Updated on January 24, 2016
Let’s Get Physical: Charting 201
I hope you’re not shy. If you are, you might want to shake that off before you dive into this one. I’ve talked about the basics of charting before (you can read it HERE if you missed it), and covered using OPKs and temping with a BBT thermometer to predict and confirm ovulation. Now I’m going to get into advanced charting. This part is hands on, literally. OPKs are a great way to predict ovulation, but they are not the only way. For some women, OPKs just won’t detect their luteinizing hormone (LH) surge. The good news is that there are other ways to detect when you’re most fertile. The bad news is… Wait. There is no bad news! I’m going to explain how you can read your body’s signs of fertility without peeing on a stick. No special equipment required here, ladies, just your very own hands. Are you ready?
Let’s talk about your cervix. Yup. I’m going there. Your cervix is actually a really excellent way to detect when you’re most fertile. There are two things that you want to monitor, so to speak. Cervical position/texture/opening, and cervical mucus. I’ll start by explaining cervical position (CP). First, you need to find your cervix. Don’t be shy, but do this in the privacy of your own bathroom at home. You want to squat with your bum hanging nice and low. Then you want to head right on up your vagina to feel for your cervix. What you’re feeling for is a rounded mass (for lack of a better word). It may not be dead centre, so you might have to feel around a bit to the sides/front/back. It’s in there (trust me), but depending on where you are in your cycle, it might be fairly high up. Once you’ve found it, (well done!) you want to determine if it’s high, medium, or low. How would you know? Well, this is going to vary from person to person, but the best way to figure this out is to consider how far you had to reach to find it. From that squatting position, if you can reach it easily (say fingers half way in) then it’s low. If you need the full length of your fingers to reach it, it’s medium. If you need the full length of your fingers and to press your hand right up against yourself to reach it, it’s high. The trick to getting this is to check daily through a full cycle (you can start after your period is finished), but always from the same squatting position and roughly around the same time of day. You’ll start to notice the difference in the position of your cervix as that cycle progresses. Which position is most fertile? A high cervix is a very good sign of fertility, but there’s more to it than just the position.
The texture of your cervix is the next thing that you’ll observe. It can be soft, medium, or firm. Again, you’re going to need to check this out daily to really get it, but I can tell you what it might feel like to give you a baseline. A firm textured cervix will feel like the tip of your nose. A medium texture will feel like your chin. A soft texture will feel like your lips. The most fertile texture is the soft texture. The last thing you’re analyzing while you’re hanging out up there is the cervix opening. There are three levels of “opening”. Open, medium, and closed. When your cervix is closed, it feels almost like a tiny ridge or wrinkle. When your cervix is open, you can just nestle your fingertip into that wrinkle. The medium opening is, surprise surprise, somewhere in between. As your cycle progresses, you will notice the cervix moving up, softening, and opening. The open cervix is the most fertile. At the peak of your fertile window, your cervix will be high, soft, and open. Now, you may not detect all three of those things at the same time, and that’s okay! You might notice that your cervix is soft and open, but still in a medium position. Once you’ve been monitoring CP for a cycle or two, you’ll know what your cervix feels like in the few days leading up to ovulation.
It’s a really good idea to continue to temp while you’re monitoring your cervix for signs of impending ovulation. This will allow you to confirm that ovulation has actually occurred. If you continue monitoring CP through your entire cycle, you’ll notice that after it is high, soft, and open, it will close up completely pretty soon after ovulation.
Now that we’re all friendly with one another, it’s time to talk about cervical mucus (CM). This is sometimes referred to as cervical fluid. While you’re up there checking out your CP, you can collect a bit of CM and analyze it. Why? Because while your cervix is changing position, texture, and opening up there, the mucus that is produced changes a lot too. If you thought checking for CP was TMI, just you wait. To collect the CM you want to sweep your cervix with your fingers. If a simple sweep isn’t getting you anything, you can form a ‘V’ with two fingers around your cervix and gently press them together a bit to see if that gets you anything. It’s okay if it doesn’t!
Once you’ve collected some (or none) of your cervical mucus you need to determine where on the scale of moistness it lands. To do this, you’re going to take that bit of CM and tap it between your forefinger and thumb. Dry CM is when you don’t detect any CM. This is a sign that you are not fertile at that time. Sticky CM is when you’ve collected some, but when you tap it between your forefinger and thumb, it feels sticky or tacky, and it may even crumble. Sticky CM is not fertile CM. Creamy CM is sort of like a smooth lotion. It’s moist, cloudy/white/slightly yellow, and when you tap it slowly between your fingers it sort of stretches a teeny tiny bit (maybe one millimetre or so) before it breaks (but it’s not stretchy, if that makes sense). Creamy CM can be fertile CM, but it is not the most fertile CM. Watery CM is wet and much like water. It’s not thick, sticky, or stretchy, but smooth and clear. Watery CM is definitely fertile CM. Egg white CM is very stretchy, so much so that when you tap it between your fingers it will stretch a lot and not break. It’s called egg white CM because it really does look like raw egg whites. It’s usually clear, can be stretched an inch or more, and is very slippery. Egg white CM is the most fertile CM, so if you detect that, it’s go time! I realize that it is difficult to visualize exactly what I mean by all these types of CM. If you’d like to see what dry, sticky, creamy, watery, and egg white CM look like, you can check out this link.
If you’re using charting software or a charting app (I recommend the free one from Fertility Friend), then you’re going to record your cervical position/texture/opening and your cervical mucus on your chart. In conjunction with temping, and OPKs, you will get a very clear picture of what your body is doing and when. This will make it easier to ensure that you are getting the timing right for conception. It’s not necessarily going to make it easier to actually get pregnant, but information is power! The more you know about your body and what it’s doing, the better you’ll be able to pinpoint the ideal fertile window.
Have you used CP and CM as a tool to find your fertile window before? How was the learning curve for you?