Fertility Charting FAQ

Got a fertility charting question?  Click on the topic you’re interested in, then use the drop down menus to find the answer to your question.

General Charting
Bleeding
Cervical Fluid
Temperature
Cervical Palpation
Intercourse Timing
Luteal Phase
Pregnancy

If your question isn’t here,  feel free to contact me for an answer at support@myfertilityfocus.com or pop it into the private Facebook group.

General Charting

When is the best time to start charting my fertility?

It’s a good idea to start your first fertility chart at the beginning of your period – that is, Day 1 of your cycle. This will ensure you get a FULL menstrual cycle charted and this can make it easier to interpret your chart.

Having said that, you CAN begin charting your fertility on ANY day of your menstrual cycle.  All you need is the date that your last period started.  See below for details.

I don’t want to wait until my next period comes before I start charting my fertility.  Can I start charting now?

Yes, absolutely! The details on how to do this are covered in the Step 2: Module 5 video.  Alternatively, some quick instructions are written below:

Paper fertility charts:
Take a new paper fertility chart.  Write the date that your last period started in the first box of the ‘Date’ row, at the top of the chart.  This date will also sit in the first column of the chart, which corresponds to Day 1 of your cycle.  If you’re not 100% sure when your last period started, a rough guess will do! 

Next, fill in the subsequent dates until you reach the date where you want to start recording data.  By casting your eye vertically down to the ‘Day of cycle’ row, you’ll see what Day of your cycle this date corresponds to.  Start recording your cervical fluid and temperature data from this day onwards.

Fertility Awareness Based App:
If you’re using a FAB app, the same concept applies.  When you first start using the app, you’ll probably be asked to record the date your last period started.  The app should then automatically assign this date to Day 1 of your cycle.

Check out the Step 2: Module 5 video for more detailed information.

When do I start a new  fertility chart?

Paper fertility charts:
When your next period starts, take a new paper fertility chart and start again from Day 1.  You can ‘complete’ your previous chart by drawing a vertical line down the right hand side of the last day of your cycle.  See Step 2:Module 10 for more information.

Fertility Awareness Based App:
When your next period starts, just record this bleeding in your fertility app as you would normally.  Your app will automatically start a new cycle for you.

I’m using paper fertility charts but my cycle is longer than 35 days.  What should I do?

All you need to do in this situation is just glue or sellotape two charts together – then change the cycle days on the second chart to say 36, 37, 38 etc

Bleeding

Your period occurs as the result of an egg being released at ovulation, without a resulting pregnancy.  It’s possible to have a bleed without ovulating, but this isn’t a true period.

A normal, healthy period should:

•  Start 10 – 16 days after your day of ovulation (depending on your individual luteal phase length)

•  Last between 2 and 7 days in length

•  Follow one of two general bleeding patterns:  Light – Heavy – Medium – Light – Very Light

Heavy – Heavy – Medium – Medium – Light

•  Have a  blood loss of about 25 – 80 mls over the entire period.  This equates to saturating about 5 – 16 regular tampons or pads, or 3 – 8 super tampons or pads over the whole time you have your period.  A menstrual cup typically holds between 20 – 30 ml.

•  Have no more than 1 day of spotting before the start of your period or 2-3 days of spotting afterwards.

For more information on  what a healthy menstrual cycle and period should look like, see Step 4 of the program.

What is the difference between spotting and bleeding?

Spotting: Spotting is used to describe a small amount of brown, pink or red blood, mixed in with cervical fluid or on its own.  It can be seen on the toilet tissue when you wipe yourself or on your underwear.  Because the amount is so little, a pad or tampon isn’t usually required.  Instead a panty liner can be used to protect your underwear.  Spotting is often seen at the beginning or end of a period.

Bleeding: In contrast, bleeding requires you to wear a pad or tampon.  Bleeding describes actual red blood flow, which can be light, medium or heavy.  The first day that you experience actual blood flow, not just spotting, is the beginning of a new menstrual cycle. This is designated as Day 1 of the cycle.  

