I was having coffee last week with a friend who divulged to me that she and her husband were trying to get pregnant.
After celebrating with her about this exciting time, she told me that she is terrified that she is going to be one of those women, like so many of her friends, who struggle to get pregnant.
She’d seen friend after friend after friend go through struggle and heartbreak.
She whispered across the table to me, "Julie, I don’t think I can handle that. And if we’re being really honest, I don’t think I can handle the uncertainty of trying to get pregnant. It alone might kill me.”
This is something I help clients with every day…which is exactly why she felt comfortable bringing it up with me.
Even though it is an undeniable truth that nothing in this humanly world is truly certain or predictable, I suspected she wasn’t doing the single most thing that is necessary for a more predictable, or at least…more peaceful fertility journey.
I asked her what day of her cycle she was on and she said “I have no idea!”
There are so many factors that contribute to whether or not you will get pregnant (most, if not all, of which are actually out of your control).
And, there are so many conversations I have with clients every day about optimizing their fertility that include nutrition, stress management, sleep, hormone blood tests, supplements, acupuncture, meditation, and more.
Yes, while none of those things can predict a pregnancy, all of those things can be important and can help create favorable circumstances for pregnancy.
And while those things are important, they aren’t the most important thing.
That’s right— the #1 thing that you need to do to help you get pregnant is none of those things.
It is knowing exactly where you are in your cycle.
This of course requires that you have a normal cycle (many of my clients struggle with skipping periods, not ovulating, or having cycles that are way too long or way too short).
So, if I’m being honest, that’s actually step one.
But once you’re there, it’s important to know what cycle day you’re on at any given moment.
So if you’re like my friend and falling down on the job of tracking and counting, please know you are not alone, and it is ok!
I’ll walk you through what you need to do so you can keep it simple.
1) You need to know the ins and outs of your cycle. Let’s start with the period itself.
We were taught in high school that you should get a period every 28 days. Which is only kinda true, because technically you are “normal” if you get your period every 21-35 days.
There are about a thousand different reasons your cycle may go long or short and this may even vary from cycle to cycle. But first, you really need to just start measuring and tracking.
And there’s really no reason in this day and age to not do it!
There are countless apps out there (even one that is already built into the iPhone’s factory settings) that help you track your cycle.
Or you can just do it the old fashioned way with a calendar.
I created a lovely free guide, Energize Your Health, to help you out with this if you want to get a kickstart and learn even more than an app can teach you. You can check that out here.
2) You need to know when you’re within the timeframe of the “main event” of the menstrual cycle…which is NOT your period!
I know! Surprising right?
In fact, let’s just have a quick vocabulary lesson before we proceed.
The menstrual cycle is not your period. It’s the actual full length of the whole cycle which, by convention, is defined from day 1 of your period to the next day 1 of your next period.
The period is the time that the uterus is shedding its lining (i.e. you’re bleeding).
And while both of these things are helpful things to know about when trying to get prego, neither of these things is the main thing you need to be paying attention to.
What is the main event, you ask?
Well allow me to tell you!
Simply put, ovulation is required in order to get pregnant. You literally cannot get pregnant without it. And you only ovulate within a 3-5 day window in your cycle.
This means that if you are paying close attention to whether you ovulate, you can more or less predict when you need to be “trying.” And it only has to be for about a week or so of your entire cycle (unless you just want to have sex more often, in which case I say GO FOR IT!)
Ok…so now that you know what ovulation is, let’s get you paying attention to it!
But wait lemme guess…
Nobody taught you how to track ovulation back in 6th grade sex ed class, now did they?
Great, lemme help you with that, too.
Ovulation can be measured by paying attention to your cervical mucus (you know, the sticky stuff that shows up in your underwear throughout the month), your cervix position (this is going to require some intimate time with yourself), and your waking (morning) basal body temperature (this requires a special thermometer).
I’m going to let you google the first two things. As for temperature—in short, you track your temperature every morning before you get out of bed (literally before your feet hit the floor). You should see a rise in temperature if you have ovulated, and that temperature rise should remain until you start your period.
This rise corresponds with the release of the hormone progesterone. Progesterone does a lot of AMAZING things like give you better hair, skin, sleep, moods, brain focus, bone health, less crampy periods, and so much more. Most importantly, progesterone is a KEY factor in ensuring that you can maintain the early stages of a pregnancy.
You can also use over the counter ovulation prediction kits although these don’t necessarily predict ovulation but instead the hormone surge that sometimes-but-not-always leads to ovulation.
