most important: conceiving

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MOST IMPORTANT
Know your cycle:  it makes conceiving easier and will enable you to diagnose issues faster.  How do you do this?  The best way is to read the book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility or spend time on their website. I think every woman should own this book—it explains ovulation, the phase after ovulation, the way your cervix changes position throughout the month, and a myriad of other important facts.  I’ll sum them up below.

Women’s bodies have a base temperature that shifts along with their fertility cycle. The start of your cycle is the first day of your period, and the end is the day before your next period.

The time after your period before you ovulate can vary. All women do not ovulate on day 14 of a 28 day cycle.  If you are stressed or sick your body can delay ovulation. The more surprising fact, is that the time after ovulation is a set number of days, for you.  This is called the luteal phase-- the time between ovulation and the onset of your period. 

Every women has her own set luteal phase—mine is 12 days, others can be 10, 11, 13, 15, etc. Sometimes a very short luteal phase can interfere with conception, but if your doctor knows this is your challenge, there are supplemental hormones that can help. 

The purpose of charting your cycle is to understand all the different ways your body gets ready to ovulate, and when it has ovulated.  Charting doesn’t exactly tell you when you will  ovulate, but it helps you keep track of signs that do predict  ovulation and can definitely confirm ovulation.

START CHARTING!
You Will Need

  • A thermometer, to keep by the side of your bed
  • A chart to write down your temperature or online software (all charts are available @ TCOYF as well as TCOYF on-line software

Every morning take your temperature (orally) immediately upon waking (best to do the same time each day), before getting up from your bed.  The first day of your period is the first day of your cycle.

The other signs of impending ovulation are an increase of cervical fluid, a shifting of your uterus, and the opening and softening of the uterus.  You can check this but feeling inside your vaginal canal, up and back.  The tip of the uterus is softer and more open during ovulation, and harder and more closed at other points.  (If you curl up your pointer finger , the hole you create on the side of your finger is a similar shape.)  If you are charting and want to check the opening of your cervix without worrying about germs you can buy “finger cots” (they look like mini condoms) which are little latex one-finger gloves. If you want to see what your cervix looks like see My Beautiful Cervix where there are photos of different cycles, pregnancy, and more.

By keeping track on-line or on paper you will see your temperature shift a noticeable amount at some point in your cycle. This confirms that your body has ovulated.  Your temperature stays up until your body gets ready to have a period—if you are pregnant, your temperature won’t drop.

When you get the hang of charting and know how long your luteal phase is, sometimes you can figure out if you are pregnant the first day you miss your period.  For example, my luteal phase is 12 days from the day I ovulate—therefore I could check to see if I was pregnant if my temperature was still up the 13th day after I ovulated.

I have a regular period, do I need to chart?
Just remember that menstruating (bleeding) once a cycle doesn’t actually mean you are ovulating.  Your body can menstruate regularly without ovulation. 

I’m charting, but my temperature isn’t shifting.  What’s happening?
If your temperature isn’t shifting you are having anovulatory cycles, meaning your body isn’t ovulating.  You still get your period because the actual menstruation part of our cycles doesn’t depend on ovulation.

My cycle seems so irregular—one month I didn't ovulate until day 30 of my cycle!
If your cycle is irregular and you want to get pregnant, you have to use all the signs you can to predict ovulation.  Many women have irregular cycles.  You can also bring this information to your doctor if you want to explore the issue further.

My temperature is always so low to start, is that normal?  My temperature is always really high!  What’s going on?
Low or high waking body temperatures can be indications of thyroid problems—it’s best to go to your doctor immediately to diagnose a specific condition.  Many thyroid problems are undetected. 

SPERM MEETS EGG

Now that you know a bit about what your body is doing, you can add your partner. 

Sperm lives in a hospitable environment—first and foremost it needs a moist place to live.  If you notice that the inside of your vagina does not seem moist, or that your cervical fluid (or mucus, as it’s sometimes called) isn’t plentiful, as it was when you were younger, you can add some with something called Pre-Seed which calls itself a “sperm friendly lubricant”.

As you check all the signs of impending ovulation, you can plan to have sex before you ovulate and the morning you see that you have ovulated (the morning your temperature shifts up).  The egg lives for 12-24 hours, and sperm can live for at least 5 days—so if your egg is released it can hook up with a sperm that’s been there for a few days, hanging out.

This is why the day you have sex is not necessarily the day you got pregnant! 

Many couples have better luck conceiving when they have sex every day and a half (ie. one night, the morning of the day after) or every two days. 

IF YOUR CYCLE SEEMS REGULAR
Some women have a regular cycle even though the first part is flexible—no matter what, whenever she has been charting, a friend of mine ovulates on day 19 of her cycle.  She was able to time intercourse for evening before her temperature shift, which meant that the sperm was ready and waiting.

If you notice that your body has a short luteal phase, you should contact your practitioner before you start trying to conceive. A short luteal phase can cause your body to miscarry early (sometimes called a missed miscarriage, because it seems like your period is just a bit late) but this can be supplemented with hormones so it’s not a problem.

IF YOUR CYCLE SEEMS IRREGULAR
Some women have an irregular cycle.  Barring other issues (which you would talk with your doctor about) you can use all the different signs to predict ovulation.  You need to be vigilant-- if you check cervical position and cervical fluid changes you should have some signs to indicate ovulation and conceive.

MORE for women whose partners aren’t always available when they are ovulating.

WOO HOO!  I’M PREGNANT!
Congratulations!  You have probably done a home pregnancy test (which is also known as “peed on a stick”) and seen the + plus sign, the double line, or in some cases, the word “pregnant”.

This is the time to call your practitioner.  He or she will make an appointment—some right away, some at 6 or 8 weeks, and some wait until 12.  Most will go over some basic guidelines over the phone.

How pregnant am I?
Once you  have confirmed that you are pregnant, you add 2 weeks to the time before you ovulated.  If you did a home pregnancy test the day you missed your period, you are already almost 4 weeks pregnant—the time from ovulation to the present (probably 12-14 days) plus the bonus 2 weeks (since everyone calculates pregnancy assuming that women have a 28 day cycle and ovulate on day 14).

When you go to your doctor or midwife, they will ask you for the last day of your menstrual period, and then, no matter what you say, they will calculate how far along you are by assuming that you ovulated on the 14th day of your cycle.  There must be someone out there who will listen, but I haven’t encountered that person yet.

The way to correct for this is to write down the day of your cycle that you ovulated (remember, the day you get your period is day 1) and then subtract 14 from that number (did you ovulate on day 17?  17-14=3) Add the result to the date of your last menstrual period.  (if you ovulated on day 17 of your cycle, add 3 days to the date of your last menstrual period.)

So if your period started on March 10th, and you ovulated on day 17, you can say your period started on March 13th.

If you ovulated on day 20 of your cycle, you add 6 days (20-14=6) to the date of your last period:  March 10th becomes March 16th.  Conversely, if you ovulated on day 13, you need to subtract 1 from your last period (13-14= negative 1) Making March 10th into March 9th.

Why might I want to change the date of my last period on paper?
It may only seem like a few days difference now, but later it can make a big difference.  Remember, all practioners calculate assuming that you ovulated on day 14 of your cycle.  In many hospitals they can be strict about dates, for example:

  • In some birthing centers you have to be a full 37 weeks to deliver—if you ovulated before 14 days, and you go into labor early, you could miss your chance at the birthing center, for no real reason
  • Some doctors induce when you are two weeks overdue—if your date is off by 2 or 3 days you may be forced into something you don’t want, for no real reason
     

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