I’ve been meaning to write this one for quite a while but just haven’t got around to it, over the last two years it has become so apparent to me that there is such a lack of knowledge around the female cycle, fertility and trying to conceive and there are so many women struggling but it really can come down to a lack of knowledge. I really think this sort of stuff you should be taught in school but your not because you can’t be seen to be educating young people how to get pregnant as that would be irresponsible, however if we were taught more about the female cycle and the hormones that our body produce we would be much better equipped to make responsible decisions when it comes to making babies!
People scaremongering young people saying they could get pregnant at any point in their cycle to try to help avoid any pregnancy might seem like a good idea when they are 16 but then when they are a 30 year old woman confused why they aren’t getting pregnant after trying for 8 cycles thinking they can conceive on any day of the month, I’m sure they won’t be that grateful for what they learnt in sex education. When I was a spring chicken in my university days I made several visits to the pharmacy for myself and with friends to get the morning after pill because I was convinced I could get pregnant any time! I wish I had known there was a maximum of 6 days each month that I could conceive, I could have saved myself a fortune! Well maybe not a fortune I wasn’t a lady of the night or anything but you get my point hah.
Back in 2017 when we decided to try for the first time it really was as simple as looking at my fertility friend app that I had, had for a couple of years only for the purpose of tracking when my period would be due as I haven’t been on any contraception for years as it doesn’t agree with me. The app has an automatic thing of putting in your ‘fertile days’ across day 12-15 of your cycle you know like it does for every single person, because we are all textbook… it’s laughable when I look at it now. I’ve always had a pretty standard 30 ish day cycle, and that first try we did just baby dance on the days the app said and very fortunately fell pregnant that very month. For some it really can be as easy as that but I would say now knowing as much as I do about the subject that it’s actually pretty rare for people to have a standard 28 day cycle and ovulate on day 14.
Many couples decide that they will start ‘trying’ for a baby and sometimes they literally just mean using no contraception and seeing what happens each month, I genuinely think that a lot of people do take this very laid back approach and then are shocked why they haven’t conceived after a year of trying, yet they have no clue when ovulation is taking place. Couples will then visit the gp to discuss their fertility struggles and 9 times out of 10 they will be sent away to do cycle tracking to try figure out if the woman is ovulating and the doctor will do a day 21 test to check progesterone level to confirm if ovulation is taking place. Which is very straight forward if you are joe blogs with a 28 day cycle and ovulate on day 14 however if the woman is having very long cycles and ovulating on cycle day 20 the standard day 21 test is pretty useless.
This is where knowledge is power comes into play, I think if you have the information to give the doctor and you are knowledgable and go knowing what your talking about you will most definitely get the help that you need faster. I know that the crazy fertility queen approach to trying is not for everyone but especially when it comes to recurrent pregnancy loss I know for sure that a laid back seeing what happens approach is never the case, when you have lost a pregnancy you have a fire burning inside of you to conceive again as quickly as possible because you want to prove to yourself that you can do it and that you can carry a baby to term. The amount of times I hear people say to people, just don’t stress and it will happen for you, technically that is not true, if you are just shooting in the dark it’s pretty likely that you are going to struggle and it’s not going to happen easily.
I also found I was less stressed when I decided to take charge of my fertility and when I knew my body and exactly what was going on. Yes it’s true that stress can cause delayed ovulation but no matter how much you tell a woman that is trying for a baby not to stress about it, she is going to but she’s probably just going to keep that stress to herself instead of talking to you about it because you have said to relax and not to read so much into it. However even though it’s not really relevant to this subject I will say it as I think it’s so important for people to know, stress does not cause miscarriage, there is no scientific evidence to prove that stress can cause a pregnancy loss, so whatever you do never say to a woman maybe if she was less stressed it wouldn’t have happened because that is categorically not true.