For most of my clients, I prefer the mucus/cervix/temperature tracking method. It’s cost effective, private (you don’t have to leave your house!) and technically more precise.
Just what you need if you’re the type who likes as much predictability as possible in something that’s completely unpredictable.
3) But wait…You need to know that not every menstrual cycle includes ovulation.
Before you go running out buying thermometers and charting your daily temperatures, do know that it’s possible to have a menstrual cycle that does not include ovulation.
If you’re not ovulating, you simply will not get pregnant. If there is no egg released, you can have all the sex you want, but the egg will not get fertilized.
There are many reasons for having what’s called an anovulatory cycle, which include:
Not having been off of birth control for long enough—it can take weeks to months to even up to a year or so for some people for their hormones to return to “normal.”
How much you exercise (you can exercise too little or too much and affect ovulation)
What you eat (you can eat too little or too much or certain macronutrients and affect ovulation)
How much stress there is in your life (if you tend to be a “control freak,” it can catch up to whether you ovulate or not)
How much sleep you get
And much, much more
How many times you’ve ovulated before
And back to our tracking conversation—If you do not ovulate, you will not see your temperature rise. This means there is no progesterone.
Not having enough progesterone is important for your overall health even if you’re not trying to get pregnant. Low progesterone and anovulatory cycles not only don’t bode well for pregnancy, but they also mean that there is something going on in your health that needs to be addressed.
For most of my clients, usually this is too much unchecked physical or emotional stress in their lives.
So if you tend to run on the high stress, high exercise, low energy, perfectionistic, or too-much-on-your-plate side of things, then it may be affecting your ability to ovulate and/or produce progesterone.
And…there is A LOT you can do for this that doesn’t require you to take pills or go on hormone treatments.
Want to learn more? Check out my free guide, Energize Your Health, which is your kickstart to getting better cycles, more energy, less stress and more peace with trying to get pregnant.
4) You need to know when it’s time to get busy.
Once you start tracking, you may also notice an increase in energy and sex drive right around the time you’re ovulating.
This is because of the normal way your hormones flow when you ovulate.
Let’s just say your sex drive hormones go up when you ovulate, and that’s nature’s way of trying to help you along to conceive.
The good news here is if you are tracking your cycle daily, you will know exactly where you are in your cycle, and you will know when it’s time to have sex. Alternatively, if you are trying to avoid getting pregnant, you will know this is the time to be careful, use contraception, or abstain.
Generally speaking, if you do ovulate, there is only a 3-5 day window within each cycle during which you can get pregnant.
This means you can have all the sex you want throughout the rest of your cycle, but if it’s not around the time that you’re ovulating, then you may have some lovely bonding time with your partner (hooray!) but unfortunately, it's unlikely a baby will come from it…
This is something that surprises so many of my clients. They are told by their well-meaning health providers to just have sex every day or every other day. Many people (and their partners) feel a lot of pressure to "perform" so often.
Rest assured--you don't have to feel that pressure all the time. You can start tracking, and start to time it when it feels right. Listening to and trusting your body are really awesome skills to attain!
5) Beyond trying to get pregnant, tracking your cycle is a great way to get in touch with your body’s rhythms outside of your reproductive system.
Because ovulation, periods, and conception require an enormous amount of energy to occur, the rest of your body must be in tip top shape in order for you to get pregnant.
The body will not prioritize reproduction if something else in your health is out of check, especially your stress and mental health.
The body will says “Oh wow! She is stressed out and running from a tiger all the time! This is certainly not the time to make a baby!”
And it will actually shut down ovulation so that it can “tend” to the stress—whether that stress is from a mental health source or from another health problem.
All of this happens without your permission of course, and can certainly be frustrating.
So if you are tracking your cycles and you notice that after several months that you don’t seem to be ovulating or your periods are wonky, it is the #1 sign that something else is going on in your health that likely needs to be addressed first.
And that’s what I’m here for!
I love to help women who are struggling with period and fertility problems…or who wanna get pregnant LIKE YESTERDAY to tap into their intuition and design a personalized plan to set them up for success without feeling out of control.
You can check out my free guide, Energize Your Health, to get a kickstart on getting your cycles tracked and in gear, get the right stress and nutrition support for a healthy cycle and ovulation, and to feel your very best every single day.
And if you want more personalized help or have questions I didn’t address in this blog, please don’t hesitate to reach out by sending me an email.
Ready, set, go!
Let me know how it goes!
I look forward to hearing from you!
In love and health,