In 2009, Hubby and I decided that we wanted to start a family. I always suspected I would have issues and when I went off birth control, my period didn’t return for 3 or 4 months. I found it really frustrating and wanted to know what was happening in my body. I had read a lot about fertility charting and how women were using it to help them conceive. I thought I’d give it a go.
I’ll get into the details of fertility charting in a bit but charting basically allows you to see when you have ovulated. I found this helpful for a number of reasons:
- I took my charts to my doctor and they aided in my diagnosis of PCOS.
- I knew when I had ovulated so I knew those months with an erratic cycle were not as a result of pregnancy – it helped manage my disappointment every month.
- When I DID ovulate, I knew that chances were good that I was pregnant by looking at my graph – and I got my positive pregnancy test 12 days after I ovulated.
Let’s have a look at the basics of fertility charting and then we’ll look at whether it might be something worthwhile for you.
Understanding Fertility Charting
Fertility charting is used to monitor your body’s signs of fertility and impending ovulation. Most women without PCOS will show signs of ovulation in the middle of their cycle. During the first half of the cycle (menstruation – ovulation), body temperature is slightly lower. However, once ovulation has occurred, there is a spike in basal body temperature as progesterone is released and prepares your body for pregnancy. It is this increase in temperature over the second half of the cycle that signifies ovulation.
If you have conceived and are pregnant, your temperatures will remain high, even after your period is due. If, however, you have not conceived, it will drop back down to roughly where it was at the beginning of your cycle.
Women also chart their cervical mucus as this changes throughout the cycle. Cervical mucus that has the consistency of an egg white indicates that the body is preparing for ovulation.
Charting is only effective in determining if ovulation has occurred not predicting when it will occur.
The Problem with Fertility Charting with PCOS
So, here’s the problem with charting with PCOS. Many of our cycles are anovulatory. This doesn't bother me, personally. I would rather know what’s happening with my cycle, even if I haven’t ovulated. What is more of a problem is that many women with PCOS don’t have periods and haven’t for many years. If you fall into this category, charting may not be for you. It may well be too frustrating and there seems little point in charting a cycle when there is no cycle to chart.
If, however, you do have some kind of cycle, even if it ranges from 30-60 days, fertility charting may be a helpful exercise.
Also, charting may be helpful if you have recently started Metformin or Clomid. It will allow you to monitor your own ovulation and therefore the effectiveness of your treatment plan.
If charting seems like it might be a worthwhile exercise for you, let’s have a look at how you go about it.
How to Chart
- The first thing you need to do is get hold of a basal thermometer. Your temperature changes are often very small so a digital basal thermometer works best.
- Take your temperature first thing every morning. It works best if you take it at the same time every day, before you get up. If you get up first, your temperature will change and your readings won’t be as accurate as they could be. Also, it is recommended that you take your temperature after at least 3 hours sleep.
- Record your reading in a notebook next to your bed or you can use an online charting service like Fertility Friend. They offer a free service where you can log your fertility signs and temperatures and they will even suggest when you ovulated based on your signs and temperatures.
- You can also make records of other signs life Egg white cervical mucus but this is often not accurate in women with PCOS as we can have EWCM at different times during the month. This means it is not a good predictor of fertility or ovulation.
As you begin recording your temperatures, you will begin to see some patterns emerging in your cycle and it will give you a better idea of what is actually happening with your body and your cycles.
I have personally found fertility charting to be a helpful tool in better understanding my body and managing my disappointment while trying to conceive. It might be something worth looking into for you too, if you have something of a regular cycle.
The other benefit of charting is that you can monitor the success of any treatment plans you are trying, whether it is diet and supplements, acupuncture or Metformin. If your treatment is successful, you should see some sort of stabilization of your menstrual cycle and hopefully the return of ovulation.
Have you tried fertility charting with PCOS? If you have, I’d love to hear what you thought, whether you loved it or hated it! Just leave me a comment below!