Select Page

The menstrual cycle stages and ferning.  The cycle graph shows how all of this plays out. The top line represents the estrogen curve, the bottom line is progesterone and the darkened area below is the uterine lining; cross-sectioned.   Read more information about the Menstrual Cycle Stages.

menstrual cycle stagesIt is scientifically accepted that fertility is for a short time and that in any ovulatory cycle a woman has only about 24-48 hours in which her egg can be fertilized.  Before ovulation, the sperm can survive up to 72 hours (3 days) and even up to 5 days, in the cervix and fallopian tubes, in less common circumstances. (Many women we work with have experienced this timing when there was an acidic environment.) So now we know that, if intercourse takes place up to 3-5 days before ovulating, a woman may become pregnant during peak fertility and even up to 5.

When we look at this phase (Cycle Graph) we see there are up 7 days per month (3-5 days prior to fertility, and 2 days of fertility) that a woman might be considered fertile.   Looking at this with ferning in mind, since the release of the egg, is seen as the end of opportunity the declining of the ferns will signify the passing of fertility. Ferns will wane, just as they waxed, but usually more quickly once ovulation has taken place.


In the Cycle Graph notice the line at the top, under the word pregnancy. If you were to become pregnant, this line shows that progesterone would stay high and not begin to drop as with the darker progesterone line. This would occur around day 20-23 in a 28 day cycle; if ovulation occurred around day 14. Adjust accordingly to when you ovulated.

The egg may become available for fertilization by sperm at anywhere from very early in the cycle (rarely, if shedding from the previous cycle were delayed)  to Day 20 of the cycle.  Typically it would be more like days 12-16.   Remember, this is a typical cycle we are describing.

When a woman is in an infertile time and estrogen is low, the typical pattern would be that of scattered dots on an otherwise clear slide. Mark these days as infertile. NOTE: This is the safest time for love-making if avoiding conception and would account for somewhere about 22-24 total days, before and after ovulation, in a 28 day cycle.

Remember that only abstinence is full proof. There are no guaranteed ‘safe’ days in NFP.

As FSH peaks and estrogen is bubbling over from matured follicles, and all is going well, a woman’s mucus membranes produce more salt in the body. This salt is elevated in proportion to the estrogen rise and when dry will form fern-like or frost-like patterns on a slide. This is what to watch for.  This is explained in the Fertility Tracker booklet along with images of the ferning patterns you may see at this time.

As a woman nears this time of fertility the patterns forming on a slide would begin to show the coming together of the scattered dots or chards of glass-like patterns. This signals that the beginning of what is called ferning will most likely be coming soon. When this fern-like pattern appears and then peaks in its fullness, ovulation will usually occur.

NOTE: The pattern is formed because the salt gathers together. Without the presence of this salt, fluid repels itself and evaporates when dry; leaving barely a pattern, just dots, to observe.  For women with anovulatory cycles, the menstrual cycle and ferning patterns can be very frustrating.  This “infertile dot” pattern can last a long time.

The onset of the clustering, even in small amounts, shows that fertility may now be increasing. Actually more to the point it signifies that estrogen is dominant and unopposed. This last statement is key to understanding what you might see in parts of your cycle. We are really tracking estrogen patterns which can be our guide to fertility.  Using ovulation prediction kits, cassettes or strips can be frustrating since you are not able to see patterns evolving.

For couples trying to conceive:  This is the time to begin what is called baby dancing. (This is a common preconception term meaning to make love.)

Tracking the menstrual cycle and ferning is very helpful if your husband has a poor sperm count.  Since you can see things progressing you will know to make love every other day until the clusters disappear and become dots again. If your husband’s count and motility is good then you may make love daily, before ovulation, for best chances.

For women avoiding pregnancy, at this time; NFP: From the time the dots begin to cluster and/or form ferns, it is time to avoid making love. When the clusters become dispersed, and dots again, you are considered to be safe / infertile. Again, we must state that this is not birth control, there are no chemicals or barrier methods, but an aid to natural family planning. Take time to get to know YOUR menstrual cycle and ferning patterns before depending on this method.

At first, Natural Family Planning with the use of the saliva ferning method is best when used with temperatures and/or checking cervical changes and mucus to ensure that ovulation has passed, before resuming love making.    See the other methods of tracking fertility as well in this booklet. Together these methods make strong allies in NFP.

Remember: When avoiding conception you will have abstained from the time the clustering began until the dots resumed or ovulation was confirmed.  Also, especially in the beginning as you become familiar with your ferning patterns, you may decide to use other barrier methods along with The Fertility Tracker®.

In a 28 cycle a peak in ferning would usually happen about days 12-16, prior to ovulation. This is the signal that ovulation is eminent but means that a woman may have been fertile, in anticipation of ovulation, for several days.

Here is the beauty of the Fertility Tracker®. Since most women using fertility detection devices for fertility tracking are not “typical” in monthly patterns, the Fertility Tracker® will show YOUR patterns according to YOUR estrogen patterns.   If you ovulate later, your ferns will show up later and vice versa.

This is why The Fertility Tracker® has been recommended so highly for infertile couples; those without “typical” cycles.  Nothing compares to SEEING how your menstrual cycle and ferning patterns play out.  Visit our store to purchase the Fertility Tracker and other helpful fertility and daily supplements.  Visit our Store