Tracking your menstrual cycle
There are a few ways that you can track your cycle so that you can try to improve your chances of conception.
Basal body temperature
By measuring the body temperature when you are at rest, usually measured right after some hours of sleep. By regularly measuring your basal body temperature, you can get a good idea of where your normal temperature lies.
Your regular body temperature will be somewhere around 36.2 – 36.5 degrees Celsius. The day after you ovulate your temperature will increase slightly by 0.5 degrees and remain elevated until you ovulate.
If you want to try this you should get a basal thermometer, available at most pharmacies. Try to measure your temperature every day of your cycle at the same time and note when the temperature increases and decreases. This will give you a good idea of your cycle and its regularity and help predict the most fertile period. Keep in mind that the day of the temperature spike will be near the end of your fertile cycle, so if you’re trying to conceive and haven’t had intercourse in the previous days already, you might want to roll over and wake somebody up for some early morning fun.
There are also apps available that are coupled to thermometers that will do the math for you.
Ovulation Prediction tests.
Ovulation tests are available in most pharmacies and drugstores. These are often urine tests, that measure the concentration of LH (Luteinizing Hormone) and sometimes estrogen to try to pinpoint your most fertile days.
The changes in your menstrual cycle also have an impact on the vaginal environment. The consistency and texture of the cervical mucus changes to make sure that during your fertile days the mucus is receptive to sperm, and throughout the rest of the cycle the mucus thickens to prevent anything from passing the cervix.
The cervical mucus can work as a tool to help predict ovulation. When your vaginal discharge becomes clear and elastic (like raw egg white), you are close to ovulation and this is the best time to try to conceive.
Unlike the basal temperature, which tells you that you have just ovulated and is generally a little on the late side, cervical mucus can work as a predictor. The estrogen released just before ovulation leads to an increase in mucus production and the cervical mucus becomes stretchy and more fluid. The cervical mucus now helps sperm to survive and swim into the uterus.
After ovulation the hormone progesterone results in the thickening of the cervical mucus and thereby helps to close the cervix again.
As your cycle progresses, so does the consistency of your cervical mucus:
Menstruation: During this phase you will not be able to detect cervical mucus.
After menstruation the mucus becomes dry or sticky.
The mucus then softens during the follicular phase. It first becomes creamy and soft and then wet and watery.
At the end of the follicular phase it becomes a little thicker and stretchy but remains clear, like raw egg white. This is when you are most fertile.
After ovulation the mucus remains to dry and sticky until menstruation starts again.
How to check your cervical mucus (CW):
Wash your hands (also you should consider trimming your nails to avoid scratching yourself)
Find a comfortable position, for example sitting on the toilet, squatting, or standing with one leg on the bathtub.
Insert one finger into your vagina. If you are producing a lot of mucus you might not have to go far, but near your cervix is best.
Remove your finger and have a look at the consistency by looking at it first and rubbing it between your thumb and your finger and then pulling your fingers apart to see how stretchy it is. Again, you are looking for Clear, wet, and stretchy.
Don’t check your CW during or after sex. Arousal fluids will make it look like you are ovulating when you’re not.
Having a bowel movement will actually also move some of the cervical discharge down, so it might be easiest to check after having a bowel movement. Please remember to wash your hands first.
If you are not comfortable inserting your finger, you can also pay attention to how your vulva feels on a daily basis and pay attention to the discharge on your underwear. Have a look at Billings Ovulation Method for this.
If you have PCOS your cervical discharge may be a little more unreliable. You might want to track your ovulation using several of the methods described.
Make sure you’re staying hydrated. Many people drink enough water, and you will need to be hydrated to produce cervical mucus.
The cervix actually changes how it feels and where it is during the menstrual cycle. Close to ovulation the cervix is quite high. It is also more moist and softer to the touch. The hole in the cervix (cervical ox), which is the connection to the uterus actually dilates a little bit. It’s a bit hard to see, but some women can feel the difference.
There’s a great acronym to remember what a cervix feels like when you are ovulating. SHOW (Soft, High, Open and Wet). That’s when you’re at the most fertile. It has the same feeling as your lips.
After ovulation the cervix becomes lower, dryer and firmer, and the cervical ox will be closed. That might happen directly after ovulating or within a few days.
During menstrual bleeding the cervical position will be low, the cervix will be firm, like the tip of your nose, but the cervical ox will open slightly to allow the menstrual blood to flow out of the uterus. The cervical ox will close again after the menstrual bleeding.