Fertility: Tools of the Trade

Expecting a baby comes with a lot of excuses to shop and prepare, but there are a lot of things you can purchase or learn to prepare for trying to conceive. This is a list of the best tools to help you achieve conception.

Chart for tracking your cycle

This can be a paper chart, like the one found here, or there are many apps that help you track your cycle. Charting helps you keep track of all your fertility information as well as gives a visual for interpreting this information. Some health care practitioners will take the information from your charts to help guide the next steps in fertility treatment or to get a more accurate due date once you achieve pregnancy.

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cervical mucus and cervical height

Now, these aren’t exactly things that you go out and buy, but your cervix gives you important information when determining your most fertile days. In a usual cycle, your cervical mucus gets wetter and stretchier as you approach ovulation until it reaches a consistency similar to egg whites. This sticky, stretchy cervical mucus usually appears on the days surrounding ovulation and helps sperm survive longer and move quicker to the egg. Seeing this kind of mucus is a sign that you are at your most fertile and is the best time for sex to achieve pregnancy.

Your cervix height also changes throughout your cycle. When you are infertile, the cervix is usually low, firm, and closed. As you approach ovulation, the cervix softens, may open slightly, and feel higher in the vaginal canal. While this fertile symptom often takes some practice to determine, it can be a helpful hint if you are in your fertile window.

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A Thermometer

This isn’t just any thermometer, but a basal body thermometer for determining your basal body temperature (BBT). A basal body thermometer gives you a more accurate and precise temperature reading than a fever thermometer, and you need the more accurate reading to determine your BBT, the temperature of your body at it’s resting. Your BBT can be used to detect small changes in temperature without the influence of physical activity interfering with the results, so you should take your temperature first thing in the morning, after at least four hours of continuous sleep. You shouldn’t get up or make any big movements, so make sure to have your thermometer within arms reach as you sleep.

This temperature is the most helpful way to see if and when you ovulate in a given cycle. The dominate hormone at the beginning of the cycle (pre-ovulation) is estrogen while the dominate hormone at the end of the cycle is progesterone. Progesterone is a warmer hormone and will raise the your basal body temperature at least .2 of a degree in comparison to the beginning of your cycle. A cycle with this temperature shift almost always indicates ovulation has already occurred. This shift confirms your other fertility symptoms did lead to ovulation and lets you know that successfully ovulating is not a problem. 17 consecutive days of high temperatures also is a good indicator of pregnancy achievement, which leads to…

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Pregnancy Tests

While the common suggestion is to wait until a missed period or 17 consecutive days of high temperatures to take a pregnancy test, many people find it hard to wait that long to take a home pregnancy test. But the cost of taking several pregnancy tests a cycle can add up, especially if you’re springing for the digital tests. Luckily there are cheaper options that are just as sensitive and accurate as the more expensive options. These cheaper versions work the same way as their expensive counterparts but usually come without the plastic packaging around the test strip. Some of my favorites are Wondfo (found on Amazon) or the Dollar Tree HPTs. Many people sometimes follow up a positive inexpensive test with a digital test that has the unambiguous “pregnant” or “not pregnant” just to be certain they really are pregnant. Just remember first morning urine will give you the most concentration of HcG (the pregnancy hormone) and gives you the best chance of getting an early positive.

Honorable mentioned: prenatal vitamins and preseed

Neither of these are necessary for fertility, but could still be important when trying to conceive. A prenatal vitamin, especially one that has folic acid or folate, can help build up important vitamins in your system before conception. Taking folic acid in early pregnancy has been shown to reduce neural tube defects like spina bifida by 50%. Some studies also suggest it can take several months to build up the proper amount of some vitamins, so go ahead and begin taking those vitamins now.

A lot of people don’t know that many sexual lubricants can actually get in the way of conception. Many lubricants make it difficult for sperm to survive and slow down it’s ability to move towards the egg (though lube should not be used as a contraceptive). Preseed and other fertility friendly lubricants are designed to mimic cervical mucus and aid in conception. While preseed isn’t necessary, it can make sex easier and more enjoyable than going without a lubricant or can help improve the possibility of conception if you’re concerned about the quality of your cervical mucus.

While there are many other things that might be helpful or even necessary for conception, I’ve found these are the best things to focus on and master to help you understand your fertility and get the best results for the most people.

Still confused or need some help getting started with fertility charting? Or maybe you have hit a road block and want some help troubleshooting. Check out my one on one fertility support packages or join the new fertility coaching course to learn more about your body and fertility charting. Remember, for the month of January, get your second month of fertility support free when you buy your first month.

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