I have lots of readers that contact me to ask questions about their cycle and for me to help them when they are trying to conceive and I enjoy being able to use my knowledge to help them learn what’s going on with their cycle in more detail, and I can say I have helped a lot of ladies conceive quicker once they follow a more structured plan to trying to conceive. So I figured if I put some of what I know down in this blog it may just help someone that reads my blog but hasn’t had the confidence to send me a message. If I could make a full time career out of being a fertility coach I would do it because I find it so rewarding helping people that are struggling, but with the million other things I do, I find it hard to have the time at the moment to reply to everyone in lots of detail.
So let’s start with talking through the stages of the cycle to look at the full picture. Day 1 of your cycle is the first day of your period when you start bleeding this is the start of the new cycle. Your body is shedding the endometrial lining and basically you have a clean slate before your hormones now start the cycle over again. So many people seem to get confused if whether or not they can conceive when on their period, the answer is no you can’t, unless you are having a bleed in the middle of your cycle and you don’t know where in your cycle you are, then that is an exception I guess! If you are on day one of your cycle and are menstruating your not going to conceive. This is the follicular stage of your cycle, your body is maturing a follicle ready to release and your estrogen will begin to rise to thicken and create the new lining after your period.
Around the middle of your cycle is when your estrogen hormone will peak and the LH surge will occur. When you are using ovulation tests whether they are pee on a paper stick ones or digital ones this what they are detecting your lh surge, when they detect the surge that is when you will get your positive test, if you are using old school one step type tests then the line will be as strong as or stronger than the test line, that is a truly positive result. If you are using the clear blue digital testing kit this is when the smiley face stops flashing and you get a solid static smiley face. The lh surge is here! This means though that the egg is going to release in around 24 hours time and so the lh surge does not signal that ovulation has taken place and this is where a lot of people get confused. So when you get your surge this is your body letting you know the egg will be released normally the following day.
If we are going to get down with the lingo then we need to learn dpo (days past ovulation) this term is quite critical in the rpl world because many women that are having to take certain drugs they are instructed to take them on a certain dpo and so for them it’s so important to be able to pin point their ovulation each month. 1dpo will be 2 days after your lh surge, because you have the positive for instance on a Wednesday the egg will follow 24 hours (ish) after the positive taking you to Thursday and so one day past ovulation is add on another day making it Friday.
If we were sat in a classroom I would now say, if you had your positive ovulation test on a Monday what day is 1dpo? But that’s not going to work because I’m just talking to myself… but you get my gist, hopefully! I did so much reading and research about ovulation and learnt that unlike when doing a pregnancy test when it’s best to use first morning urine, with ovulation tests you are better doing them late afternoon to early evening because the lh surge most commonly occurs later in the day. Even though the instructions on some ovulation tests say to use first morning urine, it is true that you do get better results later in the day. If you want to be completely cray cray like most of us rpl women you can test morning and night, or on your lunch break in the work toilets… anything goes!
Once the lh surge has occurred the estrogen that has built up and prepared your lining will now drop and progesterone is the key hormone for your luteal phase. The luteal phase is the days between ovulation and your period arriving, during the luteal phase your progesterone hormone rises and this helps to maintain the thick lining so that if you have conceived the implantation of the embryo can take place. Your higher progesterone level also makes your basel body temperature rise which will drop as your progesterone level drops and your period is about to begin. If an egg hasn’t released and you are not ovulating then a blood test to check your progesterone level around 7 days after you should have ovulated would show a doctor that your progesterone level is low and therefore ovulation hasn’t taken place.
This is why it’s crucial that you keep track of the length of your cycles as a very minimal effort so that if your cycles are longer the doctor is going to know to do your day 21 test later. As the lh surge only tells us that we are going to ovulate in 24 hours time but doesn’t actually confirm ovulation one of the only ways of knowing that you did definitely ovulate is to know if your progesterone has risen. Some women do have the lh surge but then don’t always release an egg that month but you would never know that without checking your progesterone. Unless you were temping which is a term used for tracking your Basel body temperature.
