Keeping A Fertility Chart
When you're trying to conceive, using a fertility chart is a great place to start. Simply print out the chart and use it to help you learn more about your body and your natural monthly cycles. As well, it can help you identify certain fertility problems, like irregular periods or a lack of ovulation. In addition to helping you conceive, a fertility calendar can also be used by those hoping to prevent pregnancy.
There are different types of fertility calanders that women can use as a fertility predictor. You can do a very basic type of charting where you just mark your periods. By keeping track of your menstrual cycles, you can average out how long your cycles are and "guesstimate" just when ovulation will occur. Although this is probably the easiest type of chart you can do, it won't give you the clearest insight as to just when you are ovulating.
There are many changes that occur to your body when you are ovulating. The more you pay attention to these signs, the more reliable information you can glean as to just when you're fertile. Recording information regarding your basal body temperature, LH levels, cervical mucus and even your cervical position, in addition to the length of your periods, will paint the clearest picture of when you're fertile.
How Everything Contributes
The changes in your hormones that occur every month during your menstrual cycle influence the way in which your body behaves. Knowing which cues to pay attention to can tune you into knowing when your ovulation takes place.
- Cervical Mucus: As the estrogen levels in your body increase, the consistency of your cervical mucus changes. At the beginning of your cycle, it will be dry but will become thicker and sticky with a cloudy appearance as your cycle advances. About the time of ovulation, your cervical mucus will appear thin and watery and will be very stretchy. This type of mucus is ideal for sperm to swim in and indicates that now is a good time to try to conceive.
- Basal Body Temperature: As the progesterone levels in your body rise, so does your basal body temperature (BBT), or core body temperature. A normal BBT is anywhere between 96°F and 98°F. However, after ovulation your BBT rises between 0.4°F and 0.8°F and stays elevated until just before your period. Using a special type of thermometer that is designed to specifically read your BBT, you can take note of when the sustained increase in BBT, and therefore ovulation, occurs. However, BBT charting allows you to know about ovulation after it has occurred so it is necessary to chart your BBT for a few months before you can predict when you will ovulate.
- Lutenizing Hormone (LH) Test Kit: Just before you ovulate, your body starts to produce an increased amount of LH. This spike in LH can be measured by testing kits that use urine dipsticks to measure the level of the hormone in your urine. When the test stick indicates the surge has taken place, then you can expect to ovulate in 24 to 48 hours.
- Cervical Position: When you ovulate, your cervix sits high in your body and feels soft to the touch. There is also more mucus present. Before and after ovulation, the cervix tends to be lower, firmer and the opening is closed. Monitoring the position of your cervix can help you determine when you will ovulate but it can be tricky to do properly and is often not recommended, at least not without proper training. If you would like to attempt this method, make sure your hands are clean and that you always use the same position to check your cervix (ideally squatting or sitting on the toilet, but lying down is also fine).
- Menstrual Charting: This relatively easy calendar involves marking the first day of your period every month; the first day of bleeding is considered to be day 1 of the menstrual cycle. You then count the days from day 1 up to but not including the first day of your next period. This will tell you the length of your menstrual cycle that month.
It is normal for a menstrual cycle to vary by a day or two every month, so don't be alarmed if your cycle last month was 27 days but this month it is 30 days. Although most people use a 28-day cycle as the average, a healthy woman's menstrual cycle can be anywhere from 21 to 35 days. If you are using this type of chart alone, then you will need to do some math to figure out when you're fertile.
To calculate the approximate date of ovulation, experts usually say that women should subtract 14 days from the end of their cycle. However, not every woman ovulates on day 14. Therefore, it is a better idea to chart your cycles for a few months. Then, using your shortest cycle, subtract 18. From your longest cycle, subtract 11. This will give you the days in your cycle when you can consider yourself to be fertile.
For example, if your shortest cycle was 28 days, you would subtract 18 from 28 and be left with 10. If your longest cycle was 32 days and you subtracted 11 from it, then you would have 21. Therefore, you would be the most fertile anytime between days 10 through to day 21 of your menstrual cycle.
Because many factors can influence the results of your monitoring, especially when you chart your BBT, it is important to mark these variances on your fertility calender. Things like stress, physical or emotional upsets or distress, sickness, fevers, lack of sleep and even using an electric blanket can cause your results to vary, so take note of them on your chart.
What Does It All Mean?
After a few months, you will notice some distinct patterns emerging in your fertility charts. Because it is virtually impossible to pinpoint the moment when you will ovulate, it is usually recommended you add two to three days on either side of when you think you will ovulate. This will let you know the maximum time you are fertile every month. For example, if you have a 28-day cycle and ovulation seems to occur on the 14th day, you should consider yourself to be fertile from day 11 through to day 17 of your cycle.
If you suspect fertility problems, then a having a fertility chart can be a great help to your doctor. However, you will need to provide her with at least three months worth of charts for her to get an accurate picture of your menstrual cycle.
There are other types of charts that some people find helpful or at the very least fun to use. One such chart is an astrological fertility predictor. This chart is based on the lunar cycles and is often met by a lot of skepticism.
Although women's menstrual cycles were originally tied to the lunar cycles, modern science has found other ways of explaining how a woman's menstrual cycle works. However, using astrology, many believe that a woman's most fertile days in a month can be predicted. Some also believe that just what astrological sign the moon is in when a woman conceives determines the sex and health of her baby.
To figure out when you are most fertile every month, you need to know at just what angle the sun and moon were aligned at the time of your birth. For example, if you were born during the full moon stage of the lunar cycle, then this would be when you are most fertile. Because this cycle differs from the hormonal cycle, some believe it explains how women can be fertile twice in one month. For example, a woman could get pregnant while she has her period, when the chances of conception are generally thought to be very low (click here to read more detail about how this can happen). It is also thought that if your hormonal cycle and lunar cycle coincide, then you can consider yourself to be having a "super-fertile" period.
Another popular chart is a Chinese fertility chart. While a Chinese fertility calendar can't predict when is the best time for you to conceive, it does claim to be able to predict the sex of your baby. Based on a chart that was found in a royal tomb in China more than 700 years ago, the calendar uses your age as well as the month at the time of conception to predict whether you will have a girl or a boy. Some couples use the chart as a way to increase their chances of having a baby of a certain sex. While no scientific studies have proven the calendar to work, many claim that the calendar is eerily accurate.