An advanced introduction – from BBT to EWCM
One the first questions a couple will ask themselves when the decide to start a family is, “How long will it take to conceive”? It’s a good question – and most couples are surprised to learn that, on average, conceiving a baby takes longer than they originally anticipated. Instead of a cycle or two, it may take several months to over a year to conceive, particularly after using contraception or birth control pills (which can knock the reproductive hormones out of phase for a while). And as couples today tend to start families a little later in life than previous generations, age is a factor as the older we start to TTC (trying to conceive), the longer it may take.
Doctor Facts: Looking at statistics, 50% of TTC couples will conceive within six months of actively trying and more than 4/5ths will fall pregnant within 12 months. Of course, there are methods to increase your odds, and our articles section deals with these methods in detail: The key is to time lovemaking during your most fertile time of the month – right before you ovulate. If you know – or can predict – when you ovulate every month, then you should be able to get pregnant much sooner than the “random” procreative sex method. The former is called “timing intercourse” and it is based on several concerted strategies that fall under the rubric of fertility charting. Learning about your body, experiencing the nuances of your unique cycle, feeling or observing the symptoms of fertility and ovulation – that’s the exciting and dynamic path to becoming pregnant and starting your pregnancy off in a healthy, conscious way.
Once you decide you want to have a baby, seriously consider starting a fertility chart. Of course, charting is just one star in the constellation of preconception, and you will also need to ensure that a sound diet, a healthy lifestyle, prenatals with folic acid, exercise, proper weight, a good doctor, and the elimination of all bad habits like smoking and drinking (this goes for the guys as well) are included as variables to improve fertility.
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Charting for Ovulation
A quick educational review: The lynchpin of any fertility chart is your bbt calendar (or basal body temperature chart). Basal means the “resting” temperature of your body after a good night of sleep and before you even start moving. Don’t leave your bed. The point of fertility charting with a basal thermometer is to find out the moment a hormone change takes place in your body (a rise of progesterone and fall of estrogen). Progesterone causes the body temperatures to increase by a minimum of two-tenths of a degree Fahrenheit – and this bbt temp increases within a day or two after ovulation. This elevated basal temperature will typically hold steady until right before day 1 of your next menstrual cycle. If the temp does not drop, take a pregnancy test! When drawing your ovulation calendar (bbt chart), you should have an almost evenly divided biphasic graph: the first phase is your follicular/ovulatory cycle (the first 14 plus days of your cycle) and the second phase comes after ovulation – the luteal or post-ovulatory phase. Plot temperatures daily and you should see a surge in temperature at the midpoint of your cycle. Your ovulation date takes place right before this surge. Looking for patterns on each month’s graph will help you predict ovulation.
BBT charting is important for several different aspects: As noted above, maintaining a bbt graph as part of your overall charting helps you understand when (and if) you ovulated. It also allows you determine the length of your menstrual cycle and know if you timed lovemaking properly. If bbt temps are erratic or you do not see a spike, charting can also let you know that there may be fertility or health issues to check on. For example, LPD – or luteal phase defect – is a shortened second half of your cycle (which may indicate a deficiency in progesterone or hormonal imbalance). Such imbalances can be obstacles to pregnancy, so charting your bbts will let you know if your luteal phase is too short. If you are taking a supplement of fertility medication, charting will also inform you about any positive changes in your cycle (for example, before or after starting clomid or a fertility supplement). There’s much to be discerned from charting your bbts!
BBT and Ovulation Symptoms: EWCM
Finally, as part of your fertility chart, you will likely be examining other fertility signs or taking ovulation predictor tests: If so, you can compare your bbt graph with other ovulation and fertility factors like fertile mucous, ovulation pains, opks, etc. In the days before you temperature rise, you should experience changes in your cervical mucous – or CM. When the CM becomes clear or translucent, stretchy (not sticky) like egg-white (hence the acronym EWCM – egg white cervical mucus) and your cervix is open, moist, and higher than during the rest of your cycle, you know that ovulation is in the works! Expect your mid-cycle temperature rise and ovulation to take place.
Following ovulation – and the flood of progesterone into your system – the CM will again become tacky, dry, or absent and the cervix will close up and drop. You should start to see these changes a few days after the bbt temp line shoots up. It’s also possible, if there is no drop in temp, to learn of an early pregnancy symptom if the your bbts stay elevated after a missed period.
To start charting, simply find a quality basal thermometer. Start on day one of your cycle – the first day of menstrual bleeding. Chart daily at the same time every day – and measure your bbt temp first thing, before moving, before rising from bed. For more information and faq’s on bbt charting, click here. If you are using an ovulation microscope, then ensure that you do your bbt first – then collect your morning saliva sample for the saliva test.
- Ovulation Calendar (tool)
- The Anatomy of Ovulation
- FAQ: How can I tell that I’m ovulating?
- Fertility Charting and Methods of Predicting Ovulation
- Charting Ovulation to Pregnancy
- Basal Body Temperature (BBT) Charting
- How to Fertility Chart: Basal Thermometer & BBT Charting
- How to use your basal thermometer
- BBT Charting & Timing Intercourse
- Progesterone, Ovulation & BBT Charting
- FAQ: What is “fertile” cervical mucus?
- FAQ: How much will my BBT increase?
- FAQ: Can the position & feel of my cervix tell me if I’m ovulating?
- Printable Fertility Chart
- Changes in Fertile Cervical Mucus
- Am I Ovulating?
- FSH and Fertility: How Follicle Stimulating Hormone Can Affect Your Ability to Conceive
- When Do You Ovulate?