As a teenager, despite my best efforts, I remained single and a virgin. Even so, I spent most of my high school years fearing what I believed to be the worst thing that could ever happen to me and my mom’s worst nightmare: pregnancy. My parents scared me with stories of unwanted teen pregnancies from ‘back in the day’ (in their case, Greek village life circa 1964) and I would see the dreaded after school specials on TV. Life as you know it would be over and the message was clear: NEVER, EVER, EVER GET PREGNANT!
Then the shift happened. I turned 34, got married and the very first question after the gigantic Greek/Turkish wedding was, ‘When are you going to have a baby?’
After our honeymoon, I bought book after book on the subject. Then I did the exact opposite of trying to prevent pregnancy: I charted my cycle to get pregnant. Before this, I had no idea what charting was! In fact I thought that the whole getting knocked up thing happened fast, without any planning and that it could happen to me the first month of trying. Wrong.
But charting helped. It helped to clarify that actually you can only get pregnant 5 days out of your cycle, that your temperature dipping means you’ve ovulated and that the texture of your cervical mucus (sounds so lovely, doesn’t it?) can tell you so much.
I didn’t get pregnant that first month but after charting for 8 months, we got our BFP (big fat positive in pregnancy speak) in June and we were overjoyed. And because I’d been charting I knew exactly when we conceived and that I was drunk when it happened (that’s another post in itself!)
What do you need to start charting? You need a basal thermometer, a paper chart to mark you daily temp or an app like the one I used called Fertility Friend. With both, you can track your temp as well as your cervical mucus, cervical position and when you’ve had intercourse. The key to charting is taking your temp first thing in the morning before waking and deciding whether to take it orally or vaginally (I did it vaginally for more accuracy, in case you were wondering!)
I learned a lot about my body by charting. I learned that I have a shorter cycle than I thought (23 days) and that the second phase of my cycle (called the luteal phase) is shorter than is preferred for fertility (less than 10 days long). This is called luteal phase defect and it can be caused from low progesterone. Once I’d tracked for a few months and realised that could be an issue, I started taking B6 and B12 vitamins daily which help balance hormones.
I’m convinced that the combination of charting and taking these vitamins helped me get pregnant (the first time.) The vitamins extended my luteal phase and cycle. The charting made it very easy to know when those 5 highly fertile days were which made the whole trying to conceive thing much less tiring albeit a tad less romantic.
So if you’re at that point in your life when people are starting to ask about babies, just smile and say ‘I’m tracking my cervical mucus right now, thanks for asking.’ That will shut them up. Now go and chart and make a baby!