By Katie Singer
Published by Riverhead Books / Penguin Putnam

Test Your Fertility IQ
By Katie Singer
copyright © 1999

To learn more about Katie's work with Fertility Awareness, a natural method for preventing or achieving pregnancy and for gauging gynecological health, please visit

To test your Fertility IQ with separated questions and answers, click here.

Q: The Rhythm Method is another name for Fertility Awareness. True or False.

A: False. The (ineffective) Rhythm Method determines a woman's fertility based on her past cycles. With Fertility Awareness, a woman determines her fertility day-by-day by charting changes in her cervical fluid and waking temperatures. This method is also called The Sympto-Thermal Method. When it's called Natural Family Planning, usually that signals a belief in abstinence from any sexual activity during fertile days in order to avoid pregnancy. (Those who teach Fertility Awareness may support the use of barrier methods of contraception during fertile days.) Finally, the Ovulation Method charts only cervical fluid to determine fertile days.

Q: To conceive from sexual intercourse which takes place before ovulation, three things are required: sperm, a mature egg, and __________.

A: Cervical fluid. (CF) However, during the 6-24 hours that the ripened egg is in a fallopian tube, only sperm and the egg are needed.

Q: A girl can get pregnant before she gets her first period. True or False.

A: True. A menstrual period signals that ovulation has likely taken place.

Q: A woman can have sex on Monday and conceive as a result on the following Friday. True or False.

A: True. Because cervical fluid can nourish sperm for up to five days until the woman ovulates.

Q: Cervical fluid (CF) can keep sperm alive in the cervix for how many days?

A: Three to five.

Q: Cervical fluid and arousal fluid are the same thing. True or False.

A: False. Cervical fluid is created in the cervix's crypts, and is capable of nourishing sperm for several days, filtering out impaired sperm and carrying sperm to the mature egg in the fallopian tube at ovulation. Arousal fluid is created like a sweat in the vaginal walls; and while it may look and feel like fertile cervical fluid, it isn't able to nourish sperm, etc. Its function is to lubricate the vaginal walls so that sex isn't painful.

Q: It is possible for a woman to get pregnant if her partner doesn't penetrate her or ejaculate: It's possible for virgins to conceive. True or False.

A: True. If (say) somebody's finger touches the pre-ejaculate, and that finger touches her vulva which has fertile cervical fluid (CF) on it, that CF will be happy to bring the sperm in that pre-ejaculate to her cervix and nourish them there until she ovulates. At ovulation, CF can carry the sperm to the egg for conception.

Q: Pre-ejaculate contains enough sperm to cause a pregnancy or HIV. True or False.

A: True.

Q: Lambskin condoms are as effective as latex in preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). True or False.

A: False. Lambskin condoms are effective in preventing pregnancy, NOT STIs.

Q: A woman can conceive as a result of intercourse that takes place while she's menstruating or breastfeeding. True or False.

A: True. Women can produce cervical fluid during the period and/or while breastfeeding; and it can nourish sperm for up to five days. If a woman ovulates during those five days while CF is keeping sperm alive in her cervix--then, indeed, she can conceive.

Q: Females are born with all their eggs already in their ovaries. True or False.

A: Until very recently, researchers believed that this was true. By four months, a female fetus already has produced about one million follicles--the sacs which hold unripened eggs. At puberty, the number of follicles has reduced to 400,000; and girls begin maturing about a dozen of these follicles in each monthly cycle. Usually, in her lifetime, a woman matures 400-500 eggs. New research shows that it may be possible for a woman to produce new follicles; whether these follicles can release fertile eggs is still unknown.

Q: The lifespan of mature egg: a) 3 days; b) 6-8 days; c) 6-24 hours

A: Six to 24 hours. Normally, a woman matures one egg per cycle. Sometimes (about 10% of the time) she matures more than one--as in the case of fraternal twins.

Q: Beginning at puberty, how many sperm per second do healthy males produce? a) 100; b) 10,000; c) 1000; d)10

A: One thousand per second, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As men age, this number goes down. Also, since the 1930s, men's sperm counts have dropped by about 50%. Some theorize this may be due to modern environmental toxins.

Q: ___% of infertility problems are due to problems in the male; ____% are due to problems in the female; ____% are due to problems with the couple.

A: 40% of infertility problems are due to problems in the male; 40% to problems in the female; 20% to problems with the couple.

Q: Which of the following can decrease sperm count? a) daily work in front of a hot oven; b) hot-tubbing; c) hot weather; d) tight pants; e) marijuana; f) environmental toxins; g) all of the above

A: e) all of the above. Sperm prefer to be produced in a cooler temperature. That's why the testicles (where sperm are produced) hang outside the body.

Q: Before ovulation, a woman's basal body temperature is warmer or cooler than after ovulation?

A: Before ovulation, a woman's basal temperature is COOLER. (Human males and females both prefer cooler temperatures while they're maturing their eggs--see #15.)

Q: a) A man's testicles are like a woman's _____? b) A woman's fallopian tubes are like a man's _____? c) A man's seminal fluid is like a woman's ____? d) A penis is like a woman's _____?