How do I tell the difference between light, medium and heavy bleeding?

Menstrual flow varies from woman to woman, but generally, bleeding can be categorised as follows:

Light Bleeding: Bleeding is often thin and can be red/brown in colour.  A low absorbency pad or tampon provides adequate protection and you could last several hours between changes (but for health and hygiene reasons, sanitary protection should be changed at least every 4 hours during the day).

Medium Bleeding:  Bleeding is typically bright red in colour and a regular pad or tampon needs to be changed every 2 – 3 hours.

Heavy Bleeding:  Bleeding is thick and bright red.  A super pad or tampon is needed every 1 – 2 hours.

Cervical Fluid

I don’t experience any fertile cervical fluid. Will this prevent pregnancy?

The presence of fertile-quality cervical fluid is crucial for sperm transport and survival.  Although eggwhite cervical fluid is considered the most fertile type, creamy cervical fluid can also be fertile if it’s wet enough to transport and nurture the sperm.  Some women don’t produce obvious eggwhite cervical fluid and instead, their most fertile type is creamy.  

Unfortunately, a complete lack of eggwhite fluid or watery creamy fluid could prevent pregnancy though.  For further information on factors affecting cervical fluid production and things you can do to improve your cervical fluid,  check out the resource ‘Your Guide to – factors affecting Cervical Fluid’ from the Step 2 Resources tab of the Program.

My fertile fluid is really watery and not like mucus.  Is that normal?

Fertile eggwhite cervical fluid has a high water content and usually also has a stretchy, slimy consistency just like raw egg white.  Pregnancy is certainly possible with very watery cervical fluid but in some cases, without this viscosity, sperm may not be able to swim properly.

If you’ve timed intercourse for your most fertile days for at least 6 menstrual cycles without getting pregnant, and no other fertility issues have been found, the watery cervical fluid might be the problem.

For further information on factors affecting cervical fluid production and things you can do to improve your cervical fluid,  check out the resource ‘Your Guide to – factors affecting Cervical Fluid’ from the Step 2 Resources tab of the Program.

I experience a wet sensation just before my period arrives. Does that mean I’m fertile again?

A wet sensation experienced the day or two before your period starts is very common. You might also notice an increase in cervical fluid at this time.

These symptoms are due to the physiological changes that occur just before your period starts and are NOT signs of returning fertility.

I don’t experience a wet sensation, only damp or dry.  Does this matter?

Many women experience a wet (or very damp) sensation as their cervical fluid becomes more abundant and fertile just before ovulation. This symptom can help to back up the cervical fluid changes that you see.  Not all women experience this wet sensation though.  You might feel only slightly damp or notice no change in sensation at all.  This doesn’t mean that you’re any less fertile.  

IMPORTANT:  Wearing panty liners will definitely make it difficult to notice sensation.  If you don’t experience a wet sensation, and you’re in the habit of wearing panty liners, try going without for the few days leading up to ovulation and see if that makes a difference. 

I saw fertile cervical fluid a few days ago which disappeared and now I’m seeing more again.  I don’t think I’ve ovulated.  What’s going on?

It can sometimes take more than one ‘attempt’ at ovulation before your egg is finally released.  This can result in multiple patches of cervical fluid being seen. This situation is more common in long cycles and can be caused by stress or illness before ovulation.

Long cycles (more than 35 days long) with multiple patches of fertile cervical fluid can also indicate a hormonal imbalance.  This is particularly common with a condition called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).  If you frequently experience long or erratic cycles, it’s important that you get checked out by your doctor.

Until you see a sustained temperature rise indicating that ovulation has occurred, make sure to keep having intercourse during these fertile patches, to optimise your chances of conceiving.

If you’re worried that your menstrual cycle is unusually long or that you have a hormone imbalance, check out Step 4 of the Program. 

My eggwhite cervical fluid has streaks of blood in it.  Should I be concerned?

