Fertility 101

An interview with Stephanie Curran by Victoriamom.ca

At the Elements of Health Centre, one of our specialties is helping women to conceive with the support of Acupuncture and Traditional Chine Medicine (TCM). The very first step is always a western approach though, and it involves teaching women how to become familiar with their body’s natural signs and cues of fertility.

We have an amazing orchestra of hormones that synchronize, ebb and flow throughout our bodies with each menstrual cycle and yet most women are completely unaware of the intricate dance underway. During my thirteen years of practice, I have heard countless women say “I can’t believe I didn’t know this!” and “Why isn’t this taught to us in school?”

Here are the fertility basics that will help you to become in tune with your body, learn to recognize subtleties and distinct patterns, and support you in optimizing your chances of conception:

Observe Your Cervical Fluid

One of the most reliable ways to know that ovulation is approaching is to observe your cervical fluid. When a woman is extremely fertile, her cervical fluid becomes wet and humid and is often described as having an egg white-quality*. Learning to recognize the distinct pattern and subtle differences between fluid that is dry, sticky, creamy and slippery will help you to know when your body is preparing to ovulate. This will allow you to time intercourse properly and optimize your chances of conception.

Chart your basal body temperature (BBT)*

Your BBT is the temperature of your body when at rest. Charting your BBT can help you know important information about your cycle, such as when ovulation took place and if you are pregnant. Although this process may seem complicated at first glance, it can be broken down into three simple steps: taking your temperature, charting your temperature and drawing the coverline.

1. Take your temperature (in Fahrenheit):

Immediately upon waking, but after at least three consecutive hours of sleep.
Before sitting up or engaging in any other activity.
At approximately the same time (give or take an hour) each day.
In the same way (orally) throughout your cycle.
Using a digital basal thermometer according to directions.

2. Chart your temperature:

Record your temperature on a BBT chart daily. Connect the “dots” with a pen.
In the Miscellaneous row, record illness, stress, fever and other unusual events.
In the Time Temp Taken row, record temperatures taken earlier or later than usual.

3. Draw your coverline:

  • When charting your BBT, always note the highest degree recorded over the previous six days.
  • Mark the day when your temperature rises at least two-tenths of a degree above the highest temperature (Fahrenheit). This suggests ovulation has already occurred.
  • Highlight the six temperatures recorded prior to that surge. Draw a horizontal line one-tenth of a degree above the highest of these six temperatures. This is the coverline. If you have a biphasic cycle, you will notice that temperatures prior to ovulation (follicular phase) fall below the coverline, while temperatures following ovulation (luteal phase) rise above it for at least 12 days.

* For a more detailed look at cervical fluid and BBT charting, there is a wonderful resource and book called Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. We have several copies in our clinic lending library and many women find it so fascinating, they end up purchasing a copy for themselves.

It is important to remember that your temperature is not going to tell you when you are about to be most fertile. It is the changes in your cervical fluid that will give you this information. Your BBT will tell you whether or not you have ovulated (note my use of the past tense; once your temperature has gone up it means ovulation already happened), how long your luteal phase is (normal is 12-14 days) and if you are pregnant (if your temp has stayed up for 16 days, do a pregnancy test to confirm the good news that you are pregnant!)

A few more tips to help maximize your chances of conceiving:

Have lots of sex! – I may be stating the obvious but it is worth repeating. Many of my patients are tremendously busy, overscheduled, overtired and sex becomes another thing to put on the “to do” list. You will greatly increase your chance of becoming pregnant if you have sex daily, or at very least, every other day around ovulation.

Avoid lubricants – Personal lubricants and even saliva can harm sperm. Preseed is the only fertility-friendly intimate moisturizer available. It relieves vaginal dryness without harming sperm or preventing them from swimming through cervical mucous.

Live a fertility friendly lifestyle – Western science has shown that the recruitment process for a woman’s follicles begins three to five months prior to ovulation, and for men the process for sperm development takes 90 to 100 days. For this reason, it is ideal to begin implementing preconception advice and self-care at least three months before trying to conceive. Click here for a helpful info sheet that is recommended to patients of the Victoria Fertility Centre.

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