How well do you know your fertile body?

Kerry Marshall is a Women’s health, fertility and pregnancy acupuncturist with ten years experience.  Her focus is on fertility awareness and supporting her patients in creating realistic plans for healthy changes. Kerry is also a Birth Attendant and advocator for women’s rights to information and choice in pregnancy and birth.  She lives and works on the Mornington Peninsula.

Below Kerry answers those burning questions on fertility, often asked in her practice.

Whether you are trying to conceive or avoiding an unwanted pregnancy observing the physical changes and signs in your body and really understanding your unique monthly cycle can diminish a whole lot of stress and allow you to take control of your fertility.

Here is a simple guide to the menstrual cycle.  It is broken down into four phases. Menstruation: Day1 is first day of full flow bleed. Follicular phase: Oestrogen helps with follicle, egg and endometrial lining growth. Ovulation: Egg release.  Luteal phase: Progesterone rises to support implantation and incubate a potential fertilised egg.  This is the same cycle for all women though extremely variable.  So don’t compare yourself to others or a ‘perfect’ cycle.

Should I have sex everyday to increase my chances of conceiving?

NO.  Unless you are extremely active in your relationship then this is not necessary.  In fact Chinese Medicine theory states too much sex can deplete ones health especially those systems responsible for fertility. Too many times I hear how stressful the timing of sex becomes especially if unsure of the fertile time. Loving sex and keeping the romance alive in your relationship is important.  By observing and understanding your own unique fertile mucus patterns and cycle means you can become confident in recognising your fertile window and time sex without the added stress and potential burn out.

Do I have to get egg white type mucus to have a fertile cycle?

NO.  As long as you feel a sensation of mucus in your vulva (the area around the opening of the vagina) you have a viable cycle to conceive.  Observe this at the other end of the day that you have sex.  Does it feel moist, wet, slippery or dry? Fertile mucus can get confused with sexual fluids or infections and can change consistency when in your underpants.  If the sensation is moist, wet or slippery in the Follicular and Ovulation phase of your cycle you are potentially fertile.

Do I have to ovulate in the middle of my cycle to have a fertile cycle?

NO.  In 95% of menstrual cycles the fertile window falls between days 4 – 23!
If you are experiencing long cycles you are most likely ovulating later than D14.  The most common cause for long cycle is stress and Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).  Your hormones need to peak to release an egg.  You may have many attempts to ovulate but your hormones don’t quite peak.  You therefore can experience fertile mucus and then be dry then notice fertile mucus again.  This can become confusing to identify your fertile window and to time sex and therefore miss your chance of conceiving that month.  Once you have released an egg you have a chance of conceiving even if this is on Day 35. The second half of your cycle the Luteal phase needs to be longer than 10 days for the progesterone levels to stay high for potential viable implantation.  If you are charting and this phase is longer than 18 days you are pregnant.  There is no other reason for your Luteal phase to be longer than 18 days.

Can I ovulate twice in one cycle?

Yes. You can but only within 21 hours of each egg release. This could result and is the reason for non identical twins.  You cannot ovulate twice outside of this.  The Follicle that the egg is released from is then called the Corpus Luteum.  This has a function of signalling progesterone and switching your cycle into the Luteal phase.

What if I notice fertile mucus at different times of my cycle?

Noticing fertile mucus more than once in a cycle could be your body trying to ovulate but not quite reaching the peak of hormones to release the egg. You can have mucus in the Luteal phase but this is not fertile mucus.

Do I ovulate from different sides from month to month?

No. There is no evidence to support this.  It is very variable from women to women. It is however possible for women with one fallopian tube to conceive with an egg released on the non tube side.  The opposite fallopian tube reaches behind and grasps the egg. I have seen this in my clinic. Never underestimate the miracle of your body.

Can I still get a period if I haven’t ovulated?

No.  You have to ovulate for the Corpus Luteum to signal the release of progesterone and switch your cycle to the Luteal phase.

You can, however, get inter-menstrual bleeding that could be mistaken for a bleed.  This can happen if your body is trying to ovulate but the egg does not quite release. The hormones are rising but not peaking, your lining is building up in a patchy way and when it gets to a certain thickness will break away causing a period like bleed. This can happen a few times in one cycle until the hormones peak and the egg is released. You may experience mucus changes before actually ovulating. You may or may not get bleeding. This is most commonly seen in women with PCOS, stressful lives or coming off contraception.

Any inter-menstrual bleeding experienced should be investigated by a medical professional.

Can you conceive while breastfeeding?

Yes.  Studies have shown that there is an effective form of contraception if: You are exclusively breastfeeding with at least one night feed and no supplementary feeding. You have not had a menstrual bleed. Your baby is less than 6 months old.

You ovulate before you have a bleed so you are fertile most likely without knowing. Prolactin is the hormone responsible for preventing ovulation and the levels can drop throughout breastfeeding until low enough for another hormone Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) to trigger ovulation. You may have various attempts to ovulate before you do where you may notice mucus changes.  Returning to menstruation and back to a regular cycle is variable between women.  If you definitely do not want to get pregnant in this time maybe look at barrier methods, hormone contraception or learn and be confident with observing your fertile mucus signs.  We have all heard about the woman who got pregnant whilst breastfeeding!

For consults with Kerry Marshall please visit www.kerrymarshall.com.au
or contact her on 0488 237 444

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