I promised a friend I would do my best to explain how to start charting her cycles and tracking her fertility. I am 5 months in to doing this so I am somewhat of a seasoned professional. We have been trying to conceive again after losing Hayden ever since my birth wounds healed. I honestly did not expect it to be this hard, I don’t think we had a hard time getting pregnant before but I will admit I had no sweet clue when I ovulated or what a luteal phase was or that I could make predictions based on my cervical position. I was completely oblivious to my own reproduction and perhaps that is why we were able to conceive. All this charting and obsessing is probably not helping the baby making progress and part of me is thinking of giving up and just seeing what happens. I will say, it has been pretty empowering to learn more about my own fertility this way and understand my unique cycle patterns. This method is not only used to achieve pregnancy but also to avoid it without the use of hormone-filled female contraceptives.
Let’s get started!
What you will need:
– An app or website to document your data (I use Kindara on the iPhone but there are others out there, you just have to look, fertility friend is supposed to be a really good one too)
– A decent basal thermometer for checking your BBT (Basal Body Temp)
– A willingness to learn the lingo (took me a long time and I am still in dark with some of the crazy abbreviations)
– A sense of humor because you will be doing a lot of weird shit you never thought you would do
Some examples of abbreviations you will need to know:
Charting your cycle is really quite simple but it takes commitment.
There are 3 stages to your cycle. Follicular (FP), Ovulation (O), and luteal (LP).
Obviously your FP is the time before you O and the LP is the time after you ovulate up until you get your AF.
There are two main components to charting. First is taking your BBT (vaginally) every morning, as soon as you wake up and before you get out of bed, at the same time (within 30 mins give or take) and making sure you had at least 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep before waking. I take mine when our alarm goes off (6:30am…even on weekends!) and keep my thermometer under my pillow so I barely have to move. Moving around and getting up will make your BBT higher and give you false data. Sometimes this is a problem for me because I have a crying cat outside my window at 5am and need to let him in. My temps may not always be accurate. The second important part is checking for CF daily. You do this by inserting a finger in to your vagina and then inspecting what you find. Is there any at all (dry)? creamy? sticky? watery? or egg whitey? The important part of this is to check it a few times a day and record the most fertile fluid you find. If you are going to gather your CF from deep within near your cervix make sure you consistently do that. If you decide to check whats at the opening, keep doing that. The most fertile CF is EWCF which will be clear and stretchy (like egg whites..duh). No CF is the least fertile and then sticky and white creamy. Watery is pretty close to EWCF and is also considered to be fertile. This method takes getting used to and can seem strange at first. Once you start seeing a pattern it will be really cool and empowering though, I promise.
Unfortunately, you can only know that you have O the day after. The day after O your temp will rise at LEAST .2 degrees higher than your previous 6 temps and will stay elevated for at least 3 days. This is a rule of thumb for knowing you actually ovulated that month. If you have no temp rise in your cycle you may be experiencing an anovulatory cycle meaning you did not O- you should make an appointment with your GP to figure out whats up.
Take a look at my CY#3 chart
This cycle lasted 37 days (my norm is 36) so I was almost convinced I was PG the day AF was supposed to arrive but, alas, I was not. As you can see, I ovulated on CD24 (also a norm for me). The length of my LP was 12-13 days long here, ideally you need 14 days to get pregnant and no less than 10. The LP is the time after O when your body begins producing P4 which is released from the corpus luteum during O. P4 carries on maintaining the uterus lining, it stops a new follicle from developing and prevents the uterus from contracting. With no fertilization, P4 levels fall causing the shedding of the uterus lining and, voila, AF arrives. Some temp drops in your LP are fine, in fact, there is such a thing as an “implantation dip” which is a dip in temp some time between DPO 5-10 caused by a fertilized egg implanting itself on the uterine lining – a.k.a pregnancy! If your LP is 10 days or less you may have a problem getting pregnant because your body has not had enough time to allow the fertilized egg to implant before the lining starts to shed and AF arrives.
Charting your CF can help you predict when you begin your fertile stage. Normally, your CF will become watery or EW as your approach O. This can give you a hint that it is time to start serious baby making activities. As mentioned above, you will only know you ovulated the day after, so all the hints you can get are important!
To keep track of unprotected sex little hearts below each CD are recorded. In the above chart, we timed sex perfectly for conception. We did it on all of the fertile days leading up to O and even the day after O. Sperm can live inside you for up to 7 days!!! That is pretty crazy! Your egg can live only 12-24 hours! Baby making is intricate stuff!
The biggest misconception is that you get pregnant on CD 14. That may be true for women with at 28 day cycle but for many women, our cycles vary from 21-40 days. There is no real norm when it comes to this stuff, It is still possible to get pregnant on longer cycles, what matters most is A: you ovulate B: you have sex when you ovulate C: your luteal phase is long enough to allow a fertilize egg to successfully implant. There are many other factors that can inhibit getting your anticipated BFP. Stress is one of them which may account for us trying for 5 months with no luck. If i keep obsessing about TTC it will probably take longer to actually make a baby than if I were to relax and stop thinking about it. That is exactly how Hayden was conceived. We never thought about it.
Either way, charting is a great tool to get to see the patterns in your cycle, figure out if you have fertility issues, and time sex according to ovulation. My period is due today and my temp dropped this morning on 12DPO. This probably means I am going to get a visit from AF any minute now…It doesn’t help that each month this happens I cry like a baby in DH’s arms with complete disappointment and shattered hopes. I am putting so much pressure on myself to get pregnant with my rainbow it is likely hurting my chances. I might skip the charting this month. I already know I ovulate around CD24 so my next fertile period is around Oct 23rd. I will mark that on my calendar and put the effort in but I will try hard not to get caught up with the whole thing again and see if that helps.
Hope this information was helpful for anyone curious about fertility charting.
https://www.kindara.com/home (charting APP I use)
http://www.redcoralfertility.com/ (Justina gave me loads of great advice when I first began my TTC journey)