Cycle 1 - Jan/Feb 2016

Ovulation - day 24
Luteal phase - 6 days
Cycle length - 30 days

Summary

This is where it all begins and what a disaster.  This cycle has a long follicular stage, ovulating on around day 24 of the cycle, and a very short luteal phase of 6 days.  A chart like this is not conducive to pregnancy.  Overall message: Must try harder.  

The action I took in cycle 1 to result in this chart:

  • Focusing on nutrition (step 1) - striving to complete the Preggers Kitchen checklist daily, although to be honest I was't as strict as I should have been and this is to be improved next month.  
  • Dry January (step7) - only half a bottle of red wine passed my lips in January.  
  • Rescued sugar consumption (step 10) - For the first 2 weeks in January I reduced my sugar intake to only natural sugars (fruit, good faulty honey etc).  Then from the second week onwards I cut out sugar completely until my period in mid February.  The result was that my already very low body fat level dropped from 18% down to 16%. 

Focus for cycle 2

Extending my luteal phase will be my main ambition for the next cycle.  From a pitiful and non-fertile 6 days to a lustrous 12 days.  Can I double it in one month?  Hmm, may be a bit tricky but what is life without a challenge to strive for and probably spectacularly miss?  So, my plan is to:

  • Nutrition (step 1) - do it better, more rigidly.  Yes, I will become a boring person and yes a boiled egg still is not a socially acceptable snack to have at my desk but I won't let that stop me.  I will try harder to complete the tick list daily.
  • Superfoods (step 2) - The dreaded maca powder will be consumed daily.  What a treat.
  • Vitamins and herbs (step 6) - Vitamins specifically targeted at extending the luteal phase will be consumed daily including Vitamin B6 as part of a Vitamin B complex (100 mg) and Vitamin C.

Cycle 2 - Feb/March 2016

Attachment-2.jpeg

Ovulation - day 22
Luteal phase - 10 days
Cycle length - 32 days

Summary

Getting better!  Ovulation around day 22, which is 2 days earlier than the previous month and, most importantly, 4 more precious days added to my luteal phase, making it 10 days.  It was also better timed 'attempts' this month which is resulting from my increased understanding of fertility charting and my body.  Luteal phase still too short, but at least the slow travel is in the right direction.

The action I took in cycle 2 to result in this chart:

  • Superfoods - Consuming maca powder nearly every day.  I was hoping that I would be used to the taste, but alas, not yet.
  • Vitamins - I took vitamin B complex (100 mg) every day for the whole cycle and vitamin C on weekdays (not intentionally excluding weekends.  My Vitamin C tablets are at work and I keep forgetting to purchase any for home).
  • Nutrition - I have been better with my food this month.  Well, generally better.  I have officially and disgracefully fallen off the no sugar band wagon. 

Focus for cycle 3

Once again it is that pesky luteal phase.  I want 12 days.  Well actually, I want 14 days and a healthy pregnancy but I appreciate that I need to take baby steps (pun intended, sorry) and aim for a 12 day luteal phase next month.  I also want to ovulate earlier than ever before (less than day 20), so I'm focusing on getting a teenage ovulation.

  • Nutrition - Eating a large daily portion of green leafy vegetables.  I know that I should have been doing this from the start and yet I have been obstinately putting it off just because they are disgusting.  What does pleasure have to do with anything?  This baby making thing stopped being fun a long time ago so it is about time to make it less fun by adding plenty of greens.  
  • Gut health - Eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut (including attempting to make my own), milk kaffir, water kaffir amongst others.  Basically, if it has gone off I am gobbling it up.  I am also taking a daily probiotic.
  • Fertility massage - Yep, I have gone over to the land of the woo woo and I am embracing all things hippy including a fertility massage (the womb is just a muscle and it is an abdominal massage, right?), womb steaming and hot oil treatment in order to get the circulation flowing into 'my regions'.  

