This year I have learnt a lot about my body. Things I wish I knew long ago. Things that make me realise how wonderful, mysterious, complex & frustrating the female anatomy really is. We weren’t taught in school, or by our parents (presumably because they don’t know themselves), that there are ways to know exactly when the timing is right to conceive. In fact, none of the medical professionals I’ve seen this year have given me any insight. I’ve had to find out on my own. And there is a wealth of knowledge out there that is simply untapped.
My fertility specialist said that usually she’ll do 3 treatment cycles before moving to the next step (i.e. 3 months on tablets, 3 months on injects). She essentially said that if you’re timing ‘the deed’ correctly (and believe me, timing is everything), and you’re not pregnant within 3 cycles, you really should try something else. This amazes me. Here I was, almost a year ago, thinking that its just natural to try for 12 months, that sometimes it just takes that long. But really, if you’re timing it right, 3 months is the magic number. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, and it might just take some women a few extra months to nail it so to speak. But in general, the problem is that a lot of women don’t actually know when their egg is dropping. Or if its dropping at all (like in my case). They’re either winging it, or following one of these shiny apps that tell you day 14 is the best day, or predicts your window based on the month before. None of these techniques actually tell you when you’re ovulating. We’re just flying blind. And in my case, the 5 months I thought I was trying, I wasn’t doing it properly. At all. Well, I was doing it properly, just not timing it properly. Hell, there are some poor women who are having sex every other day for the whole month! The whole month… respect. And UTI’s. That’s all I can say.
Now its taken me a while to become fully aware of what my body is doing. And if I’d had my time again, I would have started paying attention at least a year before starting to try. Essentially there are only 2 signs you need to observe in order to know where you’re at in your cycle:
- Basal body temperature
- Cervical fluid (sorry for the TMI, but it really is the crystal ball of ovulation)
And knowing how to read these 2 signs is explained in so much detail all over the internet, in podcasts, books & forums. It also means you only have to have to do the sideways tango 2-3 times a month to hit the egg. The other times are just for fun. Who am I kidding? There are no other times!
If only the signs were as obvious as crop circles in corn rows. Unfortunately they’re quite tricky & subtle at first, but once you know the rules they’re quite easy to interpret. I won’t tell you how to do this in case I fuck it up and lead you down a path of confusion & stress. To learn how to read them you’ll need (fuck I wish someone had writing this blog 2 years ago!):
- The Fertility Friend app. This is basically the go-to app to track your cycles. Its user interface is like a smashed mango, but it allows to enter ALL the things; symptoms, treatments, temperatures, mood, lunar cycles, anything (not actually lunar cycles though)! Signs that you may not know you have. Signs that you’ll never be able to ignore again. Signs that I won’t describe because you’re probably eating your breakfast right now. Log everything in this app and it will tell you when you’re actually ovulating!
- Fertility Friday podcast. This is a super in-depth podcast where Lisa runs sessions with women on how to use the ‘Natural Family Planning Method’, or essentially, reading your body. She is a wealth of information.
- Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. This is a great book detailing how to chart your temperature, example charts & what they mean, and how to tell if there’s anything not quite right. This should be a compulsory textbook in high school. I used this to understand PCOS and what it really means.
Of course, this is overkill for most women who will most likely fall pregnant without even having to worry about their cycles. But it hasn’t worked out like that for me. And I all of these life lessons are handy for women who aren’t trying to conceive too. If I could, I would have researched all of this much earlier and potentially saved a lot of time & pain. I also think its good to know as much as you can about your body. Sure, taking your temperature every day is a lot, but there are other signs that have been glaring at me all these years and I had no idea what they meant.
In a way, I’m actually really glad I had to find all of this out. Because now I know the roles of progesterone, oestrogen, insulin & testosterone in the body. How complex & amazing the process of menstruation, conception & pregnancy is. And not in a hippy earth mother way, in a scientific & completely nerdy way, its addictive to research because its so bloody fascinating. In fact, in comparison, men’s bodies are pretty bloody simplistic and boring (no wonder there are so many male OBGYNs). And this is something that every woman should appreciate & be proud of.
I hope someone who was like me a year ago stumbles across this blog and benefits from the information I wish I knew a long time ago.