Friday, September 19, 2008

Generalities and A Discourse on Charting and Why I Finger Myself Daily

First and most importantly - our vacation is in a week. ONE WEEK. This time next week, we'll be near San Antonio, having just arrived (or being about to arrive) at our hotel; where we spent our honeymoon. The room we stayed in then, and where we also stayed last year, is being converted into a breakfast room, so we have moved into the brand new Carriage House Suite. Just opened, formerly a spa. It has a massive shower for two, which we plan to enjoy. It also has a massive bath for two, which we will enjoy in the carnal sense (it's exciting to put some fantasies that are not otherwise possible into action) and in the sensual sense. I have a book I've been saving and about three different types of bath soaks. We can't take baths in our tub at home, and until it's replaced, this is going to give me fond memories.

I'll talk about some of the other neat things we'll be doing each day next week leading up to the trip. I'm really excited.

Second and nearly as importantly - I had a major, major temp spike today. Up to 97.9. Which is unheard of for me in over 5 years of charting. I can't prove it, as I charted on paper for much of that time, but Dh agrees. The 97.6's I'd been seeing were definitely on the high end, but this is unprecedented and makes me exceedingly hopeful. I am actually uncertain about whether or not to continue temping, as I want to see what happens, but fear disappointment if/when it goes down. I'm feeling so optimistic that it is becoming difficult to remind myself the important things - that one temperature doesn't mean anything, that 4 cycles isn't a long time, that if I am not pregnant this time, it's ok. I keep repeating that I can drink during our trip if it's negative. I'm so, so tempted to test, but it's still 8 dpo. Too early.

And finally - what you've all been waiting for -

A Discourse on Charting and Why I Finger Myself Daily

By CottonSocks, age 28, ttc#1, cycle 4.

The thing that is important to note about charting is that it is not for everyone. Not everyone is able, due to circumstance, happenstance, or what have you, take their temperature at the same time every morning or get the necessary amount of sleep before taking their temperature.

And that is fine.

Not everyone is inclined to chart for a variety of legitimate reasons. They prefer the spontaneity and mystery, or they feel that since they are healthy, with no reason to suspect infertility and not in a rush to get pregnant soon, that charting is more effort and more scientific than they want right now.

And that is fine.

Clearly, billions of women over the course of history have gotten pregnant without the aid of a bbt and or Of course, most teenage pregnancies are the result of 'oops' rather than taking advantage of the 'fertility window.' Many women get pregnant quickly without difficulty, and many doctors still say that charting is too complicated, stressful, or unnecessary and recommend avoiding it until there is evidence of a problem.

If someone does not want to chart, that's ok with me. I will still try to help them out, if I can. However, it's difficult to help someone who has no idea when or if they ovulated or how long their cycles are or whether or not they are really late. About the only help that can be given is sympathy and a repetition or variation of the following advice: "Take a home pregnancy test. If it's negative, wait three days to a week and take another. Call your doctor after 60 days with no period. Be advised that it may just be a long cycle/anovulatory cycle/coming off birth control screwy cycle and that your doc may or may not want to see you at 60 days without a period."

The problem is that I can't magically tell whether or not someone is ovulating and whether or not they are pregnant. I can't tell them when to best time sex for optimal chances of conception. I can only tell them to be patient and test.

Part of the problem, and a notion that is quickly corrected by reading either Taking Charge of Your Fertility (TCOYF, not to be confused with the much missed TCBY) or the FAQ's and Tutorials on is that every woman as a 28 day cycle and she ovulates on cycle day 14. Unfortunately, many women still believe that mathematical forumla (which is the mean of an actual normal range of cycle length, 21-35 days, and a mean of the actual normal range of luteal phases, 12-16 days), and freak out when their period shows on cd 25 or hasn't appeared by cd 31. There is a lot of confusion and misinformation out there that at least exploring the theories behind charting clears up.

I think this is a fundamental issue that gets glossed over whenever people are recommended to read TCOYF instead of getting direct answers. Even if one chooses not to chart or not to start charting, there is a big segment of TCOYF that explains how the menstrual cycle works and lays out when you can get pregnant and when you can't. In essence, it's information we women (and hell, men too) should know, but often don't, due to misinformation and poor health programs in public schools.

Who doesn't want to know how their body works, at least on the basic biological level? And that is the other piece that takes us to the heart of charting. Charting reveals a wealth of information. In addition to the obvious - helping you learn the signs of fertility so you know when ovulation is approaching and then confirming that ovulation has occurred - charting can identify potential problems that can impact fertility. For example, if you chart, you know whether or not you have a luteal phase of the normal length to allow an embryo to implant. You know whether or not you are producing the fertile quality cervical fluid that nourishes sperm and allows them to swim towards the egg, instead of trapping them at the cervix. You know when your period is late because of possible pregnancy versus being 'late' because ovulation has not yet occured. It is possible to get a more accurate due date - which is very necessary in these days of early ultrasounds and unnecessary medical interventions (especially when it comes to things like being post-dates, or the opposite, planning an early induction or c-section)

Here is my real life example. I ovulated on cd 25 this cycle. That is nearly 2 full weeks after I 'should' have ovulated. If I am pregnant and my practitioner dates my pregnancy from my last menstrual period, then I will be considered 2 weeks ahead of where I am. It means unnecessary panic when we go to hear the heartbeat and it's not there, or when the baby is measuring too small. Since I know when I ovulated, as near as we can without ultrasound monitoring and drug triggers, we can adjust my lmp and have accurate pregnancy dating.

Charting is not difficult. It involves reading a book or the online equivalent of a book and learning about the science behind charting. It involves going to bed at a reasonable hour so that you get at least three hours of sleep before you take your temperature. It involves setting an alarm to wake up for a minute to take your temperature in the morning. It involves marking that down somewhere (often online). It involves checking your cervical fluid, either internally (as I do -hence the crude term 'fingering myself') or checking the toilet paper to see what the color, consistency and amount of the substance that your body naturally produces is.

I know, it's gross. Well, it doesn't gross me out, actually, but then I've been doing it for five years. All I can say is, yeah sometimes body secretions are gross, but we all live with them. I use hand-soap - look into it!

For me, I have not found charting stressful at all. I find ttc stressful, I find stress stressful, I find not knowing what is happening and whether or not things are well-timed stressful. I like knowing what is going on - even when the answer is 'not much'. I can take comfort in knowing that I didn't ovulate last cycle, but that I did this time. I can relax in the knowledge that I have done all I can do to get pregnant. I am relieved that if I need intervention to help me get pregnant, I can take my charts and help eliminate some initial, painful, expensive tests from the list, because we'll know I've ovulated and that we've timed things well.

Do I sometimes find humor in the situation? Oh, yes. DH has walked in on me bent in odd ways, fingers up my vagina, trying to feel my cervix for texture and openness. It's funny, it's a little odd. But it gives me a wealth of information - and it gives me a way to know intuitively whether or not we have a real chance, or not. When to test, when to expect my period, all of that. It's a relief to me.

Do you have to do it? Not if you don't feel like it. Will I advise you to read the book and do it? Yes, if you ask questions about timing sex or when to test or whether or not you might be pregnant. Ignorance is not attractive, and it seems to me that someone trying to conceive a child would be interested in at least the basic mechanics of charting, even if they choose not to go full force right away or at all.

Thus ends my discourse.

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