Once I had learnt how a menstrual cycle worked, I then had to learn how my cycle in particular worked. The easiest way to do this is to use a charting application. There are lots of different ones on the internet and application stores and many of them are for free. The one I use is called Fertility Friend which is usable both on the computer or on your phone or table and handy for when you are out and about. It has a free section and then it also has a VIP section that you can pay for with a set of chart analysers for a more in depth charting experience.
There are also the different methods of charting to consider which Fertility Friend makes easy to chart and help you determine how your cycle works. These methods involve taking your temperature, checking your cervical mucus and your cervix position, using an OPK (ovulation predictor kit) or a ferning kit and monitoring your “symptoms”.
For a more accurate chart recording on first starting out you should try to combine all or a number of these methods but it is not completely necessary to do more than one or two once you know your cycle works inside out.
Taking your temperature
This involves using a basal thermometer like the one in the photo to check your temperature. This can be done either orally or vaginally when you first wake up in the morning. To get an accurate consistent reading it needs to be done at the same time every morning after a solid 3 hour sleep minimum. I used to take mine at 6 am, about half an hour before the household woke up for the day.
|My basal thermometer|
If you’re anything like me, taking my temperature orally didn’t provide an accurate reading and my first couple of charting cycles were all over the place with no obvious pattern. If you find this is happening on your charts when you test orally then switch to testing vaginally.
Checking your cervical mucus and your cervix position
This is done by inserting your finger inside yourself to touch your cervix and gently removing some of the mucus there. I recommend doing this at the same time as your test your temperature for convenience sake.
Your cervical mucus will go through 4 stages during your style. During your menstruation phase of your cycle, your cervix will often be dry to the touch. Once you start the follicular phase your cervix will either be sticky to the touch or have a creamy coloured mucus that you can see.
When you start the ovulation phase your cervix will start to produce either a watery mucus or as you get closer to the day your egg releases, a mucus the colour and texture of raw egg white and then will switch back to the wet mucus for a day or two.
Next in the luteal phase, your mucus will probably go back to creamy with a spot of wet mucus half way through the phase.
|My non-pregnancy cycle chart|
While you are checking your cervix mucus you can also check the position of your cervix. When you are ovulating your cervix will be higher up and more difficult to reach. When you are not ovulating your cervix will be much lower down and easier to reach.
OPKs and Fern Tests
An OPK or ovulation predictor test works in the same way that a HPT (home pregnancy test) works, by dipping the predictor stick into your urine. Unlike the HPT however you are better to do this in the afternoon at least 2 hours after having anything to drink. What it checks for is the hormone surge that releasing your egg from your ovaries creates in your body.
There is one other difference between an OPK and a HPT. While a HPT only needs to show 2 lines for a positive and doesn’t matter how dark the second line is, an OPK requires the second line to be either as dark or darker than the base line to predict ovulation.
The fern test on the other hand checks a dried sample of your cervical mucus for the ovulation hormone. The closer you get to ovulation, the clearer the picture of a fern displays. This was not a tool I used however and I don’t know much more about it than this.
Both tests should be conducted when you start to get the wet cervical mucus in your cycle.
|My pregnancy cycle chart|
Monitoring your “symptoms”
This is the part that gets really tricky and can really cause the mental and emotional roller coaster part of trying to conceive a baby. I ended up not doing this after a while because I found that most of the “symptoms” that are usually associated with the start of pregnancy are also ones that you can get on a normal non-pregnancy cycle. I don’t recommend actually doing this part much when TTC purely because of the head games it can cause picking out every symptom your body produces.
There is one “symptom” that I do recommend charting though and that is the ovulation pain one. Not every woman will actually feel this. It isn’t something I particularly noticed until I started charting. The ovulation pain is a small cramp like feeling where your ovaries are located which can indicate the release of your egg.