Becoming a parent is one of the most rewarding opportunities that many people find themselves stumbling upon. For others, becoming pregnant can be a little more complicated. There is nothing wrong with struggling to become pregnant, this struggle is more common than many people think. Many people don’t talk about the very real and frustrating side of trying to get pregnant, although the average person would be surprised to know that conception is a miracle in and of itself. It is important to consider all options for yourself before immediately jumping into a fertility doctor’s office.
Conception and pregnancy can be a very difficult process and is why many people refer to conception and giving birth as a “miracle”. There are many environmental and evolutionary reasons why conceiving can be difficult, and often it can be a true test of one’s emotions. Do not feel alone in this process and continue reading if you have started to consider these external factors that many women are not aware, play a considerable part in conceiving. Becoming aware of your specific body and its needs will give you an advantage both without the use of artificial reproductive techniques and should you look to the help of fertility specialists in the future.
Many women, trying to conceive or not, could benefit from their own cycle charting for a variety of health reasons as will be discussed in this article. It is important to remember that while going through this process of charting that your expectations stay realistic, just because you’ve had a suspicion of fertility issues does not imply that there are. Similarly if you were confident there wasn’t a infertility issue but are now doing research from a suspicion, it is important to take these first cycle charting steps as an “at home” approach before contacting fertility specialists.
Know the Phases of your Ovulation
If you haven’t done much research on Fertility Calendars, this may be a very good place to start. Improving your chances without Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART) is the best first (and cheapest) step to getting pregnant if you haven’t been on any type of birth control and having regular intercourse for a year without any pregnancies. Knowing your body and ovulation is the key to understanding if there are any other complications going on with your body and fertility.
Understanding your own body is also a great first start in eliminating yourself and then determining your partners fertility and if there are any complications there. Getting pregnant from having sex can happen 4-5 days before the day of ovulation because sperm can live for this long until your actually fertile.
If you’re not sure what your menstrual cycle is, the default values are 28 days between menstrual cycles and 14 days of the luteal phase. Recording this information is essential for understanding your specific ovulation calendar and the best dates for ovulation. Understanding the default information can be a great start, but really getting an accurate read of your individual calendar is essential. This can be done in a variety of ways but keep in mind, the statistics are so important to understand about this fertile window. If a woman has sex even 6 days before the ovulation window the possibility of pregnancy can be virtually 0% while 5 days out can be up to 10%, and for each individual case this can vary. The probability of pregnancy rises steadily from 6 and 5 days out, up until the day of ovulation.
From the day of ovulation onward, this fertile window declines rapidly within 12-24 hours this variable changes dramatically to virtually no chance of pregnancy. This is why tracking your individual calendar is extremely important for your success in both getting pregnant and in determining if there are any other factors preventing pregnancy.
What is the Luteal Phase?
The Luteal phase occurs during the second half of the cycle, after ovulation and this phase ends when you start your period. This phase is often over looked and completely ignored, unless you’re trying to get pregnant. Often a “short” luteal phase is associated with difficulty conceiving and is associated with pregnancy loss. Understanding your luteal phase may not only help with conception but overall menstrual health. Many women who are not consulting with a fertility specialist may not have been asked about their luteal phase, and yet this may be the most important part of the menstrual cycle.
The Luteal phase is the time after you had your period, then ovulated and your body is essentially waiting to become pregnant. For reference a good way to think of this phase would be like the moment of waiting after you’ve planned a surprise party. You’ve hung decorations, baked a cake, and now everyone is waiting in suspense for the surprise party guest! The tension in the Luteal phase is the tension right before the reveal.
Why is the luteal phase so important?
After ovulation, there is a part of the ovaries being held up called the corpus luteum. After progesterone has begun to develop in hopes of an egg being fertilized, these walls become thick and soft for potential egg fertilization. If there is no egg implant in this corpus luteum, the progesterone will stop producing and start to shed. This process is known as your period and happens about 10-14 days after production stops.
This luteal phase is so incredibly important because while conception is often considered to be sperm and egg joining, it actually involves that third pesky element of progesterone build up to a thick and healthy lining for implantation. This luteal phase being shorter than 10 days can ultimately prove not ideal for pregnancy to occur. Even if you’re not trying to get pregnant, the luteal phase can give important indications for menstrual and overall health for all women. Progesterone is crucial for a healthy heart, bones, sleeping and overall general heathy feeling.
If your luteal phase is shorter than 10 days and your body is not producing enough progesterone there may be a variety of reasons why this is occurring. You may want to check with your doctor many of these reasons are as follows: PCOS, disorders with Thyroid, Anorexia (or restrictive eating), obesity, excessive exercise, age and stress.