Cycle 3 - April 2016

Ovulation - day 22
Luteal phase - 10 days
Cycle length - 32 days

Summary

Identical to last month - ovulation at day 22 and a 10 day luteal phase.  There are clearly some negatives to this cycle and I did not meet my targets for this month.  I have not made positive progress towards earlier ovulation or a longer luteal phase.  But I am going to focus on the positives.  My cycle s have previously varied hugely month to month and getting a more consistent cycle is a vast improvement.

The action I took in cycle 3 to result in this chart:

  • Fermented foods - home made and (mainly) delicious.  I have seen a big improvement in my gut health.
  • I now love greens - I have been substituting greens for pastas and ensuring that I eat some greens every day.  Oddly, I like it and cannot see myself going back.
  • First fertility massage - Gave me a cleaner bleed (less dark blood at the end of my period) and generally pepped up my spirits.

Focus for cycle 4

My goal remains the same and will do so until I meet it.  I want ovulation to occur in less than 20 days and a 12 day luteal phase.  That would be huge progress to make within a month, so let's see how I do.  My focus will be on:

  • Increasing fermented foods to heal my gut - I have been outwitted by diary ferments so I will stick with water keffir and kombucha.  Both are easy to make and delicious.
  • Come off the huge number of vitamins, minerals, herbs and supplements that I have been taking in order to give my digestive system a break and to aid detoxification.

Cycle 4 - May 2016

Ovulation - day 25
Luteal phase - 10 days
Cycle length - 35 days

Summary

Maintaining the luteal phase at 10 days is great because this has become my new norm.  I'm now a double digit luteal phase person and it feels AMAZING!  Later ovulation around day 25 is not so good and the difference between the pre and post ovulation temperatures were pretty small.

The action I took in cycle 4 to result in this chart:

  • Travelling long distance for work this month may have stressed my body and delayed ovulation by a few days.  Having said that, it is not uncommon for my cycles to vary by around 5 days per cycle, so I could be blaming the travel unfairly.
  • No vitamins or herbal supplements taken in cycle 4.  Surprisingly, this had no impact on my luteal phase.  I had some fear that not taking my vitamin B complex or my vitamin C would, which have both been shown to increase luteal phases, could have had an adverse impact.  But the results show otherwise. 
  • Switching personal care products and household cleaning products to natural versions with reduced toxins in order to reduce my body's toxic load.

Focus for cycle 5

For fear of sounding like a broken record, I want to ovulate in less than 20 days.  When will it happen?  This and a 12 day luteal phase will remain my goal until reached.

I will focus on:

  • Implementing the GAPS diet - Following the GAPs diet in order to clean out my digestive system and fix my gut. Good bye cups of tea, hello bone broth. This should help my body to detox.  Once I am healed I can reintroduce vitamin and herbal supplements with the hope that my body is better able to digest and use the goodness that I am providing to it.
  • Step up the fertility friendly exercise.  I haven't been doing enough exercise up until now.  When the fertility nurse asked if I exercise regularly I nodded along whilst taking a guilty mental note to start.  For the next cycle I will undertake gentle 30 minutes runs around 3 times a week and around 50 minutes of yoga 3 times a week.
  • Body detoxification - adding a green smoothy to my morning routine, as well as necking a pint of water with lemon on first waking up.  

Cycle 5 - June 2016

Ovulation - day 20
Luteal phase - 9 days
Cycle length - 29 days

Summary

One step forward and two steps back.  Earliest ever ovulation at day 20, but followed by a shorter (9 day luteal phase) than the previous two months.  This cycle is my shortest ever, the only one to date of less than 30 days.  Making good headway on the ovulation front, but this stubborn luteal phase Just. Won't. Budge.  I decided to trial not taking my temperatures during the luteal phase to relax my obsession during the two week wait.  It was a more peaceful approach but I miss the stats.  I'm a lover of data and will be keeping my temperatures next month.