If you notice that your fertile cervical fluid is tinged or streaked with red, pink or brown blood, you could be experiencing ovulatory spotting. This spotting can occur around ovulation when you are very fertile and it’s most likely due to the hormonal changes that occur at this time.  Ovulatory spotting is a great secondary fertility sign to let you know that baby-making should be on the agenda!

If the spotting doesn’t coincide with ovulation, appears as bright red bleeding or lasts for more than a couple of days, please see your health professional.

For more information, check out the resource ‘Your Guide to – Normal versus Abnormal Bleeding’ from Step 4 of the Program.

Sometimes I notice a transparent smear on the toilet paper – how do I record this?

If you’re only producing a very small amount of cervical fluid, it might appear as a transparent smear on the toilet paper (a bit like someone’s rubbed a glue-stick across the tissue).  The texture will help you decide how to record it:

If the amount of fluid is so minimal that you can’t pick it up between your fingers, and it’s sticky or tacky when you touch it, this would be recorded as ‘Sticky’. But if the fluid is slimy or slippery to the touch, can be picked up with your fingers or is accompanied by a slippery sensation when you wipe yourself, this would be recorded as ‘Eggwhite’.

We recently had sex and I can’t be sure that what I’m seeing is cervical fluid.  How do I record this?

Both sexual arousal fluid and semen can look and feel a lot like fertile cervical fluid.  For this reason it’s not advisable to check your cervical fluid just after intercourse or when you’re feeling sexually aroused.  It’s a good idea to avoid checking cervical fluid until several hours later.

If you observe fluid that looks like eggwhite cervical fluid, but you think it could also be semen or sexual arousal fluid, record it as ‘Eggwhite‘ but make a note of your uncertainty on your chart.

My temperature went up yesterday – why am I still seeing fertile cervical fluid?

The production of fertile cervical fluid usually ends on the day of ovulation. This is because the hormone progesterone is secreted into your bloodstream after ovulation – and progesterone dries up fertile fluid.

It’s not uncommon however, to sometimes observe fertile cervical fluid the day after ovulation. This is because:

  • it can take a day or so for the last of the fertile fluid to come out of your body and/or
  • it might take a little while for the progesterone to ‘kick in’ and dry it up

 

If you notice fertile fluid the day after ovulation – take a closer look. You may find that although it’s still clear and stretchy, it has lost its shiny, watery quality and has become slightly rubbery or tacky. This distinguishes it from the truly fertile fluid, which occurs prior to ovulation.

My chart shows that I ovulated several days ago, but I’m experiencing fertile cervical fluid again.  What’s going on?

Occasionally you might experience fertile quality cervical fluid several days after ovulation.  This is due to an increase in the hormone estrogen, which is being secreted by your ovaries at this time.  It’s not uncommon to experience this fluid a week or so into your luteal phase.

If your fertility chart clearly indicates that you’ve already ovulated, you can rest assured that you’re no longer fertile.  But if you’re not sure that ovulation has taken place, consider yourself potentially fertile at this time and make the most of it!

How many days of fertile cervical fluid will I see?

The number of days that fertile cervical fluid is produced varies from woman to woman.  You can expect to produce fertile fluid for anywhere from 1 to 5 days.  In a normal cycle, this fertile cervical fluid will appear during the days just prior to ovulation and will disappear once ovulation is over.

Younger women tend to have more days of fertile cervical fluid, while women in their late 30s and early 40s are more likely to produce it for just 1 or 2 days.  

I’ve recently come off the pill and my cervical fluid doesn’t fit the expected pattern.  Why is this?

Cervical fluid can be affected for several months after coming off the pill or other hormonal contraception.  You might experience one of the following situations:

1. Very little or no cervical fluid, even around the time of ovulation

2. Ongoing fertile-quality cervical fluid that is watery or milky

3. Different types of cervical fluid with no obvious pattern

The good news is that these side-effects from the use of hormonal contraception will usually disappear within a few months and a normal cervical fluid pattern should return.  See Step 3: Module 12 of the program for more information on normal patterns of cervical fluid.

