Take Charge of Your Fertility
These days it seems like everywhere you look someone is pushing a stroller or rocking a pregnancy bump. Currently there is a baby boom that shows no signs of slowing down, but for some getting pregnant is not an easy task. Are you trying to conceive and need a little help in figuring out how your body works? Are you hoping to become pregnant in the near future and want a little more understanding of all the voodoo involved?
While the easiest way to predict ovulation is to purchase a commercial ovulation predictor kit, there are several signs you can track that don’t cost money and will connect you to your body’s natural rhythm.
The fertility awareness method, or symptothermal method, consists of the daily tracking of your basal body temperature (known as BBT), observing cervical mucus, and understanding the properties your cervix. Some find that using one or all of these methods in conjunction help, while others find it only confusing at first. It isn’t necessary to use each sign, but using two methods can give you the clearest idea of predicting when ovulation may occur in your cycle.
Also, remember that there may be other signs of impending ovulation such as Mittelschmerz pain, one-sided abdominal discomfort associated with the follicle rupturing and releasing the mature egg; changes in breast tenderness; breakouts due to changing hormones; and having an increased sex drive. These may be highly accurate indications of ovulation for some, while others may not experience any these symptoms at all.
Here are a few ways to demystify fertility, ovulation, and your body:
Basal Body Temperature (BBT)
Tracking of your basal body temperature was first used in the 1930s as a component of fertility awareness. To achieve the best result take your temperature upon waking, before any other activity, after at least 3 hours of sleep. Preferably use a digital thermometer and be consistent as to the time and how you take it (either orally or vaginally) each day. Tracking the pattern using a BBT chart can be helpful as you’re looking for a drop and then a spike (biphasic pattern) in the temperatures to predict when ovulation has occurred.
Once you have completed an average cycle, your BBT should show a distinct shift upwards about 11-17 days before your next period begins. Typically somewhere in these days of your cycle, ovulation will occur as the hormone progesterone releases causing a rise in your body temperature, usually the day following ovulation. The progesterone stays in your system for 11-14 days and then drops if the egg has not fertilized. The day your period begins you will have a decline in your BBT, and a new chart begins. However, if an egg fertilized, your temperature will remain high as your body continues to produce progesterone.
If you have high temperatures for at least 18 consecutive days, you can be pretty sure that you are pregnant. Some may show another surge in temperature when an egg is fertilized. This third rise occurs about 6-8 days following ovulation. Implantation of the fertilized egg into the uterine lining causes another increase in progesterone.
Healthy cervical mucus changes throughout your menstrual cycle, and varies widely in appearance and consistency; however, this can be another excellent way to predict your fertility. It is always best to check your cervical fluids mid-day, or at a time when you’re not tired, as the cervix tends to be lower and drier when you are exhausted. Also, don’t check after high levels of strenuous exercise, or after a bath or shower, as this can change cervical mucous. You can check the mucus either internally or externally but try to consistently use the same method.
Everyone is different, but the progression through the menstrual cycle is mostly the same for everyone. During menstruation, you will have little cervical mucus and just before a period begins the fluid will be tacky, creamy, and white. As ovulation nears, the fluids will become clear, stretchy, and are best described to resemble raw egg whites. This type of cervical mucus provides the healthiest environment for sperm, making it easy for them to move, and allowing them to live for days. The last day of this type of cervical mucus is considered the most fertile day of the cycle. After ovulation, the fluids dry up considerably, become sticky again, and often yellowish. Some may even notice a waterier discharge from the breakdown of the uterine lining a few days before the start of menstruation.
Similar to charting your cervical fluids, another way you can predict ovulation is by observing the position and characteristics of your cervix. Doing so can take some practice! To locate the cervix quickly, sit on the toilet and reach into the vagina with your forefinger and then judge the location, how soft, and the size of the opening. Be consistent with the time each day when you do this. As ovulation approaches, your cervix will become higher, feel softer, and open a little. Gradually after ovulation, the cervix will drop and harden, or the cervix may stay high until immediately before menstruation and drop all at once. Just before menstruation, the cervix should be low, hard, and rather pointed.
So while checking out your body temperature, viewing the toilet paper or giving yourself an internal exam every day may seem rather odd and complicated, once you become familiar with your own body’s signals, these methods can help you predict ovulation, increase your chance of conception or prevent pregnancy as well.
Are you taking charge of your fertility, or did you use these methods to conceive?
Loree Siermachesky lives in Medicine Hat and is a certified ProDoula labour doula, pre-certified ProDoula postpartum doula, certified Lamaze childbirth educator, certified breastfeeding counselor, certified placenta encapsulation specialist and a certified car seat technician. She has had the honour of attending over 1400 births in the last 20 years and is one of Alberta's most prominent doulas. She is well-known within the international doula community and greatly respected by the medical providers in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Brooks, Taber, and Calgary. Her original business, Special Deliveries Doula Services, won the Medicine Hat Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year in 2013. In 2016 she was nominated as a Women in Business Inspire Award recipient and she was honoured by her peers as the prestigious ProDoula's Diamond Award recipient. She looks forward to growing Elite Doula Group in all parts of southern Alberta.