How to Chart Your Menstrual Cycle
Cervical Mucus and Your Menstrual Cycle
Although it may take some detective work -- and may be a little off-putting to some -- learning to detect changes in your cervical mucus is an easy and highly effective of way of predicting ovulation. it may be a more accurate way of predicting ovulation than basal body temperature, although you can use both methods.
The mucus released by the cervix serves different purposes. When you're not ovulating or approaching ovulation, cervical mucus prevents sperm from getting into the uterus at a time when you couldn't become pregnant anyway. As you near ovulation, your cervix secretes an increasing amount of mucus, and when you're most fertile, your cervical mucus is stretchy and clear, like the consistency of egg whites. At this point, the mucus actually protects the sperm and helps it in its journey toward the egg.
For a woman with a 28-day cycle, the pattern of changes in her cervical mucus would look something like this:
- Days 1-5: Menstruation occurs.
- Days 6-9: Vagina is dry with little to no mucus.
- Days 10-12: Sticky, thick mucus appears, gradually becoming less thick and more white.
- Days 13-15: Mucus becomes thin, slippery, stretchy, and clear, similar to the consistency of egg whites. This is the most fertile stage.
- Days 16-21: Mucus becomes sticky and thick again.
- Days 22-28: Vagina becomes dry.
However, your menstrual cycle will may be different from that. That's why it's useful to mark changes on your own fertility chart.
Ideally, you should check your cervical mucus daily, possibly every time you go to the bathroom. If you rub some toilet paper or your fingers -- after washing your hands -- over the opening of your vagina, you should be able to detect cervical mucus. Examine the color and consistency between your fingers and make sure to write it down.
Cervical Position and Your Menstrual Cycle
Another way of learning about where you are in your menstrual cycle is to examine the position of your cervix.
First, make sure your hands are clean.
If you insert two fingers into your vagina, you should feel the cervix at the end. Before ovulation, it should feel hard and dry. During ovulation, you should notice that it seems to have shifted higher and that it feels softer and wetter.
However, it may be hard to tell exactly what you're looking for, so you may want to talk to your health care provider first.
Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs)
One generally effective way of finding out when you're ovulating, especially if you have an irregular cycle, is to use an ovulation predictor kit.
By testing the levels of lutinizing hormone (LH) in your urine, the kit can tell you when you're undergoing the surge in LH levels, which happens 12 to 36 hours before ovulation.
However, if you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), your LH levels may always be elevated, making the predicator kit unreliable. Some kits provide a computerized monitor that analyzes the level of hormones in your urine.