Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Uncharted territory

If girl stuff squicks you, move along to another post. I promise I won't do this often. This is pretty cool stuff anyway in my opinion, but your mileage may vary.

So, after our miscarriage in January, I have gone a little bit crazy. It starts quietly at first, but this is the kind of thing that can rapidly absorb your attention and bloom into full blown craziness. Yep. Thanks, biological clock.

Now, I seem to be obsessed with my reproductive system. I don't think this will last, but I have a combination of paranoia, curiosity, and diligence that subs in nicely for craziness.

Everyone pity Pat now.

Innocuously enough, this started with me wanting to find out more about how my system worked so that I could tell if it was working properly. (Miscarriage is not a sign that it's not working properly -- it is extremely common and indicates that something has gone wrong... and does not indicate that it will go wrong again, in most cases.) I acquired a copy of Toni Weschler's book, Taking Charge of Your Own Fertility, and started charting my cycles.

The theory is simple: hormonal fluctuations cause your temperature to rise dramatically after you have ovulated. It stays high until you menstruate, at which point it plummets and stays low until you ovulate again. Neat. Precise.

All it requires is staying in bed, warm and cozy, for 5 extra minutes after you wake up to take your temperature with a basal thermometer. Easy, right? Well... if you're like me and your full bladder awakens you, it can be torture, but... no, it's not the end of the world.

However, in order for this knowledge to be operational, you need to know when you're getting close to ovulation BEFORE you ovulate.

There are other indicators that help you know when you're actually fertile. This is where it gets weird. The position and feel of your cervix, the texture and quantity of cervical fluid, and your perception of how your nethers feel on any given day help you to recognize the crucial 4 days or so before you ovulate. (Sperm can live for about 4 days in the woman's body if the conditions are right. The egg, not so much -- maybe 6 to 24 hours tops.)

The resulting charts look like this:

(Chart stolen from someone I don't even know in sample charts on www.tcoyf.com. What, you think I would share my own with you? God no. Move along. Nothing to see here. Although my temperatures are more dramatic than in the example -- seriously, the first month I did this I thought of checking myself for zombie-ism. Before ovulation my temps when I first wake up hover below 97. And yes, I've had my thyroid checked.)

Tired of the ol' "checking the oil" method of figuring this out? Guess what? Your saliva can tell you if you're approaching your fertile period or are fertile -- it develops a "ferning" pattern when it dries that can be seen under a microscope.

I am so freakin' in charge of my own fertility right now.

That said, a couple actively trying to conceive has roughly a 25% chance in any given month to achieve pregnancy. I think that goes up slightly for those who are "in charge of their own fertility" because they know when to get busy.

And so we play the waiting game. Which isn't a bad game -- it's a fun game, y'know?

For those who might want to purchase the excellent software and chart their own stuff, there's a free trial and a full version for about $40 at www.tcoyf.com. It probably helps to have Toni Weschler's book, but the tutorial might be enough. Of course, the pen & paper version is cheap as free and you can get it at http://www.tcoyf.com/library/chartpdf.asp.

You can find saliva ferning microscopes cheaply at http://www.early-pregnancy-tests.com/, among other places.


Sam said...

That's some hot science, girlfriend! SCIENCE!

Actually, it's very cool (heck, I have a kid and I didn't know all that). Take charge! And.... charge ahead! (ok, stop groaning. Pun-groaning, I mean. Oh jeez, I shouldn't have posted at all...)

Oh, and good luck. :-)

Ducks said...

I was skeptical, but it's remarkably scientific... except of course the bungled, fumbled, and early/tardy temperature readings. It's harder than I ever knew to take an accurate temperature the same way every time. Heh.

I was amazed at what I DIDN'T know about my body. I am sure there is still a huge iceberg under those waters of ignorance.

BTW, these powers may be used for evil, too -- charting fertility is a more informed and reliable form of "rhythm" if you want it to be.