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Tracking your menstrual cycle

Tracking your cycle

Planning to conceive and vice versa? We’re got all the information you need to help track your fertile times and plan your baby making.

There’s only a small window each month when you’re fertile enough to fall pregnant, so it’s important to keep a diary to locate your three most fertile days, centred around your monthly ovulation.

Statistically, couples who get to know the woman’s fertile ‘window’ and have sex at these times are more likely to conceive.

Keeping a monthly diary of your periods and other bodily changes to increase your accuracy of locating your fertility ‘window’. The most likely days that intercourse will result in conception are the two days before ovulation and the day of ovulation. Because everyone’s cycle is different, noting your own cycle means you can effectively pinpoint the precise days that you will ovulate each month.

Tracking your cycle

Your menstrual cycle begins on the first day you bleed each month (day 1), and ends as the next period of bleeding begins (day 28, 29,30 etc). If you don’t already do so, it can help to identify day 1 on your monthly calendar or diary. As a general guide, ovulation occurs roughly 14 days from the beginning of your cycle (day 14 if you have a 28 day cycle, day 12 if you have a 26 day cycle, or day 21 if you have a 35 day cycle, etc), but varies from woman to woman, depending on her cycle. So it’s important to track other elements, outlined below, for the most accurate snapshot of your fertile ‘window’.

Fertile clues

Your body provides clues about your fertility status throughout your cycle, so keep track of these in your diary:

  • Your basal body temperature (BBT), which rises after ovulation.
  • Your cervix and your cervical fluid, sometimes called cervical mucous (CM), which gets increasingly wet, clear and stretchy as ovulation approaches.

RELATED: What to eat in your first trimester, according to a nutritionist

Keeping a diary

  • Take note of day 1 of your period, marking when you start bleeding in your fertility diary.
  • Keep your temperature while you have your period each day for a couple of weeks. You can take your temperature orally, or vaginally, it’s your choice. Your temperature will start to rise just before, during or just after you ovulate. The temperature rise is usually about 0.2 to 0.4 degrees Celsius and usually stays elevated until just before your next period begins, when it will drop by approximately 0.2 degrees to 0.4 degrees Celsius. If your temperature does not stay up for at least 10 days, you may not have ovulated. If your temperature continues to stay up past the time your period is due (14 to 16 days), you may be pregnant.
  • Close to ovulation, a woman’s levels of oestrogen peak, and a special fertile mucus which is capable of protecting the man’s sperm and helping them survive for up to three to five days in the woman’s body becomes present. In general, your cervical mucous will grow thicker as you get closer to ovulation. Mucus differs from woman to woman so it’s important to get to know your own ‘normal’ for each stage of the cycle. For example, you may have none, or it may be sticky or yellowish or whitish in the week after your period. Many women, close to ovulation, notice an increase in mucous, whether it’s thicker or runnier. Keep track so you can identify another fertility marker.
  • Feeling your cervix can be very helpful if, like many women, you don’t notice a huge change in your cervical mucous. In the days before ovulation it will feel higher, softer, wetter and slightly more open when compared to the previous days.
  • Libido: Many women notice an increase in their sexual desire at their ovulation time. Women naturally feel more like having sex when they are fertile.
  • Some women experience a pain on one side of their lower abdomen or back, called Mittelschmerz (‘middle pain’), usually about 24 to 48 hours before ovulation, as the egg prepares to be released from the ovary. It can also be handy to note this, if and when it happens.
  • Hopefully after a month or two of noting the changes in your body, you’ll have a clear picture of your ovulation patterns: your fertility ‘window’.

Why not use our handy fertility chart to keep track?

Time to conceive

Studies show conception is more likely to occur if the couple have sex one to three days prior to ovulation, which means the sperm are already present in the woman’s fallopian tubes at ovulation (where fertilisation takes place). Therefore a woman’s most fertile time each month is thought to be about one to three days (but up to five days) before she is expected to ovulate.

To maximize your conception chances, it is recommended to have sex every day during your fertile time.

RELATED: What to eat in your first trimester, according to a nutritionist

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