Why on earth can't I get pregnant?! Where to begin?
Start fertility charting
Menstrual cycles are a key component of fertility and it all starts with the data. Collecting my stats is not just highly enjoyable (I love stats) but essential for me to understand what is happening with my fertility. All of my charts, warts and all, are published on the My Monthly Results page, keeping me accountable to my 12 month challenge to regulate my cycles.
What the hell is fertility charting? Good question. It is pretty simple in theory - you log your periods, discharge in your pants (gross I know) and your body temperature and keep it in a chart. It’s gone all modern and fertility charts are available on phone apps, which means that you have whip it out and obsess about your chart any time of the day. The basics of charting had been outlined by the American Pregnancy Association.
The benefits of fertility charting are that you can more accurately predict the days that you are fertile, and therefore when to have sex. It will show you if you are ovulating and if you have any other obvious problems with your cycles. It will also let you know that you may be pregnant, potentially before the pee sticks can detect pregnancy.
4 key tools to start fertility charting:
1. A digital thermometer - I use a Braun Digital Thermometer which records my temperature to one decimal place and gives an unfortunately irritating beep to let me know that the temperature has been taken successfully. It can be used orally or under the arm pit. There are plenty of other body temperature thermometers available online and they are not too expensive, under £15.
2. A fertility chart - I use the (free) Kindara app from the app store to note my information and it automatically creates the fertility chart, like the ones available on my monthly results page. It also provides access to a knowledge base with questions, answers and example charts as well as an excellent community of like minded and supportive fertility charters, many of whom are trying to conceive.
3. Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler - Toni Weschler's book is the is bible of fertility charting, covering the key concepts and the basics of how to chart. It is the starter manual that many use to begin. Be warned, it is a textbook, but easily readable and contains a fabulous trouble shooting section at the back of the book.
4. The Fertility Friday Podcast - Listening to the (free) Fertility Friday podcast helped me to get to grips with concepts of fertility awareness. The rational voice of Lisa leads the listener through interviews on topics such as coming off the pill, irregular periods and unexplained infertility. The first few episodes of the podcast in particular focus on the basics of fertility charting.
Charting is brilliant, but I must remember that it is only one piece of the puzzle and it wouldn't show me if I had structural issues impeding my fertility, such as blocked fallopian tubes or no eggs, which will require (no doubt highly unpleasant) medical tests.
Set a fertility goal
My main goal is to get pregnant, but anyone who has struggled with fertility will know how overwhelming that goal can seem and how powerless you feel about making it a reality. What has really helped me is to focus on the aspects that are within my control. I may not be able to control pregnancy, but I can control my cycles – and I have to trust that one will lead to the other.
Set clear goals for your fertility. I will lend you my goals based on research on the characteristics of the most fertile cycles (set out here) or you can set your own. Without specific goals, how will you know when you've achieved them? Remember to leave yourself sufficient time to meet your aims, as lifestyle changes take time to filter through into changes in your cycle. It took me 9-12 months to begin meeting all my goals.
Break it down into manageable steps and focus on one step at a time
Breaking my goal down into small and manageable steps was essential for me not to feel overwhelmed. The ten food and lifestyle steps that I took to regulate my cycles could work your your body as well as they did for mine. But it's all about experimentation, sucking and seeing, Pick just one step to focus on initially, for me this was fixing my gut as this was my most urgent issue. Once that change has become routine, then add another step. And another, and another.....