[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Step 1 – get healthy with Preconception Care
Step 2 – get to know your menstrual cycle!
Timing is everything when it comes to getting pregnant. To encourage the happy union of egg and sperm it helps to know how long your normal cycle is and when you’re ovulating. This will ensure that once your egg is released the sperm are there ready and waiting!
When tracking your cycle, I recommend that you take note of a number of important facts:
• The length of your cycle i.e. how long is it between each period
• Do you have any mid-cycle spotting or pain?
• How many days do you bleed?
• How much blood loss do you have?
• Do you experience PMS symptoms?
• Do you notice any bowel changes at period time?
• Do you have pain with sex?
• Do you notice vaginal mucous changes throughout the month?
Each one of these points helps me determine if the body is producing the perfect amount of hormones for ovulation and maintenance of a pregnancy. I can also decide if natural medicine, herbs, lifestyle changes, nutritional support will be enough to support conception or if more investigation is needed and a referral to a medical doctor is required if you want to get pregnant fast.
WHAT DOES A PERFECT CYCLE LOOK LIKE?
Note: Day 1 is your first day of bleeding.
Day 1 – 5: Shedding of the endometrium with bright red blood loss and no pain or PMS symptoms.
Days 6 – 12: You notice changes of vaginal mucous secretions from a scanty amount of mucous to more clear abundant secretions resulting in egg white like secretions at ovulation time at around days 12-14
Throughout your cycle you will notice temperature changes. By taking note of your basal body temperature (temperature taken on waking), we are able to ascertain if your hormones are in balance.
WHAT AN IMPERFECT CYCLE LOOKS LIKE:
I am constantly surprised that women consider; headaches, pain, migraine, fluid retention, dramatic bowel changes, pain with intercourse, spotting etc. to be normal symptoms they should put up with.
With perfect hormonal balance the period arrives around day 28 to 30 with bright red blood, steady flow, no spotting and no pain relief needed.
If this is not how you experience your monthly cycle, then I encourage you to keep track of your period, any symptoms you experience and have them reviewed by a natural fertility specialist. To keep track of these symptoms you may like to use an App on your phone or use our Menstrual Diary Chart
Usually it takes approximately three months of diet and/or lifestyle changes, together with herbal remedies to bring the menstrual cycle back into balance.
HOW TO BALANCE THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE
TO BRING THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE BACK INTO BALANCE I WILL USUALLY FORMULATE 3 HERBAL TONICS:
First half tonic, the aim of this herbal mixture is to focus on the build-up of healthy endometrium and ovulation. For the middle of the cycle we will promote ovulation with an ovulation trigger. The third tonic will be to maintain a pregnancy by keeping progesterone levels balanced.
BLOOD TESTS TO REQUEST:
If your cycle is way out of balance it may be helpful to have some blood pathology done. By checking Progesterone on day 21 of your cycle you can check if you have ovulated that month. By checking oestrogen in the early part of your cycle, around day three, this will tell us if the body is producing the right amount of oestrogen to ensure a healthy endometrium.
Follicle stimulating hormone and luteinising hormone are also helpful to request, so we can see that these are in the right reference ranges. This can give us information on perhaps why you are not ovulating. Luteinising hormone is responsible for the release of the egg. The egg is released between 16 and 24 hours after the surge.
YOUR MOST FERTILE TIME:
As soon as your egg is released it is ideal to have the sperm ready and waiting to fertilise. The egg is only able to be fertilised for between 16-24 hours. The sperm however can live in the right conditions for 3 to 4 days on average, even up to seven days. However, ideally it will be fresh, vital sperm, not seven-day old, aging sperm that is waiting to fertilise your egg. Ovulation usually occurs 14 days prior to the menstrual bleed thus knowing the length of your cycle will help you to determine your fertile window.
Cervical mucous can be a very helpful tool in determining your fertile time although when you are actively trying to conceive and not using condoms it can be harder to measure the mucous changes. So while you are preparing your body for pregnancy this is a good time to start graphing your cycle to determine when your fertile mucous usually arrives. This mucous protects the sperm from the acidity of the vagina and nourishes and guides the sperm through the cervix and into the uterus.
If you’re using personal lubricant due to a lack of cervical mucous please ensure it is a sperm friendly one. Many lubricants will act as a spermicide and even saliva can kill sperm!
Early in your cycle when oestrogen is low you will expect very little mucous, often described as dry and pasty.