The action I took in cycle 5 to result in this chart:

  • Once again, no vitamins or herbal supplements taken in this cycle.  Instead I focused on eating a healthy GAPs inspired diet, seriously cutting out starches, gluten and limiting my dairy.
  • I endured a good amount of exercise this month including gentle jogs, yoga and strength/resistance training which I did most days with at least one recovery day a week where I did jack all.
  • I drank plenty of fresh filtered water and meditated for 10 minutes most days to calm me down.
  • I began detoxing using activated charcoal, both on my skin and orally in a glass of water.

Focus for cycle 6

So close (but no cigar) to reaching my ovulation goal.  This clearly shows me that what I am doing is helping regulate my ovulation but is doing nothing to assist with taming the unruly luteal phase.  So, that is my focus next month.  I need the longest luteal phase of my life.  That's the goal.  I feel some research may be in order....

I will focus on:

  • Taking high quality, bio-available vitamins B6, B12 and C in order to help to lengthen my luteal phase.
  • Continue with the diet that is low in starches, no gluten and low sugar, also bearing in mind the dietary teachings in the Better Baby book.
  • Stepping up the body detoxification with dry body brushing and taking activated charcoal.

Cycle 6 - July 2016

chart 6 july.jpeg

Ovulation - day 20
Luteal phase - 11 days
Cycle length - 31 days

Summary

This, my friends, is my longest luteal phase ever!  I did it!  I only bloomin did it!  To cap my enthusiasm slightly, 11 days is still not within the normal range as between 12 to 14 days is ideal.  But this is one giant leap for womankind in the right direction.  Ovulation on day 20 is not too shabby either.  The spotting on cycle day 13 was the result of the HSG test (shudder) the day before.

The action I took in cycle 6 to result in this chart:

  • I truly believe that the high quality and bio-available vitamins that I have started to take have resulted in my longer luteal phase.  I based my vitamin supplementation on the evidence that I could find on this issue and it paid off.  
  • To be perfectly frank, I fell of the healthy eating wagon this month.  Quite spectacularly fell.  And the wagon departed before I managed to jump back on.  If I were in a help group meeting I would be stood on my chair confessing to eating gluten and dairy and sugar (lots of sugar) and some starches.  
  • Meditating daily and continued use of non-chemical toiletries and cleaning products throughout this month.

Focus for cycle 7

Increasing that luteal phase into the normal range.  It feels more achievable now that I have managed finally to tilt the dial in the right direction.  Let us see whether these vitamins can push me into the normal range for the first time since charts began (back in October 2015).

I will focus on:

  • Taking high quality, bio-available vitamins B6, B12 and C in order to help to lengthen my luteal phase.
  • Get back on track with my health eating routine and not be dragged into the summer holiday spirit of throwing caution to the wind, with a Margarita in one hand and a BBQ burger in the other.  That sounds great just writing it, so I suspect that I'm in for a bit of trouble.

Cycle 7 - August 2016

Ovulation - day 20
Luteal phase - 11 days
Cycle length - 31 days

Summary

Exactly the same cycle as last month, ovulation on day 20 and an 11 day luteal phase.  To be pedantic (and I am), it was an 11.5 day luteal phase because my period began in the evening and I almost made it to day 12.  That is how desperate I am to make the 12 day mark, I'm counting half days.  It's like when someone adds a half inch onto their heigh measurement (five foot two and a half....) it is always a sure sign that they are short.  

The action I took in cycle 7 to result in this chart:

  • I continued with my high quality and bio-available vitamins and added more vitamins, based mainly on advice from the Better Baby Book by David and Lana Asprey.  The vitamins I take are outlined here.
  • My fall from grace on the food stakes (or should I say steaks) has continued throughout August.  My diet was not terrible but my adherence to gluten and dairy-free living waned.
  • I have been out in the sunshine more, enjoying a rare warm English summer and soaking up some much needed vitamin D..

Focus for cycle 8

Increasing that luteal phase into the normal range, again. I bore myself with this one, it really is a broken record.

I will focus on:

  • Taking high quality, bio-available vitamins B6, B12 and C in order to help to lengthen my luteal phase.
  • Get back on track with my health eating routine.

