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Am I Ovulating? The One Check You Can Do Every Day to Know For Sure When You’re Fertile




Am I ovulating?


Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we had a clear answer to that question every single day?


In this episode, I’m going to be teaching you the exact messages your body is sending you every day so that you can answer yes or no to that very question with complete confidence.


Whether or not your goal right now is to achieve or avoid pregnancy, the key to understanding your menstrual cycle and boosting your fertility (for right now or the future) is to know when you are ovulating. The only way to truly know exactly when you are ovulating is to take just a couple of minutes every day and yourself a few simple questions.



HERE'S WHAT WE COVER:


● Understanding your fertile window and why it’s impossible to get pregnant every day of our cycle

● Why cervical mucus is more than just discharge in your undies

● What your body temperature is telling you about your fertility

● Other fertile signs you should be looking out for

● Why every woman’s fertile signs are different, and how you can understand yours


LINKS & RESOURCES:


MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:


Get your free chapter of The Mana Guide to Understanding (and Loving!) Your Menstrual Cycle HERE


Episode 1: Menstrual Cycle 101


OTHER FREE RESOURCES:


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TRANSCRIPT:


Hello, and welcome to episode 2 of The Mana Women’s Wellness Podcast. I’m your host, Rachel and today we are really going to tune in on those signs that your body is giving to you each and every day so that you will be able to recognise whether or not you are fertile.

Whether or not your goal right now is to achieve or avoid pregnancy, the key to understanding your menstrual cycle and boosting your fertility (for right now or the future) is to know when you are ovulating. The only way to truly know exactly when you are ovulating is to take just a couple of minutes every day and yourself a few simple questions.

Now in order to really understand this, we’re going to be building on from the Menstrual Cycle 101 Masterclass that we had in the last episode – episode #1 of The Mana Women’s Wellness Podcast. And it was episode #1 for a reason! I was dying to dive on in to the amazing knowledge I’ll be giving you in this episode, but it’s super important to understand the basics of the menstrual cycle first. So if you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to pause this episode and jump back in to episode 1 – Menstrual Cycle 101.

And if you haven’t done so already, you can grab your free chapter of The Mana Guide to Understanding (and Loving) Your Menstrual Cycle which breaks down the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle that I talked about in episode 1.

If you’re interested, you can head to www.manawomenswellness.com/freebook or you can head on over to today’s shownotes at manawomenswellness.com/fertility and there’s a link there as well.

Ok, let’s dive in.


You are only able to get pregnant for about 5-7 days of your entire menstrual cycle. This is likely very different to what you were taught in health class.  It’s not your teacher’s fault, your parents’ fault or even your doctor’s fault – this is just something that people are not taught.

An egg lives for 12-24 hours after ovulation, while sperm can survive in the female body for up to 5 days after intercourse. Your fertile window takes into account the lifespan of both egg and sperm.


A female’s fertile window is approximately 5 days before ovulation and 3 days after. This window accounts for sperm’s ability to survive for up to 5 days in the female reproductive system, especially when cervical fluid is present and assists with sperm mobility and survival. This window also takes into consideration the 12-24 hours that an egg survives as well as the possibility that ovulation was incorrectly confirmed.


The fertile window also allows for the possibility that a second egg was released at ovulation. This is rare but it can happen and is one method of producing twins.


Every single day you are at a particular stage of your menstrual cycle. Now throughout your menstrual cycle, there are fluctuations in your sex hormones, mainly oestrogen and progesterone, that cause the different stages of your cycle to occur. With these changes in hormone levels, there are physical signs and symptoms that change from one day to the next that indicate where you actually are in your cycle.

The beginning of your cycle is the most obvious, you bleed and have your period, but throughout the rest of your cycle leading up to ovulation and towards your next period, there are other distinct changes you can easily observe every day to pinpoint the exact days you are fertile and the days where you’re not fertile.


Very few women are taught to track their fertile signs. These signs are usually things we don’t pay much attention to until we are actively trying to get pregnant. Your menstrual phase is obvious, but the other phases are not if you don’t know what to look for.


Tracking your fertile signs allows you to understand where you are in your cycle, when you have entered your luteal phase (after ovulation and before menstruation) and predict even the most irregular of periods!


The follicular phase (before ovulation) can vary between cycles, particularly for women with irregular periods. In contrast, the second half of your cycle is very consistent. After ovulation, your luteal phase is almost always the same length in every cycle, anywhere between 11-16 days.