As your oestrogen levels start to rise you can expect to make more mucous often described as milky, cloudy, gel like or stringy. You may notice that your mucous is very much like egg white. If so congratulations! This is totally normal and is what healthy fertile mucous looks like and will help the sperm to meet the egg. Typically, ovulation will occur 2 days after this mucous arrives.
If you are not noticing any mucous changes, there is an unpleasant smell, you experience a white discharge or you experience itchiness, I recommend visiting your doctor.
For ladies with regular menstrual cycles monitoring the basal body temperature can be very helpful when trying to conceive to do this use your favourite fertility app and follow the following guidelines.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR RECORDING YOUR TEMPERATURE AND CERVICAL MUCOUS
• Your temperature readings confirm whether you have ovulated.
• This is most accurately taken with a fertility thermometer from a pharmacy.
• Your temperature is taken under your tongue first thing in the morning, before getting out of bed. On your chart place a dot in the box which corresponds to your temperature and day of cycle. Day 1 is the first day of your period.
• Your temperature needs to be taken at the same time each morning, because generally, temperatures rise gradually throughout the day until about 2.00 p.m. For each hour later than the usual time the temperature is recorded one temperature row below. For each hour earlier the temperature is recorded one row above. e.g. If you normally take your temperature at 6.00a.m., though you sleep in until 8.30 a.m. and your temperature is 36.7 degrees, you should record your temperature at 36.45 degrees. (Make a “slept-in” note so as to not confuse your practitioner!).
• Conditions affecting your temperature may include things like a late night, fever, a cold, broken sleep or alcohol. These may cause abnormally high or low temperatures, resulting in inaccurate chart interpretation if not noted down.
• The nature of your cervical mucus tells you when you are approaching ovulation.
• Check your mucous every time you go to the toilet, before urination, although you only need record your most fertile reading of the day. Record the external sensation, the amount and the texture on your chart before going to bed at night e.g. mucous may be dry, creamy with a small amount in the morning, but by evening it may be moist, creamy and increased in amount. Record the latter interpretation only.
• Between the thumb and forefinger collect the mucous from the vaginal opening.
• External sensation – Use one of the following three to describe the external sensation: dry, moist/damp, or wet. The wetter the sensation, the more fertile you are.
• Amount – this will increase as you get closer to ovulation.
• Texture – this can vary from none or pasty in the non-fertile phases, to creamy or milky in the stages around ovulation, to clear, stretchy or like raw egg white at ovulation. Each woman is different and mucous can vary from cycle to cycle.
You may find graphing your cycle a little overwhelming at first; however, after about 3 cycles you will start to see an obvious pattern and be much more aware of your fertility. Your practitioner can help you to interpret your cycle to enhance conception attempts.
WHAT TO EXPECT:
Generally, you can expect that your temperature to rise by 0.2 to 0.5⁰C after ovulation due to your rise in progesterone. Just prior to ovulation your temperature will drop by 0.1 to 0.5⁰C. Your most fertile time is 2 days prior to your mid cycle temperature rise. However, it is possible for the egg to have been released up to 5 days prior to the temperature rise. You are least fertile once the temperature has remained high for over three days. Note, we are wanting the temperature to be at its highest (showing healthy progesterone levels) one week after ovulation. Progesterone can be supported by herbal and nutritional remedies if you find they are a little low.
Overall, the benefit of recording your temperature is that it helps you to get in touch with your menstrual cycle and become familiar with when your fertile window usually is. It can also be of use to determine if your follicular phase (pre-ovulatory phase) or your luteal (post-ovulatory phase) is too long or too short. This information will help your practitioner determine which remedies are needed to improve your fertility.
Don’t worry if your chart is not looking as expected, more specific tests can be ordered such as a day 21 progesterone test to check for ovulation. If your temperature is very low, I would recommend having your thyroid and iodine levels tested.
For most couples a 2 to 3 day period of abstinence prior to ‘trying to conceive’ (TTC) would be desirable to allow a buildup of numbers of healthy sperm. A longer period of abstinence can result in older less healthy sperm. A recent sperm analysis can help your practitioner give more individualised advice on your best days to TTC.
Most of my clients find that taking note of their monthly cycle is a really empowering educational experience, especially those who have come off the oral contraceptive pill and are just getting use to what a ‘normal’ month looks like.
My top tip, if you are already struggling with stress around your fertility, perhaps tracking is not the answer for you. Discuss this with your practitioner to see if they feel it would be helpful in your fertility journey.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]