Jennifer Aldoretta wrote this on July 4, 2014
Deciding to become pregnant is an awesome and exciting time, but it can often become wrought with stress and frustration. There’s so much to worry about: prepping your body for pregnancy with vitamins and proper nutrition, endless ovulation predictor kits and pregnancy tests, app after app that claims to predict your ovulation date, trying to time sex to maximize your chances of conception. And trying to enjoy the process?! Forget it! On top of that, maybe you recently stopped using hormonal contraceptives. You’re not sure how long to wait, and your cycles are still all over the place. What’s a gal to do? First of all, let’s take a few deep breaths. Trying to get pregnant shouldn’t be this stressful!
Charting fertility using the sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness is an increasingly popular tool used by women who are trying to get pregnant. And for good reason! Fertility charting can help to eliminate much of this stress and put the fun back into the baby-making process. It almost sounds too good to be true, but I promise it’s not. This blog post will discuss some of the many benefits of charting your fertility for the purposes of getting pregnant (even for those of you struggling with PCOS).
There are only about six days during your cycle when a pregnancy can occur, so pinpointing these days is the key to maximizing your chances. There are all sorts of apps and ovulation calculators that claim to predict these days for you, but beware! I discussed in a previous post why predicting fertility based on past cycles is extremely inaccurate, especially for women who struggle with PCOS. One of my favorite TED talks was given by a man named Todd Rose, and even though his talk was about education, something he said during his talk rings so true with tools that claim to predict ovulation or fertility. He said, “When you design for the average, you design for no one.” Preach! Female fertility is not static or universal. Few of us have an “average” cycle and ovulate on cycle day 14. While these types of tools may seem like a simple solution, I would argue that they are really designed for no one.
Practicing the sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness (STM) is a simple and accurate way to detect (not predict) when you are fertile. STM requires you to monitor two simple signs of fertility to detect your six-day baby-making window: (1) basal body temperature and (2) cervical fluid. Both of these fertility signs are directly dependent on the hormone fluctuations that govern the menstrual cycle. This means that practicing STM doesn’t predict your fertility, but draws an accurate picture of your fertility.
Observing cervical fluid allows you to pinpoint the start of your fertile window (i.e. when you should start trying), and measuring basal body temperature allows you to pinpoint the end of your fertile window (i.e. when your baby-making window has passed until your next cycle). STM is a simple way to remove much of the stress that often comes along with trying to get pregnant. No more ovulation predictor kits, no more ovulation calculators, no more fertility predictors, and no more blindly timing sex. More time for relaxation and enjoyment!
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A number of different reproductive issues can lead to a difficulty getting pregnant, including luteal phase disorders, PCOS, anovulation, and other hormone imbalance. Many women unknowingly struggle with these, and each one can make it difficult to get pregnant. One of the biggest benefits of fertility charting – aside from pinpointing your fertile window – is the help it can provide in detecting reproductive disorders. STM can provide valuable insight into your reproductive system, and it can help you and your doctor diagnose disorders and guide treatment. STM can also help women who are already undergoing infertility treatment. It can be used in conjunction with medications like Clomid to detect if, in fact, ovulation is successfully being stimulated.
If you’ve recently stopped taking hormonal contraceptives and are trying to get pregnant, it may take several months for your body to resume a normal rhythm. Hormonal contraceptives work by suppressing your body’s natural hormone fluctuations, so it isn’t uncommon for several months to pass before these natural fluctuations resume. Not to worry! Even though this can be frustrating, waiting until your body is truly ready is the best decision you can make for yourself and your baby-to-be.
Believe it or not, charting your fertility allows you to ditch the pregnancy tests. This is because an implanted embryo alters your hormones in a way that can be detected with observations of basal body temperature. 18 days of a high post-ovulatory temperature almost always indicates that you are pregnant. Check out the sample chart below.
This woman’s temperature shift occurred on cycle day 17. After 18 days of an elevated post-ovulatory basal body temperature, she is very likely pregnant.
Don’t let the stress and frustration of aimlessly trying to get pregnant overtake this exciting time in your life. We want to help you keep the sparks alive while you’re trying to conceive (or, dare I say, maintain your groove). Downloading our iPhone app and reading our comprehensive (and free) information about fertility charting are great places to start.