This post is by K.
So since we’ve decided to move up the date on our baby-making plans, I’ve started practicing tracking my fertility. Oh wow. Props to the folks who have been tracking for months and years. Props to anyone who practices natural family planning–the fertility awareness method. This is a whole new level of commitment, dude.
So, because it is 2014 and there’s an app for that, I decided I didn’t have the time or patience for a paper tracking method. I went searching for the best FREE fertility app I could find. Apparently, there are quite a few. If you are looking for the app for you, there are some good reviews here and here.
After much hemming and hawing, I went with Kindara, mainly because it seemed to be the most comprehensive app I could download and use for free. I’m a little less than one month into fertility tracking and it is kind of a fun game. Except when I forgot to take my temperature when I wake up. You don’t get any do-overs on that. Also, I am sorry to report that pretty much all the apps are super “womanly.” You know, pink and purple, flowing lines that resemble a “woman’s body,” pretty little sparkly things. So if that’s not your jam or it feels offensive to you to be putting your cervical mucous and body temperature into a “lady app,” maybe stick to the paper tracking. Or make an excel sheet.
If you haven’t ever tracked your fertility, it could certainly be a fun new hobby for you to obsess over. There are four main ways. And I’m gonna’ present them here in a totally gender-neutral way:
EDIT: A couple good friends have suggested Mcalc, the gender neutral menstruation calendar, made by the folks at Sexmind.com. I checked it out and it seems really nice, gender neutral color scheme. Unfortunately, it doesn’t track other fertility indicators (like 1-3 below), but there is a place for you to enter notes. I couldn’t actually download it because the beta version is only available on Android. Sexmind was raising funds to release the beta version on IOS. It doesn’t look like it has been released for IOS yet.
1) Basal Body Temperature – Nope, not like the tasty herb that pairs well with Italian or Thai food. Your basal body temperature measures the slight changes in your body temperature that occur after ovulation and remain elevated until your next period. You can get a fancy basal body temperature thermometer for about $10 at a drug store. Why the special thermometer? Because your body temperature can change by as little as .04-1 degree when you ovulate. You’ve gotta take your temp right when you wake up, after your body has been at rest for some time, before you become active and your body temperature starts changing. This is actually kind of fun, as long as you remember to take your temperature. It’s a little silly when traveling, which I’m doing for work right now, because you have to pack your basal body thermometer and put it next to your bed. I’m glad I’m not sharing a room with anyone because it would be a hard to be discreet about my beepy little pink thermometer. (Pink because fertility is for LADIES! My only option was pink.)
2) Cervical Mucous – Yeah, yummy, good stuff. Nothing is more fun than tracking your cervical mucous. Or saying “cervical mucous.” Maybe we can rename it something less gross-sounding, because it isn’t as gross as it sounds. Like, “happy body fun stuff” or something. So basically, you use your fingers to check what kind of “happy body fun stuff” is coming from your vaginal opening. That part is easy. Then, you track the wetness (how much “happy body fun stuff”) and the consistency (what kind of “happy body fun stuff”) and the feel of it (is your “stuff” slipper, stretchy, dry, wet, etc). You are looking for the day when you have the most clear, slippery, and stretchy “stuff.” That’s your ovulation day. It’s a good way to get in touch with your body…literally. It is also something that you may need to practice. I’m pretty in touch with my body and I still have a hard time deciding whether I’m “sticky” or “creamy” or both or neither. It will take some practice for me to figure out exactly what I’m looking for.
3) Cervical Position – Your cervix is rocking and rolling during your cycle. Well, maybe not that dramatically, but the cervix does respond to hormonal changes. During the infertile phase, the position of the cervical will be low and feel closed and hard. As fertility increases, the cervix rises higher in the vaginal canal and becomes softer and more open. That means it is ovulation time! After ovulation occurs, the cervix goes back to the low and hard position. Tracking cervical position over several months can help you estimate when you are ovulating. Of course, many people have never touched their cervix because…well, I don’t know…it just never came up. So this can take some getting used to, as well as some time to figure out what your cervix feels like at different times during the month.
4) Menstrual Cycle Tracking – This is the most basic way of tracking your fertility, but one of the most important. Track your period on the calendar for a several months. If you are fairly regular, it should give you an idea of how long your menstrual cycle is. Day 1 of each cycle is the day you start menstruating. After you’ve done this for a while–8 to 12 months–look at your cycles and pick your shortest cycle and your longest cycle. This will help you determine your fertility window. Subtract 18 days from the last day of your shortest cycle. This is the beginning of the fertility window. Subtract 11 days from the last day of your longest cycle. This is the end of your fertility window. You will ovulate at some point during that time frame. Obviously, this method alone is not very specific. If you have the goods at the ready and they are free to you and you can do multiple tries/daily tries each month, by all means use this method alone. However, if you’re like us and will be paying cold hard cash each time you try, I suggest using the menstrual cycle tracking method combined with one or all of the other methods.
I am doing basal body, cervical mucous, and menstrual cycle tracking because I’m an overachiever. Also, frugal. Once I master those, I’m adding in the cervical position method, too. I want to be working with a 2-3 day fertility window, not a 2 week window. So far, I’m loving my app choice because it allows me to track all four–basal body temp, cervical mucous, cervical position, and menstrual cycle. It also charts them for me so I don’t have to struggle through that nonsense. You can add additional things to the chart if you want to track them and see how they effect your fertility. For example, if you wanted to add exercise or diet choices and see if that makes a difference, you could make fields for those in your Kindara chart.
Oh, you can also pee on a stick these days, but that can get expensive if you have truly no idea when you are ovulating, so I plan to incorporate the stick-pee method once I have a pretty good idea of what my body is up to and I’m planning to get fertilized.
So, you know, if you are over your feminist knitting circle or your queer cookie swap, you could take up fertility tracking. If you are a DIY person, you can download an ovulation calendar & chart to proudly display your work.
Here’s to things I never thought I’d be doing! 🙂