. If you feel different kinds of CM, if it is creamy or rubbery for example, chart that down. When you do it long enough, you will start to recognize your body’s pattern. If you’re concerned about anything you feel is unusual, consult your doctor.
How to Check
There are a few different ways to check your cervical mucus, which you should do a couple times a day.
1. Check the color and texture of the cervical mucus on your underwear
2. Check the tissue after you wipe the opening of the vagina, but before you use the bathroom
Your mucus pattern can change due to various factors such as breastfeeding, cervical surgery, using spermicide, having an infection, using hormonal contraceptives or douching or using ‘feminine hygiene’ products.
Track your cycle for a few months to really understand your pattern before you depend on cervical mucus alone to determine what your safe days are.
- Your period days are not safe because you can’t see cervical mucus
- Dry days after your period may be safe, only if you have a long cycle
- Fertile days, or the days where you start to notice the first traces of slippery mucus to about 4 days after, are the most likely time you can get pregnant.
- Also, it is important to remember that although the egg only lives for 12-24 hours, sperm can live inside your body for up to 7 days
- The days after you ovulate, where the mucus becomes cloudy and tacky again can be considered safe
- Dry days after that, and before your period, are considered even safer