Are you interested in fertility charting but don’t know where to start? In this quick start guide I outline everything a beginner needs to know in order to get started with charting.
Fertility Charting for beginners
What is fertility charting
Fertility charting in simple terms is the act of recording your fertility signs daily.
Whilst there is a plethora of processes happening ‘behind the scenes’ in your body that you cannot see there’s actually a lot that’s happening externally which you can see, and chart. With fertility charting not only will you be able to accurately determine when you’re ovulating but it is one of the easiest, non invasive ways to learn about your body and get a snapshot of your overall health.
Benefits of fertility charting
You should most definitely learn fertility charting if :
- you’re trying to get pregnant
- you’re trying to prevent pregnancy naturally
- your menstrual cycle is irregular and you never know when your period is going to show up
- you’ve ever wondered ‘why is my period late?’
- you practice cycle syncing and need to know in which phase of your cycle you’re in on any given day
- you’d like to reconnect to your body’s natural rhythm, especially after coming off hormonal birth control
How to chart fertility
In order to effectively chart your fertility you need to chart your fertility signs on a daily basis. Don’t worry it’s not as difficult as it might sound. Your body gives you all the information you need to chart your menstrual cycle, you just need to learn how to interpret this information, so let’s get started!
Your primary fertility signs
There are two primary fertility signs
- Basal Body Temperature (BBT)
- Cervical Mucus / Fluid
Basal Body Temperature
Tracking basal body temperature helps you confirm ovulation.
What is Basal Body Temperature
Your basal body temperature (BBT) is your lowest body temperature in a 24-hour period.
How do I track my Basal Body Temperature
You will need
- a basal body thermometer that measures to at least 2 decimal places (eg 97.57) A regular fever thermometer will not do for measuring BBT. Using a cutting edge thermometer like Daysy makes the whole process super simple as it not only takes your temperature but it also collects and stores your data. Which you can view in its own app with insights into your cycle.
- a pen and paper chart or an app like Kindara to record your BBT observations
- Take your temperature every morning as soon as you wake up. As soon as you wake up means ; before you pee, eat, drink, have sex, or even put a foot on the floor.
- Place the thermometer in your mouth under your tongue and leave it there for at least 5 minutes BEFORE turning it on. This will give you the most accurate reading.
- Turn the thermometer on and wait for it to give a reading.
- Record your temperature straight away on paper or in your app before you forget on your app or pen and paper chart.
Typical Basal Body Temperatures
- Before Ovulation – 97.0 to 97.5 F
- After Ovulation – 97.6F to 98.6F
How to confirm ovulation based on BBT
The day after you ovulate, you should see a sharp rise in your BBT by 0.5 to 1.0 degree which should last until your next period. This is a result of heat-producing progesterone released by the corpus luteum. You may occasionally notice a BBT spike on other days but if it doesn’t stay elevated you probably haven’t ovulated yet. If you become pregnant, your temperature will stay elevated throughout your pregnancy.
Please Note : Besides ovulation there are certain factors that affect your temperature like stress, travel, alcohol consumption, illness, sleep so it’s important to record these events as they can result in a ‘questionable’ temperature reading.
Tracking cervical mucus helps you predict ovulation so you know your fertile window.
What is Cervical Mucus
As you approach ovulation, your estrogen levels begin to rise, which signals your cervix to produce and secrete a discharge known as Cervical Mucus or Cervical Fluid.
Ever wondered what’s that stretchy discharge on your undies?
If you’ve ever noticed a white stretchy substance on your underwear it was likely cervical mucus. Hormonal fluctuations throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle changes the consistency and quantity of cervical mucus.
Cervical mucus production can begin any time after your period ends and in some cases before your period ends if you have long periods.
Cervical Mucus purpose
When cervical mucus is present, sperm can survive in your reproductive tract for up to 5 days waiting for an egg to be released. So if you’re trying to avoid pregnancy beware of having unprotected sex whilst on your period especially if your period is typically long with a short cycle.
The purpose of cervical mucus is to provide a substance in which sperm can swim to reach the egg around the time it is released. In addition it provides nourishment for the sperm and assures that sperm can survive in an otherwise acidic vagina. Amazing right!
Typical Cervical Mucus Patterns
We are each unique so my cervical mucus pattern will likely differ from yours. To get you started I’m going to outline the general pattern you may look for when you first start observing cervical mucus.
After menstruation most women tend to be dry for a few days but as you approach ovulation cervical mucus becomes wetter and changes in consistency. The typical pattern for cervical mucus is as follows
Menstruation – bleed
Days following menstruation – Typically dry
As your body prepares for ovulation you may notice the following variations in cervical mucus
- Thick, tacky, sticky, or pasty
- Smooth, creamy lotion-like
- Egg white consistency, extremely slippery and stretchy usually seen two to four days before ovulation.
After ovulation – hormone changes cause cervical mucus to dry up, but your body may still produce cervical fluid until your next period begins. Post-ovulatory cervical mucus may vary in consistency but will NOT be slippery or lubricative, and it will NOT be sperm-friendly.
In the days before menstruation you may also notice a very wet sensation. This moisture is caused by the water in the lining of your uterus beginning to shed.
How do I check cervical mucus
- Begin checking for cervical mucus the day after your period ends
- Check your cervical mucus everytime you go to the bathroom
- Before urinating or having a bowel movement use a sheet of toilet paper, which is folded flat NOT scrunched up, to wipe yourself from front to back and check for cervical mucus on the paper
- If you observe some kind of discharge on the toilet paper and you are able to pick it up with your fingers and stretch it multiple times it is likely cervical mucus
- Pay attention to how the cervical mucus feels on your fingers. Is it sticky, creamy or slippery? How much does it stretch?
- Make a mental note of it and at the end of the day note your observations down on paper or in an app
- If you cannot pick the discharge up and off the paper it’s likely not cervical mucus but another vaginal secretion.
Learning to decipher what you observe when you wipe is crucial and the major reason I highly recommend working with a Fertility Awareness Educator to master the ins and outs of cervical mucus.
How do I chart my cervical mucus
Please Note : Certain medications, having sex, using a lubricant, or douching can change the appearance of cervical fluid.
So there you have it! The beginners guide to fertility charting. Once upon a time I saw my period as the problem, not realising that my period was actually revealing underlying health issues that needed to be addressed. It wasn’t until I began fertility charting that I went from seeing my period as a nuisance to seeing it as a useful and diagnostic tool I could use to truly take charge of my health.
Learning how to chart your menstrual cycle in this way is one of the best gifts gives you can give to yourself.
Please note that this post is a quick start guide for beginners to fertility charting. If you would like to master fertility charting I highly suggest you pick up a copy of the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. And if you would like to use this method as contraception or need help troubleshooting your observations I highly suggest you work with a Fertility Awareness Educator as I did.