Charting Fertility – Basal Body Temperature – Cervical Fluid
Charting fertility is an easy and totally natural way to help you understand your own cycles. You increase your chances of conceiving by figuring out when you’re most fertile every month.
Your chart is also helpful if you decide to consult with your doctor or midwife.
There are a few specific things that you record each day as you chart your fertility (I have a PDF, printable fertility chart you’re free to use.).
Each of these things gives you insight into how fertile you are and combined you get a good picture of your fertility patterns.
The two major things you record while charting fertility are your basal body temperature and your cervical fluid. There are other things you can track, such as cervix position, and the results you get using ovulation tests and fertility monitors.
What You’ll Need:
- Ovulation Predictor Kit – (this is the one I use)
- Smart Basal Thermometer – [ this is the one I use]
if you prefer to do it old school with pen and paper you will need:
- Ovulation Predictor Kit – (this is the one I use)
- printable fertility chart
- Pencil or pen
- 1 Basal Body Temperature Thermometer – (I like the reviews on this one)
Early in Your Cycle
You begin charting fertility on the first day of your period every month. Take a look at the sample chart as you review these guidelines for setting up your chart each month. The first few days of your chart will be marked by your period. Begin taking your temperatures during your period.
Make a small dot on your chart each morning where your temperature is at that day. Note the day of the week or the date as well as the time above your temperature reading for that day. It’s handy to keep a book about charting fertility beside your bed for quick reference.
As you go through the day and observe your cervical fluid, you note what type it was on your chart. Note what your cervix feels like if you’re checking it each day. Also note on your chart anything out of the ordinary such as a sleepless night, sickness, a lot of stress, etc.
If you’re using an ovulation predictor kit for charting fertility (this is the one I use) seeing fertile fluid means it’s time to use the ovulation test. Note the results of the test as you’re charting fertility and plan intercourse for this fertile time each month.
The “average” cycle length for women is 28 days. You’ll see what your cycle length is after charting fertility for a few months. The “average” ovulation date is around day 14 of the cycle. Start looking for fertility signs especially diligently around the middle of your cycle.
Once your cervical fluid begins to change and you’ll see that ovulation is near. Have intercourse for conception when your fluid becomes milky, watery, or egg-white consistency.
If you’re checking your cervix, you’ll notice it feels softer, higher, and more open during this time. When you ovulate you’ll see a jump in your temperature, called your upward thermal shift. After this thermal shift, your fertile fluid dries and goes away, though some women always have a baseline of tacky fluid.
This time (after ovulation) is called your luteal phase. Progesterone is produced during this time (this is what causes your temperature to rise). If you’re pregnant your temperature will remain higher. If you’re not pregnant, your temperature will fall and your period will begin, signaling the time to begin charting fertility with a fresh chart.
Also, note on your chart when you get negative and/or positive pregnancy test results. Looking back on your chart can give you an excellent idea of when you conceived and help you to get an accurate due date (though remember that your due date can never be 100% accurate!)
Using Other Resources to Enhance Your Chart
You can use ovulation tests while you’re charting fertility to get a clearer picture of when ovulation is occurring. Start to use ovulation tests once you notice that your fluid has become creamy and is moving into the more fertile fluid stage.
Using the ovulation test at this time assures you that you’re getting close to ovulation. The test helps you pinpoint ovulation. Be sure to carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions for your test.
If you’re using a fertility monitor or saliva test you’ll be able to add this data to your chart and have a nice, clear picture of your cycle. The “ferning” on the saliva microscope will tell you when you are most fertile. Your fertility monitor keeps track of your cycles and enhances your temperature and cervical fluid records.
Want some assistance with your charting? Besides reading good books on charting fertility you can really help yourself by getting fertility charting software. I use Smart Basal Thermometer by Femometer and I love it.
It’s a one-time fee (unlike some other services and software) and it lets you keep track of ALL your fertility signs such as period records, cervical fluid, sleep, emotion, weight, medication, etc. It also allows you to input intercourse and ovulation test/pregnancy test info. It advises you when you’re fertile so you can start baby dancing!
All of my temperature data is securely and permanently stored in the cloud, so I don’t have to worry about data loss! It’s super easy to use. – [ Read reviews and check price here]
Basal Body Temperature and Fertility
Your basal body temperature is what you actually plot on the graph while charting your fertility. Each morning before getting out of bed you take your temperature.
Does that sound like a pain? I promise you it’s not! After a few mornings you’ll be so used to it you’ll hardly even notice.
My alarm goes off every morning and I pop the thermometer into my mouth and doze a bit until it beeps at me. Then the fun starts and I get to face the day!
You use a special thermometer called a basal body temperature thermometer – it displays tiny increases (.4-.6 of a degree) in your basal (base) body temperature. These increases occur because of rising progesterone in your body. Progesterone is a hormone that helps sustain pregnancy. The amount of it in your body rises just after ovulation.
The upward movement of your temperature, called a thermal shift, indicates that ovulation has occurred. As you’re charting basal body temperature every day you’ll see a pattern. You can figure out when you’re most fertile every month using this and other fertility signs.