I’m finding it really confusing telling the different types of cervical fluid apart.  Is this normal?

Don’t worry if you find it challenging to differentiate between the different types of cervical fluid at first.  This is completely normal! It will get easier and easier, as you become familiar with the variations of cervical fluid that you produce.  After 2 – 3 menstrual cycles you should start to recognise your own individual pattern.  This pattern will tend to repeat itself, more or less, from cycle to cycle.

Remember that if your fluid appears to be a mix between 2 different types, you can record it as such eg. S/C (sticky/creamy) or C/E (creamy/eggwhite).

To help you with your observations, check out the ‘Cervical Fluid Variations’  and ‘Cervical Fluid Cheat Sheet’ downloads from the Step 2 Resources tab.  

Temperature

I often get up at night to go to the toilet or tend to my toddler.  Will this affect my temperatures?

This will depend on your individual metabolism and how often you wake.  It’s a good idea to record any unsettled sleep patterns on your chart, but many women find that night waking doesn’t affect their temperature recordings. The important thing is that you are getting a 2 – 3 hour block of sleep before taking your temperature at the normal time.  

If you wake within your final 3 hours of sleep, take your temperature then, as well as at your normal time. For example, if you normally take your temperature at 6.30 am but you wake at 5 am to go to the bathroom, you won’t get a 3 hour block of sleep before your normal wake time. In this
case, take your temperature at 5 am and then again at 6.30am and compare them. Use the temperature that’s most consistent with your other temperatures.

If you keep waking at the same time within your final 3 hours of sleep, it’s best to move your temperature taking to this time. For example if your partner gets up for work which wakes you at a similar time every morning, take your temperature before going back to sleep.

I’m about to travel to a different time zone and I want to continue charting while I’m away.  How should I deal with the time change?

If you change time zones during your travel, there’s a good chance that your temperatures will be effected.  This is because you’ll be taking them earlier or later than usual. The extent to which they are affected depends on your individual metabolism and the degree of change between time zones. Any effects on temperature should only last a couple of days or so.

If you’re changing time zones around ovulation, a disruption in temperatures could make your temperature shift difficult to detect.  If you’re travelling during the luteal phase of your cycle, a disruption in your temperatures won’t matter.

 

During travel, keep taking your temperature at the same time as usual (in the new local time) but record this new situation on your chart. This will help you explain anything unusual. If you are travelling around the time of ovulation, pay particular attention to cervical fluid and secondary fertility signs to help identify your fertile days. 

I do shift work and regularly wake up at different times. How should I take my temperature?

Shift work can make temperature taking more challenging, but it can be done!

Take your temperature after your longest, most settled period of sleep, even if this means taking it when you wake in the afternoon or evening. Ideally you want to take your temperature after at least a 3-hour block of sleep. It is important to take your temperatures at the same time as often as you can.

This goes for your days off too. If you go back to a more normal sleep pattern during these days, take your temperature when you wake, as consistently as possible. Note down these time differences in the ‘Notes’ section of your paper chart.

If you’re using the online charting system, select ‘Earlier than usual’ or ‘Later than usual’ under ‘Taken’ in the data entry section. You may like to record the exact time you took your temperature in the Notes section under ‘Additional Data’.

My period has finished, but my temperatures are still high and they haven’t dropped to their pre-ovulatory level. Could I be pregnant?

Temperatures will normally drop to their pre-ovulatory level just before or during your period. But if your temperatures are still high after your period has finished, there’s a good chance that you might be pregnant. 

It would be a good idea to take a pregnancy test to find out, especially if the bleeding you experienced was lighter or of shorter duration.

My chart clearly showed ovulation but now my temperature has dipped down to the pre-ovulation level. What does this mean?

The occasional low temperature after ovulation is nothing to worry about. It can be a ‘fluke’ occurrence or might be explained by factors like unsettled sleep, illness or alcohol the night before.

