When you first start on your TTC journey you probably have no idea what tracking your cycle means or how to start doing it. You are unfamiliar with BBT charts and how to check for cervical mucus. In fact when you read through the TTC forums on the web, it probably looks like they are speaking a foreign language. Here we will go through the general methods used to track your cycle.
First thing you want to do when you are ready to try for a baby is download a period tracking app. If you aren’t fond of using technology there are a bunch of free bbt charts you can print off or there are kits for sale throughout the web. We find the apps to be more convenient and helpful.
There are several period tracking apps available. We use three so we can cross reference our information between them and how they interpret it. Our favorite is Flo. This app has been the most accurate and most flexible in adjusting luteal phase and ovulation predictions based on past charts logged.
The second app we use is fertility friend or FF. This app has a very useful fertility stop and go lights in their premium option as well as suggesting what day to take a HPT. This app is also the most accurate for using BBT and has a community you can share your BBT chart with when you have questions.
The final app we use is Glow. We use this app mostly for the community of support provided and how user friendly it is. This app also connects you with fertility experts if you need it. Best part of these three apps is that they are free unless you update to the premium plans.
The next step in tracking your cycle is to get a BBT thermometer. We find tracking BBT to be the cheapest method of confirming ovulation. A BBT thermometer is more sensitive than a regular thermometer with two places behind the decimal point. This is important since you are watching for fractions of temperature increases.
Once you have your thermometer start logging your BBT every morning when you first wake up. You will need at least three hours of sleep and move as little as possible before taking your temp for the most accurate reading. Try to take it at the same time everyday, but if that’s not possible then temp after your longest block of sleep in a day. BBT can be taken orally or vaginally. You will want to start logging BBT as soon as possible. The more completed charts you have before you start actively TTC the better you will be at reading them and the more charts you will have to compare new charts to.
Next you will want to know how to check your cervix. There are two things you will be looking at when you check your cervix: the position and texture of your cervix and your cervical mucus. It is relatively simple to check your cervix, although not everyone is comfortable doing so.
You will want to do it in the same position every time, whether you are laying in bed or sitting on the toilet. You will use your middle finger to feel inside for the smooth doughnut shape at the top of your vagina. Its position will vary from high, or hard to reach, medium, your finger is in to the middle knuckle, or low, your finger is only in up to the first knuckle. Of course everyone is different so it will take a month or two to really get the feel for what position is which for you. You will also judge how hard to soft it is and if it’s open or closed.
Cervical mucus is checked while you are checking your cervix. As you are feeling around your cervix to check the firmness, openness, and position you will get cervical mucus on your finger. When you pull your finger out observe the consistency of the fluid. It can be, from least fertile to most fertile: dry, sticky, creamy, watery, or egg-white. There is a spot to log this both in the apps and the printouts.
Another option to track your cycle is to purchase OPK’s in bulk. These are just like HPT except instead of detecting HCG they detect the LH surge that happens 16-24 hours before ovulation occurs. The test line needs to be as dark or darker than the control line to be positive. These aren’t as reliable as tracking BBT to confirm ovulation because there are times where you can have an LH surge without actually ovulating.
There are several ways to track your cycle every month. We recommend using several methods as no one method is perfect. BBT confirms ovulation, but doesn’t tell you ovulation is approaching; OPK’s can detect a surge that doesn’t end with an egg being released; and cervical mucus isn’t always the same pattern in everyone with some never actually getting the most fertile egg-white mucus. Any combination of these methods and you can pinpoint ovulation, discover your personal luteal phase length (it varies from 12-16) and more accurately time intercourse.