Frequently Asked Questions about Charting

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Fertility Awareness: Cervical Changes

On the topic of Fertility Awareness this month; did you know that your cervix actually physically changes during your cycle? It changes so much so that you can use it in combination with tracking temps to further pin point your peak fertile day. It works especially well when combined with tracking mucous changes and may actually be preferable over temp charting for those of you who do not sleep a straight 6-8 hours through or awake at the same time each day.

The cervix is the opening to the uterus and becomes the gateway to the birth canal (you know, the part that has to open 10 cm before you can push?). When you are not fertile, your cervix stays lower in the vaginal canal. It also remains closed and dry. During ovulation, when you start getting more mucous, it starts to raise up higher into the canal and starts to open and soften. This allows the sperm to travel more freely and effectively.

Finding your cervix is relatively easy, but you must get over any uneasiness to do so.

It’s easiest if you prop one leg up on a tub side or toilet seat, and of course – wash your hands, trim your fingernails. You place one or two fingers into the vaginal canal and reach as far back as you can. You’ll honestly feel something that seems like a nose (when not fertile) or something as soft as your lips (when you’re fertile), and it will feel completely different than the vaginal walls.

You might also notice that there is a small depression in the middle of it, this is the opening into the uterus and the part that opens slightly when you are at your peak time for ovulation. If you are unable to find it, just wait a few days and try again. You’ll also have to keep in mind that it may be easier to find while in a lower position, such as after your period or after ovulation. (if you’d like to see actual pictures of the changes, go here)

Charting your cervix is an effective way to practice Fertility Awareness/Natural Family Planning when combined with charting your temperature. When used together they give you a window in to what your body may be doing during each phase of your cycle and can help you pinpoint ovulation and achieve pregnancy.

 

fertility awareness chartingThe fertility awareness portion of this series is underwritten by Fertility Flower. Fertility Flower is a recently-launched website that helps couples grow their families or practice natural birth control using the sympto-thermal method.

Unique features of Fertility Flower: it offers a unique way of displaying the primary fertility signs in one charting space that emphasizes the relationship between them, allows for cycle comparisons with chart overlay and is a fully mobile natural family planning website (unlike abbreviated mobile apps which offer limited capability).

Use the code: NaturallyKnockedUp to receive an extra free month of Premium membership!

Check out this month\'s sponsor, Natural Fertility Shop. They are 100% focused on helping you during your journey towards parenthood and have expert staff and knowledgeable customer service here to help you every step of the way.

All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

I am not a doctor and don\'t pretend to be one. Use everything you read only to inspire you to do your own research and be an advocate for your own health. Please read my disclaimer in full.

Fertility Awareness: Cervical Fluid

increase cervical mucous

Sperm has many needs: the need for nourishment, an alkaline environment in which to live, and ease in mobility.

A woman’s fertile cervical fluid supplies it with these three things. During the follicular phase, the increasing amounts of estrogen in the body affect the consistency of your cervical fluid. Beginning with day one of your cycle (when you have the lowest amount of estrogen), you should have little to no cervical fluid. If you were to touch the inside of your vagina, it may be damp, but you wouldn’t notice anything on the outside of the vaginal opening at all. At this point an egg is not waiting to be fertilized, so there is no need to keep the sperm alive. Speaking of the sperm, they can only live about 3 to 5 hours in this environment.

As the levels of estrogen continue to rise, your cervical fluid becomes rather sticky and is usually white or slightly yellow. This is completely normal and not a sign of infection. You may even notice this fluid in small amounts on your underwear. While sperm may be able to live a bit longer, this particular fluid is too “sticky” for them to move with ease. In the days before ovulation the fluid becomes smoother and you start to feel“moist.” It’s rather creamy, or lotion like, and a good clue that ovulation will happen shortly and you are becoming fertile. Usually the day before ovulation occurs your cervical fluid will go from creamy to very wet and stretchy. It’s normally clear and is about the consistency of a raw egg white—even commonly referred to as the “egg white fluid.” During this time you may find an increased amount of fluid outside the vaginal opening and feel chronically wet. This means you now have an environment hospitable for the sperm, where they will thrive and move freely to the awaiting egg.

After ovulation, the amount of estrogen drops as the levels of progesterone rise, signaling your body to stop producing this fertile fluid. It normally becomes dry within just a day. To check your cervical fluid, use a tissue to wipe your vaginal area before you use the restroom. If you close the tissue and re-open it, you’ll be able to notice if it is sticky or stretchy; and of course if there is nothing there at all, you may be in your non-fertile time of the month.