If you experience the temperature drop in the middle of the luteal phase, there’s a good chance that it’s due to hormonal changes at this time. This is especially likely if the temperature drop coincides with more creamy or fertile looking cervical fluid.

If your temperature drops towards the end of your luteal phase, it’s usually a sign that your period is on its way.

Do I need to take my temperature while I have my period?

This will very much depend on your cycle length. If your cycles are on the shorter side and you typically ovulate before Day 11, it’s advisable to take your temperature during your period. This ensures that you are recording enough temperature data for your phase of lower temperatures before ovulation.

 If you typically ovulate on Day 11 or later, you can skip temperature recording during the first 5 days of your cycle, if you wish.

While you are learning to chart your fertility and becoming familiar with your unique fertility pattern, we strongly advise that you chart your entire cycle.

 

My temperatures don’t seem to show a sustained rise or my app hasn’t detected ovulation.

Occasionally a fertility chart can appear to be anovular (without ovulation) even though ovulation has actually occurred.  This can happen if your temperatures are very erratic or if you don’t have enough reliable information recorded on your chart. To accurately interpret your chart, it’s important to consistently record your fertility signs on a daily basis. 

A very small percentage of women don’t show a clear temperature rise after ovulation.  If your cycles are regular, and you consistently experience a patch of fertile cervical fluid 10 – 16 days before your next period, you may in fact be ovulating despite the absence of a bi-phasic chart.  A progesterone blood test 7 days after your fertile fluid disappears will let you know if you are ovulating or not.

Alternatively, you may indeed have experienced an anovular cycle.  A cycle without ovulation can be a one-off instance.  But if it happens regularly, anovular cycles will definitely affect your ability to become pregnant.  This is because without an egg, fertilisation and pregnancy can’t occur.

For information on the causes of anovulation and what you can do about it, check out the resource ‘Your Guide to – ovulation problems’ in Step 4 of the Program. 

My temperatures are really low and go below the range shown on the paper fertility charts.  What should I do and what does this mean?

If you’re using the paper fertility charts and your temperatures are consistently lower (or higher) than the range shown on the chart, you can modify the temperature range on the left hand side of the chart to suit.

Pre-ovulatory basal body temperatures normally fall between about 36.3 and 36.7℃ (97.3 and 98℉). If you find that your temperatures before ovulation consistently sit below 36.3℃ (97.3℉), you could have a low functioning thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). This is more likely if you also experience other symptoms common to the condition.

Because thyroid problems can affect fertility, it’s important to get this possibility checked out by your doctor.  See Step 4 of the Program for more information on thyroid dysfunction.

Alternatively, you may just have a thermometer that measures low. You can check this out by trying a different thermometer (a cheaper thermometer may not have the same level of accuracy as a more expensive one).

But if you do change thermometers, make sure you do it at the start of a new cycle.  You should aim to use the same thermometer throughout an entire cycle.

I understand that my temperatures will fluctuate slightly from day to day, but mine seem to be all over the place! Is that normal?

Temperatures will generally go up and down from day to day by about 0.1 to 0.2 ℃. Erratic temperatures that fluctuate by 0.3 ℃ or more may be due to a number of reasons.

Firstly, don’t worry if this is happening during your period. It’s quite common for temperatures to be high or erratic during this time. They should settle within a few days.

Make sure that you are taking your temperatures consistently each day, at approximately the same time and after at least a 3-hour block of sleep. Also make sure that you have a good quality thermometer and that the batteries don’t need changing. Some thermometers beep slowly while recording your temperature and then emit a number of fast beeps on completion. So if you have one of these, make sure you don’t whip the thermometer out of your mouth on the first beep!

Remember, factors such as unsettled sleep, illness or alcohol the night before can cause significant changes in temperature.

