Ok, so in this blog I am sharing our TTC and ovulation journey and how myself and my wife Amy tracked my ovulation during this time! For reference we started tracking my ovulation in late June and fell pregnant at the start of November on our second attempt of AI using a donor. The first stage of us trying was for me to go and have some tests done (blood tests and a scan of my uterus, ovaries etc). I’ve always had really painful, heavy periods and the GP wanted to rule out Endometriosis as this is something that my Mum suffered with very badly at my age. All of my tests came back clear and no explanation was provided as to why my periods were so painful so we assumed at this point that I was ok to start trying for a baby.
The next thing that we looked into was how to improve my general health in order to increase my chances of conceiving. Amy looked into good foods to eat and we tried to incorporate some of these into our diets wherever possible (things like oily fish, eggs, spinach, nuts, sunflower seeds etc). We didn't do this religiously by any stretch of the imagination but we did make some changes here and there. I also tried to lose a bit of weight but that was also a bit hit and miss! However I did cut right down on my alcohol consumption in the months leading up to us trying as this is really supposed to help.
From around June/July of last year, I also started tracking my ovulation. To do this I used a couple of different ovulation testing kits, namely the One Step testing strips (which are really cheap on Amazon if you buy them in bulk!) and the Clearblue digital testing kits. Both of these work in the same way (wee in a pot then dip the strips into the pot to test). The main difference is that you can see the slow build up to ovulation in the One Step, whereas the Clearblue gives you a simple positive or negative result (well, a smiley face for a positive result compared to an empty circle for a negative). I used to use the One Step strips once per day quite a few days before I thought I was likely to ovulate (usually around 6 days after the first day of my period) and then I would start using them three times per day (first thing in the morning, around lunchtime and then in the evening) alongside using the Clearblue once a day - usually first thing in the morning I think!
With the Clearblue tests, I started off by using the pink kit which only tests for leutinising hormone (LH). This is the hormone that spikes in women about 24-36 hours before they ovulate so it gives you a pretty last minute warning that you’re probably about to ovulate (although there is no guarantee as you could have the spike, then something could still cause you not to ovulate - e.g. being unwell or really stressed). Obviously for us this wasn't ideal as we had to organise time off work, travelling to where our donor lived, arranging accommodation etc - all very hectic! Because of this, we decided to switch over to the advance Clearblue kit. This tests for both LH and also oestrogen which on the whole gives you more warning. This is because your oestrogen levels should start to rise a few days before your LH spikes…however…this is also not guaranteed! We had massively differing results from one month to the next; one month I got two days of “high” fertility (i.e. oestrogen was showing in my system), some months with no warning at all, and on the month that we conceived, I got 5 days of positive oestrogen results! Due to the tests showing high fertility, we started trying as soon as we got that flashing smiley face and daily until the day before I ovulated; due to our situation we had to return home on what ended up being the day before I ovulated, but we had tried every day for five days leading up to this. Once we returned home, I ended up getting the positive result for ovulation the next day so we didn't actually try on my day of ovulation, which is actually why we think that it worked.
People usually focus on the day of ovulation but actually that is usually too late. It is better to have sperm ‘waiting’ there ready for the egg to be released.
I also tracked my basal body temperature (BBT); this involved me buying a digital thermometer (Boots do one for £9.99) and taking my temperature at pretty much the exact same time every single day (6am - hideous!) before I got out of bed. When you do this, it’s really important to not get up, sit up, do pretty much anything until you have taken your temperature, so I kept the thermometer and my phone right next to me so that I could just reach over and take it as soon as my alarm went off. You also have to ideally have been in bed having “restful sleep” for at least four hours prior to taking your temperature otherwise it can skew the results. I would record all of my results (along with my ovulation kit test results and other data like dates, symptoms etc) on a couple of apps. I used Flo and Fertility Friend; Fertility Friend was really good for me but I used Flo as well because all of the apps interpret the data slightly differently.
With BBT, the reason that it is great to track this is that, unlike the ovulation testing kits, with BBT you can pretty much exactly pinpoint when you ovulated (and that you definitely have). This is because you should see a sustained rise in your temperature after you ovulate, which will last until just before you have your next period. For me, I was really lucky because I usually also saw a one day dip in my temperature on the day that I ovulated. I've included my September and October charts so you can see what these looked like! The circles plotted that are "see-through" in the middle are days where for whatever reason the data was unreliable (probably because i'd been up in the night or took my temperature at a different time).
Obviously all of this gives you information after the event so can’t be used to plan for that month’s ovulation but it can help you figure out your usual patterns of ovulation month by month. In my case, it really reassured me that I actually had ovulated, without the need for having repeated blood tests etc. It’s also good because you can count how many days there are in your luteal phase (LP - the days from ovulation to the day of your next period). If your luteal phase is short then that can cause problems with conceiving/a fertilised egg successfully implanting so it’s definitely worth knowing as there are things that your GP/fertility expert can do to help extend this. If you start tracking and think that your LP is a bit short, stamp your feet to get a treatment prescribed which could help led you to having a successful pregnancy.
There are other ways that you can try to track your ovulation, including cervical fluid and your cervix position, but I really could not make any sense of these so I stuck to the above!
Once we had figured out that I was definitely ovulating and a rough pattern of how frequent this was, we found a donor (which won’t be relevant for most of you!). He had the usual tests done, including fertility testing (motility and sperm count), blood tests to determine his blood group and a whole raft of horrible STI tests!
I continued to track my BBT every day and I also did the test strips until I started getting negative results again, to be sure that I ovulated. I knew before even doing a test that I was pregnant on the month that I conceived because, instead of a sharp drop in temperature on the day before my expected period, my temperature went up instead (this is called a triphasic BBT pattern). Despite the inconvenience of having to take my temperature at 6am daily (before I had even got up to use the loo), I really liked tracking my BBT as it felt really clear and scientific and also it let me know gently ahead of time whether I was going to come on or not. I found it less harsh than a negative pregnancy test and it also reassured me that my body was doing what it was supposed to.
We really hope that this info has been helpful to you; sorry it’s such an essay but we did so much research before we started trying and learnt so much along the way. If you want any more info just let us know and don't worry if you think it is a personal question, we won’t be offended at all :)