Cycle charting for preconception planning and trying to conceive

Trimester 0: Preconception Planning with Fertility Awareness Method

SEPTEMBER 30, 2023

by Sara Beaumont FAE, HRHP | @reverencefertility

Are you thinking about starting a family? There’s a lot of useful (and conflicting/confusing/pushy!) information out there. It can be so overwhelming to process that I hate to further saturate the subject with a blog post on the topic of preconception.

But you deserve to know what I know to improve your chances of conceiving, becoming pregnant and staying pregnant.

Don’t worry, I’ll stay in my lane. Let’s focus on the one foundational, effective and inclusive piece of advice I have to offer anyone trying to conceive naturally:
start charting your cycle.

By charting your cycle, I don’t mean entering your last menstrual period (LMP) into an app and checking the predictions to time intercourse or insemination around an assumed ovulation.

I mean developing a relationship with your reproductive body by learning to observe, chart and interpret your signs of fertility in real time and with confidence, in order to precisely identify your clinical fertile window, confirm ovulation, support your reproductive hormone functions and improve your chances of conception.

As you probably already know, the only way to conceive naturally is to ovulate, and for the egg released at ovulation to encounter sperm. Predicting ovulation can be really disappointing if you're seriously TTC, because it’s common for cycle fluctuations to occur and for ovulation to shift, delay or disappear, even among those with regular cycles. Since timing is everything, staying present, becoming body literate, and identifying ovulation accurately can significantly increase your chances of conceiving in any given cycle.

I used to assume that I was consistently ovulating mid-cycle because my period arrived like clockwork every 28 days or so, and I’d been taught that ovulation occurs on cycle day 14. I discovered via charting that I wasn’t always ovulating (in which case, my period was actually a withdrawal bleed masquerading as menstruation), and that my cycle was less optimal than I originally thought. Over time, I made lifestyle changes that supported my reproductive hormones and their roles in ovulation. I started to ovulate consistently. Eventually, my partner and I timed conception. If I hadn’t come to know my cycle through charting and recognized its need for support early on, then it could have taken a long time to conceive, but because of charting it only took one cycle.

If you have a cycle, then you can learn how to chart. And there’s good news for those TTC: charting can be useful immediately. (For those avoiding pregnancy, it takes a few cycles before you can rely on charting for your sole method of birth control). By observing the sensation at the vulva and any appearances of cervical mucus on your toilet paper, you can know when your body is primed to ovulate.

Cervical mucus selects, nourishes and capacitates sperm for up to five days in the female reproductive tract, so timing intercourse or an IUI during this time is ideal. By taking your basal body temperature every morning, you can know when ovulation has already passed and when pregnancy is no longer possible in that cycle. Once you have a few charts to explore, then you can start to recognize helpful patterns. When I work with a client on charting to conceive, we look for evidence that hormones are primed to support a pregnancy, and if not, then we work on getting them prepped.

Trimester 0 refers to the time it can take to prepare the body to maintain a pregnancy. It takes 90 days for egg follicles to mature, and lifestyle factors during those three months affects the follicle’s capacity to perform its roles, and to transform into the badass kind of corpus luteum that can meet 1st Trimester progesterone demands.

(There’s nothing I love more than supporting people to achieve the vision they have for their family size and structure, so please, reach out anytime if you want support in learning more about fertility awareness and cycle charting!)

As a bonus, a long-term payoff of learning to chart as part of preconception planning is that you can apply the exact same techniques to avoid pregnancy postpartum (short-term or long-term, while breastfeeding or not), space future pregnancies, or monitor reproductive health through every phase until menopause. Unlike other forms of birth control, charting doesn’t expire.

Chart your cycles. It’s the best advice I can give you!

And, A Preconception Matra

Chart your cycle. Rest well in very dark spaces. Eat as organic as possible, consuming foods in their most whole forms. Eggs, any way you like them. Move your body often. Replace your cocktails with mocktails, and soothe your cortisol bumps with calming practices. Begin taking a prenatal that supplements your diet. Buy the progesterone cream if you believe in it. Don’t underestimate the power of belief. Act like you’re pregnant. Replace your chemical-based beauty and home care products with natural alternatives, slowly, if you can. Cancel some things. Wear loose-fitting clothes. Invest in healing your nervous system if you feel dysregulated often. A little less coffee, and a little more adaptogenic tea or water. Give up on something that will free you more. Experiment with fertility acupuncture or pelvic floor therapy if you suspect you could benefit. Know that everything you do moves the needle, and that there’s nothing you have to do if it doesn’t serve you. Know that you know what’s best for you.

In reverence and with warmth,

Sara Beaumont FAE, HRHP

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Fertility Awareness Educator Sara at Reverence Fertility

About the Author

Sara (she/her) is a Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioner and Fertility Awareness Educator serving clients virtually and locally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since 2016, Sara has used fertility awareness based methods to avoid pregnancy, optimize her fertility, time a pregnancy with her partner and navigate postpartum fertility.