So you have decided to start or grow your family. Whoo-hoo, good for you! Whether this decision leads to pregnancy a few months later or if it takes a little longer, there are plenty of benefits in fertility tracking.
Using a chart to track your optimal fertility is a great way to empower yourself, as you learn all the intimate details of your body and it's rhythms. It gives you the ability to pinpoint your ovulation in advance, both improving your odds and ensuring your eggs are at their best. You become more in tune with the changes in your cycle. And if you want to put the breaks on and feel confident in your tracking prowess, you can even use it as a form of contraception. I recommend having a good solid year of tracking under your belt first and understand like all other contraception it will only lower your odds of conceiving.
For fertility tracking to be worthwhile it requires commitment and patience. But don't let this put you off as it quickly becomes a normal part of the day once you get into a routine of measuring the necessary elements. To make it that much easier you can download my FREE chart in either Celsius or Fahrenheit which allows for up to 40 days depending on the length of your cycle. And if you are like me and prefer to do things digitally, just jump to the app store instead, where you can find plenty of fertility tracking apps.
|FERTILITY CHART °F|
|FERTILITY CHART °C|
How do I use a chart?
Firstly mark down the date from the first day your period starts. Day 1 is the first day that you have red blood, brown spotting or discharge doesn't count. After recording the dates it is helpful to fill in the day of the week as M, T, W and so on.
Next, take your basal temperature (orally) at the same time every morning. To avoid inaccurate readings, keep a digital thermometer, ideally one that measure to 2dp, next to your bed to avoid raising your temperature with any excess movement. Make sure you note down any extra details, e.g. if you have a cold, have been travelling or feeling stressed, as these factors can alter the basal temperature.
Plot your temperature on the graph, and over the course of the month, you will see a line which will zig-zag a little bit. When you ovulate the line takes a small plummet before jumping back up again. The temperatures in the luteal phase (the second half of the month), will generally be slightly higher than the follicular phase (the first half of the month). At the end of the cycle the temperature will either remain around the same level if you are pregnant, or drop back again if you are not. The luteal phase is around 14 days of a cycle but can vary per individual. The follicular phase also varies in length, and between the two a woman’s cycle can be anywhere between 19 and 90 days! If your cycle is not within the range of 26 days to 31 days it is worth having blood tests taken to see if there are any hormonal issues. If this does not show any conclusions then further testing may be needed.
The main indicator of fertility to look out for is cervical mucous. There are several ways to describe cervical mucous, and during each stage of the cycle it has a different consistency.
- After your period and post ovulation the mucous may appear absent, these are dry days and mean it is very unlikely that you are fertile. Basically the mucous has formed a sticky plug around the cervix to prevent bacteria from entering the uterus.
- The next stage is the sticky, pasty days where the fluid is not actually wet. Although the cervical fluid is not friendly for sperm survival, it is also not impossible for pregnancy to occur.
- As the oestrogen increases the fluid becomes creamy, it looks milky, smooth and is usually a white or yellowy colour. This is a time when you are possibly fertile.
- Next is the watery stage. The mucous is very thin and watery making it conducive for sperm to travel along their path and to be nourished. Definitely a fertile time but not the peak of fertility.
- The peak of fertility is when the mucous is an egg white consistency. It is stretchy between the fingers, slippery and really does look like raw egg white.
- After ovulation, the fluid dries up bringing you back to the dry days.
Note: Not all women experience these stages and it varies depending on the length of the cycle and amount of mucus produced. If using this method to avoid conception you need to allow at least 3 days after the mucus has ceased to be sure ovulation has finished.
In the first line of the next box, you can record the days that you are bleeding (flow is heavy, moderate or light and if the blood is bright red/pink or brown) and then the days that you have sex.
If you are using ovulation urine sticks or a saliva ovulation microscope, then you can record any surges in luteinizing hormone (LH) in the next line.
Following this is a space to note any ovulation pain you may experience. I recommend recording with an R or L depending on what side you feel the pain.
Lastly, you may want to jot down days that you experience the following:
- Pain and cramps
- Tender breasts
- Feeling emotional
All of this data makes it easier over time to feel connected with your cycle.
Once you have completed 3 to 6 months it would be useful to go through the data with a health professional to assess your cycle. When starting the conception journey this information can be invaluable, and if any unforeseen fertility issues arise then you already have a backlog of data for the specialists.
I also like to recommend sharing this with your teen daughters. Although it is unlikely to be used for fertility reasons during the teen years, it is an awesome way for girls to understand their body and not see their menstrual cycle as a burden. Once they feel comfortable with their cycle they may notice they are experiencing some symptoms that are not necessarily part and parcel with periods. For example, I used to have severe cramping as a teenager and in my early 20's. I noticed it was worse if I was dehydrated and once I removed processed food and ate a clean diet the cramps disappeared! Of course, there can be medical reasons behind all symptoms too, however, unless you know your body rhythms you can't always know whether this is the case or not.
I wish you all the best in tracking your fertility and any questions, just comment below!