Charting your fertility signs can be a valuable tool in helping you to conceive a baby or to avoid pregnancy. First, you can pinpoint ovulation. Second, you will be able to tell if you may have an infertility problem. And third, if you do suspect an infertility problem – your doctor will need at least 3 months of charts to help diagnose the problem.
There are three areas of charting that can be done. The first is basal body temperature. The second is the charting of the cervical fluid and the third is the charting of the cervical position. The temperature is the most important one to use and the other two are optional, however, all 3 combined will give you very accurate results.
Armed with this knowledge, you will need a basal body thermometer. A fever thermometer will not be as accurate because the basal body thermometer will read the temperature to one tenth a degree. They come in both the traditional glass and digital. Both are very good to use – except for the digital – you need to be sure the battery is good.
Take your temperature first thing every morning. It’s important to take your temperature before rising, before moving around, before talking. Take it at the same time every day. Record this on a chart – you can download fertility charts from the internet from sites such as www.fertilityplus.com and www.babycenter.com. If you take your temperature at a different time from your normal rising the rule of thumb is to add .1 a degree for every half hour early you rise and subtract .1 a degree for every half-hour late you rise.
In the first half of your cycle, your temperatures should be in the lower range – normal is anywhere from 96.0 F to 98.0 F. This is due to the hormone estrogen. Right before ovulation, the estrogen surges causing the egg to be released. Then the hormone progesterone is released, causing the basal body temperature to rise. This helps with the lining of the uterus, to prepare a place for a fertilized egg to implant. The temperature should rise about .
4 a degree after ovulation. When you see at least 3 days of “higher” temperatures, you can assume that ovulation has occurred. Then draw a cover line on your chart. A cover line is established by taking the last 6 “low” temperatures and drawing a line .1 a degree above the highest of those 6. This is the point you want to be sure your post-ovulation temperatures stay above.
If they fall at or below the cover line anytime after ovulation, this is indicative of a fertility problem. If the temperatures stay high for 18 days post ovulation – this is almost always indicative of a positive pregnancy. The time from ovulation to the beginning of the next menstrual cycle is known as the luteal phase.
The second charting option is cervical fluid. Cervical fluid can be found at the opening of the vagina and at the cervix. You check this by swiping the opening with a tissue or with clean fingers. Test the fluid by rubbing it between your thumb and forefinger. After the menstrual bleeding has stopped you will probably have several days of “dryness.” As ovulation approaches the fluid will become creamy and white, like lotion.
The closer to ovulation the fluid will become more clear and stretchy. This is known as egg-white cervical mucus. This is the most fertile quality cervical fluid. Note this daily on your chart. By the time you see this cervical fluid – if you are trying to get pregnant, this is the time to have intercourse. Right after ovulation, the cervical fluid dries up or becomes creamy or sticky.
As menstruation approaches, the fluid will become watery – this is due to the drop in progesterone levels and the breaking down of the corpus luteum (the “cyst” where the egg burst out of). If pregnancy has occurred, the cervical fluid will probably remain creamy or dry.
The third charting option is the cervical position. This is strictly an option and while some practitioners do not recommend this – if you do chart this be sure to thoroughly wash your hands and keep your nails trimmed before starting. If you have never checked your cervical position before it could take a month to understand what all happens. First, you take one or two fingers and gently slide them up into the vagina.
This is best done while sitting on the toilet or squatting. Some women even lie down. Try to check it the same way each time because any change in position will change the position of the cervix. The cervix feels like the tip of your nose. If you have had children before, the opening will be more of a slit than a pinpoint circle. After menstruation, the cervix will be low and firm – feeling like the tip of your nose. As ovulation approaches, the cervix rises up high and softens – feels soft like your mouth (lips).
The opening opens slightly – to allow sperm entrance into the uterus. This is where an abundance of that egg-white cervical fluid comes from and you’ll be able to feel this. This is known as SHOW – soft, high, open, and wet. After ovulation, almost immediately, the cervix will close up and return to the low-firm position again. Note these changes on your chart. At the height of ovulation your cervix will be SHOW.
Also on your chart, note if you are sick, running a fever – unusually hot or cold while sleeping – as these things will affect all your fertility signs. Occasionally you will need to “throw out” a temperature due to these things. Be aware that mid-cycle spotting is normal. This sometimes happens when the ovary releases the egg. Also, if pregnancy has occurred, the implantation of the fertilized egg will cause spotting sometimes. This occurs anywhere from 5 to 13 days post ovulation.
Charting is an excellent was of finding out if you have possible problems. Here is a rundown of some possible infertility issues that you may need to take up with your physician.
- Anovulation – lack of ovulation – evident by having no temperature shift upwards in the entire cycle.
- Luteal Phase Defect – Luteal Phase is the time from ovulation to the start of your next menstrual cycle. This is evident in the rise in temperatures being less than 10 days.
- Possible hypothyroid – if your basal body temperatures are extremely low in the first week of your cycle.
- Possible hyperthyroid – if your basal body temperatures are above 98.0 F pre-ovulation.
- Low progesterone – if the temperatures in your luteal phase (post-ovulation) fall at or below the cover line you drew – this is indicative of low progesterone. There are things you can do with over the counter remedies as well as with prescriptions.
All these conditions can be controlled with the help of your physician. If you suspect any of these, take your charts (at least 3 months worth) to your physician to receive a proper diagnosis. Charting can serve the purpose to help conception or to prevent conception.
If conception is desired – have intercourse about 5 days prior to ovulation, the day of ovulation, and 3 days after. If pregnancy is wished to be avoided, stop having unprotected intercourse when you first notice the clear cervical fluid. Remember that sperm can live up to 5 days in good quality fertile cervical fluid.