Print Friendly and PDF

When you are trying to conceive, timing is everything. Having sex or doing an insemination just before and on your peak fertility day(s) will greatly increase your chances of getting pregnant.

Psst: For a refresher on your cycles and how conception actually happens, check out this article. And for an in depth look at conception, read The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama: Redefining the Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum Journey.

But how do you know when your fertile days are? By charting your cycles and watching for signs of ovulation.

Download Motherly's Fertility Chart here:

Motherly_Guide_Fertility_Chart.pdf

Even if getting pregnant isn't an immediate goal, starting to chart your cycles now can be really helpful, because the longer you chart, the better you'll get to know your body, and the easier it will be to figure out when you are ovulating. And it's pretty empowering to learn about your body and its rhythms. Cycles can vary from month to month, so charting for several months in a row will give you a better idea of what's normal for you.

FEATURED VIDEO

How to chart ovulation

When charting, it's best to keep track of several aspects of your cycle: The timing of your periods, and the signs of ovulation. Unfortunately, research has found that apps and charts that just track your period, and determine your fertile days from that, are not very accurate. This is because menstrual cycles can vary so much—from month to month, and woman to woman.

The best thing to do is to use these apps in conjunction with paying attention to signs of ovulation. You may also consider using ovulation prediction kits, which we'll discuss in a bit.

By using a variety of methods to determine your fertile days, you'll increase your odds of timing intercourse or insemination right, which means, that we will have LOTS more to talk about very soon 😉.

What are the signs I'm ovulating? Here are eight signs of ovulation to look out for. It is important to note that the first three are the most important.

1. Cervical mucus

This is a normal vaginal secretion that helps sperm travel up into your uterus. Your mucus will change from dry, to sticky to creamy, to wet, and finally to the consistency of egg whites; this is your most fertile cervical mucus. You can observe your cervical mucus just by seeing what it looks like on your underwear. Or, with clean hands, you can place a finger inside your vagina and see how the secretions feel.

Cervical mucus is probably the best indication of ovulation. And using an ovulation monitor along with checking your cervical mucus is even more accurate (more on that soon).

2. Basal body temperature

The average waking body temperatures (at the time you wake up) before ovulation is about 97-97.5 degrees Fahrenheit, and after ovulation it rises to about 97.6-98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It will remain on the higher side until you either get your period and it drops back down, or stays high because you are now a baby-cooking oven (18 days in a row of higher temperature is usually the indicative number)!

Use a basal thermometer. You can check your temperature in your mouth, your vagina or in your rectum, but stay consistent (once a rectal thermometer, ALWAYS a rectal thermometer). Check your temperature before you get out of bed in the morning, and after getting at least three hours of sleep. It works best if you take your temperature at the same time each day. Plot out your temperature each day on a chart like this.

But here's the thing about basal body temperature. It gives us more information looking backwards than it does looking forward. You'll only know you've ovulated after the fact so by the time you've seen a temperature rise, you've already ovulated. But by charting for several months in a row, you'll begin to see your pattern—“Oh wow, my temp rises each month between day 15 and 17, so I must ovulate on day 14 to 16!" Another reason to starting to chart now.

3. Cervical position

Around the time of ovulation, your cervix will become higher, softer and more open (as opposed to low, firm and closed). With clean hands, you can insert a finger into your vagina and feel for your cervix, and begin to chart your findings. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor or midwife to teach you how to do this at your next visit.

4. Spotting

Sometimes when the egg is release from the follicle that was holding it, a small amount of bleeding occurs, which you may notice as vaginal spotting. But its not common—one study found that only about 5% of women will have mid-cycle bleeding. Still, if you notice it, record it! It could be a sign that your fertile window has arrived.

5. Pain or cramping

About 35% of women will experience pain when they ovulate (a phenomenon known as mittelschmerz). You may feel generally crampy in your lower abdomen (much like when you get your period) or you may have sharp pain on one side. Do mention it to your provider—in rare cases the pain could be caused by an ovarian cyst that could need medical attention.

6. Breast tenderness

The rise of hormones associated with ovulation can sometimes cause your breasts to feel tender. Some women experience this as an early sign of pregnancy as well.

7. Nausea, fatigue and headaches

Yup, it can start this early. Those classic pregnancy symptoms are in partially triggered by hormones, and you may get a little dose of them when you ovulate.

8. Increased sex drive

Your body is smart, so if your body is "in the mood," listen to her (if you want to, of course). Many women find that as they approach ovulation, they are more sexually fired up.

How often should I have sex or insemination when trying to conceive?

As I share in this article:

"If your partner or sperm donor has an average or high sperm count, you can have sex every day in your fertile window. If he has a low sperm count, have sex every other day in order boost the sperm concentration in the ejaculate.

"Sperm is healthiest when men ejaculate every two to three days, so encourage your partner or sperm donor not to wait too many days between orgasms."

How to use an ovulation kit

Ovulation prediction kits come in a variety of forms. There are simple sticks that you pee on that display lines that darken as you approach ovulation, and machines that assess your urine for varying levels of fertility. Wearable devices that track your body temperature or pulse have also been found to be reliable, especially when used with the aforementioned techniques.

Providers do caution against using the kits and machines alone—they are not fool-proof, and something when we rely purely on technology, we may miss the our body's signals, which could lead to missing our fertile window.

Once you've plotted all your findings on a fertility chart (or in an app like one of these), you'll be able to see what your amazing body is up to. And with that knowledge, before you know it (and when you're ready) you'll be charting the poopy diapers and nap schedules of your darling little baby.

You might also like:

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.
Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Thanks for subscribing!

Check your email for a confirmation message.

There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

FEATURED VIDEO

"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

FEATURED VIDEO

Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

FEATURED VIDEO

Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

News

Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

FEATURED VIDEO

Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.