Whether you are in the throes of infertility or are trying to conceive your fifth child, knowing exactly how your reproductive system works is essential.
Growing up, we’re all subjected to sex education classes in which we learn that a woman’s cycle is 28 days long and ovulation happens on day 14. That seems to be where the education part stops, and we never truly learn how our bodies work. We’re never taught how to detect ovulation or how and why our bodies change throughout the month. Ever wonder why some days you’re “wetter” than normal down there? Think something’s wrong because you can’t keep your underwear dry?
We’ll tackle that.
Over the next month in the Natural Fertility 101 series, we’re going to cover charting for fertility (also known as the Fertility Awareness Method or Natural Family Planning) There are many ways to start charting your fertility signals, the first one being your temperature.
Charting for fertility, how to chart your temperature:
At the same time each morning, before you get out of bed (or move or talk), you take your temperature (orally) on a digital thermometer that records your temp within 1/10 of a degree (also known as a basal body thermometer). Chart your temperature each morning on a Basal Body Temperature Chart.
A woman’s temperature sometimes drops just slightly right before ovulation and then rises sharply following ovulation. The rise in temperature should be about .4 degrees. When/if you see this drop, you can know that ovulation will most likely happen soon and if you’re trying to conceive, it’s time to be intimate, if you get my drift. Even if your temperature doesn’t have the initial drop to signal upcoming ovulation, you’ll be able to notice patterns in your cycle that you can combine with other fertility signals to know when you normally ovulate each month. (If you don’t normally see a temperature drop, make sure you’re also tracking cervical fluid)
The unfortunate part about relying only on temperature is that many times a woman doesn’t notice ovulation until after it’s happened. While it’s always a wonderful thing to know what’s going on with your body, being intimate after ovulation actually makes it more difficult to conceive. If you’re intimate before ovulation, the sperm have a chance to meet the egg when it’s of the best quality.
After ovulation, the quality of the egg deteriorates and within 24 hours of being released, it’s no longer able to grow into a new life. In older women or in women with health problems, this window may be even shorter, which is why it’s essential for the sperm to already be there waiting for the egg.
Beyond pinpointing ovulation, charting is also a great way to troubleshoot your cycles. You can find the different phases of your cycle by drawing a line between the follicular phase and the luteal phase. How do you find this? Take a look at the 6 days prior to ovulation (or the decrease in temp, before the increase) and draw a line across the chart 1/10 of a degree higher than your highest temp those days. You should be able to see the follicular temps (1st part if the cycle) are all below the line and the luteal temps (the second part of the cycle) are above.
In doing this, you can see how each part of your cycle is acting and whether or not one part is longer or shorter than it should be. One of the most common issues with a woman’s cycle is a luteal defect which can contribute to a fertilized egg not implanting or to early miscarriage. A defect is “diagnosed” as a luteal phase shorter than 12 days, with 12 days being ‘borderline short’. After ovulation, your temp should remain above the coverline for at least 12 days. And if it stays above the line (or elevated) for 18 days, it may be an indication of pregnancy.
Also, if you do decide to seek medical counsel after you’ve been unable to achieve pregnancy, these charts can help the doctors (especially NaPro doctors!) find out what may be going wrong and to better diagnose you.
Charting does take time and it does need to be done every day, but it can also be a very accurate way to achieve pregnancy.
Do you chart? What tips do you have for those just starting?
More articles of interest about charting for fertility: