Monday, January 25, 2010

Getting Started - Knowing where to begin...

If you're new to the TTC game, here is some advice on how to get started:

First and foremost, HAVE FUN!  This could very well be the most stressful moment of your life, and the more you stress yourself out, the harder it will be.  My first piece of advice is to just have fun and relax.  Enjoy yourself and each other.  Stop your birth control methods, and keep in mind that in most cases, it takes a normal couple 3 to 6 months to get pregnant on their own; granted, some people is takes only one try, while others it takes years and years.  Everyone is different.  If you've been on the pill, keep in mind it can take up to 6 months or more to get the hormone completely out of your system, so your cycles may be crazy at first.

Talk with your doctor.  Let her know that you have made the decison to start trying for a baby and ask for her advice.  More than likely, she is going to say pretty much what I did above, but its good to let her know where you stand.

If after a couple months you aren't where you'd like to be, start tracking.  I recommend Fertility Friend to track your cycle. There is alot of useful information in the site. The membership is free, but you can pay a small fee to upgrade to VIP membership. I really recommend the upgrade.

Basal Body Temperature

Measuring your Basal Body Temperature, or BBT, each morning, is a great place to start.  You can buy a basal thermometer at most drug stores.  I personally use one from CVS, and I have no complaints.  You should measure yout BBT first thing in the morning before getting out of bed or moving very much at all.  It will usually take one full cycle to see a pattern.  Once ovulation occurs, you will see a rise in temperature, usually about 0.5 to 1.0 degrees.  Once you see the rise in temperature sustained for three days and more, you can safely assume ovulation did occur, typically on the day preceeding the termal shift.  Remember, its the pattern that is important, so do not stress over any outliers. 

There are also some other physical changes in your body that can be monitored to determine whether ovulation is near; cerival mucus and position.

Cervical Mucus:

Throughout your cycle, you will notice several changes in your cervical fluid.  Some women notice this more, while others need to check internally to track the changes.  In short, the following physical properties will be noted:

Dry: At the beginning of your cycle, prior to ovulation you will likely produce little to no cervical mucus. Also right before your period should start your cervical mucus may become dry again. If you do not notice cervical mucus you will want to record this on your chart as dry.
Sticky: You may notice sticky cervical mucus prior to ovulation. It feels sticky to your fingers when you touch it.
Creamy: As you get closer to ovulation you will notice thicker, creamy-looking cervical mucus. This mucous looks and feels similar to lotion.
Eggwhite: Eggwhite cervical mucus is the term used to describe the mucus you have during ovulation. It looks like eggwhites and is slippery, clear, and stretchy.
Watery: Watery cervical mucus is wet and may be stretchy. You may notice this type of cervical mucus during ovulation or before having eggwhite cervical mucus.

More information on tracking cervical mucus

Cervical Position:

Tracking changes in your cervical position is probably one of the most invasive measures taken.  I myself only recently started doing it, so if you don't feel up to up, don't worry.  You have enough at your disposal to determine ovulation.  If you are going to track your CP, be sure to follow two imporant rules:

1. Be sure to clean your hands beforehand - you do not want to introduce any unwanted bacteria into this very sensitive area, and
2. If possible, do not check every day - Your cervix is very sensitive and can become irritate and/or inflammed.

Basically, before ovulation, your cervix will be low, firm to the touch (similar to the feeling of the tip of your nose), and closed.  As ovulation nears, your cervix will rise high, sometimes out of reach, will become very soft (similar to feeling your lower lip), and it will open.

More information on tracking cervical position

Ovulation Predictor Tests:

Lastly, there are OPKs, or ovulation predictor tests (the "K" is for kit, as they are usually sold as such).  If you do decide to use OPKs, please remember they can often be difficult to read.  Unlike home pregnancy tests (HPTs) where the present of a second line, regardless of shade or size, confirms pregnancy, with an OPK, the test time must be as dark as or darker than the control line to be considered positive.  This can make them easily mis-read.  First, be sure to read the enclosed instructions, but a few general rules do apply:

1. Do not read the test after the time limit has expired
2. Do not use FMU (first morning urine); your LH (the hormone detected in OPKs) will surge mid-day, and may be missed if you are only using FMU.
3. Try and hold your urine for 2 to 4 hours and limit liquid intake before taking the test; this will help assure your urine is not too dilute.
4. Test daily, and once you get closer to your expected ovulation date, testing twice a day may be necessary.
5. Remember that LH is almost always present in the body, so you will almost always see some result in the test window.  This is why you need to be sure the line is as dark as or darker than the control line before considering the test positive.

The BEST information I have found online for OPKs is  I really recommend it.


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