Fertility Monitoring

Originally posted on April 26, 2015 on Merely Mothers (now Evie & Sarah)

All I really remember from my school’s sex ed. classes is the video that my friends and I mocked for years that ended with the overly chipper mom telling her newly menstruating tween, “Let’s go out to ice cream!” Seriously, mom?

Lately, I’ve been wishing I’d paid closer attention, because there are so many things I’m just learning about my own body. And when you’re trying to conceive through fertility treatments, knowing your own body and its cycles significantly increases your chances of getting the timing right. Thankfully, there are some monitoring tools that can help.

Temperature charting

One method of fertility monitoring that’s been used for years is charting temperature throughout the course of the month. Recording your temperature first thing in the morning using a basal thermometer, which gives a more accurate reading, can often determine ovulation among other important information about your cycle. Use it over a couple months and you’ll be able to predict your most fertile days.


It’s cheap; basal thermometers start as low as $7 on Amazon.


It needs to be done daily over the course of multiple months in order to see the patterns necessary for accurate predictions. Also, your basal temp should be taken at the same time every day for the most accurate results. This means waking up at your weekday time even on the weekends. Finally, you need to know a little about how to read the charts. Luckily, there’s an app for that. See fertility apps below.


EUDEMON Digital Basal Thermometer for Cycle Control: I like being able to read the backlit screen without having to turn on a light, especially on the weekends when I often go back to bed after taking my temp. It also saves 30 days of data so you don’t need to worry if you forget to write down your reading one day.

Fertility monitoring apps

If you want to monitor multiple signs of fertility, including basal temperature, but want to leave the interpretation of all that data up to the experts, there are dozens of fertility apps available. The more data you input, the more accurate predictions they’ll provide, but most can predict your most fertile days and the day of ovulation with good accuracy after just a month of monitoring.


Most offer free versions of the app that pretty much do everything you need when trying to conceive. They’re also convenient since they’re available on your phone, tablet, and computer. And they give you piece of mind; you’re not alone in interpreting the data.


For the best results, you still should be taking your basal temperature daily, so you’re still setting the alarm on Sunday. Ugh.


I’ve tried two of these apps, Ovia and Fertility Friend. Both track tons of data, more than I ever bother to enter (does it really matter if I’m cranky that day?). And both are easy to use.

Ovia looks pretty. Its interface is modern, colorful, and fun. I particularly like the little sperm swimming to the egg whenever you pull it down to update. Unfortunately, for the first two months it predicted my most fertile days later than what they ended up being. If I weren’t using the digital ovulation test as well and were going about having a baby the traditional way versus IUI, I definitely would have missed some of the best baby-making days in the month. By the third month, though, it did adjust to my data.

Fertility Friend, on the other hand, is nothing special to look at. Its graphics aren’t fancy or fun. But it works. At least for me, I find it to be the most accurate of the two.

Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs)

If it’s tough enough to wake up early on Mondays and the idea of daily temperature taking doesn’t do it for you, this last option might be your best bet. OPKs are easy to use monitors that read your changing hormone levels prior to ovulation in order to indicate your most fertile days. All they require is a few days of peeing on a stick.


Assuming you know the average length of your cycle, these monitors only need to be used for four or five days as you approach ovulation. You don’t need to wake up at any particular time to do them, and they give clear, accurate results.


The digital ones—the ones recommended for those of us undergoing IUIs due to their accuracy and ease in reading results—are expensive. Even on Amazon, the cheapest place by far that I’ve seen, they are about $35 for a two-month supply.


Clearblue Advanced Digital Ovulation Test: This monitor is great for couples and singles, as it gives not only the two peak fertility days (the reading needed for IUIs), but also the most fertile days leading up to that. It also cracks me up with its smiley face indicator. I’m waiting for it to wink at me one month or tell me to go get it on.

Whether you’re trying to get pregnant or trying not to get pregnant, it’s good to know that modern science and technology has taken a lot of the guesswork and superstitions out of fertility monitoring.

Featured image photo: Hey Paul Studios

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Motherhood Loves Company; The Magic of Mothers Groups

Originally posted on April 12, 2015 on Merely Mothers (now Evie & Sarah)

Shortly after announcing my intention to become a single mother, a friend of mine lent me a DVD of The Backup Plan, a far-fetched romantic comedy about a woman who made the same decision to go it alone, only to meet Mr. Right an hour after getting knocked up. Some of the best scenes in the movie take place at a single mothers support group. To maximize the comedic aspect, the film depicts its members as an eclectic, tight-knit group of hippies and man-haters. It was stereotypical but hysterical. It was also the night before my first Single Mothers By Choice (SMC) group meeting, so it was a tad terrifying.

Coming from a family where emotions and serious topics are preferably left unspoken or at least only used as fodder for jokes, the idea of a support group was new and uncomfortable. So walking into the church where the SMC meeting was held and taking in the circle of more than forty women required a little more nerve than expected, even for someone as loquacious as I am. I was tempted to join the half-dozen toddlers corralled in the center in their attempts to flee, but something drove me to an empty chair.

That something was the need to belong. The need to know I wasn’t alone in my desire to do something a little unconventional, a little crazy. Those toddlers and pre-schoolers were more than just loud and adorable. They were proof that what I want is possible. Their moms were not only surviving the early years of single motherhood, they were finding time to go to group meetings to support and encourage other single mothers on a Sunday afternoon.

We claim to be a society that admires individuality and self-reliance. But to attempt to do something challenging, which thousands of people have already done, without reaching out for advice, support, and encouragement isn’t self-sufficient, it’s needlessly stressful and arguably stupid. Living alone for so long I’ve become independent to a fault, but I’m not foolish. I know I can’t parent alone. I also know things will go wrong, probably quite often. I’m going to need support of all kinds, including the kind of emotional support that can only come from women who’ve walked this path a few steps ahead of me.

And those women, those moms? Well, they certainly weren’t the man-hating hippies Hollywood created. They were funny, educated, diverse women who just happened to find themselves single yet still wanting to be a mom. In other words, they were just like me. I looked around and realized I wasn’t sailing into the Bermuda triangle of parenting minus a first mate and a life-vest. I was on a well-stocked, able-crewed cruiser to motherhood. Suddenly the large number of attendees wasn’t daunting; it was empowering.

My mother never understood my interest in team sports. Or perhaps she just couldn’t see past the risk of her only daughter sustaining a life-long neck injury to see the benefits. I did—sustain the injury and reap the benefits. There’s something about doing something physically and mentally challenging with a group of like-minded women that allows you to appreciate the beauty and power of yourself, your body, and your gender. That might seem awfully deep coming from a hooker. (It’s a rugby position. Honestly.) But it’s an absolute truth and a feeling I wasn’t sure I’d ever truly experience again. Walking out of that meeting of other single mothers or single mothers-to-be, I felt a flicker of that feeling resurface.

Just like with my teammates on the rugby field, getting filthy and being unabashedly aggressive, those single moms and I are doing something a little edgy, and a little risky, and a little wonderful. We are pushing boundaries set by society and ourselves. And as scary as that can be, we push on, mostly because we know the rewards will be worth it. But also because we realize we are in good company.

Photo credit: DSC_4807 via photopin (license)