Cycle 8 - September 2016

Ovulation - day 16
Luteal phase - 12 days
Cycle length - 28 days

Summary

Yeeees! My first perfectly healthy, (hopefully) fertile cycle that meets all of my 4 conditions for my 12 month challenge!  Ovulation on day 16 took me by surprise, hence the lack of well timed red hearts on my chart.  I has summed that the temperature jump was due to being on a hot holiday abroad.  Until breast tenderness began on day 17, a sure sign for me that ovulation has occurred.  Nice differentiation between the pre and post ovulation temperature shift and a good 12 day luteal phase,  This chart makes me a happy bunny.

The action I took in cycle 8 to result in this chart:

I spent half of this month on holiday, in Cornwall and in Spain.  This resulted in: 

  • Plenty of relaxation and a good sleep routine.
  • Plenty of sunshine (and accompanying vitamin D) outdoor living and long walks.
  • My food was not strictly gluten free but was better throughout this month than last.
  • I continued with my high quality and bio-available vitamins outlined here.

Focus for cycle 9

To keep my cycles consistent.  A direct repeat of this chart would be perfect.  Although next cycle I am due to start the fertility drug Clomid, so it will not be a purely natural cycle.  It will be interesting to see the impact.

I will focus on:

  • Eating a gluten and dairy-free diet once again.  
  • Taking high quality, bio-available vitamins B6, B12 and C in order to help to lengthen my luteal phase.
  • Meditation and staying stress free for my return to work.

Cycle 9 - October 2016

Ovulation - day 18
Luteal phase - 11 days
Cycle length - 29 days

Summary

My first cycle on the fertility drug Clomid (50 mg).  No major side effects from the drug and very little impact on my cycle.  Not sure whether that is a good or a bad thing.  Slightly later ovulation, on day 18, and frustratingly a shorter luteal phase at 11 days.  As you can see by the red hearts, we tried really hard this month!

The action I took in cycle 9 to result in this chart:

  • Taking Clomid, although I'm unsure of what effect, if any, it had on my cycle.
  • Continuing on a nutrient rich, dairy and gluten free diet.
  • Being more regular with my exercise (2 yoga sessions and 2 runs a week)

Focus for cycle 10

Gutted that my luteal phase has dropped down by a day and the focus, as ever, goes back to that. 

I will focus on:

  • Continuing with the regular exercise routine
  • Continuing to be strict with my nutrient rich food, including taking my own lunches and snacks to work to avoid temptation

Cycle 10 - November 2016

Ovulation - day 18
Luteal phase - 11 days
Cycle length - 29 days

Summary

Identical to my last cycle, despite this cycle being a 'natural' cycle and last cycle being on Clomid (50 mg).  

The action I took in cycle 10 to result in this chart:

  • Being strict with sticking to my diet, finally getting the food back on track after the 'big slip' over the summer.
  • Being more regular with my exercise (2 yoga sessions and 2 runs a week)

Focus for cycle 11

The last cycle in 2016.  The last cycle in my 12 month challenge.  I want it to be a good one.  Can I relive the 'golden age' of my September cycle and hit all of my criteria?  Now that I have my food and vitamins down in a regular pattern, I will go back to focusing on other aspects.

I will focus on:

  • Nailing my sleep routine,  To bed early (before 10pm), my phone off from 9pm, no water from 8pm (to eliminate the need for nighttime wee).  I'm hoping that more sleep and a rested body may help bring forward ovulation.
  • Meditation, which I will do daily, using both the general Headspace App and the fertility specific Circle and Bloom programme.  The intention is to reduce any stress in my body.
  • Detoxification, of both my body and of my home.
  • Keep on with the vitamin regime in the hope that my luteal phase will again increase to 12 days.  I am also adding iodine supplementation on top of my usual vitamin regime.
  • Drinking plenty of water and good liquids.  I have let this slip lately, so daily I will try for: 1 mug of bone broth, at least 3 pints of water, 1 cup of detox tea and 1 smoothie.  That is a tall order, so wish me luck.