If you see a fertility specialist they may recommend testing of your progesterone levels around the 21st day of your cycle as the typical progesterone level will spike around that time, during the luteal phase. If your cycle is not typical, this is why tracking can be so important. Say your ovulation calendar is not the 28 but instead 30 or more days longer, your ovulation could be later than typical and thus your progesterone levels will vary to the typical.
Help your Progesterone levels during your Luteal Phase
Treating this luteal phase will be mostly determined by the severity of the shortened luteal phase causes. The good news is there are benefits to understanding your individual luteal phase and some resources you can use before turning to a fertility doctor immediately. Vitamin C included in a daily supplement has been shown to increase fertility in women with shorter luteal phases.
In the scientific study, 25% of the women receiving Vitamin C who had shorter luteal phases were pregnant within 6 months of the introduction of Vitamin C supplements, while 11% of the subjects were pregnant without. Another typical supplement that women turn to for extending their progesterone levels during the pivotal days within the luteal phase is actual progesterone creams and supplements. Adding progesterone to your routine may have counter effects though, so you would want to check with a doctor before making a decision. Too much progesterone can have effects that would prevent ovulation.
The different options for Fertility Calendars
Now that you understand the basics of the luteal phase and the importance of a longer luteal phase with ideal levels of progesterone for getting pregnant, you can finally start to decide which fertility calendar works for you!
There are 3 types of charts.
- Menstrual Cycle Ovulation Chart
- Basal Body Temperature (BBT) Ovulation Chart
- Cervical Mucus Ovulation Chart
The first chart is the typical Menstrual Cycle Ovulation Chart which can provide a rough estimate of your cycle. If you haven’t been aware of these important cycle phases, and just now are starting out, this is a great place to start. If your period is typically 28 days, your window for ovulation is 14 days before your period. If you want to be very thorough, then adding 5 days on the before and after day of this day will ensure that you’re covering your bases if you’re having unprotected sex over those days. This chart provides a pretty wide range of days where you may be most fertile, although it is not an exact way to chart your actual ovulation or understand the more complexities that may be involved in the situation.
The second type of chart is a Basal Body Temperature (BBT) Ovulation Chart. This chart while may be more accurate, is often less generalized and predictable. After your ovation phase, the egg then turns into what is called a corpus luteum and begins the luteal phase. This is when progesterone is released, creating an ideal fertility conditions for implanting itself. Because the progesterone hormone is released, it raises your overall body temperature from normal to at least 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
In order to accurately create a BBT Chart, every day you must take your temperature in the morning as you wake up before moving out of bed and after you’ve had at least 5 hours of sleep. This temperature reading will provide a consistent measurement of body temperature. Even though you’ve probably slept in a warm bed, or next to someone else warming the bed, this will still be an accurate and relative regular reading for your analysis later.
This charting may sound difficult at first, but definitely less invasive and more accurate than other more advanced techniques. One reason many people find this kind of charting difficult is for planning reasons, by the time your temperature is spiking you’ve often passed the fertile phase. Although with a little patience over a few months, your timing may become more accurate as you understand your body’s individual cycle of ovulation and luteal phase.
Reasons many women love this method is, its relatively easy to take your temperature every morning but more importantly, a fertility specialist will be able to easily determine if there are any irregularities in regards to fertility. As we discussed earlier, these irregularities may consist of shorter luteal phases, lower levels of progesterone and even possible absence of ovulation.
A third type of fertility charting is called the Cervical Mucus Ovulation Chart. This chart consists of discharge recording. Through the menstrual cycle, there are a variety of estrogen levels your cycle will go through that create 4 types of discharge. If you’ve noticed a variety of discharge, keep your eye out for the egg white and creamy phase, as this is a clear sign of your most fertile window. For some women this phase is 1-2 days, others it can last as long as 5 although 3 is the typical number of days. Women can use this type of charting method with ease, although if you haven’t been paying attention to your discharge, then it may become more difficult.
Understand Your Body
Ultimately when it comes to fertility, you have a variety of options before turning straight to a fertility clinic and doctor. While many people may start to worry after a few months of trying, it is completely normal for women to misunderstand, or have been completely ignorant of their bodies. Many doctors today don’t spend time educating women of their cycles and instead offer birth control as a solution for almost all ailments and especially before women are ready to start trying. It is no wonder that by the time women are in a period of their lives where they’re trying to get pregnant that they often have difficulty understanding their bodies.
Regardless of your decision on how to try and get pregnant, it is always worth trying to conceive naturally through charting and for relatively low cost before contacting a specialist. In many cases a simple analysis or charting method could be the solution to becoming pregnant, or at least a very good start to the discussion with a fertility specialist.