Anyone with PCOS knows that one of the most disconcerting aspects of the disorder (and in fact, the biggest giveaway to the fact that that's what you are dealing with) is the lack of a regular menstrual cycle.
In my own journey, my cycle has actually been a bit of a measuring stick for how I am doing at moving towards greater health. Both ovulation and regularity (having cycles that take approximately one month, give or take a week or so) have been clear markers for me that something is happening as it should be.
So, how do we move in the direction of regularity?
Really, this is done through the bigger picture of improving our nutrition, exercising, avoiding those things that hamper our efforts, and supplementing with herbs, homeopathics, vitamins and minerals.
Today I want to focus, though, on how to work towards a greater knowledge of our cycle and what is happening within our bodies. Though it is important to begin to do all of those other things, starting off with a solid knowledge of what is actually happening within your body is so very valuable!
Charting your Cycles
Do you really, truly know what's happening during your cycle? Could you pinpoint the day that you ovulated (or whether you even did at all)? Could you tell me how long your luteal phase was (my lutta-whatta phase?) and whether you have sufficiently high progesterone to support a fertilized egg? Are you having signs that indicate impending ovulation, without the big O actually taking place?
**This is an example of a cycle chart, with the blue dots representing basal body temperature, and the red line in the center representing the day of ovulation. More on this below**
All of these are important questions to be able to answer, for a couple of reasons.
Seeking Pregnancy: First of all, if you are seeking to become pregnant now or sometime in the near future, you would be served to know how your body works, when things happen (or don't happen), and how to best work with what's going on. Knowing your cycle also lets you know when to try to conceive, to have the best chance possible.
Something to Show: During the year that we sought to conceive our little boy, I charted faithfully, and I am so glad that I did. When the doctors wouldn't take me seriously and didn't want to run hormone tests and when I wasn't getting a positive test month after month, not only was I fairly certain of why it wasn't happening (I wasn't ovulating), but I also had something to take with me and help me to advocate for myself in my appointments.
More Information: Charting tells me when I am about to ovulate, and indicates to me when it has already happened. It tells me when to watch for my period (those with long cycles, like myself, will understand how helpful this might be!). It tells me whether my progesterone is likely too low, and whether my luteal phase (the time between ovulation and menstruation) is too short to allow an egg to implant in my uterus, and it helps me as I seek out ways to improve these specific issues that I see happening. Overall, it serves as a bit of a measuring stick for my reproductive health, and indicates problems that need to be addressed.
There are already so many great resources out there for charting (or using the Fertility Awareness Method, as it is also called), that rather than reinvent the wheel, I'm simply going to direct you to them:
How the Fertility Awareness Method Works: Start on the first page, and then click the link that says Next at the bottom of each page (it's 3 pages total). This is from the author of the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility.
Fertility Friend: This is a site that offers free online charting (rather than simply making your own chart with graph paper). It's convenient and something I have used before. Their handbook on fertility is extremely thorough and gives a really excellent overview as well as answering many more detailed questions on the topic.
Taking Charge of Your Fertility
by Toni Weschler: This might just be the most comprehensive book on this topic and is a
valuable book for any woman to own (I have it and have recommend it to
Any other charters out there? For those who do chart, how have you found it to be beneficial? What other resources or charting tools have you used and liked?