Charting your menstrual cycles, also known as fertility charting, is one of the best ways to learn about your body and your fertility. Fertility charting provides important insight into your reproductive health by helping you to determine if, and when, you are ovulating and which days of your cycle you are fertile. This information can help you achieve, and even avoid, pregnancy naturally.
Charting Your Two Primary Fertility Signs
Your Ovulation Graph
In its most basic form, fertility charting involves simply collecting and recording information related to your two primary fertility signs: basal body temperature and cervical mucus. Your basal body temperature (also called your waking temperature) is your body’s temperature while you are resting.
Before ovulation occurs, your basal body temperature (BBT) will be relatively low. But, immediately following ovulation, your body begins to produce the hormone progesterone, which has a warming effect on your body and causes your BBT to increase. This temperature shift is very subtle, usually less than .5 degrees, but by charting your waking temperature daily throughout your cycle, you will be able to identify this shift and pinpoint when ovulation occurred.
To track your BBT, you need a digital or glass basal thermometer and a place to plot your temperatures. A piece of graph paper works just fine, but many women opt instead for fertility charting websites or mobile apps, such as OvaGraph. For best results, be sure to take your temperature at the same time each day, immediately upon waking, and before you get out of bed.
Tracking your fertility via cervical mucus
Cervical mucus is another powerful fertility sign that can help you identify your fertile days in your cycle. Simply put, cervical mucus (also called cervical fluid) is a substance secreted by the cervix. Cervical mucus production is regulated by the hormone estrogen, so the consistency and quantity of cervical mucus changes throughout your menstrual cycle in response to the ups and downs of estrogen production.
Immediately following your period, cervical mucus production is low, and many women describe themselves as dry. As you move through your cycle, and estrogen begins to build, you will likely see more cervical mucus and it might have a “creamy” appearance. Then, once ovulation is imminent, estrogen surges, which causes the consistency of your cervical mucus to become slippery and stretchy, resembling egg whites. This egg-white cervical mucus is called fertile quality mucus, and it plays an important role in fertility as both a predictive sign of ovulation and also as a substance to protect sperm as it travels through the reproductive tract. If you lack fertile quality cervical mucus, it might be difficult for you to conceive, as your partner’s sperm depend on this mucus to facilitate a speedy transport from your vagina to your Fallopian tube to fertilize the egg.
Just like BBT charting, tracking changes in your cervical fluid simple, requiring only a daily check and recording the type of mucus present. Again, this can be done with pen and paper, or at an online fertility charting site.
Take Charge of your Fertility
Toni Weschler, the author of the best-selling book Taking Charge of Your Fertility and nationally-recognized women’s health educator, considers fertility charting (especially BBT and cervical mucus) to be a fundamental part of women’s health. The same fertility charts and methods featured in her book are available for free online at OvaGraph.com.