Practical advice for new parents

Fertility Charting

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If you are trying to conceive you may have heard of a way to improve your chances called fertility charting. This easy method of learning when you are most fertile is helpful and is considered the first step you and your partner should use before heading to a fertility clinic. Many couples who chart fertility discover that their inability to conceive was due to a timing issue, while others can rule out timing as a major cause and can move on to other options.

Fertility charting is simply the monitoring of predictable changes that your body has every month as hormones go through their regular cycle. While you can’t miss some of these changes, others can be quite subtle unless you are using a method to track them. If you are trying to become pregnant, now is the optimal time to focus on these signals.

There are three main components to a fertility chart - basal body temperature, cervical mucus, and cervical position. Keeping a chart that records the changes in these components can maximize the chances of a successful conception.

One term to familiarize yourself with if you are planning to chart your fertility is BBT (Basal Body Temperature). This is simply taking your temperature in the morning before you get out of bed. It should be taken at the same time every morning as your temperature can fluctuate from hour to hour. The hormone progesterone which is low in the first half of your cycle and spikes after ovulation increases your BBT. Thus, keeping track of your daily BBT can give you insight into when you are ovulating. Typically, your BBT will increase about one degree after ovulation. Remember, you are the most fertile just before ovulation has occurred.

Estrogen levels begin to increase at the beginning of your menstrual cycle and will gradually change the cervical mucus. The mucus will change from dry to an almost egg-white consistency when it is considered to be sperm-friendly. Your estrogen levels will then begin to taper off after ovulation, and your cervical mucus will no longer be agreeable with sperm. One line of your fertility chart should be the notation of the daily changes to cervical mucus.

The third component of fertility charting is recording the changes to your cervix. As you approach ovulation, you will notice that your cervix will be higher and softer than during other times of the month.

One addition to traditional fertility charting that can further increase your ability to determine the optimum time for conception is using an ovulation predictor kit. Widely available, these devices measure the amount of lutenizing hormone (LH) in your system. LH peaks right before you ovulate.

For fertility charting to be effective, it needs to be done on a daily basis. If you have regular menstrual cycles, you will probably see a distinct pattern that looks similar each month. If your cycles are irregular, you can also benefit from fertility charting as the information gathered can be very useful for deciding on additional steps to help you conceive.