Updated on December 13, 2015
Timing is Everything: Charting 101
Just relax and it will happen. Don’t you just hate it when people say that? If you’ve ever spent any length of time trying to conceive (and you’ve actually told anyone that you are “trying”), you’ve probably heard this from a well meaning friend or family member. I’m not going to tell you to relax. Instead, I’m going to tell you about timing.
If you’re anything like me, you were probably told that a woman’s cycle is 28 days long and ovulation occurs right in the middle on cycle day 14. Guess what? That’s not always the way it works. Shocking, I know. The first step to getting the timing right is to know when you’re ovulating. The best way to know when (and if) that’s happening is with a nifty thing called charting. Charting is when you record your basal body temperature (BBT) and look for a thermal shift confirming that ovulation has occurred. Since it’s much easier to explain if you can see a chart, allow me to share my pregnancy chart from when I conceived The Heir.
To record your BBT, you’ll need a BBT thermometer. You can find these online or at the drugstore. You’ll also want to use a charting app so you’ve got somewhere to record your temps. There are lots of options out there for charting apps, but my favourite is Fertility Friend. You want to take your temperature orally at the same time every morning just as you wake up. Do it before you sit/stand up. I kept my thermometer on my night stand so I didn’t even need to roll over before I took my temp. Note these temps down on your chart. When you see a thermal shift with three consecutive higher temps, it confirms that you ovulated the day of the last low temp. If you’re using Fertility Friend, it will note the day you ovulated with a red vertical line.
In order to get the timing right to conceive, you need to be able to predict when you’re ovulating. To do that you’ll need to purchase an ovulation predictor kit (OPK). You can use a digital OPK (the one with the smiley face) or “internet cheapies” which just have two lines. The digital OPKs can be expensive, but are great for confirming a positive OPK on an internet cheapie. You’ll want to start using the OPK on the 10th day of your cycle or earlier if your cycles are shorter than 27 days (day 1 of your cycle is the first day of your period). Unlike a pregnancy test, you don’t want to test with your first pee of the day. Test between 10am and 7pm after you’ve held your pee for about three hours. It helps to limit fluid intake during those three hours. You’ll want to pee in a cup and then dip the test into your urine. The OPK is going to detect the luteinizing hormone (LH). There can be LH in your system at any time during your cycle, but before you ovulate your LH will surge. An OPK is only positive if the test line is as dark or darker than the control line (if you’re using internet cheapies). Once you get a positive OPK you should ovulate within12-48 hours.
Taking your temperature every day confirms ovulation while OPKs predict ovulation. While you can skip the temping altogether and just use OPKs, there’s actually a good reason not to ditch the thermometer. Just because your LH surges doesn’t mean you’ll ovulate. Frustrating, right? Sometimes ovulation can be delayed and that can happen due to stress, illness, even traveling can throw a wrench in things. By combining OPKs with temping you can predict AND confirm ovulation. It’s a good idea to keep doing OPKs until you see the sustained thermal shift on your chart.
Now that you know how to find your ovulation day, you can easily figure out the most fertile days in your cycle. You are most fertile on the 3-5 days before and on the day of ovulation. When you get that positive OPK, you know you’ve hit the jackpot for timing, so get busy! After you’ve ovulated you enter the luteal phase at which point you are no longer fertile.
If you really want to know what’s going on with your body throughout your cycle and how that affects your ability to conceive, check out Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. It’s packed full of useful information about charting and TTC.
Have you tried charting before? Did you find it helpful?