For example, you may have calculated that there is consistently a 14 day time frame between ovulation and your next period. Even if you experience irregular cycle, with your cycle being 21 days one month and 35 days the next - once you have confirmed ovulation you can expect to get your period 14 days later.


Sexually active women can use this information to achieve or avoid pregnancy. There is a fertile window around the ovulatory phase when pregnancy can occur (you cannot get pregnant every day of your cycle!).


If you can confidently identify your fertile window, you can time sex accordingly. So if your goal is to achieve pregnancy, you have sex during this fertile window. If you want to avoid pregnancy, you either avoid sex during your fertile window or you use another method of contraception, like a condom.

Now that sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it. And it really is that simple. Every day, you just need to determine whether or not you’re fertile. That’s it!

So what are these mystical magical fertile signs that will confirm whether or not you’re fertile? There are 2 of them, and it all starts with mucus.

CERVICAL MUCUS

The main sign is the change in your cervical mucus throughout your cycle (bet you always just thought it was random discharge).

This is a kind of strange question, and it’s probably something that you’ve never really thought about before. But have you ever had that sensation in the days leading up to when you know that your period is due, that feeling that you’ve just gotten your period? You rush to the bathroom to check and there’s nothing there? That’s your cervical mucus plug breaking down. This sensation is very very subtle. And if you can notice that, then you can easily tell the difference between wet and dry from one day to the next! This wet or dry sensation is the key to understanding your fertility!

Now for this method to work effectively, you really only need to understand how your cervical mucus changes throughout your menstrual cycle.

The cervix is the neck of the uterus that leads on into the vagina. The cervix contains glands that have the sole function of producing mucus. As hormone levels shift throughout the menstrual cycle, these glands will produce different types of mucus.


As your period comes to an end and your menstrual flow reduces, you are entering a non-fertile phase of the menstrual cycle. The cervix will physically close and a thick mucus plug will form within it. This mucus plug closes the cervix and blocks sperm cells from entering the uterus. So if you have sex and ejaculation occurs, sperm cannot pass through the cervix to get to the uterus, as so will die in the vagina after a couple of hours. In the phase between your period and ovulation, you are not fertile and you cannot get pregnant because when this mucus plug closes the cervix, you are not fertile.


So after menstruation there is minimal mucus. If you notice mucus, it’s normally quite dry and sticky. As ovulation approaches, so too does the opportunity for sperm to fertilise an egg, and so the body creates an environment that will keep sperm alive inside the vagina. As oestrogen levels increase in the lead up to ovulation, this thick mucus plug will dissolve and break down, the cervix opens and you may notice a fluid or wet sensation. The mucus-producing glands now begin to secrete a thin, watery, lubricative fluid that actually nourishes sperm and helps it to move through the vagina towards the egg. Your cervical fluid becomes thinner, wetter and clearer. Just prior to ovulation when fertility is at its peak, the mucus becomes heavier and jelly-like; it is able to be stretched between the fingers. Many women describe it as “egg whites” and are able to feel the lubricative effect.

Once ovulation has occurred, this cervical mucus will dry up quite suddenly and you’ll feel dry again. The cervix will again close up with a mucus plug. If you’re not pregnant, the cervix will open up again and the mucus plug will dissolve in the days leading up to your next period.


Mucus, or cervical fluid, is the key to understanding your fertility. Cervical fluid can keep sperm alive for up to 5 days inside the female reproductive system. Without cervical fluid, sperm dies within hours and makes pregnancy virtually impossible.


Changes in cervical fluid are the most obvious signs of fertility. Changes in colour, thickness, texture and amount are influenced by hormonal changes, and so will change according to phase of the menstrual cycle.


You will notice your cervical fluid in your underwear or on toilet paper after wiping. This is normal and is a reflection of what is happening in your body, your vagina and where you are in your cycle. Many women refer to cervical fluid as discharge, but don’t confuse it with other vaginal secretions that are not cervical fluid.


You can observe your cervical fluid daily just by looking at your underwear or on toilet paper after wiping. If you are struggling to see anything, you can try wiping before going to the toilet, or fluid may be more noticeable after a bowel motion.


Some women use their fingers to feel for differences in consistency, but this is really not necessary. When you observe wet, slippery, egg-white fluid that can easily be stretched between your fingers without breaking, you are approaching ovulation.