A: a)ovaries b)vas deferens--these are the tubes that are cut when a man has a vasectomy c)cervical fluid d)clitoris

Q: Charting fertility signals can alert a woman to thyroid problems, vaginal infections, propensity to miscarriage, propensity to ovarian cysts, ideal times for surgery, etc. True or False.

A: True. Consistently erratic basal body temperatures (BBTs) can signal thyroid problems. Vaginal infections can be detected more easily when a woman can differentiate between them and normal cervical fluid. If the time between ovulation and menstruation is consistently less than eleven days, she may not have enough progesterone to sustain a pregnancy, and, hence, a propensity to miscarriage. If the woman has frequent "false peaks" wherein her cervical fluid builds up, but she doesn't ovulate, she may be at risk of ovarian cysts. Finally, "surgeries have been shown in some studies to have better outcomes if done during the fertile time. This may be due to the fact that blood sugar levels are higher and more stable during this time. (Blood sugar is lowest during the pre-menstrual infertile time.)"--from "Health Care Applications of Fertility Awareness" by Suzannah Doyle, WomenWise, Summer/91.

Q: Fertility Awareness and The Pill are equally effective forms of birth control. True or False.

A: True. The method effectiveness of The Pill is 97%-99.9%, according to Our Bodies, Ourselves. The method effectiveness of Fertility Awareness is 98.5%, according to a multi-national study (of couples charting only cervical fluid) conducted in 1978 by the World Health Organization; it's slightly higher when waking temperatures are also used. Method effectiveness means when the method is properly used. User effectiveness is lower in both cases--i.e. if a woman forgets to take pills, she can get pregnant; likewise, if a couple is careless with Fertility Awareness rules for birth control, they might conceive. As Suzannah Doyle says, "CONSCIOUS DECISION MAKING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF MAKING FERTILITY AWARENESS WORK."

Q: What are the two most common forms of birth control in the U.S.?

Female sterilization and The Pill. These are each used by about 20% of U.S. women. The condom is in third place, at 13% (according to Contraceptive Technology).


Becker, Gay, The Elusive Embryo: How Women and Men Approach New Reproductive Technologies. University of California Press, 2000. An exceptional (and readable) anthropological study, based on hundreds of interviews, discussing topics such as in vitro fertilization, normalcy, and consumers' psychological and physical experiences when new reproductive technologies do--and don't--work.

Bell, Ruth and members of the Teen Book Project, Changing Bodies, Changing Lives, 3rd Edition. Times Books, 1998. Co-authored by members of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, this outstanding books includes chapters called Changing Bodies, Changing Relationships, Changing Sexuality, Emotional Health Care, Eating Disorders, Substance Abuse, Living With Violence, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Protecting Yourself: Safer Sex and Birth Control, So You Think You Might Be Pregnant, and Changing Things.

The Boston Women's Health Book Collective, Our Bodies, Ourselves for The New Century. Simon and Schuster, 1998. This book is a bible for women wanting clear information and personal stories about Taking Care of Ourselves, Relationships and Sexuality, Sexual Health and Controlling Our Fertility, Childbearing, and more.

Ehling, Dagmar and Katie Singer, "Gauging a Woman's Gynecological Health By Her Fertility Signals: An Introductory Integration of Western and Traditional Chinese Medical Perspectives." In Alternative Therapies, November 1999.

Epstein, MD, Samuel, and David Steinman, The Breast Cancer Prevention Program, MacMillan, 1997. See Chapter 3, "The Pill: Assessing Your Risks." This paper presents studies which show that "oral contraceptives are an avoidable cause of breast cancer."

Fallon, Sally, and Mary Enig, Ph.D, "The Ploy of Soy," and "The Oiling of America." These excellent articles, written by renowned nutritionists, describe the dangers of soy (which has high levels of phytoestrogens) and the health of animal fats for general and reproductive health. Order from Radiant Life, POB 765, Nicasio, CA 94946; 415.662.9535;

Kippley, John and Sheila, The Art of Natural Family Planning, 4th Edition. The Couple to Couple League, 1996. This guide presents thorough information about how to observe fertility signals to avoid or achieve pregnancy. It's available in Spanish. Please note that strong Catholic morals are woven throughout this text. Also, the CCL can refer you to a teacher in your area: 800.745.8252.

Panuthos, Claudia and Catherine Romeo, Ended Beginnings: Healing Childbearing Losses. Bergin and Garvey, 1984. This timeless book gives practical and loving suggestions for healing from all kinds of childbearing losses, including miscarriage, abortion, release to adoption, and stillbirth.

Shannon, Marilyn, Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition: Can What You Eat Affect Your Menstrual Cycles and Your Fertility? Couple to Couple League International, 1996. Shannon provides easy-to-follow nutritional guides for dealing with PMS, infertility, pre-menopause, repeated miscarriages, male infertility, and more.

Weschler, Toni, Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control and Pregnancy Achievement. Harper Perennial, 1995. This book describes what happens during the menstrual cycle, how to observe and chart fertility signals, how to use charts for birth control or to maximize your chances of getting pregnant, and the practical benefits of charting.

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