If you are currently trying to get pregnant, or even considering it, do you know the first question you should be asking?
I’ll give you a hint, it’s not “Do we paint the nursery yellow or blue?” or “Baby names, classic or modern?” or even “When should I get pregnant if I want my baby to be a Libra?”
The first and most important thing you must know before trying to get pregnant is “CAN I get pregnant?”
To answer this question, you should know the answers to the following questions:
i) “Do I Ovulate?” As in, “Do I, with some degree of regularity, actually release an egg?”
ii) “Can sperm survive in my vagina long enough to reach the egg?”
iii) “If I get pregnant, will I stay pregnant?”
iv) “When should we have sex?”
The unfortunate reality is that most women don’t know the answers to these questions, and hence have a harder time than they’d like trying to get pregnant.
Luckily there is a simple and inexpensive way to answer all four questions: chart your fertility! This is great way to find out if and when you ovulate every month, and also to address a host of other issues that may make it hard for you to stay pregnant, or present themselves as problems on your way to mommy-hood.
For those that don’t know, fertility charting is simple: you take your oral temperature each morning before getting out of bed, check your cervical fluid each day, and record these two signs on a chart. Out of these simple actions a whole WORLD of knowledge is released!
Let’s tackle the all-important questions one by one:
1. Do I ovulate?
Why this is important: If you’re not ovulating, that means there is no egg waiting in the wings to be fertilized by some helpful sperm, and no amount of “Baby Dancing” is going to land you with that cute little watermelon-sized bundle of joy. Ever.
How fertility charting can help: A temperature shift confirms ovulation. If you chart your waking temperature every day, after a month or so you’ll start to see your own unique pattern of temperatures. If you ovulate you will see a pattern of low temperatures, (usually below 97.7 F or 36.50 C) followed by 12-16 days of higher temperatures, which indicates ovulation.
Your temperature will rise about .3 of a degree after ovulation, and stay elevated until your next period. If you see this shift, it almost certainly means that ovulation has occurred. And that’s great news!
(Want a highly accurate basal thermometer that's fast, fits comfortably in your mouth, and doesn't beep? Try Wink, a bluetooth basal thermometer that automatically syncs your temperatures and the time your temperature was taken to the Kindara app.)
If you ovulate regularly (every cycle) you have a better chance at conceiving than someone who doesn’t ovulate every cycle. (There are many reasons for not ovulating, which I’ll discuss another time) So, once you have confirmed that you ovulate regularly it’s time to celebrate right? Not so fast… there’s more…
2. Can sperm survive in my vagina long enough to reach the egg?
Why this is important: Okay, so you’ve ovulated, and you have a lovely egg just hanging out in one of your fallopian tubes, thinking she might like some company… some sperm company! But what if prince charming never arrives? ”What’s happened? Where is he? If he doesn’t show up in the next 12 to 24 hours, I swear I’ll die!” says the egg…and, true to her word, she does. An egg, once released, only survives for about 12 to 24 hours. If conception doesn’t happen within that timeframe, the egg will no longer be viable, and will disintegrate back into the body.
So if you’re trying to get your egg into the company of some fine upstanding sperm-gentlemen, make sure that said gentlemen are already hanging around, awaiting the egg’s arrival, or that they show up pronto, once she makes her debut.
This is where Cervical Fluid comes into play. Fertile Cervical Fluid is slippery, slightly alkaline, (like a man’s seminal fluid) and has a high water content. It creates a sperm superhighway, that nourishes and protects the sperm, and speeds them along their way to the egg. Sperm can survive inside a woman’s body for up to 5 days if there is fertile cervical fluid present. This gives them plenty of time to chill out: drinking beer and watching the game, while they wait for the lovely egg to finish primping, or whatever.
But without fertile cervical fluid the sperm are pretty much dead in the water. The sperm can’t get to the egg, and if they can’t get to the egg, ain’t nobody gettin’ pregnant.
How Fertility Charting can help: If you chart your cervical fluid every day, after a while you’ll be able to see if you have a “normal” cervical fluid pattern that would suggest fertility. If your endocrine system is producing normal levels of estrogen, at some point during your cycle you should have several days of very slippery, or watery cervical fluid, generally the in the few days leading up to your temperature rise. This will tell you that the sperm can most likely survive long enough to reach and fertilize an egg. Yay!
3. If I get pregnant, will I stay pregnant?
Why this is important: Many women who think they have trouble conceiving are actually getting pregnant, but having miscarriages early on in the pregnancy. Obviously this could hinder their baby-making plans.
How fertility charting can help: By charting your fertility signs you and your healthcare practitioner will be able to tell if you have a short luteal (post-ovulatory) phase, which may make it hard for you to stay pregnant. This may seem daunting, but there are treatments for this, both natural and allopathic, and many women with short luteal phases have gone on to give birth to perfectly healthy full-term babes. An added bonus of fertility charting is that you will be able to see right there on your chart if your treatments are working, and when your body is healthy enough to start trying for a baby.
Which brings me to the final question.
4. When should we have sex?
Why this is important: You need to have sex at the right time to get pregnant. If you have sex when there is no fertile cervical fluid, or too long after ovulation has taken place, the sperm and egg will be like ships in the night, and you won’t get pregnant. But if you have sex at the right time, the perfect storm of Egg, Cervical Fluid and Sperm can lead to… you guessed it… BABYTIME!
How fertility charting can help: By putting together all the information we just learned, you can pinpoint the optimal time to have sex, if pregnancy is what you’re after. The time to try is when you have that slippery or watery cervical fluid, usually in the few days leading up to your temperature rise. You can stop trying a day or so after your temperature rise.
Good luck and have fun.