Like I said, I love to do research and I love to feel well prepared for any life choice that I make. That being said, starting about 2 months before we pulled the goalkeeper, I began digging through TON’S of information on Trying to Conceive (TTC).
One of the most important things that I found out was how important the timing can be. Your menstrual cycle should run on about a 28 day wheel. Now, obviously, everyone isn’t quite as regular as I am (literally to the hour), but there are a ton of phone apps and websites that you can plug information into and it will give you a good guess on when you should be ovulating and when your fertile window should be. This was all new news to me!
Now, if you’re anything like me, pictures are where it’s at for learning! Here are a few images that I found really useful to help me understand the process. Websites are listed below each image incase you would like to dig further. Some aren’t the most reliable cites, but the images are good (and I’ve double checked their information from other, more reliable cites)
So basically if you ovulate on day 14, your fertile window is 3 days before that until about 3 days after that. Now, another important piece of information to note is that sperm can stay alive inside of you for 3-5 days (based on a ton of different websites and books). This is great news! That means, technically you could have sex a couple days before your fertile window and still get pregnant! Most of the research I have read suggests having sex about every other day from a few days before your fertile window until a few days after for the highest changes to get pregnant.
I really liked the OVIA fertility tracker application on my iPhone. It made it really easy to add in information about how I was feeling, my cervical fluid and other symptoms that I had while we were tracking my cycle. If you are the planning type, a lot of the books that I have read say to pull your birth control a few months before you’re planning to try and start tracking your cycle then to get the best picture that you can before you even begin to try. Many doctors also recommend stopping use of oral contraceptives a few months prior to TTC. We were lucky in the fact that I was on the Nuvaring, and research suggests that you can pull it day 28 of a cycle and still get pregnant the next cycle.
Now, all this being said, if you have been nonchalantly trying for a while and haven’t had any luck, or you are just really good and enjoy tracking symptoms (like me) and want to nail down your ovulation window more specifically, these are some of the things that you can track.
- Cervical fluid/mucus
- Sounds gross right? Well, it may be an option for you to help track your fertile window! There are three main ways to observe your cervical mucus. First, if you have enough that it leaves some residue on your underwear, take a peak! If that’s not an option, before you urinate, wipe with a piece of toilet paper and check to see what’s up down there! Or if you still can’t seem to find what you’re looking for, take a feel. Wash your hands first please! Then, insert a finger or two into your vagina and swipe. Some women even secrete enough cervical mucus that they can actually stretch it between two fingers to note its stretchy qualities. Not so for me, although I often had enough in my underwear to notice changes.
- There are three different “phases” that your cervical mucus goes through. 1.) dry, sticky and white, 2.) creamy in color and wet and 3.) slippery and stretchy like a raw egg white. Typically, right after your period, you should notice that you are either dry or have sticky and white cervical mucus. Leading up to ovulation, you may notice that it changes to a cream like substance. Just before ovulation, it typically changes to a clear, slippery, egg-white and very sperm friendly fluid. Following ovulation, you may notice that it goes back to a sticky/tacky white paste. Please keep in mind that these are all “typical” but definitely not seen in everyone. If you have any questions about tracking your cervical mucus, don’t hesitate to talk to a health care professional! This is also another great website with some more specifics and in-depth information regarding cervical fluid.
- Basal body temperature
- I’ll be totally honest. This is something that I had NO interest in charting. It looked to me like it took too much work and was still only partially reliable, but here’s some information on the topic regardless! Your basal body temperature (BBT) should be checked as soon as you wake up in the morning, even before you sit up in bed. You may need to purchase a special thermometer for this that measures in 10ths of a degree. Typically before ovulation, a female’s body temperature should be between 96-99 degrees Fahrenheit. At the time of ovulation, progesterone increases which should cause a slight increase in your BBT. You should notice an increase in body temperature by about half of a degree that should remain elevated until just before you get your period. The tough part about this is that your fertile window really begins 2-3 days BEFORE you notice the increase in BBT, which means you may need to track this for a few months before you can use it to your advantage.
- Height of the cervix
- This is another method that I did not bother with. Truthfully, I have a tough time reaching my cervix with my fingers, and I wasn’t about to ask my husband to check it for me in case he had no idea what he was feeling and feeding me inaccurate information! But basically, similar to checking cervical fluid, you must wash your hands and then insert a finger or two until you reach your cervix. Before and after ovulation, you should feel that it is firm, closed, low and may be easier to feel. Just before and during ovulation, you should notice that it moves upwards, (further away), softens and opens slightly.
- The Twinge
- Many women claim that they can actually “feel” when they are ovulating. This was certainly not the case for me. Research suggests that about 20% of women feel a twinge or slight cramps in their lower abdomen (usually either right or left) called mittelschmerz (meaning middle pain in German). It is believed that this feeling relates to the releasing of an egg from the ovary. This pain may last for a few minutes to a few hours.
- If you’re irregular, or as a last resort, you could also try a fertility kit. Again, this is not something that I had much interest in or need for when we were TTC, but here is some information on it! Basically these kits measure the amount of luteinizing hormone in your urine, which can help to tell you when you are close to ovulation. There are also other kits that you can swab your saliva to measure estrogen, or swab your sweat to measure chloride. The Bump has a great article that compares a handful of different kits (includes prices, pros and cons). The consumer research website also has a great comparison of a couple different types of tests.
- How to keep your and your partner’s body healthy and ready for conception
- Discontinue use of tobacco and recreational drugs (you and your partner
- Limit alcoholic intake (you and your partner)
- Limit your caffeine intake (you and your partner)
- Get to a healthy weight!! Talk to a health care provider if you are concerned you are either over or under weight
- Take a prenatal vitamin (research has suggested that it may be beneficial to start this even before you start TTC)
- Have your partner skip the hot tub and sauna (testicles function best at 94-96 degrees)
- Start to get into a regular exercise routine, even if it’s only one short, brisk walk a day!
Here is a nice little chart that you can fill out that helps you track…..or download an app on your phone. There are a ton of free ones that track the exact same information!
So long story short, I used the Ovia app from the time we stopped birth control (the week of Christmas) up to the time we found out we were pregnant (the end of February). I loved it. It helped me track my cervical fluid, had somewhere to track my BBT and cervical position if I choose to, and had a place for exercise, calories and any/all of the physical symptoms I was feeling. It was nice to have everything in one place. Another cool feature this app has is that it adjusted my fertility window based on my reported symptoms, which theoretically improved our chances of getting pregnant if we were going by its timeframe.