Things that can inhibit fertile fluid production:

  • Vaginal infections
  • Medicines containing antihistamines (if it dries up mucous, it dries up cervical fluid)
  • Smoking
  • Caffeine consumption
  • Being too thin – you may not be able to produce enough estrogen to either ovulate or produce enough cervical fluid.
  • Clomid – while it’s used to increase the chances of ovulation, it can also dry up cervical fluid, actually making it harder to become pregnant, especially after a few cycles.
  • Avoid over indulging in acidic foods. In our western diet, our body’s have become quite acidic and this bodily PH actually affects the sperm. When a womans vagina and mucous becomes too acidic, it can actually attack the sperm instead of feeding it. High acidic foods include coffee, pop or soda(depending on what part of the country you live in!), beer, artificial sweeteners, sugar (both white and brown), and white breads and pastas. Other acidic foods actually include eggs, yogurt, and even whole wheat breads. While these last 3 are truly healthy foods, it’s recommended to make sure you are eating a well rounded diet including many different types of fruits and vegetables to help your body balance it’s own PH to a neutral state.

To Increase the Quality of the Cervical Fluid

Since healthy cervical fluid helps to feed the sperm until it meets up with the egg for fertilization, we want to make sure we’re doing what we can to increase the quality of the mucous itself.

  • Drink plenty of water. When we have a cold we’re told to drink fluids to clear up our sinus’s, would it not be the same for other bodily fluids? Staying hydrated is a great way to ensure the correct consistency and make it easier to judge when you are fertile.
  • I’ve also heard it suggested to drink a cup of green tea each day. And while I don’t know the science behind it, it can’t hurt either. Plus it helps with overall fluid consumption.
  • Taking Evening Primrose oil from the start of your cycle until ovulation can also help increase the quantity and quality.
  • Focus on eating foods that nourish your body; good fats, no sugar, plenty of produce and variety.

Checking your cervical fluid along with your basal body temperature gives you a great idea when ovulation happens. You’ll soon begin to see the patterns your body follows and increase your understanding of how your body works.

 

fertility awareness chartingThe fertility awareness portion of this series is underwritten by Fertility Flower. Fertility Flower is a recently-launched website that helps couples grow their families or practice natural birth control using the sympto-thermal method.

Unique features of Fertility Flower: it offers a unique way of displaying the primary fertility signs in one charting space that emphasizes the relationship between them, allows for cycle comparisons with chart overlay and is a fully mobile natural family planning website (unlike abbreviated mobile apps which offer limited capability).

Use the code: NaturallyKnockedUp to receive an extra free month of Premium membership!

Check out this month\'s sponsor, Natural Fertility Shop. They are 100% focused on helping you during your journey towards parenthood and have expert staff and knowledgeable customer service here to help you every step of the way.

All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

I am not a doctor and don\'t pretend to be one. Use everything you read only to inspire you to do your own research and be an advocate for your own health. Please read my disclaimer in full.

Fertility Awareness: Charting Your Temperature

fertility chart with basal thermometer

photo credit: N05

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 the Fertility Awareness Method (also known as Natural Family Planning) There are many ways to start charting your fertility signals, the first one being you temperature.

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 Temp Chart.

A woman’s temperature normally drops slightly right before ovulation and then rises sharply following ovulation. The rise in temp should be about .4 degrees. When you see this drop, you can know that ovulation will most likely happen soon and 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.

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 the healthiest. 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 it.

Beyond pin pointing 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 sharp 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 (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 find out what may be going wrong and to better diagnose you.

Charting does take time and it does need to be done everyday, but it can also be a very accurate way to achieve pregnancy.

Do you chart? What tips do you have for those just starting?

 

fertility awareness chartingThe fertility awareness portion of this series is underwritten by Fertility Flower. Fertility Flower is a recently-launched website that helps couples grow their families or practice natural birth control using the sympto-thermal method.

Unique features of Fertility Flower: it offers a unique way of displaying the primary fertility signs in one charting space that emphasizes the relationship between them, allows for cycle comparisons with chart overlay and is a fully mobile natural family planning website (unlike abbreviated mobile apps which offer limited capability).

Check out this month\'s sponsor, Natural Fertility Shop. They are 100% focused on helping you during your journey towards parenthood and have expert staff and knowledgeable customer service here to help you every step of the way.

All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

I am not a doctor and don\'t pretend to be one. Use everything you read only to inspire you to do your own research and be an advocate for your own health. Please read my disclaimer in full.

Fertility Awareness: The Basics

Monarch Butterfly, Male (Danaus plexippus), Western Region Monarch, photographed at the Butterfly Alive Exhibit at the Santa Barbarba Museum of Natural History

photo credit: kevcole

Before we get into charting and cycles, I want to start with the problems we face with our current conventional methods of contraception. Many of them will affect our chances later on when we would like to become pregnant. They also inhibit our bodies’ natural functions, stopping hormones in their tracks.

We women, though only fertile a few days a month, put ourselves at great risk trying to prevent conception when we don’t “feel ready” for a baby. Blood clots, strokes, severe pelvic inflammatory disease, and urinary tract infections are just a few of many risks involved.