Cervical fluid will disappear or decrease in quality the day after you ovulate. If you notice egg-white fertile cervical fluid but then it disappears and returns a few days later, you may have had an unsuccessful attempt at ovulation. Your fluid returns because your body is attempting ovulation again.

Every woman has different cervical fluid patterns. Some may easily be able to notice distinct wet and dry fluid patterns according to their cycle. Others may notice fluid throughout their cycle, while others may struggle to observe any. Use a combination of your main fertile signs to clarify when ovulation has occurred.

The other fertile signs that I’ll be talking about can really help you to confirm what you’re observing, which can be super helpful when you’re just starting out. But really, all you need to be doing is tracking your cervical mucus every day. And by tracking, it can be as simple as asking yourself as you go about your day – do I feel wet or dry today?

So I’m going to move on now to the other fertile signs, but you’ll see what I mean about cervical mucus being queen of all the fertile signs. Even if you choose to only track your cervical fluid and ignore this one in the long-run, I still think that it’s super important to understand it initially so you have a really good understanding about how your body changes throughout your menstrual cycle.

BASAL BODY TEMPERATURE

The second fertile sign I want to talk about is your basal body temperature.

Basal body temperature (BBT) is the body's resting temperature after at least 4-6 hours of uninterrupted sleep. It is assessed by taking the body temperature first thing in the morning after waking and before any physical activity.


The most accurate readings are given before we start moving around for the day, so try to take your temperature as soon as you wake up while still lying in bed. Understanding patterns in temperature can take a few cycles to understand, so daily tracking is recommended. Try to be as consistent as possible and take your BBT at around the same time every day.


BBT is used to retrospectively determine the timing of ovulation, due to a rise in BBT of 0.2-0.5 degrees Celsius. Ovulation usually occurs the day before the temperature shift, but may be delayed in some women. BBT will then remain high until next menstruation.

You can confirm a temperature shift when 3 consecutive temperatures are higher than the previous 6.

You might be thinking that this is getting super complicated. This is why you actually need to put pen to paper and chart every day of your cycle. You can’t just take note of these things without writing them down because you’ll forget and if you’re relying on memory, you just won’t see those patterns in your cycle that occur month after month.


Progesterone is the cause of the upward shift in basal body temperature after ovulation. When one of the ovaries has released an egg, the follicle from which it was released begins to produce progesterone. This hormone produces heat, so as progesterone levels rise after ovulation, so too does your basal body temperature.


The upward shift in your temperature from ovulation and throughout the second half of your cycle is detectable if you track it daily.


You can use an oral thermometer that is accurate to 2 decimal places (Celsius) or 1 decimal place (Fahrenheit). You can grab one from the chemist for about $20 and it’s seriously the best $20 you will ever spend.


A number of factors can influence your basal body temperature, with some women finding they are particularly sensitive to minor disruptions, such as error in recording, illness and fever, interrupted sleep patterns, alcohol, stress, shift work, travel (especially across time zones), and medication.


These minor errors are pretty common occurrences right? Which is why it’s so important to monitor your cervical fluid every day. You can’t just rely on taking your temperature to confirm whether or not you’re fertile.


Your BBT will rise the day after ovulation. The last day of low temperatures will likely be the day when ovulation took place. Some women do find that there is slight delay in temperature shift after ovulation by a day or two. If you suspect this could the case for you, then you really need to use your other fertile signs to confirm ovulation.


Now there are another couple of fertile signs that I want to just quickly touch on. You might also experience other symptoms at the same time in your cycle. Take note of them and track if they occur with every cycle and at what stage. If you write it all down, you’ll start to notice patterns really quickly.


The first of these could be described as the third main fertile sign, but I didn’t want things to get super confusing so I’ll talk about it now instead.


So, I’ve talked a lot about the cervix already in this episode, and so the third key fertile sign is physical changes in the cervix. I’ve spoken about how the cervix is closed with a thick mucus plug during the non-fertile phases of the menstrual cycle, and how it opens and produces thinner fluid during the fertile phase.


You can actually feel these changes with your fingers.


So during the fertile phase, your cervix is soft, high, open and wet. I like to think of the word Show to remember this – S.H.O.W – Soft, High, Open, Wet.


So we already know how to feel the difference between wet and dry – you don’t need you hands for that one – but if you’re comfortable doing so, and I recommend doing this in the shower when your body is relaxed and your hands are clean – you can find your cervix with the tip of your finger and feel these changes.