If none of these factors are contributing to your erratic temperatures, you may want to consider taking your temperature vaginally (ie carefully place the thermometer inside your vagina each morning, instead of in your mouth).  Whichever way you decide to take your temperature (orally or vaginally), just make sure that you continue to use the same method throughout your cycle.

Should I remove temperature spikes or dips from my chart?

If you have an occasional temperature spike or dip that obviously doesn’t fit the pattern of your other temperatures, you can remove these from your fertility chart.  This will help to make interpreting your chart easier.  Try to only remove dips or spikes that vary from your usual temperature range by 0.3℃ or more.

To remove a single spike or dip – paper fertility chart:
1) Erase the temperature which gives the spike or dip
2) Join the temperatures on either side of the misfitting temperature with a dotted line

To remove a single spike or dip – online charting system:
1) Go back to the date on which the spike or dip occurred by clicking on that column of the fertility chart.
2) Click the ‘Clear temperature’ button. This temperature will be removed, and the two temps either side will be joined by a dotted line.

Cervical Palpation

I don’t feel comfortable checking my cervix.  How important is it?

Checking the position and texture of your cervix is another great fertility sign to let you know whether you’re fertile or not. But BBT and cervical fluid alone are usually enough to accurately identify your fertile window, so changes in the cervix are considered an ‘optional’ fertility sign.

Many women enjoy having the additional information that cervical palpation provides. It can offer reassurance by backing up the other fertility signs, especially if there is any ambiguity. Cervical palpation can also be particularly helpful in situations where cervical fluid is minimal or difficult to observe.  In this case, changes in the cervix can be used instead of cervical fluid.

If you’re getting sufficient information from your BBT and cervical fluid, and you’d rather not check your cervix, rest assured that it’s not something you have to do!

Do I have to check my cervix throughout my whole cycle? If not, what are the best days to check?

It’s not necessary to check your cervix across your entire cycle. It can however take some practice to recognise the subtle changes that can be felt in the cervix, so initially it may help to check every day.

The purpose of cervical palpation is to recognise the beginning and end of your fertile window each cycle. So ideally you want to start checking your cervix several days before ovulation, just before your cervical fluid starts to build in volume and become fertile.

Once the cervix has changed back to its infertile state after ovulation, you don’t need to continue checking.

I can’t reach my cervix. How should I record this?

When you are at your most fertile, your cervix is at its highest point at the top of the vagina.  For some women, this means that they can no longer reach it.  If you have easily felt your cervix in the past, but now it’s ‘disappeared’, it’s likely that you are very fertile.  In this case, record your cervix as ‘high, open, soft‘.

If this is the first time you’ve tried to find your cervix, keep trying over the next few days, particularly when you notice that your fertile cervical fluid has dried up. Once you are no longer fertile, your cervix will be lower in the vagina and easier to reach.

For more detailed information on cervical palpation, check out the ‘Cervical Changes Cue Card’ in the Step 1 Resources section of your Program.

I thought that the cervical opening is supposed to close when I’m infertile.  Mine seems to stay open all the time.

If you have given birth vaginally before, you’ll probably find that the entrance to your cervix (cervical os) never fully closes. You may also notice that the opening feels more like a horizontal slit, rather than the circular dimple that’s normally felt by women who haven’t given birth.

You may be able to detect slight changes in the cervical opening as your fertility status changes.  But if you can’t, don’t worry.  Just pay attention to the height and the texture of your cervix.

For more detailed information on cervical palpation, check out the ‘Cervical Changes Cue Card’ in the Step 1 Resources section of your Program.

Intercourse Timing

When is the best time to have sex to optimise our chances of getting pregnant?

Any intercourse that occurs within the 2 to 3 days before ovulation and in the presence of fertile cervical fluid gives you an excellent chance of conceiving.  A good general rule is to have intercourse every day or every second day from the first day that you see fertile cervical fluid until ovulation is confirmed with a rise in temperature.

For further information on taking a more strategic approach and for those with sperm count problems, check out Module 18 of the Program.

