What Charting's All About

2009-01-15 -- 3:36 p.m.

Now that I am charting, I suppose I should take a moment to list and briefly explain exactly what I'm looking at my body to do.

Times: Times are incredibly important. Whenever I test, feel, or notice anything I have to mark down the time. I also have to stick to a strict routine, such as 5:45 AM is when I take my BBT. At 4:30 PM I use my Ovulation-Predictor Kit.

Dates: Obviously I need to know what dates signs are taking place.

Cycle Day#: Cycle Day 1 begins the first day of my menstrual period, and counts upward until the day before my next menstruation. The ideal cycle of a woman is 28 days long, with an even 14 day post-ovulation and a 14 day preovulation term. I recently read that a woman's cycle occurs in that order, technically. I should count backward from menstruation to see when I'll ovulate rather than counting forward. Since I've just come off birth control (a medicinally-facilitated 28 day cycle that stops ovulation completely) I have no clue when I will ovulate or how long my cycle is. Today is Cycle Day #10.

Basal Body Temperature: A Basal thermometer is more precise than a typical fever thermometer. Basal thermometers are within 1 degree of accuracy, the more common fever thermometer is accurate within 2 degrees. The temperature should be recorded after at least 3 hours, preferably 5 hours, of uninterrupted rest. This means I can't get out of bed to go to the bathroom, move except a little bit, or even speak before taking my BBT. I have difficulty sleeping through the night, so this is quite a struggle for me. I also have a tendency to roll around quite a bit. A woman who is ovulating will see a spike of generally .4 degrees from the highest temperature in the past 6 days 12 to 24 hours after ovulating. For this reason the BBT should be used in conjunction with at least two other ovulation signs. If the temperature remains elevated for several days this generally indicates pregnancy, as well. As I've mentioned before, the average temperature is between 96 and 99 degrees (depending on what you read! I keep getting different answers!). A below or above average temperature can signify a thyroid problem. The days after ovulation are called the luteal phase. A luteal phase must be at least 10 days long (before bleeding begins) in order to support a pregnancy. A short luteal phase disrupts implantation. BBT findings can also be used to identify this problem.

Moon Phases: At first reading that I should chart moon phases, I was starting to wonder if the next step was going to be building a fire in the woods and dancing around it singing ancient songs of the wind. If that's your thing, go for it! I was not feeling it. But, alas, they didn't go on to tell me I had to participate in any kind of fertility rituals. The phases of moon control the water on the planet, including the water in our bodies. So, after several studies, some white coats have decided this can effect a woman's menstruation and her ovulation. This is why I have the little moon phase gadget over there >>>>. I don't quite understand how it's supposed to work, but I'll just mark it down and see what happens.

Menstruation and Mid-cycle Bleeding: Menstruation is the shedding of the lining of the uterus that had been prepared during the time of ovulation. I think we all know why this is important, as well as any other bleeding that occurs out of ordinary.

Ovulation Sensation: Some women are able to feel twinges or cramping during the time of ovulation, on one particular side or just in the vicinity of the ovaries.

Cervical Changes: The cervix is the neck of the uterus. At the bottom of the cervix is a small opening called the Os. When a woman isn't fertile the os is a closed slit in the shape of an "L." The cervix appears firmer as well. When a woman is fertile the os is open resembling an "O" and much softer and pinker. This is also the time when fertile fluid will be "abundant" as my book likes to put it. Checking for cervical changes is the best way of monitoring one's fertility.

Fertile Mucus: There are two ways of monitoring fertile fluid: touch and microscopically. During non-fertile days the fluid will be dry,thin, tacky, sticky, white-ish, or have a lotion-like consistency. When fertile the fluid is stringy, stretchy, clear, wetter, and having a consistency like egg whites. This is the second best method of checking for ovulation. The third best way of monitoring fertility is to use a fertility lens or any microscope with a 50x magnification and to look for the "ferning" pattern in the cervical mucus or even saliva. On non-fertile days the pattern will resemble a "beads."

Ovulation-Predictor Kit: OPKs test for the LH surge in the urine. When the test is positive, depending on your age and the kit, you have 24-48 hours before ovulation. This should not be the only method of determining ovulation.

Mood, Appetite, Breast, and Sex Drive Changes: These small factors can also be signals of ovulations and menstruation. Anything helps!

Food Cravings: The well-known "symptom" of pregnancy is often overlooked throughout the months before conception. These cravings can signify a need for certain nutrients depending on what part of her cycle a woman is in.

Dreams: Some women have reported highly sexual or vivid dreams during ovulation.

Sleep: Sleep patterns can not only affect certain aspects of charting, but can also be altered by the hormonal changes in a woman's body throughout her cycles.

Stress: Stress can definitely alter the charting process, and can too much stress can hault ovulation and menstruation completely.

There you have it. Basically, I have to monitor everything a little out of ordinary and keep a strict schedule.

Speaking of which, it's 4:47 PM and I forgot to do my OPK while writing about it!

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After a bit of a breakdown, and surgery to remove my gall bladder, I've returned to being my normal (if not more upbeat) self. I felt this diary was in desperate need of a makeover to continue this new-old outlook. It's January, I've just turned 20, and it is finally time to chart!