by Atomic Sagebrush
HOW TO PREPARE FOR SHETTLES – please read the How-To for both genders because this method requires a working knowledge about what NOT to do as well. You may also want to read the O+12 section for the same reason. You will need OPKs (ovulation predictor kits) and a basal body thermometer, OR a fertility monitor. It is helpful to be charting your cycle on Fertility Friends http://www.fertilityfriend.com/ as far in advance as possible and you need to be familiar with the various types of cervical mucus. If your cycles are super regular and you already feel that you know what your patterns of CM are like, you don’t absolutely need to chart, but it’s best to chart for at least a month in advance just to give you an idea.
With a cutoff, you can get away with charting only one month in advance. Try to take special note of how many days you have EWCM, how far in advance of ovulation it begins, and in fact just make as many notes as you can about the patterns of CM that you have prior to ovulation. If you are in a big hurry, buy a fertility monitor, they are very helpful with cutoffs (much more so than O+12) The “Three Primary Fertility Signs” referenced in the excellent book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler http://www.tcoyf.com/ and OPKs/fertility monitors, will be the key to pinpointing when you ovulate. In addition to the TPFS, you should also use an ovulation monitor/OPKs, and the data from previous cycles to help you determine when exactly you ovulate. Ovulation pains can help but should not be relied upon.
TPFS #1 – WAKING (Basal Body) TEMPERATURE: Take your temperature first thing in the morning and track the information on Fertility Friend. However, if you are woken up a lot in the night, wake up a different hours every day, drink alcohol, regularly forget to take your temperature, or even are just really cozy under the covers one day or chilled another, your temps can be screwy. That’s why you need to chart, because you MUST observe your temperature trends on a day-to-day basis over a few months, and not just here and there, to truly understand what’s going on. Also, be aware that temps don’t warn you that you’re ABOUT to ovulate, they only warn you AFTER you already have. And, for a very small percentage of women, temping is ineffective (but you can still use CM and position to tell ovulation).
Before ovulation, women’s waking temps average between 97 and 97.7. After ovulation, your temps will sharply jump to 97.8 and higher and will stay that way throughout a pregnancy (you can tell if you’re pregnant just by your temperature staying high for 18 days after ovulation, and if your temps drop you can tell if you’re pregnant just by your temperature staying high for 18 days after ovulation, and if your temps drop suddenly that is not a good sign even if you have gotten a BFP).
Please note – the temps jumping up indicates that ovulation HAS ALREADY OCCURED. You can’t rely on your temp shift to predict ovulation because by the time the temp goes up, the egg is most likely already dead by that point. That’s where OPK’s come in (more about that in a minute).
Some people may want to try taking a second temp in the evening (in the months ahead of your attempt) to help them better envision when exactly they ovulate. This has advantages and disadvantages, because your temps will not be reliable in comparison to your morning temps. Keep the two sets of temps separate and don’t be tempted to compare the two. They will follow similar but separate patterns and cannot be compared to one another.
CERVICAL MUCUS – As you get closer to ovulation you will observe that your cervical mucus begins to get wetter, thinner, and stretchy, like eggwhite. Each cycle will be different, but for all of us, every cycle, the closer we get to ovulation, the more fertile our mucus becomes. (link) Here are links to a couple of amazing, but very graphic sites where you can see actual photos of the female cervix throughout the month and you can see the difference in mucus quality. http://www.gardenoffertility.com/cervix.shtml
Immediately after estrogen peaks and begins to drop, your progesterone will start to rise (your body assumes with every cycle that you have become pregnant and raises progesterone as a result.) Your cervical fluid will change abruptly. Even just a couple hours later the eggwhite mucus will have been replaced by a drier, more creamy CM, and if it was creamy to start with it may even be replaced by a sticky, dry mucus. (keeping in mind that for a girl, you WANT creamy CM, and for a boy you want eggwhite).
The downside of using CM is that if you are taking supplements to dry up CM (to sway pink), particularly antihistamines, you may not even HAVE any CM to check and you‘ll have to rely on the less-reliable sign of cervical texture to help pinpoint ovulation. And if you’re taking Robitussin/Mucinex (to sway blue), you may have so much CM that it’s impossible to tell where exactly you are in your cycle.
CERVICAL POSITION AND TEXTURE – Throughout your cycle, it is natural for your cervix to move higher and lower in your vagina and to be softer/firmer. (see above links if you want to help envision what these changes look like) Prior to ovulation your cervix will be firm, low, closed, and nonwet, which helps keep any foreign substances from entering the uterus. Around ovulation, your cervix will “SHOW“, that means it will be soft, high, open and wet (thanks to TCOYF for this handy acronym.) in order to allow CM to flow through and pregnancy to occur. This is the least reliable of the primary fertility signs because many things can affect the way your cervix looks and feels. Intercourse, pressure from stool in the rectum, even swelling from checking your cervix too much can all make it harder to judge what is going on.
WARNING – Make very sure your hands are scrupulously clean when you check your cervix.
OPKS – These are little test sticks that detect LH (the hormone that makes the egg burst from the ovary)which surges prior to ovulation. You can buy them at many places online, drugstores, and even at the Dollar Store!! Start using them about three days before you expect to ovulate and follow the directions on the package to use and read them. You will ovulate between 8-48 hours after you get a positive, on average, 32 hours after, but you will get a ‘fade in pattern’ of sticks growing slightly darker as the LH surge approaches that can happen a day or two in advance of a truly positive OPK.
WARNING – unlike with pregnancy tests, you do not use FMU (first morning urine) for OPKs. You should test in early afternoon for best results because that’s when the level of LH in your urine is highest.
OVULATION MONITOR – You can use an ovulation monitor to help you determine when you ovulate. This is a post in and of itself so I will just mention it for now. The different brands work in a variety of ways so just go off the directions that come with your monitor.
USING PAST CYCLES TO UNDERSTAND FUTURE CYCLES – IF your cycles are very regular, you can sometimes use your past charts to determine when you typically O. This is terribly unreliable, but it can help sometimes when you have very little CM, and it DOES help you learn the ropes of your body – you’ll be able to make the correlation between CM and cervix texture and in retrospect, it will help you understand the pattern that your body seems to follow.
OVULATION PAINS – aka mittelschmerz. Charting and monitoring your past cycles can also help you understand the different types of o pains. You may feel achy and tender before ovulation, followed by a sharp pain, popping, or twinging sensation at ovulation when the egg is released, and then cramping after ovulation as the Fallopian tubes contract to move sperm towards the egg and the egg down to the uterus. O pains will be felt on one side only unless you are ovulating from both ovaries that month. Further complicating matters is the fact that many people have cramps and tenderness in their uterus during ovulation as well. Don’t rely on them, but they can be a helpful secondary sign.