Along with other methods of birth control that use hormones to prevent conception, the Pill can cause major problems with how our bodies work. To begin with, they cause a flood of hormones into our system that has a cascading effect on our bodies’ own natural hormones. This in turn causes excess hormones to be excreted by the body; and if our liver isn’t
working up to par, this excretion doesn’t happen. Over time, it also causes our bodies to slow down production of hormones. When we stop taking these methods of birth control, our bodies are severely lacking and must then figure out how to balance themselves again. Depending on the specifics of each body and how long you take hormonal birth control, this can take anywhere from weeks to years.

The Pill also uses your body’s stores of vitamin B (specifically B6), an essential nutrient your body uses to regulate menstrual cycles. Deficiencies in B6 can be linked to a progesterone imbalance as well as poor egg and sperm development and a short luteal phase.

There are also ethical ramifications when it comes to hormonal birth control. You see, the Pill works in three ways: stopping ovulation, decreasing the amount of cervical fluid, and preventing the uterine lining from thickening to allow for implantation. The problem here lies within the uterine lining. If conception does occur, a fertilized egg is unable to attach to the uterine lining and passes through the body when menstruation occurs. For those that believe that life begins at conception, this can change the way one views hormonal contraception. I know it did for me. (I must also note that most doctors do not support this theory of the abortive effect of birth control pills as one in particular stated that if hormones had allowed for the release of the egg, than it would also allow for implantation. So do your own research and come to your own conclusions)

The Natural Cycle

Each month a woman’s body produces a hormone called the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (or FSH), which helps to mature the 15-20 eggs that begin growing in her ovaries. Each egg is encased in its own follicle, and these follicles produce estrogen, which is necessary for ovulation to occur. The length of time it takes for an egg to mature varies a great deal from woman to woman. Some women’s eggs are ready in as little as 8 days, and for some it may take up to a month to reach the same maturity.

During this follicular phase, levels of estrogen also increase and cause the woman to start producing quality cervical fluid. Sperm can actually live about five days after ejaculation when a woman’s cervical fluid nourishes and feeds it. So it’s completely possible to get pregnant almost a week after intercourse! Once your body reaches its estrogen threshold and at least one egg is mature, the Lutenizing Hormone (LH) kicks into high gear and causes the egg to break through the wall of the follicle and begin its route down the fallopian tubes. And now that the follicle is empty, it then collapses, becoming known as the corpus luteum, and starts producing progesterone. The corpus luteum only has a life of 12 to 16 days, and this life span is known as the “Luteal Phase.” This phase of the cycle happens to be more important than what happens before ovulation because of the production of progesterone.The production of progesterone will now prevent all other eggs from being released and causes the uterine lining to thicken for implantation until the luteal phase is over.

So, to recap: day one of the cycle (the first day of your period) starts the follicular (or estrogenic) phase and lengths can vary. From the day ovulation happens up until the last day before your period begins is the luteal phase. And the luteal phase is not indefinite, meaning it has a finite life span of about 12 to 16 days. Once ovulation has occurred, the egg has a life span of about 24 hours, after which it will either be reabsorbed into the body or be carried out by the menstrual flow if conception does not occur. If the sperm have had enough time to travel into the tubes and fertilization does occur (taking place within the fallopian tubes themselves), it usually happens within 12 hours post ovulation, as the quality of the egg begins to deteriorate over time. This fertilized egg will then be pulled into the uterus, and a few days to a week later this egg will finally reach the uterine lining and begins to burrow into it.

Now that the egg has burrowed into the uterine lining, it begins to release yet another hormone, called the Human Chorionic Gonadotropin—or HCG. This pregnancy hormone sends a signal back to the collapsed follicle (the corpus luteum) to stay alive past its normal 12 to 16 day life span. This happens so that it will continue to release progesterone, which in turn supports the pregnancy until the placenta can take over a few months later.

As women, we always know one thing about our cycle: when it begins. But how do we know when we ovulate? Over the next month, we’ll take a look at the many ways to chart our cycles to pinpoint just that.

fertility awareness chartingThe fertility awareness portion of this series is underwritten by Fertility Flower. Fertility Flower is a recently-launched website that helps couples grow their families or practice natural birth control using the sympto-thermal method.

Unique features of Fertility Flower: it offers a unique way of displaying the primary fertility signs in one charting space that emphasizes the relationship between them, allows for cycle comparisons with chart overlay and is a fully mobile natural family planning website (unlike abbreviated mobile apps which offer limited capability).

 

*this post is also linked to Works for Me Wednesday

Check out this month\'s sponsor, Natural Fertility Shop. They are 100% focused on helping you during your journey towards parenthood and have expert staff and knowledgeable customer service here to help you every step of the way.

All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

I am not a doctor and don\'t pretend to be one. Use everything you read only to inspire you to do your own research and be an advocate for your own health. Please read my disclaimer in full.