Introduction to Fertility Charting
Some of you might be asking: “Why do I need to chart my fertility?” Well, the simple answer to this question is: to improve your chances of conceiving! In the course of each menstrual cycle, there are only a limited number of days (often referred to as your “fertile window”) that conception is even possible. As a result, unless you are careful to time intercourse during this window, your trying-to-conceive efforts just might be in vain.
Before we launch into the specifics of fertility charting, let’s begin with a quick review of the menstrual cycle…
The beginning of a woman’s menstrual cycle begins at the onset of menstrual bleeding, with the first day of full blood flow marking Cycle Day 1. The first part of the menstrual cycle (defined as the number of days from the start of one menstrual period to the start of the next menstrual period) is called the follicular phase. The length of the follicular phase will vary depending on the total length of your menstrual cycle. During this phase, a woman’s hormones begin readying the eggs for ovulation. As this phase of the cycle progresses, a dominant follicle will be selected, matured, and released at the onset of ovulation. Ovulation marks the start of the second half of the menstrual cycle, which is called the luteal phase. Ovulation is the release of the mature egg from the ovarian follicle into the Fallopian tube. If healthy sperm are ready and waiting in the Fallopian tube when the egg is released, fertilization may occur. If fertilization does not happen within 12-24 hours after the egg is released into the Fallopian tube, the egg will disintegrate and become absorbed into the uterine lining, which is then shed during menstruation.
The key to successful fertilization (conception!), therefore, is to ensure that at least one healthy sperm (it only takes one!) is waiting in the Fallopian tube at the exact time that ovulation occurs, which requires you to know with at least some degree of accuracy, when you will ovulate. Once sperm enter the female reproductive tract, they will begin their long and difficult journey to the Fallopian tube. While sperm can survive in the female reproductive tract for up to 5 days, only the heartiest sperm will last this long. As a result, is recommended that couples who are trying-to-conceive plan to have intercourse a number of times in the few days leading up to ovulation, and then again on the day of ovulation as well. This will increase the chance that enough vital sperm are present when the egg is released... greatly increasing the chance that one of the sperm will be able to fertilize the egg.
So, if you have been trying-to conceive “the fun way” for several months, with no luck, it might be time to begin charting your fertile window. Fertility charting may seem like a pain at first, and even a bit confusing. Relax! We have confidence that with just a little information and some practice, you will be able to easily incorporate these simple charting methods into your daily routine.