Guest Post Written by Kimberly Racic
Hi, I'm Kimberly and I'm behind a project called Fertility Flower. Stephanie asked me to prepare a primer on fertility charting using the Sympto-Thermal method and I was happy to oblige.
First off, let me say that charting is really, really easy. Once you get the fundamentals down, it becomes second nature.
Charting is also incredibly valuable. It can be used to maximize the chances of a pregnancy or it can be used to avoid a pregnancy naturally without chemicals or barriers. The goal is the same in both scenarios – identify when ovulation is about to happen and then act accordingly.
Along the way, you'll gain invaluable knowledge about your body and learn what ˝normal˝ is for you. I've even been known to take my charts with me to the doctor's office because when you're charting, you're forming a picture of what your hormones are doing (or sometimes NOT doing). You can imagine the power in that.
So, let's get to it!
The Tools (What You Need):
:: A Basal Body Thermometer
(Confession time...I use a regular fever thermometer. tsk, tsk...I know, I know. But understand this, the point is not so much what your temperature is as is the pattern that will emerge over the course of the month. Low temperatures versus high temperatures.
But whatever you use, make it digital. Di.Gi.Tal! You can't be shaking down a glass thermometer right when you wake up or this method won't work).
And...that's it. That's all you need, a DIGITAL thermometer.
Image by tessawatson
Since we're talking about something called the Sympto-Thermal method, there's a symptoms part and a temperature part.
Let's talk temperature, first...
First thing when you wake up, you take your temperature. Take that temp before you really even move. I'm often half asleep – THAT's how much you don't move. Don't get up and go to the bathroom. Don't talk. Don't do anything. Just put a thermometer in your mouth. This is the basal body temp (think: ˝base˝ temperature).
After your DIGITAL thermometer bleeps at you, you can move. In fact, grab a pen and write that temperature down in case you forget it, although most modern digital thermometers have some memory in them (but check first, just in case).
Go to the bathroom. In the bathroom, check your cervical fluid. Look on your underpants....look on the toilet paper... or if you're willing, check internally by using your index and middle finger to draw out the fluid from the cervix. Note the quality of the cervical fluid. Is it sticky? Creamy? Watery or something that resembles raw egg white?
Each one of these tells you about your current fertility˝status˝ and how close you are to ovulation. Wetter is better for conception purposes.
Chart your temperature. The vertical axis is the temperature. The horizontal axis is the cycle day (cycle day 1 is the first day of your period). Day after day, plug your temperature into your chart and watch what emerges. You'll notice that month after month, your waking temperature follows a pattern.
A pattern like this (the yellow line/graph):
From the first day of your period until ovulation your temperature will remain relatively low. How low, you ask? That depends on you. I tend to run cool...from 95.8 to 96.3F in the pre-ovulatory stage. Once ovulation happens, your waking temp zooms up and STAYS UP until your next period.
Note your cervical fluid. At Fertility Flower, we chart temperature and cervical fluid in the same space because these things are related so it makes sense to keep these two signs together. As you approach ovulation, your cervical fluid will become wetter, more slippery (denoted here by higher and higher blue bars on the bar chart). The typical pattern is to go from dry (no cervical fluid)...to sticky...to creamy...to watery or something resembling raw egg white. You'll be able to stretch the egg white cervical fluid between your thumb and index finger – a phenomenon called ˝spin˝.
Once you start noticing cervical fluid, these are the days that you should aim to take advantage of if your goal is to achieve a pregnancy or abstain if you're aiming to avoid a pregnancy naturally (without chemicals or barriers).
The last day of your wettest cervical fluid while your temperatures are still low is called your peak day. If all goes well, you'll ovulate at some point during this 24-hour period. This is THE BIG DAY, folks, and the one that you definately want to take advantage of if you're looking to become pregnant.
You'll be able to confirm ovulation IF the morning after your peak day, you see that your temperature zoomed up AND IF IT STAYS UP FOR 3 DAYS IN A ROW. Only when these two conditions are satisfied can you be confident that you've ovulated.
And then you are welcomed into the world of the ˝Two Week Wait˝ which brings with it a state of neurosis called ˝symptom watching˝. Just kidding (sort of).
Note: If your temperature doesn't stay up for three days, you're still potentially fertile (might be due to a delayed ovulation cause by stress or sickness or whatever) so keep trying until you see your temperature shift....it might be on cycle day 14...16...26...etc...
If pregnancy is the goal, all the books will tell you to wait to take a pregnancy test until the 18th day past ovulation. But I know that you'll start testing much sooner. My advice would be to save yourself a lot of worry and a little cash and wait until at least day 13 or 14. In all three of my pregnancies, I've gone positive on day 16 – and not a minute sooner.
Kimberly Racic is the founder of Fertility Flower. Fertility Flower is a membership-based website that is designed to help women who are trying to conceive through the completely natural Sympto-Thermal method. The website will launch in July but is already the biggest fertility charting site on Facebook with over a 1,100 Likeronies.