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Recently, several of my readers have been asking me about women’s health issues — things like fertility, pregnancy, PCOS, balancing their hormones, etc. It’s a big issue. Women don’t have a lot of truthful information about their health. Western medicine doesn’t understand how heavily hormones play into everything that happens with our health.
Why Track Fertility Signs?
It reminded me that I have never posted on tracking your fertility signs, which is a huge way for women to know what’s up with their bodies. Believe me — this is not just for women who want to get pregnant. Tracking these signs is a way to tell if your body is on track hormonally. Women can tell (by sharing these signs with a qualified medical professional, who can interpret them in her particular case) whether she’s suffering from:
- Anovulatory cycles
- Insulin resistance
- Adrenal dysfunction
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Other issues of hormonal balance
This can provide a clue as to why you can’t lose weight, if you’re at risk for diabetes or metabolic syndrome, if you have a thyroid condition, and of course, help you conceive (if that’s what you’re after). This is something all women should do! This is one major reason I’ve got pregnant fairly quickly and easily each time — I carefully tracked all my signs. Even when we were “struggling” for 6 months to conceive Jacob (I was still breastfeeding frequently around the clock and this naturally suppressed fertility), I could tell by tracking my signs that things just weren’t “right” yet. This is a really important tool!
Let’s take a quick look at which signs you should track, and what they mean:
- BBT — Basal Body Temperature, or your temperature as soon as you wake in the morning, before you even get out of bed. This is your lowest temperature of the day. A temperature below 98 is an indication that your metabolism is low and may indicate dysfunction in your adrenal or thyroid glands. You should see a sustained shift upwards by .2 or .3 degrees mid-cycle, which indicates that ovulation has occurred. Your BBT will drop again right before or when you begin your period.
- Other Temperatures — Take your temperature also at noon, 3 PM, 6 PM, and bedtime. A low temperature and fatigue at 3 (which should be your highest of the day) indicates adrenal dysfunction, which can play a role in infertility as well as several other issues.
- Cervical mucus — At the beginning of your cycle (when you start your period), it should rather dry (except the bleeding). After the first week, it should gradually change to creamy, then stringy, then clear/watery, and mid-cycle, “egg white.” This means clear, thick, jelly-like and stretchy, like raw egg whites. It indicates that ovulation is either about to occur, or that your body is attempting to ovulate. If you see this “EWCM” multiple times in your cycle, especially if it is earlier or later than expected, it may mean your hormones are surging to try to ovulate but are unsuccessful. (I saw this a lot during the 6 months prior to Jacob’s conception, and I’m seeing it again now. I haven’t gotten my period back.)
- Cervical Position — Your cervix changes quite a lot in position and texture throughout your cycle. At the beginning, it is low, hard, and mostly closed. As you approach mid-cycle, it should rise higher, soften quite a bit, and open. (It might take you a couple months to get the hang of what ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ feel like, but they are drastically different.) The “high, soft, open” indicates ovulation is about to occur, or has recently occurred. After ovulation, it should drop back down, firm, and close. A cervix that doesn’t follow this pattern may indicate that ovulation isn’t occurring, if you look at it with the other signs.
- Spotting — Spotting may occur around implantation, if you get pregnant. It can also occur at random times if something’s out of balance with your hormones, usually when progesterone is suppressed (I tend to see it 2 – 5 months PP every few weeks, as a first sign that my body is trying to re-balance). If you are not ovulating based on the other signs, it’s probably a sign that your body is trying to heal, but could be a sign of another condition (see your doctor).
- Nausea — Many women say that pregnancy causes nausea early on because of spiking progesterone levels. Progesterone also surges as you approach ovulation and stays higher in the second half of your cycle. I have found that when my body is attempting to ovulate (but prolactin, in my case, is suppressing it), I feel nauseous and morning-sickness-like for a couple days in the middle of the month. I believe it is because of progesterone and other hormones surging.
- Sore Breasts — Similar to pregnancy, you may feel breast tenderness when your hormones are surging. It can be another indication that your body is trying to ovulate.
