*My usual warning, this is a fertility post. You know ovaries and stuff. Beware if that’s not your thing.*
I find people rave about charting, but don’t often explain why. So I want to lay out the reasons fertility charting has proven to be totally kick ass in my life.
1. The biggest realization from charting answered a persistent puzzle of mine since I was a young teen – my migraines. I’ve always had terrible migraines. I tried all the medicines, which usually just made me nauseous. I went on Topomax a long time ago, but lost sensation in my hands and feet as a side effect and was like, “Um, no, that’s not for me.” So I was stuck with ibuprofen and a nap. Which of course, in the working world I can’t always come by. Through charting I discovered, my migraines almost always come in phase 3. In fact, that’s my tell-tale sign that I have actually ovulated. In a weird way, I learned to like my migraines, I understand where they come from now. I’d love to investigate further which vitamins or diet changes can be made to alleviate my migraines.
2. I think in all our health classes, girls accept puberty and the menstrual cycle to mean periods. You bleed once a month. End of story. We don’t look further into the fact that we have some 25 other odd days of a cycle. Through charting, I learned how intrinsically connected every day of a cycle is to another. Menses is a direct product of ovulation, therefore ovulation determines when your period will begin. That’s right, I know 14 days in advance when I will get my period. Every month. I’m not so sure they make that clear in health classes. Your period is never late, it’s always (well, the majority of the time) the same distance from ovulation, around 14-16 days. What does happen is ovulation gets delayed (by stress, hormone imbalance, illness, just because your ovaries don’t feel like it..) and therefore our periods come “late”. I read something online once where a woman was saying “You can get pregnant a week before your period. I did.” Technically, there’s a lot of wrong in that sentence. You can get pregnant a week before you expect your period if you’re going off of standard/counting days, and haven’t ovulated yet. But if you know you have ovulated (bearing the fact that your luteal phase is longer than 6 days, which medically speaking, it should be.) getting pregnant a week before your period is next to impossible physically. Charting made me aware that every day of a cycle is connected to the one before and after it. Something that, embarrassingly enough, wasn’t made clear to me in health classes growing up.
3. My emotions and moods really do change throughout my cycle. I don’t know why women are so touchy about this subject, it’s like we want to deny the fact that we have menstrual cycles ? For me, I can see a direct correlation with how I feel and what phase I am in. At the end of phase 3, I am very sensitive. I take everything personally. Charting has actually helped me with this because I am aware that, perhaps, how I am feeling may not be a direct reflection of the situation. And in a weeks time or so, I may feel differently about the exact same circumstance. I don’t want this to get blown out of proportion – our cycles do not make us crazy. The PMS stereotype is a horrible illustration. But being aware of how our hormones affect our moods, I think, can give us a little more authority over them.
4. I always warn the boys (because I have SO many male readers…*sarcasm*) about posts that have female anatomy details, but if you didn’t take the first warning, here’s the second one – I’m about to talk about cervical fluid. Bolt while you can. Ok, cervical fluid – to be honest I had never friggin’ heard of cervical fluid until I picked up “Taking Charge of Your Fertility”. Toni Weschler talked about how she kept going to the doctor saying she had a yeast infection, always around the same time of her cycle. I’d be willing to bet over half of women have thought perfectly healthy, normal, fertile cervical fluid is an “infection”. Been there. Done that. This is a crime – that women aren’t taught how amazingly wonderful and important cervical fluid is. Man, when charting, you are one happy gal when you see fertile cervical fluid, it means “My body is healthy. My body is working. My body is good.” Men love to tout about their semen. Well boys, without our spectacular and intuitive cervical fluid, your semen wouldn’t last 10 minutes. No really. Which leads to #5.
5. I had no idea that there was such a narrow(ish) window that women could reproduce. I also had NO idea that without cervical fluid, semen lasts up to 20 minutes MAX. The female body, when not fertile, is naturally very hostile to sperm. (Our bodies are pretty damn smart, huh?) I was always under the impression, thanks to crappy health classes, that the female body was some kind of a pregnancy bomb – that could explode any minute. I get it, you can’t tell a 14 year old that they’re only fertile for a small window of their cycle, but geez, it sure made me feel like an idiot at age 21 when I found out.
6. For those of you that are just getting into charting – keep doing it, keep doing it, keep doing it. Those first few months can be frustrating. I spent weeks reading and researching about everyone else’s charting experience before I actually started. I expected my charts to look textbook perfect and then was frustrated when my peak temp didn’t match my CF peak day. Your body has a tempo, you just have to find it. After charting for a year now, I discovered I trust my body. It does talk to me, it does give me signs, and sometimes I feel like my body is smarter than my head. The reason people say charting is easy, is because it can be very easy once you get in your groove. But every individual has their own groove to get in.
7. Fertility is not just about babymaking! It’s the female health system. I used to think fertility charting was just for women in marriage who want a family. I thought, “I’m unmarried, not starting a family, why would I care about fertility?” It has opened my eyes to a much bigger picture of biology and beauty – all encompassed with the idea of monitoring my health. I know when I’m stressed, when I’m coming down with a cold, when I need more of what in my diet, when I need which kind of exercise. Fertility is health.
8. Ok so it’s really 8 things…I learned that the female body is awesome, and wise beyond our rationale. It’s such a shame every female isn’t empowered with fertility charting at least once.