Should we start ‘baby-making sex’ on the first day that I see eggwhite cervical fluid?

If you typically experience several days of eggwhite fluid before ovulation, there is no rush to launch yourself straight into procreation mode the moment you see the first signs of fertile fluid.

However, if you typically produce fertile cervical fluid for only one or two days each cycle, it may pay to get busy fairly quickly. This ensures that sperm are deposited into this fluid prior to ovulation.

If this is your first charted cycle and you don’t yet know how many days you produce fertile fluid for, it is advisable to start having intercourse for conception on the first day that fertile fluid is observed.

Luteal Phase

How is my luteal phase counted?  What if I have spotting before my period starts?

The luteal phase of your menstrual cycle is counted from the day after ovulation (the day of your first raised temperature) through to and including the day before your next period starts.  Remember that your period starts with the first day of actual bleeding.  Any days of spotting beforehand are counted as part of your luteal phase.

For more information on this topic, check out Module 13 of the Program.

I think I might have a short luteal phase – how can I be sure?

A luteal phase length of at least 10 days is usually required for successful implantation and an ongoing pregnancy.  Anything less than 10 days is considered a ‘short luteal phase’ and will usually prevent pregnancy.  Spotting that occurs within 10 days of ovulation can also suggest a luteal phase defect.

But before you start to worry, there are a couple of factors to be aware of:

Firstly, not all charts are straightforward to read and interpret.  As a result, you may have ovulated earlier than your chart suggests, with a corresponding luteal phase length that’s normal.  A single chart with an apparent short luteal phase is nothing to be concerned about. But if you consistently see this pattern across a number of cycles, you’ll need to consult your doctor for further investigation.

Secondly, some women take longer to react to the temperature-raising effect of progesterone after ovulation.  If your temperature doesn’t increase until 3 or more days after your last day of fertile cervical fluid, you might be ovulating earlier than your temperatures suggest.  In this case, your luteal phase will appear shorter than it actually is.

For more information on this topic, check out the Step 4 resource Your Guide to – Luteal Phase Defects.

My luteal phase is longer than normal, my temperatures are still up and I don’t have my period yet.  What does this mean?

Your luteal phase should usually be the same number of days each cycle (give or take a day or so).  If your luteal phase is at least 2 days longer than usual, there’s a good chance you’re pregnant.  So you might like to take a test!

If the result is positive, congratulations!! 

If the result is negative, there are 3 possibilities:

1.  Firstly, it might be a little too early for the test to detect the pregnancy hormone (HCG), especially if it’s not yet 14 days past ovulation.  Wait for at least 14 days past ovulation and test again.

2. Alternatively, you might simply have ovulated later than your chart suggests and your luteal phase is actually still within its normal length.

3. Finally, different types of ovarian cyst can delay the onset of your period (see ’18 day luteal phase but negative pregnancy test’ below).  

If you’re feeling confused, you might like to post your chart in the private Facebook group for feedback.

My luteal phase is longer than 18 days, but a pregnancy test showed a negative result.  What’s going on?

A luteal phase of 18 days or more is usually a sign of pregnancy.  But if a pregnancy test gives a negative result, this can indicate one of the following:

1. Firstly, the home pregnancy test might be showing a false negative (although this is unusual at 18 days past ovulation). You might like to ask your doctor for a blood test to confirm whether you’re pregnant or not.

2. Another possibility is that you did conceive, but unfortunately you’re about to experience an early miscarriage, and levels of the  pregnancy hormone have dropped below a detectable level.  If you see your temperatures begin to drop rapidly,  miscarriage may be imminent and you should consult your doctor.

3. On rare occasions, an extended luteal phase can be caused by an ovarian cyst – either a corpus luteum cyst or a cyst from a condition known as luteinized unruptured follicle syndrome (LUFS). Normally, these cysts are nothing to worry about and usually resolve on their own, but if you are worried or experience pain or other symptoms, you should consult your doctor as soon as possible.