- “Mittelschmerz” — It means pain with ovulation, and is felt on the lower left or right side. This can indicate that ovulation has occurred, or is occurring (I have felt this and used it as a guide to conceive).
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To track your BBT, you’ll need a thermometer that is digital and reads to the hundredth of a degree (97.98, for example). Each morning (ideally around the same time), take your temperature before rising. This means before you go to the bathroom, before you take a drink of water, anything. Record this temperature on a chart. Ideally, your temperature will be around 98 to 98.6 in the morning, and will shift up .2 or .3 degrees post-ovulation (shift needs to be sustained at least 3 days to ‘prove’ ovulation really happened. More than 18 days and pregnancy is highly likely).
Take your temperature also at 12 PM, 3 PM, 6 PM, and bed time. 3 PM should be your highest temperature. A low temperature at this time can indicate adrenal dysfunction.
When you use the bathroom, you can check for this. Using clean hands, reach slightly into your vagina and touch the secretions there — this is cervical mucus. Sometimes you will not notice much of anything; other times there will be so much that there will be a decent amount on the toilet paper when you wipe. Note the texture of what you see — dry, sticky, creamy, watery, or egg white (thick and stretchy like raw egg whites). It should progress from dry at the beginning of your cycle (after your period) to egg white in the middle (at ovulation) then back again as your period approaches. It will move back towards dry initially even if you are pregnant, so this is not a sign. Once you are further into your pregnancy, you will see a lot more creamy and stringy cervical mucus, but by the time you see this, you will have had a positive test. If you don’t notice egg white or watery CM at all, or you notice it several times (along with a lack of temperature shift), this may mean you are not ovulating.
This, too, you can check for when you use the bathroom. Sometimes, it will be hard to reach, or even impossible. Other times it will be easy. With clean hands, reach up inside your vagina. You will feel a small, knobby thing — it is very different from the surrounding soft tissues. Your cervix will change quite a lot in both texture and position throughout your cycle. At the beginning (during your period), it will be thin, hard, low (easy to reach) and mostly closed. You may notice a small opening in it, and it will feel narrow (maybe like a thin marker in diameter). As you approach the middle of your cycle and ovulation, it will rise up high (may not be able to reach), become thicker and wider, open, and very soft. This indicates that you are fertile (especially with fertile CM and a temperature shift).
The important of tracking the cervix is that it lets you know when ovulation is coming, while a temperature shift lets you know ovulation has already occurred. Conception occurs most easily in the 2 – 5 days pre-ovulation and 12 – 24 hours post-ovulation. (After this the egg decays and cannot be fertilized. A lot of women are simply missing this window.)
In pregnancy, the cervix shifts up high and becomes very soft, and may feel “open,” but it is blocked by a mucus plug to protect the baby. (It especially will feel “open” if you have already had a baby.) This won’t occur until 6 – 8 weeks, however, so cervical position and texture isn’t a reliable early pregnancy sign.
Simply note on a chart if you have any spotting, pain, headaches, nausea, sore breasts, or anything else out of the ordinary — no matter how minor. It may or may not be related, but it’s good to note.
The most important thing is to take your chart to a practitioner who is qualified to read these charts. They can look at the combination of signs and will be able to tell if your hormones are off, why, and what to do next. It’s likely that you will be prescribed a fertility diet (including lots of healthy fats). Other treatments may include herbs, acupuncture, or other treatments that will help balance your body.
Be very wary of anyone who suggests using synthetic hormones to manipulate your body into a pregnancy. This is not a good long-term solution.
Your practitioner may also recommend follow-up tests, like checking your blood sugar, or doing saliva tests for adrenal function and other hormones. These can offer even more insight into what your body is doing, hormonally. If pregnancy’s not your goal, then you may be recommended to use bioidentical hormones for certain conditions. Ask your doctor.
For a lot of women, estrogen dominance is a big problem. Removing any extra sources of estrogen from your diet can help. These include:
- Any type of plastic
This is not an exhaustive list, and a qualified professional can let you know what to avoid (if needed).
Tracking your fertility signs is complicated, but can help you figure out what’s going on with your body, so that you can re-balance as needed, to achieve both general health and pregnancy!