Full disclosure, I taught myself about the body’s fertile signs from a book. And it was super complicated and confused me really quickly. Being a physio, especially one with a special interest in the pelvic floor, I use my hands. And my hands are pretty good at picking up changes in muscle and soft tissue just because I use them every day in my job. So I found it super helpful to just once a day feel my cervix to confirm what I’d already charted. I no longer do this, but even for just one cycle – once you’ve got the hang of the other fertile signs – give it a go and feel the difference for yourself!


Some natural fertility educators steer clear of this sign and there is some suggestion that we could actually be affecting our mucus by feeling inside around our cervix.


Ultimately, I want you to be aware of all of the different signs so that you can decide for yourself what works for you.


Other fertile signs that you might notice every month are ovulation pain, something I actually experience every month, on the evening that I ovulate. This ovulation pain is really similar to menstrual pain or cramping. You might also notice ovulation spotting, which can happen due to the hormonal changes around the time of ovulation. The labia, the vaginal lips might feel swollen or your breasts may feel tender.


So that’s why charting is so important, just writing some quick notes every day about how you’re feeling and what you’re noticing. That’s how you start to see regular patterns.

Now these changes happen in your body as long as you are ovulating. Because if you’re ovulating, then you will have a period afterwards. It doesn’t matter if your periods come every 20 days or every 40 days. The menstrual cycle still occurs in exactly the same way. The key is understanding how long each of these phases are for you and pin-pointing exactly when you are ovulating.

And so, I truly hope that I’ve blown your mind a little today, because I know when I first learnt about my fertile signs I couldn’t believe I had never heard about them before! It’s crazy that hardly anyone is talking about it and women are not learning this stuff when they first learn about periods, pregnancy and contraception in health classes at school. But when you learn it and you use it, you’ll see a huge difference in how you understand your body, your menstrual cycle, your fertility and how you can quite easily maximise your chances of getting pregnant naturally or to effectively avoid pregnancy, if that’s where you’re at right now.


So let’s recap the two main fertile signs – cervical fluid and basal body temperature.


As ovulation approaches, cervical fluid becomes thinner, wetter and clearer and resembles egg-whites. Cervical fluid will become dry and sticky the day after ovulation for the rest of the cycle.


Your body temperature will rise the day after ovulation. The last day of low temperatures is likely the day that ovulation occurred. An upward temperature shift indicates that ovulation has occurred when the temperature for 3 consecutive days is greater than the previous 6. Your temperature will drop again around the day of menstruation.


And so, menstruation will always follow ovulation. Think of it that way. If you get a period, you have ovulated anywhere from 11-17 days earlier. If you chart your menstrual cycle, if you write down whether or not you feel wet or dry every day, and if you take your temperature as soon as you wake up every morning, you will be able to quite easily confirm ovulation and your fertile window in the lead up to ovulation. Your chart will. show a clear upward shift of your body basal temperature and you will have observed changes in your cervical fluid to coincide with this temperature shift.


I hope that clears things up for you. Please remember that every woman is different! Some women may clearly be able to detect their fertile signs, while others may have more difficulty because their temperature shift isn’t obvious or their cervical fluid doesn’t obviously resemble egg-whites. The more experience you get in tracking your cycle, the easier it will become to interpret your body's own individual fertile signs. The only way to get to know your body’s unique patterns is with practice!

If you learnt something new or found value in today’s episode, I’d love to hear from you! Send me an Instagram DM, post it on your stories – share a story of yourself listening to the podcast – and let me know what you want me to talk about. This podcast is for you and so I want to talk about the things that are most important to you!

If you haven’t done so already, remember you can grab your free chapter of The Mana Guide to Understanding (and Loving) Your Menstrual Cycle to help you get started breaking down your menstrual cycle. If you’re ready to dive even deeper, you can grab the complete guide which takes you through the charting process and everything I talked about today. It’s called The Mana Guide to Understanding (and Loving) Your Menstrual Cycle and you can grab it at www.manawomenswellness.com/shop


Head on over there to check out today’s show notes and for links to that freebie.

I will see you in the next episode, where we are talking all things pelvic floor.

Ok, bye for now and don’t forget that knowledge is power!

When you truly understand your body, you are empowered to make informed decisions and take control of your health!

Until next time.

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