4. Finally, you may simply have ovulated later than your chart suggests, or not at all. 

If you’re feeling confused, you might like to post your chart in the private Facebook group for feedback.

I thought that the luteal phase was supposed to be the same length each cycle.  Mine keeps changing.  Is that a problem?

Within an individual woman, the luteal phase is normally very consistent from cycle to cycle. It usually varies by only 1 or 2 days at the most. But if your luteal phase varies significantly from cycle to cycle (and you’re able to clearly identify your ovulation day), this can be a sign of hormone imbalance.

Highly variable luteal phase lengths are thought to be associated with low estrogen and progesterone levels. This can result in an increased risk of miscarriage. If you’re having difficulty getting (or staying) pregnant, talk to your doctor about getting assessed and treated for a possible hormone imbalance.

For further information on hormonal imbalance and what you can do about it, check out the Step 4 resource ‘Your guide to – Hormonal Imbalance’ 

I’ve noticed some spotting during my luteal phase. Should I be worried?

Spotting during the luteal phase may be completely normal or an indication of a problem.

For more information, check out the resource ‘Your Guide to – normal versus abnormal bleeding’ from Step 4 of the Program.

Pregnancy

It’s too early to see pregnancy on my chart or to do a home pregnancy test.  Are there other signs or symptoms in the meantime that will let me know if I’m pregnant?

Unfortunately, when you’re desperately hoping to be pregnant, virtually every niggle or sensation you experience can feel like a possible pregnancy symptom! What can make things even more confusing, is that many early pregnancy symptoms are identical to PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) symptoms!

Some common early pregnancy symptoms are: headaches, backache, a feeling of heaviness or cramping in the pelvis, extreme tiredness and tender breasts or nipples. Other symptoms that are perhaps more distinct from those of pre-menstrual syndrome are a heightened sense of smell, food cravings or aversions, nausea and a metallic taste in your mouth.  However many pregnant women don’t notice anything unusual at all.

There are also some signs on a fertility chart that can indicate pregnancy.  These features do tend to occur more often on pregnancy charts, but unfortunately they aren’t a guarantee of pregnancy and can sometimes also be seen on non-pregnancy charts.

See Module 16  for more details.

How long should I wait to do a pregnancy test?

Ideally you should wait until about 14 days after ovulation. This usually allows enough time for the pregnancy hormone hCG to increase to a high enough level for detection by a home pregnancy test.

Testing earlier than this increases the risk of getting a false negative – that is, the pregnancy test shows up negative even though you are actually pregnant. This can add unnecessary worry and anxiety (and cost, as you will need to test again later to make sure!).

By charting your fertility, you will know when your period is genuinely overdue and when a pregnancy test is justified. If your luteal phase extends at least 2 days beyond its normal length (after seeing ovulation clearly on your chart), your temperatures remain high and at least 14 days have passed since ovulation, you have good reason to take a test!

What will my chart look like if I’m pregnant?

The first sign on your chart that usually indicates pregnancy is a luteal phase that extends beyond its normal length, with temperatures remaining high.  Most women have a consistent luteal phase length each cycle (give or take a day or so).  So if your luteal phase extends at least 2 days beyond its normal length, you might like to take a test!

A luteal phase length of 18 days or more usually confirms pregnancy (see ‘18 day luteal phase but negative pregnancy test‘ FAQ, for exceptions to this).

Unfortunately, until your luteal phase extends to 18 days, there are no guaranteed signs of pregnancy; a conception cycle will often look no different on your chart to a cycle where you haven’t conceived.

Having said that, there are some other signs that are common in pregnancy charts.  These are:

•  ‘implantation spotting’ 7-10 days after ovulation
•  an ‘implantation dip’ 7 – 10 days after ovulation
•  a triphasic chart

It’s important to remember that these signs are not a guarantee of pregnancy.  You’ll need to wait for 18 high temperatures or a positive pregnancy test to confirm for sure, whether you’ve conceived or not.

See Module 16 for more information.