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Tracking Your Cycle  When TTC Holisticher

Tracking Your Cycle When TTC

When trying to conceive, it helps to identify and target your fertile window, by tracking ovulation. If you are aware of when you ovulate, having sex in the few days leading up to, and on the day of ovulation, can increase your odds of getting pregnant. It’s all about getting to know your body and its natural rhythm so that you can better predict when ovulation will occur. 

There are many different methods that you can use to track your fertility, including various devices and apps. Some methods work better than others and in general are more successful when used in combination with other methods.

Here is an overview of each method, so that you can determine the best method for you and your body. 

 

Calendar Method

Knowing your menstrual cycle is extremely valuable when wanting to increase your chances of conceiving. Knowing how regular you are and how long your cycle typically lasts can be an essential tool.

The calendar method is simple but typically only works if you have a very regular cycle.You’ll actually track your period, not ovulation, but if you know when your period happens it can help to determine when you're likely to be ovulating. 

This method assumes that a typical menstrual cycle is between 21 and 35 days long and the average luteal phase is 14 days. Your luteal phase is the time between ovulation and the first day of your next period and can be anywhere between 10 to 15 days long.

This method requires you to track for several cycles in order to determine a pattern for your average cycle length. By tracking your average cycle length, the first day of your last period and the luteal phase (if you don’t know, use 14 days), you can help to determine the 6 days or so of your fertile window. This method is less helpful if you have irregular periods that vary from one month to the next.

You can use an actual calendar (physical or virtual) or use one of the great tracking apps available for this purpose. 

Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPK)

Ovulation predictor kits are similar to home pregnancy tests. They measure luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine.  LH is responsible for causing your ovaries to release an egg during ovulation, and a surge in LH is a sign that ovulation will occur in the next 12 to 36 hours. 

You’ll need to take test for several days in a row for the most accurate prediction so that you can see how LH levels are rising and to pinpoint the LH surge, i.e. peak fertility.

If you use a test strip for five days, the chance of predicting ovulation is 80%. If you test for 10 days, the likelihood jumps to 95%. If a test predicts ovulation, it is recommended that you have sex daily for the next two to three days if you are trying to conceive. 

 

Basal Body Temperature Charting (BBT)

Your basal body temperature is your resting, internal body temperature when waking up, before moving. To chart your basal body temperature, take your temperature in the morning before you get out of bed. Keep a thermometer by your bedside and write down your temperature every day. You should notice an increase in temperature as your fertility window begins and as you get closer to ovulation.

Your BBT changes throughout your menstrual cycle and is typically lower before ovulation (between 35.5-36.7°C) and higher after ovulation has occurred (between 36.1-37.2° C). This increase in temperature is caused by increased progesterone levels that are associated with ovulation.

Your BBT will remain high for the two weeks following ovulation and then drop again before your next period. It’s a good indication that ovulation has occurred when BBT remains high for at least three days.

Use a physical chart or one of the great apps designed for the purpose and chart for at least 3 months to begin seeing accurate patterns.  

Cervical Mucus Changes

Vaginal discharge can tell you a lot about ovulation. Charting cervical mucus isn't for everyone and may make you feel squeamish but it’s the body’s natural way of helping you to get pregnant and can give you a good idea as to when you will be ovulating.

During your fertile window cervical mucus will become thin and stretchy, and can be considered similar to the consistency of egg whites. This is in contrast to its usual creamy, sticky consistency. This is the body’s way of assisting pregnancy by helping to transport sperm through the cervix during intercourse and provides them a more alkaline environment in which to survive.

When using this method to determine your fertile window, you should check your mucus every day (except during your period) and record the results on a chart. When used with basal body temperature charting, this method of monitoring offers a relatively high level of accuracy. 

Fertility monitors

Wearable fertility trackers are relatively new to the health market, but there's already a large range of options.  For example, the Ava bracelet works by tracking your skin temperature, resting pulse, breathing rate and other metrics while you sleep. It claims to recognise more fertile days of the month than a traditional ovulation predictor can.

Other fertility monitors track the levels of two key fertility hormones (estrogen and luteinising hormone (LH)) to identify your fertile window each cycle.

 

Saliva Ferning Tests

Saliva testing can also be used to detect ovulation. The test works by highlighting crystal formations that typically develop in saliva during ovulation. Chemical changes occur in your saliva during your fertile window and when saliva is dried, fern-like crystals appear in the residue.

The test kit usually includes a lens onto which a drop of saliva is placed. After five minutes, you view the sample under the provided viewing scope to see if the characteristic fern-like crystals are present. Ovulation is likely to occur within 24 to 72 hours of the first formations.

Cervical Position Method 

The position, firmness, and openness of your cervix change throughout your menstrual cycle. These three characteristics are referred to as your cervical position and can be used to determine if you’re within your fertile window. 

At the beginning of your menstrual cycle, your cervix is firmer, closed, and sits lower in your vagina. As you approach ovulation, however, your cervix moves up higher, opens slightly, and become softer to the touch. 

By tracking your cervical position, you can get an understanding of when you’re approaching ovulation so that you can prepare accordingly.

Symptom Spotting

Not everyone experiences symptoms with ovulation however some of these symptoms may help you to spot ovulation, particularly if you feel them in frequent cycles:

  • Ovary discomfort or pain on one side, also called mittelschmerz
  • Breast tenderness
  • Light bleeding or spotting
  • Increased sexual drive

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