TTC Info: Put Out or Shut Up!

For those of you who are joining me from your own, active TTC journey... welcome!  I doubt I can teach you anything you don't already know but it's likely you're reading this for my charming wit and snark, so hang in there.  However, for the newbies floating in cyberspace without a clue, this episode of TTC with profanity is all about how this shit works.

I've added a link list of extremely valuable sites for your perusal to the right of the page.  DO CLICK THEM!  They are priceless necessities and well worth my weight in gold.  I'm going to go through the basics here but there's far too much information to list on one blog so you need to do your research.  This is the first think you need to do to get started.

Knowing about how your body works should be your top priority.  If I could go back and punch my health teacher in the face for lying about how easy it is for everyone to get pregnant at any time in their cycle, I would.  Sometimes, it is NOT easy.  It is the furthest thing from easy.  I'm sure you all know those lucky women who get pregnant on their first cycle off birth control but it doesn't always happen that way.  The truth is, you have a 12 to 24 hour window for fertilization and that's it.  If you don't have sex in time, which is about a 3-5 day span, you do not get pregnant.  Unfortunately, even if you time everything perfectly, there are still many things preventing you from getting pregnant, most of which are your own body.  Hell, I'm at the ass end of cycle #23 so yeah, sometimes it seems impossible.

Your cycle breaks down into three phases.  Your Menses (period) is first and lasts as long as your period does.  Next is the Follicular Phase, aptly named for the phase in which your ovaries are maturing eggs in your ovarian follicles and preparing to ovulate.  It lasts from the end of your period to ovulation.  The last phase is the Luteal Phase.  Lovingly (or not) referred to as the Two Week Wait (because it lasts for about two weeks... clever huh), this is the time from ovulation to your next period where fertilization, implantation and pregnancy occurs.  If the egg is not fertilized, your body will begin to shed the endometrium and your period begins.  The Menses and Follicular Phases can vary in length from cycle to cycle but the Luteal Phase should always be within a few days of the same length and should be between 10 and 16 days long.  Any shorter and this could signify a Luteal Phase Defect (LPD) and should be discussed with your doctor.

In charting, the most important thing to remember is that your cycle is ruled by hormones and their effects can be charted using your Basal Body Temperature (BBT), which is your body temperature at rest, your cervical mucous (yuppers... your icky discharge has a purpose) and Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPK's) which test the amounts of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) in your system.  The rundown of your cycle is this:

Menses: The first day of full flow, not spotting, is charted as cycle day 1 (CD1 from now on).  Temping during this time is pointless and will only confuse the shit out of you.

Follicular Phase: Temping should begin once your period ends.  You must temp around the same time each day, every day and before getting out of bed, or even moving around much.  Take your temperature with any digital thermometer with a read to the hundredths place (two decimals for those of you who don't care to think about that one).  Record this on your chart (iPhone and Android have various apps for this and Fertility Friend offers one that links to your chart online).  You should take your temp only after having at least three hours of sleep.  Anything less won't give an accurate reading.  You should also start using OPK's at this time.  I test twice a day, once with first morning urine (FMU) and once at around 5 or 6 PM.  Whether or not to use FMU is a big debate but this works for me so I'm throwing it out there.  OPK's are NOT like pregnancy tests.  A faint line does not a positive make!  Your test line should be the same level or darker than the control like.  I've found it helps to buy both stick tests and digital read tests.  You can save money by taking the cheaper stick tests until the lines get close and then taking your digital tests also to prevent wasting them but still take the guesswork out of catching your LH surge and predicting ovulation.  Cervical Mucus (CM) is also charted at this time.  You can either observe what you find on your undies or toilet paper after wiping (here's where a lot of the TMI comes in) or go fishing for a fresh sample.  Yes, you know what this means.  Happy hunting!  See the sites I mentioned earlier for different CM types but what you're looking for is called egg white cervical mucus (EWCM) or a watery version.  EWCM looks just like egg whites... you know you've seen it before.

Luteal Phase (LP): Once you have a +OPK and have likely observed fertile CM (which should all be charted along with your BBT), congratulations... your body has geared to ovulate.  IF you do, an egg is released from your follicles and the Corpus Luteum (the follicle that released the egg) begins to produce Progesterone.  This is a hormone that does all sorts of things but the point I'll hit on here is that it raises your BBT.  IF you ovulate, your BBT will spike (rise by at least 0.5 degrees) and stay at varying levels of "high" for the remainder of your LP.  Your goal now is that your temp stays up.  High temps = strong LP and Progesterone levels.  If implantation occurs, your temp will remain up past the point where your LP should have ended.  If your temp drops sharply around the end of your LP, implantation did not occur and AF is eminent.  Fertility Friend has tons of sample charts available for more information.

I stress "IF you ovulate" above because fertile CM and a +OPK mean that you're body is ready to ovulate, not that it will.  Have you ever had a "late" period and taken a test only to have it come up negative and been thoroughly confused?  This means you may have ovulated later than you typically do.  This can happen during any cycle for many reasons and doesn't necessarily mean anything is wrong (though it certainly can if it happens often enough).  This is why it's absolutely imperative to chart your BBT.  Only a temp spike and consistently higher post-ovulation temps mean that you've ovulated.  If you only use OPK's and don't temp, you could assume you ovulated and be really bummed out to find that you didn't when you think you're late and still get a negative HPT... like I did this month... because I'm a schmuck.  You could also have missed your actual ovulation and mean that you've fucked up your chances for this cycle by not baby dancing (BD) (you know... doing it) when you were fertile.  Properly charting really does reduce confusion (and depression) while TTC.  So do it... seriously.

So... this concludes today's lesson.  Like I mentioned earlier, there is so much more information you need to know about this than I could possibly go through here so do your research!  My goal here is not to teach, but to lighten the mood and let you know that you're not alone.  So stick with it and come back and see me soon!