Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pregnancy Post- Charting your fertility

Sorry I joined in on the writer's strike. Is that still going on? Okay just kidding, life has just been crazy. I'm back now.

Okay, so now that you know how your hormones work in your cycle, I want to teach you how to chart your fertility. This isn't any novel thing that I created, but a lot of people don't know where to start. Charting really isn't that difficult, and it can tell you so much about your body. I think it is amazing to chart even when you aren't trying to get pregnant, but then again I treat my body like a science experiment, I also weigh myself 3 times a day. But enough about my neurotic habits, on to charting......

*If you are having any frustration in trying to get pregnant, charting will help SO much. I have two friends who have had some troubles lately: one who couldn't get pregnant, and one who had two miscarriages. Both of these girls starting charting and the first month of charting got them pregnant, AND their chart revealed their problems. The one with the miscarriages proved through her chart that she had low progesterone, and with the prescribed progesterone supplement, she hasn't miscarried! So give charting a try.*

The first two things to do in charting are: purchase a basal body thermometer, and open a fertility friend account. The thermometer is not the same as a fever thermometer, you must have a basal body thermometer with 2 decimals. These are cheap and can be purchased on ebay or at Walmart or anywhere! To open a fertility friend account is free, and they have such a great system set up, it makes charting easy.

The idea behind charting your fertility is to see patterns in your body that either help you get pregnant, or show you why you aren't getting pregnant. Of course it doesn't help everyone, but if you are having trouble getting pregnant it is the first step. Personally, if I don't get pregnant in the first ten minutes of trying, I call and make a fertility appointment. Some people will try for years before consulting a physician. Whatever the case, if you have at least one chart on hand, preferably more, you have a lot more leverage at a fertility consultation. These doctors love to send you home with a plan to chart for 3 months and hope they never have to see you again. But if you come in with a chart, they have to start thinking about treatment options.

(If you look at the progesterone, green line, that is similar to what your temperature should look like on your chart)

With the knowledge of your body's hormones, you know that the first half of your cycle is estrogen driven, the second half is progesterone driven. So I tell you now that progesterone RAISES your body's temperature. Just slightly, but enough to see it on a chart. So as you look at a chart, you should notice what they call a "thermal shift" which just means that the temperature rose after ovulation. Here is a nice chart with a text book thermal shift. Notice the red vertical line. That is the day of ovulation. Notice also that the day after ovulation the temperature rose by .3 degrees. Why did that happen? The progesterone released from the corpus luteum (the follicle that the egg came from) is beginning to raise the body temperature, thus signaling ovulation.

How do you get these temperatures? Like I said, you first need a basal body thermometer, but it's a little trickier than just taking your temperature. There needs to be consistency. Throughout the day, and on different days you may be more or less active, wearing warmer or colder clothes, etc. So temperatures throughout the day would be very variable. So you must take your temp first thing in the morning, at the same time every day. That sounds like a big pain to some, but it's not such a big deal. Most thermometers have a memory on them, so you can recall your temp later in the day. So here's how I do it. I have a standing alarm on my cell phone that goes off at 6:00 am (only when I'm charting, not always :) 6:00 am is a time when I know I am in a deep sleep, and I have been for at least 3 hours (another important factor). So I turn off the alarm, put the thermometer in my mouth, and try not to fall back to sleep before it beeps. Then I turn the thermometer off, and go back to sleep. Later in the day I check the temp, and enter it into my fertility friend chart. I have to admit that I, and everyone else I know that charts, am really excited to see what my temperature is every day. It's kind of like a soap opera, it leaves you hanging every day, and you gotta know what happens next!

So basically, you need that temperature every day, at the same time, with a basal body thermometer, when you have been sleeping for at least 3 hours. If you are missing any of those factors, your chart may not be as clear, but things are always perfect right? You are looking for a "thermal shift" of at least .2 degrees from one day to the next, and it must be sustained for at least 3 days.

Fertility friend doesn't just collect the data from your temp, but all signs of fertility. You can put any symptoms in such as cramps, headache, fatigue, anything really. There is also a spot for the days you had intercourse, and ovulation tests- which are really helpful. I recommend using temps, ovulation tests (OPKs as they are called), cervical mucous (cm), and cramps. I better explain those last two.

Most people are oblivious when they are ovulating, but most people who are charting are not. I never even knew I ovulated until the first month I tried to get pregnant. Suddenly I was in so much pain during ovulation, I couldn't understand how I ever missed it before. Many people have cramps relating to ovulation, so watch for those.

Cervical mucous. In the days of your fertile window, you will notice an increase in your cervical mucous. You can rate your cervical mucous in fertility friend by dry, creamy, sticky, and egg white. When you see that egg white cervical mucous, that really can't be missed- ewww. Shortly after ovulation (Within hours) you should start to dry up. Then you can know that ovulation has passed.

OPK's- I LOVE THESE! They OPKs or ovulation tests are created to detect that LH surge that makes you ovulate. When you have that surge, the OPK line should be VERY dark. As dark or darker than the control line. It should be very clear. Of course there are always exceptions. I buy my OPK's in bulk at www.saveontests.com. I do not recommend their pregnancy tests, only ovulation tests.

Charting is so great! I hope I explained it enough for you all. If you have any questions, feel free to email me 2boysrus@gmail.com.

Stay blogged and get preggot! Next post will be the plan for actually getting pregnant.


Trisha said...

This post was really helpful! I admit to being a fertility friend drop-out :D, and to getting lucky this pregnancy, since we both know that I have NO IDEA when I ovulate. I have renewed intentions of charting for real next time! I'm going to start charting early so I can see if I am actually ovulating while breastfeeding too. It should be interesting.

Christina said...

I went to hs with Carrie and found your blog through her's. Anyway, you might want to post a really helpful book on this subject. It is Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. You probably already know about it. I've done the infertility thing including IVF and would be glad to guest blog or share info. Just post on my blog or email me: chriswesterberg@hotmail.com

brookiebaby said...

Okay, I'm adding Preggot to my blog buddies list - maybe it will help me get knocked up...if not it's fun to read!

Paul, Courtney & Logan said...

I chart before I want to get pregnant and it works like a charm I am 2 for 2. Its amazing how charting teaches you so much about our body. I read taking charge of your fertility. I really enjoy your blog-thanks.