Let's Talk About Sex, Baby (Part 2)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Part 1 can be found here.

It's difficult to know when you ovulate.  We grow up hearing that we all have 28 day cycles, ovulating on day 14.  Obviously, this is not the case.  As I mentioned in the first post, everyone's cycle length is different.  Everyone ovulates at different times too.  For example, this month I ovulated on CD25.  It's the latest I've ever ovulated.  Your cycle can change from month to month; you can ovulate earlier or later than you normally do.

So here are a few ways you can help pinpoint ovulation.

-BBT

The first way to help pinpoint ovulation is to take your Basal Body Temperature (BBT) every day.  They make specific BBT thermometers (they go to the hundredth degree instead of just the tenth, i.e. 98.63 instead of 98.6), but it's not necessary; I currently use a normal thermometer and I'm doing just fine (you can't use an ear thermometer though).

Basically, to figure out your BBT, you need to take your temperature first thing in the morning.  Don't get up, don't move around, don't eat or drink...keep your thermometer next to your bed so it's there when you need it.  It's better to take it at the same time every day, but that's not always possible; it's more important to take it after at least three consecutive hours of sleep.  You can take your temperature orally or vaginally.

It helps to record your BBT, and I highly recommend Fertility Friend.  It allows you to input your temps, chart other signs (more about those in a minute), track any symptoms you may have and note any medications you may be on.  They have a smartphone app too.  Fertility Friend also offers a charting course that's really easy to follow; it will teach you all you need to know about charting your fertility signs and fertility  basics, and it doesn't take that long.

Your temperatures will shift over the course of your cycle.  On the day you ovulate, your temperature may go down a bit, aptly named an ovulation dip.  The day after ovulation, your temperature will go up significantly, usually at least half a degree.  Three elevated temperatures confirm ovulation.  If you're using Fertility Friend, it will then give you crosshairs.  If you choose to chart manually, you can add crosshairs yourself by marking a vertical line on ovulation day and a horizontal line between your highest pre-ovulation temp and your lowest post-ovulation temp (called a coverline).

Your temps should stay high throughout the luteal phase.  If they go down (like below your coverline), it probably means you're about to start your period.  Sometimes people's do dip earlier in the luteal phase though; that's normal.  If your temperatures stay elevated to 18dpo, you're almost certainly pregnant (that's why they recommend waiting that long to test).  Don't worry if your temps aren't as cut-and-dry as it sounds like they should be; mine have been kind of erratic this cycle, but they still showed a definitive spike after ovulation.

So why temp if you won't find out you ovulated until after it happens?  Well, charting your BBT helps you learn your cycles a little better; chart for a few cycles and you may begin to see a pattern forming in your temps to help you better pinpoint ovulation.

Cervical Mucus (CM)
Okay, so this is where this post starts to get really gross, because cervical mucus is kind of gross, not to mention it's not exactly a normal topic of conversation for most people.  For some women, cervical mucus can be an excellent indicator; for others, it's not.  But if you pay attention to it, it could help you learn more about your cycle.  There are several types of cervical mucus.  You may have a lot of some and none of another, and that's okay.  Every woman is different.

-Dry
Dry cervical mucus is what you have when you have none.  It usually shows up at the beginning and end of your cycle.

-Sticky
Pretty self-explanatory.  It usually shows up after your period, feels sticky and breaks quickly if you try to stretch it.

-Creamy
You may get this type of CM closer to ovulation.  It's creamy and feels like lotion, and is often white or yellow.  It can usually stretch a little bit but breaks quickly.

-Eggwhite (EWCM)
This is the most fertile type of CM.  It' often a sign that you'll ovulate in a few days (but not always), so if you're trying to have a baby, it's good to have sex when you see EWCM.  It looks and feels like it sounds -- like eggwhites.  It's slippery and stretchy, and can usually stretch a few inches before it breaks.

-Watery
Watery CM is usually fertile as well, and is very thin and wet.  It might stretch a bit.  You may have this before EWCM or before ovulation.

Again, every woman's body is different, so you shouldn't take this as gospel.  For example, this cycle, I had EWCM and watery CM for twelve days before ovulation.  These descriptions are just typical representations, and should be taken as such.

Now I know the idea of checking your CM is kind of gross for a lot of you, as it was for me.  You can check internally if you want (and you may need to, because some women can't tell if they have any otherwise), but it's likely that you'll be able to tell when you wipe.  Have you ever wiped and noticed an odd discharge?  Maybe it's wet and shiny, or (eww) looks like snot?  Yeah, that's probably cervical mucus.

Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs)
OPKs are kind of like pregnancy tests, except instead of picking up HCG, they pick up lutenizing hormone.  They let you know that your body is getting ready to ovulate, usually 12-24 hours from the time you get a positive test, but sometimes 24-48 (make sure you read the instructions on your particular tests carefully so you know!).

Reading an ovulation test is a bit different than reading a pregnancy test though.  With a pregnancy test, a line is a line; with an ovulation test, the second line needs to be as dark or darker than the control line.  Your specific test should be able to give you a little more information.  They do make digital tests that give a smiley face, but they're expensive, so a lot of girls use them to confirm a cheap positive.

Please note, however, that a positive test DOES NOT mean you will ovulate.  It means your body is getting ready to ovulate; it just may not actually do it.  The only way to know if you ovulated is to chart your BBT.

If you'd like to use OPKs, Wondfos are highly recommended (both by me and a lot of the girls I've talked to).

I'm really hoping some of you found these posts helpful; I know I'm not the only girl who was completely clueless about the way her body works.  If you have any questions, let me know.  If you don't feel comfortable commenting, you can email me (goodgirlgonewife@gmail.com), send me a Facebook message, or tweet me a direct message.  If you'd just like to talk (about TTC, your reproductive system, how much you love chocolate milk, etc.), feel free to do the same.  I'm here for you, and I know how confusing and frustrating all this can be.

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