If you've joined the club of couples hoping for a baby and still trying, you may have come across mentions of 'charting' as a conception aid and wondered what it was all about. Simply put, charting is a means of observing changes in your body throughout your menstrual cycle to give you a good idea of when you are at your most fertile so you can concentrate your baby-making efforts around that time.
Once you've decided to try for a baby, you and your partner may be happy just seeing how it goes but if you're keen to fall pregnant as soon as possible, or if you've been trying for a while without success, then you might want to be sure that you're timing some of your lovemaking when you are most fertile. This fertile period is roughly the few days leading up to ovulation and a day after ovulation, and the closer to the time of ovulation, the better.
But how do you know when you're ovulating? The oft-quoted norm for ovulation is about 14 days before your next period is due, but this doesn't much help if you don't have regular cycles, and in any case it can vary for all women: Tracking the changes in your body and keeping a record of them on a chart helps you take the guess work out of it and is a lot cheaper than using ovulation predictor kits.
So what changes do you need to look out for? There are three commonly tracked changes. Many women chart temperature alone, or temperature and cervical fluid.
a) Temperature - Most women who chart their fertility signs take their temperature when they wake up each morning keeping a look out for the rise in temperature that tells them that they have ovulated.
b) Cervical fluid - To give you a good idea of when you're leading up to ovulation, you can keep an eye on how your cervical fluid changes, it becomes clear, thick and stretchy (an egg-white consistency) as ovulation approaches.
c) Cervical position - Your cervix changes position and shape as you approach ovulation, which you can check using a finger.
It may sound a little daunting to keep a daily record of these changes, but once you're in the habit of doing it it's relatively simple. You do need to make sure that you know what you're looking for however, so if you're interested in trying to chart then you can find out more in this article on the basics of charting. If you really can't tell your follicular from your luteal then start off by reading up about the menstrual cycle and be sure to know at what part of the cycle you are most fertile. And when you're all set they you can get your charts to fill in here.