Using a fertility chart to understand your body

Whether you're dying to get pregnant or don't want to get pregnant any time soon, every woman can benefit...

Whether you're dying to get pregnant or don't want to get pregnant any time soon, every woman can benefit from a better understanding of her cycle, period. (Yes, pun intended!) When you know which days are your most fertile, you can either work to conceive or put extra measures in place to make sure you don't become pregnant. Either way, knowing your schedule and predicting your most fertile days only has benefits, so find out how and why a fertility chart can work for you.

Basal Body Temperature. The first trick to charting your cycle is to understand basal body temperature. Your BBT, as it's often called, is an almost imperceptible change in body temp directly after you ovulate. Your body usually has a temperature of about 97.0 to 97.5 degrees Fahrenheit when taken with a basal body thermometer (different than a regular thermometer). A day or two after you ovulate, your BBT goes up about .1 to .2 degrees higher. It might sound like a tiny difference, but it can mean the world when you're tying--or trying not--to get pregnant.

Here's the thing: Since you can't detect the change in body temperature until after ovulation, the information probably won't do you much good. That's why keeping a chart is so beneficial; after two or three months of keeping track of your BBT, you should be able to see emerging patterns that allow you to correctly predict your most fertile days, just before your temperature spikes.

Who to contact. Since your BBT is usually the first step in taking charge of your fertility and understanding your body, it's something that you can discuss with your family doctor. Together, you can examine your charts after two or three months and decide whether or not you need to see a specialist.

Cervical mucus. This is another way that you can chart your fertility and pinpoint your most fertile days. Cervical mucus is a substance that is discharged by your body and can predict your fertility based on its amount and consistency. If you're comfortable getting up close and personal with your reproductive system, it's an excellent way to make your chart more accurate.

Cervical mucus can be described based on its thickness. During the first one to five days of your cycle, you'll have your period, and no cervical mucus is expelled. During days six through nine, you'll have little discharge at all. During days 10 to 12, you'll notice a thick, mucus-like discharge. During days 13 to 15, that mucus becomes much thinner and can be compared to egg whites. This marks the most fertile days of your cycle. After day 15, the mucus will become thick again, and by day 22, you should notice little discharge before you start your period again.

Who to contact. After taking your BBT, examining your cervical mucus is the next step in getting educated about your fertility. It might be time to discuss your reproductive health with an Atlanta-based fertility specialist, who can check your records and charts to ensure that you're ovulating regularly.

Keeping a chart. Keeping a fertility chart might sound complicated, but it's very simple. A calendar is the best way to track each day of your cycle, so you can grab one from the store or print one online. Once you've got your calendar, you only need to check your BBT and your cervical mucus each day.

To check your BBT, purchase a BBT thermometer and take your temperature at the same time and location as before. Basal body temperature can be taken orally, rectally or vaginally, but you must use the same location and time each day for the results to be accurate. Once you take your temp, record it on your calendar. Then, check your cervical mucus consistency as part of the charting process. Record the thickness and consistency on the same calendar.

After two to three months of the same process, you should see clear patterns emerge that show which days are your most fertile. In some cases, charting could prove that you're not ovulating consistently or at all. That's why your chart can be so valuable to a reproductive specialist; it gives clues to your reproductive health and reveals potential problems that should be addressed.

Who to contact. Ask your family doc for a referral to a fertility specialist if you're worried about your reproductive health. A specialist can offer recommendations based on your charting history and current health that can help protect your fertility or help you become pregnant faster.

Reproductive health is a highly personal area of medicine, so it's important that you have accurate information and a fertility doctor whom you trust. If you're looking for a reproductive specialist, check out Atlanta-based doctors who can help you better understand your body and take charge of your fertility.

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