Take your temperature in the morning before you do anything – keep your thermometer right beside your bed. Take it before getting up to do anything, even go to the bathroom! You should take your temp at the same time each morning and after you’ve had a solid 3-hour block of sleep. I’ve found it easy to consistent by taking my temp as soon as my alarm goes off in the mornings.
If you don’t get that much sleep (for instance, you get up with a child) try to time your temperature for about the same time each morning after your most solid block of sleep. I’ve found the book with the clearest rules on sleeping and basal body temperature to be Honoring Our Cycles (read my review).
What if you’ve been charting basal body temperature a couple of cycles and you haven’t noticed a temperature shift? This is a big clue that you’re not ovulating and it’s a great starting point for you.
Take your charts to your doctor or midwife and start looking into why you’re not ovulating. Talk to your doctor or midwife if you notice that your temperatures are consistently low (under 97.6) – this could indicate thyroid issues which can influence fertility.
If your using the old school method of pen and paper at some point during the day record your temperature on your graph. I use the Smart Basal Thermometer, a smartphone (iPhone & Android) charting program. It makes charting super easy for me. I simply downloaded the app, then each morning I uncap the thermometer and put it under my tongue for about 90 seconds. After three beeps, the measurement is done and my data is automatically updated in the app! How cool is that?!
Cervical Fluid – A Fertility Sign
Knowing what your fertile cervical fluid looks like gives you the best chance at knowing when you’re ovulating!
During your monthly cycle, your cervix produces a lubricating fertile fluid. This fluid nourishes the sperm and helps it move through the vagina and cervix to the uterus. The Art of Natural Family Planning has an excellent and in-depth discussion of cervical fluid and how to use it to chart fertility. Taking Charge of Your Fertility has color pictures which provide a helpful reference about what cervical mucus looks like at each stage of fertility. These books are a good reference to have on hand as you try to conceive and they’re helpful for years after the baby is born.
The fluid changes depending on where you are in your cycle. When you’re not fertile you may be completely dry. When you’re fertile your fluid may resemble egg white – it’s rich and stretchy and nourishes sperm as they travel towards your egg. There are several “stages” of cervical mucus that you observe and note throughout your cycle.
Check your cervical fluid throughout the day by observing toilet paper when you wipe after going to the bathroom. You’ll be able to see what kind you have by paying attention each time you wipe. You may also see cervical mucus on your underwear and you can feel it with your fingers. Note what you feel as you’re charting fertility for the day. If you see more than one type on the same day, record it by the most fertile fluid you saw that day.
Here are some of the cervical fluid types you may observe:
- Dry: You can put this on your charts if you have no fluid (note you will almost always have some slight vaginal moisture). This occurs when you are non-fertile and you will most likely observe it just after your period and after you have ovulated.
- Tacky: If your fluid is “sticky” or “gummy” or if it seems dry-ish, this is a stage moving towards more fertile fluid but this fluid itself is not very fertile. Lots of women describe this stage like the rubber cement they used in school!
- Milky: This creamy cervical fluid is one of the easiest to notice. It will be somewhat like milk in color or mayonnaise. You’ll still find that it breaks pretty easily. As you move to more fertile days it may lose some of the creamy consistency and become more watery.
- Egg-White: Stretchy and thick like an egg white is your most fertile fluid. You’ll see this fluid just prior to and during ovulation. For some women, it’s more watery, but for many it is stretchy. This is the best time to have intercourse to get pregnant.
When your fluid is fertile (milky and egg-white) you should begin having intercourse to conceive. Your temperature will confirm when ovulation occurs. After your temperature shifts, your cervical fluid will probably dry up almost immediately.
You can record your cervical fluid on a paper chart using a letter to notate type. You can also use charting software to keep track of your fluid. I use Smart Basal Thermometer – if you like to be able to visualize your fertility building you’ll like this app – it lets you record cervical fluid in a way that shows you how your fluid gets progressively more fertile.
Have you found that your fluid doesn’t seem to get to egg-white? Or have you noticed that you need a lubricant during intercourse? If this is the case for you, you’ll want to try Pre-Seed – this personal lubricant makes lovemaking more comfortable – and it’s proven to nourish sperm and enhance the possibility of conception.
Cervix Changes and Fertility
Did you know that changes in your cervix indicate how fertile you are? It’s true!
When you’re not fertile, it’s lower, closed, and harder. When you become fertile your cervix rises and becomes softer. It also opens slightly to allow the passage of sperm into your uterus.
For women who’ve given birth before the cervix may always be slightly open.
You can check how your cervix feels each day. This is totally optional but may help you to know more about your own fertility and it can help you become more comfortable with your body.
I was uncomfortable doing it at first but as the months passed while I was charting I found myself becoming a lot more comfortable with my own body – and I found checking cervical changes just helped me know myself better.
You can use a clean finger to reach and feel for your cervix each day (you may want to clip your nails to do this!) Many women describe their cervix as feeling like the tip of a nose.
By regular checking, you’ll learn what your cervix feels like when it is harder and softer. You’ll also be able to gauge whether it is high or low. Note your observations on your chart along with fluid and your basal body temperature.
You can also collect a little cervical fluid when you check your cervix. This can be especially helpful if you have trouble discerning what kind of fluid you see on tissue or in underwear.