Are you trying to get pregnant but not sure about regular ovulation? Do you know if you are in fact making an egg each month? In 17 years of my fertility acupuncture practice, I’ve worked with women with different challenges in getting pregnant. Some have long menstrual cycles, skipped cycles, painful cycles, or difficulty figuring out if they are ovulating.
Acupuncture is highly regulatory for these types of menstrual, ovulation and hormonal irregularities. A common treatment plan is for women to see me for a once per week acupuncture and customized Chinese herbal formulas for 2-3 menstrual cycles.
This article is about tracking your ovulation and the best ways to do so. I strongly suggest to my fertility clients that they track ovulation. Sometimes women think that ovulation happens smack dab in the middle of their cycle. Making an assumption about when you are ovulating can directly impact getting pregnant. There is the somewhat mythical idea that ovulation happens on cycle Day 14 of the fairytale 28 day cycle.
In reality, few women ovulate exactly on Day 14. In fact, the ovulation day for many women can vary month to month, as much as three days. A 3-day variability can most directly impact your chances of getting pregnant. Since your egg only lives 24 to 48 hours unfertilized, you can easily miss opportunities for conception if you simply assume that you ovulate in the middle of your cycle.
Ways to Check for Ovulation
Ultrasound of the Ovaries
Ovulation Predictor Kit (OPK)
Basal Body Temperature (BBT)
Cervical Mucous Changes
Ultrasound of the Ovaries
Doctors consider the most reliable method of determining ovulation to be an ultrasound of your ovaries. If you have not had a well woman examination with your gynecologist, obstetrician or nurse practitioner within the last year, I strongly recommend it. I also strongly recommend genetic pre-screening for both men and women before getting pregnant. Genetic carrier screening is typically not done until well into a woman’s first trimester. Testing can be done before pregnancy to rule out genetic issues and head off future heart ache. Please see my book Baby Blueprints for more information on that very important topic. http://kreynoldsacupuncture.com/baby-blueprints-book/
Do share with your MD or NP that you are seeking to get pregnant so they will better be able to select the most optimal time in your cycle to schedule your appointment. They may do an ultrasound at the time of your exam. An ultrasound is painless and fast and gives precise information about the activity of your ovaries as well as the thickness of your uterine lining.
Technology in your own hands: Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs) and Fertility Monitors
Since monthly ultrasounds are usually not cost effective or possible from a scheduling perspective, the next way to track ovulation is with Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs) available at drug stores, grocery stores, and on-line.
How do OPKs work?
OPKs contain strips which are used mid-stream in urination and vary in cost from approximately $15-70 per month. 12-48 Hours prior to your ovulation, a hormone called Luteinizing Hormone (LH) will be found in higher amounts in your urine. This rise in LH in your urine is called the “LH surge”. The color changes on OPK strips will let you know you’ll soon be ovulating. If you never get a solid color change, try checking twice per day, 8 hours apart and at consistent times. While most women will see their LH surge in mornings, some women consistently produce LH later in the afternoon.
Are you getting confusing OPK results?
If you have been using OPKs for some time and you are getting inconsistent readings, you may want to consider the purchase of a Fertility monitor. Systems typically cost between $200-$400. These track changes in salinity of saliva as well as vaginal fluids. Some companies even have new mobile fertility monitors, which are smart phone compatible.
Traditional methods: BBT and Cervical Mucous
Basal Body Temperature tracking (BBT) and cervical mucous tracking are older methods of tracking ovulation. Patience and consistency is necessary for BBT monitoring. Directions for measuring your BBT and charting the results must be followed exactly, so as not to skew results. First obtain a specialized basal body temperature thermometer. These are more accurate than general body thermometers. Typical cold and flu thermometers have markings to the 0.2 degree. A BBT is marked the 0.1 degree, which is better.
Ideally at ovulation, the body temperature will bump up 0.4 degrees and stay elevated until the end of the cycle. Take your temperature first thing in the morning, at the same time each morning before even rising from bed. It is best to take measurements only after at least three hours of uninterrupted sleep. Have the thermometer at your beside so as not to have to get out of bed and move around before taking your temperature. Activity will drive your temperature up and give you false readings. BBT charts are easily downloadable on-line and there are many smart phone apps that now make this tracking process even easier.
Please do keep in mind several things about BBTs. Some women do not show the 0.4 increase in their basal body temperature, but that does not mean all is lost. Certain hormonal or medical situations impact whether your BBT rises. Some examples are PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) or medications. Also keep in mind that once you see the rise in your basal body temperature, you have already ovulated. So tracking with a BBT chart gives you insight to the trends in your ovulation patterns. However the best timing of intercourse is before that temperature rise happens.
If you notice consistent patterns in your BBT like an up and down, sawtooth temperature shape or others, which is not a 0.4 increase sustained until menstrual bleeding, this is a perfect issue with which to consult with an acupuncturist. Each type of pattern shape corresponds with specific diagnoses in Oriental medicine. Acupuncturists have a wealth of acupuncture points and Chinese herbs, which address irregularities specifically.
Checking cervical mucous is another more traditional way to monitor ovulation. Cervical mucous changes consistency at ovulation. It will become fluffy much like egg whites when you are ovulating. However, for some women, changes in cervical mucous are not so obvious. Most BBT charts provide extra columns for notes for you to track mucous changes as well as any other symptoms you may have.
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