How to chart your menstrual cycle and identify ovulation
Charting your menstrual cycle and figuring out when you ovulate is not always easy, but once you get the gist of it, you’ll know what to look for. One of the main indicators of where you’re at is the character of the fluids your vagina dishes out, and how they feel and what they look like.
This method of charting your cycles does not involve taking your temperature, and involves careful observation of your body’s clues.
How to chart your menstrual cycle
Cycle charting step 1
As you walk around, going about your day, pay attention to the sensation at the vulva and ask yourself these questions.
Does your vulva feel:
- Is it wet?
- Slightly most?
- Is it sticky?
Cycle charting step 2
After going to the bathroom, pay attention to the sensation you get when you wipe. Does the paper drag or does it slip? You may also like to have a look at what you see on your underwear, however remember that it is the sensation you feel that is the most important thing to record.
If you see a little fluid on your underwear but feel dry, you should record dry for that day. You might like to make note of whether you see crumbly, pasty, watery, clear or raw egg white consistency discharge on your underwear or on the toilet paper.
The sensation changes depending on what sort of fluids are being produced, and having discharge in your underwear, but feeling dry, is a clue.
Cycle charting step 3
In the evening before bed make your recording for that day. You can do this in a notepad or on your phone or computer. You need to chart for a few months to get the patterns emerging, so the more detailed you are, the faster you’ll be able to see the changes.
As you are cycle charting, take note of:
- Sensation/s you noticed that day – e.g. wet, dry, moist, slightly moist, sticky, watery, slipping or dragging when you wiped
- Include any bleeding when it happens. Is the flow heavy? Moderate? Light? Spotting? Is the blood bright red? Dark? Brown? Clotted?
- You may like to include what you see on your underwear – crumbly, pasty, watery, clear or raw egg white
- You may also like to make note of symptoms such as cramps, pain, breast tenderness, mood changes, and headaches, whether you were sick, etc.
How to interpret your cycle charting recordings
You need to make recordings for a month or two before you can look back over them and begin to understand what’s happening. But it’s totally worth it! Having this new understanding of your body is exciting and empowering.
Interpreting your cycle charts – looking for your wet panties day (Peak day)
Have a look back over your cycle chart for any signs of fertile fluids: watery, wet or slippery. This will be followed by an abrupt change, back to dry or slightly moist, from one day to the next. The last day of fertile fluid (watery, wet or slippery) is known as the Peak day. This was most likely, the day you ovulated!
The reason the fluid comes and goes so fast is because your cervix actually squirts out a blob of fertile cervical fluid, which is specifically for sperm to survive (and it makes sex deliciously smooth and you are instantly wet!).
Fertile cervical fluid is more alkaline, and sperm-friendly. It is also finite – it is just a blob, so when the blob has, via gravity, made its way out of your vagina and into your toilet paper and underwear, it’s done for. Gone. That’s why your vagina then returns to dry and the wet seems to disappear as quickly as it came.
This fluid is very slippery and you will likely feel wet during the day, but be unsure why.
What is the luteal phase and how can I see it on my cycle chart?
The time between ovulation and bleeding is known as the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle. This part of the cycle is very important because different hormones start to be produced after you ovulate, because you ovulated. These hormones are important for women, with progesterone being produced post-ovulation, but not pre-ovulation.
Progesterone does so many cool things in your body that we won’t go into now, but if you don’t ovulate, then you don’t get progesterone. You want this puppy! You get progesterone for about two weeks during your luteal phase.
The luteal phase is also critical if you are trying to get pregnant, because a short luteal phase – a smaller dose of progesterone – can mean a pregnancy can’t stay put because there is not enough progesterone in the early stages to hold it in. In this capacity, progesterone acts to nourish the embryo so it can implant and create its own food supply. Once the embryo has established a blood and nutrient supply of its own, progesterone can adjust.
Your luteal phase – the time from when you ovulate until you get your next period – should be 11-17 days. Typically the time period in each woman remains the same over your lifetime, so if your luteal phase is 15 days, it’ll almost always be 15 days. Your friend Suzy may have a luteal phase of 13 days, while Roberta may have 9 day luteal phases and be struggling to get pregnant or stay pregnant. Your luteal phase matters. You can elongate and shorten your luteal phase with herbal medicines.
If your Peak day was followed by your period arriving 11-17 days later, congratulations, you ovulated and had a fertile cycle!
What a short luteal phase means when fertility charting
Occasionally, the Peak day is followed by bleeding less than 11 days later. This is known as a short luteal phase and means the time between ovulation and the shedding of the uterine lining is too short to allow pregnancy to occur. See a naturopath for guidance on how to fix this.
Long cycles recorded in cycle chart
Sometimes our body has an attempt at ovulating, and we start to see fertile fluid, but the attempt is not successful and ovulation does not occur. Later on, there is another attempt at ovulation. This is commonly what happens during long cycles (>35 days).
In this case you might observe on your cycle chart that there are two, or more, episodes of fertile fluid before bleeding occurs. Ovulation will have occurred only at the last episode of fertile fluid before your period. Ovulation cannot occur twice between bleeds, because the cascade of hormonal events after a successful ovulation always leads to a period. If you nearly ovulated, you don’t get a period.
What if I don’t see any fertile mucous while fertility charting?
Sometimes there may be no episodes of fertile fluids observed on your cycle chart before bleeding. In this case it is unlikely ovulation occurred and the bleeding is probably oestrogen breakthrough bleeding rather than a true menstrual period.
Keep recording and looking for the presence of fertile fluids, and if you don’t think you are ovulating, see a fertility specialist, which can be a naturopath or doctor. The medical system does not have any strategies for elongating or shortening the luteal phase, with herbal medicines being effective for this task. Do a few months of fertility charting, then take your results into a naturopathic fertility specialist.
In summary, the key sign of ovulation is an increase and change in consistency of the fluids that you feel on your vulva. This fluid becomes runnier, more fluid and more copious. Keeping an eye out for this is the most important part of fertility awareness, and keeping an accurate cycle chart will help you pinpoint this time.