I started temping after having my 2nd loss and I found it great for telling me so much about my cycle and I became so interested in it I actually was able to tell when I was pregnant before doing a test and sadly with my 3rd I knew I was going to miscarry a few days before my pregnancy tests went negative too. Temping is a real commitment and I would say to only try it if you are prepared to commit to it otherwise you could cause yourself undue stress if you missed certain days etc as you can only depend on it if you are accurate with it and you are dedicated to doing it. If you are interested in trying it then I’ll give you a brief breakdown of how it works here, you would need to purchase a Basel body thermometer which I did on amazon and you can get them fairly cheap I think mine was around £18. I used the fertility friend app but there are several charting apps that you can get and some are medically certified if you are interested in temping as a form of contraception too.
Basel body temperature is your lowest body temperature that is attained after a long resting period, so usually after you have been asleep. So you need to take your temperature when you wake in the morning before you do anything, and I mean anything… don’t even move! I keep my thermometer under my pillow so I can easily grab it, it also needs to be taken at the same time every day and so I had an alarm set on my thermometer that beeped at 6am every day. You can take your temperature either orally or vaginally, most research says that vaginally is more accurate, I sleep with my mouth open and snore so hard to do it vaginally otherwise the temperature of the room was affecting how warm my mouth was, funny ha ha.
You take your temperature every day at the same time and in put it into whichever app you have decided to use, the app will create a chart for you over the period of the month. Once you get temping and have several months under your belt you will start to see your own personal pattern, you will are from the chart that in the days after your lh surge of ovulation has occurred that it will slowly start to rise and you will see a peak in your graph, most apps will then confirm the day of ovulation on your graph for you and you will see that your temperature stays higher for the duration of the luteal phase that follows. So temping alongside doing your ovulation tests if you do it well you can pretty much pin point ovulation exactly. I will insert one of my graphs below so that you can see what it creates for you.
For your info, this is a non pregnant month graph, I won’t get too complicated with throwing in pregnancy graphs but if anyone is interested in going into temping in more detail then just message me.
Right so what’s left to talk about, oh of course, when should you do the baby making! Spermies have a maximum 5 day life span and your egg sticks around for about 24 hours. So any intercourse in the 4 days before ovulation and the 24 hours after you ovulate is the best chance of conceiving. There is lots of research about sperm quality and too much for me to go into it now but if you are interested then there’s lots to consider- motility, dna damage & morphology.
A couple of key things when it comes to sperm though are, if your partner has no known sperm issues then you don’t want old sperm so make sure your partner has dropped some tadpoles at the pond at least 24 hours before your fertile window! The main cause of damaged sperm is heat so you need to get the men some loose fitting boxers… no one wants to have sweaty balls surely anyway! No hot baths or use of hot tubs! We need to get these spermies nice and chilly, a morning cold shower on their baubles can do wonders! Alcohol is a big no no for sperm quality and healthy eating helps to improve quality too… I’ll let you figure out how your going to tackle that one.
Another piece of advice when trying in the fertile window is to not go too hard (excuse the pun) too soon! The smep plan (sperm meets egg plan) is great for a slow build up and not burning out the men before the time that it really matters! The basics of the plan is that you start baby dancing every other day from cycle day 9 or from your flashing smiley days if you are using the digital indicator.
When you get your lh surge so the positive ovulation test or static smiley face you then need to baby dance on the day even if you did the day before and you also need to do the following two days. So you should definitely have three days in a row which are lh surge day, the day of ovulation and 1dpo, but potentially may end up doing 4 days in a row if the day before lh surge was one of your day’s to do the dance. If you have a stallion on your hands then all of this might not matter but often if you have been trying for a long time the pressure of trying to do the dance every day of the month is far too much and so this gives you some rest days.
That’s all for now, happy baby making and I do love to squint at your lines and analyse your charts so you know my inbox is always open if you find yourself questioning line eyes and going a bit crazy!
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