If you are trying to conceive, you can take charge of the process. Fertility awareness or natural family planning can increase your odds.
The Fertility Awareness Method uses basal body temperature, cervical mucus, and cervical position to determine a woman’s most fertile days. Unlike the Rhythm Method, Fertility Awareness does not assume every woman’s fertility fits a predetermined mold. Every woman is unique, and not every cycle is the same, even for the same woman.
A woman’s menstrual cycle begins on the first day of her menstrual period. According to Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, MPH, the average cycle lasts 24 to 35 days. Ovulation usually occurs between days 11 and 21. However, a woman is fertile only two days during this time. Knowing when is fundamental if you are trying to conceive.
During ovulation, four hormones come into play. The first is Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). This hormone tells about 20 eggs it is time to mature. Each egg is held in a follicle. The follicles produce the second ovulation hormone, estrogen. Once a follicle is large enough to break through the ovary, ovulation occurs.
The egg breaks free of the ovary aided by the third hormone, Luteinizing Hormone, and is swept up by the fimbria, the end of the fallopian tube, and taken into the tube. After this occurs, the follicle that released the egg becomes a corpus luteum, which releases progesterone. The progesterone does three things:
• Inhibits the release of any more eggs during that cycle.
• Causes a thickening in the uterine lining.
• Causes a change in waking temperature (basal body temperature), increase in cervical fluid, and change in cervical position.
On occasion, a woman may naturally release two eggs during ovulation due to the release of higher than average levels of FSH. The result, if conception takes place and both embryos are viable, is a set of fraternal twins. More often than not, one is spontaneously miscarried or reabsorbed, a phenomenon known as vanishing twin syndrome.
Monitoring for Fertility
To monitor for ovulation, you will need a calendar and a basal thermometer. Each morning, check your awakening temperature and chart it on your calendar.
Preovulatory temperatures are lower due to higher estrogen levels. As progesterone is produced, awakening temperatures increase.
Normally, a woman’s basal body temperature is about 97.0 to 97.5 degrees Fahrenheit before ovulation. Postovulatory temperatures are around 97.6 to 98.6 degrees. The day of a sudden jump in temperature signals ovulation.
Cervical fluid also increases greatly the day of ovulation. The function of cervical fluid is to help the sperm survive and aid in their journey to the fallopian tube. Therefore, an extreme increase in fluid is another sign of ovulation.
To monitor for this sign of ovulation, check the vaginal opening for moisture. Toni Weschler, author of Taking Charge of Your Fertility, describes the fluid at ovulation as resembling raw egg white.
The third sign of ovulation is a soft, high cervix. Checking your cervix is an optional step in monitoring your fertility. After and just before menstruation, the cervix is firm, closed and dry. Around ovulation it softens, opens and becomes extremely wet.
Some other signs of ovulation are:
• pain or an ache around the ovary, known as Mittelschmerzen (German for middle pain)
• increased sexual arousal
• increased energy
• higher sensitivity in breasts and skin
If you are trying to conceive, grab your calendar and thermometer. It may take a month or two to learn your body, but if you have no underlying fertility issues, you should be able to get pregnant before a great deal of time passes.
Weschler, Toni. Taking Charge of Your Fertility.