Trying to conceive

It’s 2019. Fertility should be more than “just wait and see.”

So I am currently in-between appointments and thought it might be the best time to go over the trying to conceive tools I have tried for anyone else out there who might be considering what to do next. The one thing I have definitely picked up on in the black/african community is how people without actually saying much make you feel uncomfortable for using trying to conceive (TTC) tools. Which goes back to the whole stigma and the idea that it should just happen for you and you don’t need ANY assistance of any kind. That’s cool if that is someone approach but it is not mine and anyone who knows me, knows how much I love an app so when I started exploring the infertility world I was so surprised by how many useful tools are out there, some free, others not so cheap! The one thing I will say is don’t be discouraged about using some kind of tool to assist you in becoming pregnant. The tools I have tried have given me so much wealth in terms of information about my cycle – a lot of which I might not have known had I not been charting and measuring one thing or the other! Of course, I haven’t tried everything but I think I have tried most in the last 2 years and 8 months. Also, I cannot give you ALL the information and this is purely my experience and opinion in bite-sized format so please click the links for further information and approach with an open mind, people respond differently to different things. I am more than happy to take any questions and chat one-on-one.

Flo app1

Claims: Number 1 mobile product for women’s health offering a Period tracker and ovulation calendar allowing you to log over 70 symptoms and activities to get the most precise AI-based period and ovulation predictions.

My experience: I agree with this claim. Out of all the period tracker apps I’ve used, Flo has been the best one for me in terms of the other things it can do, the simple and visual interface, the predictions that adapt with the information I put in. I have been using Flo for about 8 years now to chart my period and in terms predicting when my period is due it has been pretty accurate plus/minus a day or two each cycle. You can log plenty of other things like sexual activity, vaginal discharge, symptoms, mood, stress, alcohol intake, water intake, sleep, and weight. It also works with the Apple health app to log your steps. I don’t tend to use all these functions but there are there when I need them. You can also chart your basal body temperature (BBT) in the app which just helps it predict ovulation. Overall I was very happy with Flo however when we started trying I did feel that there would be more advanced tools out there because primarily, Flo is a period tracker and I had used it in this way for years. I still use Flo in conjunction with the other apps below.

Price: FREE! Perhaps the real plus about Flo is that the app is free and there are no extras that need to be bought. I think Flo is ideal when you’re still in your early days of trying or just to chart your periods.

Natural Cycles

Claims: FDA cleared as a medical device, the contraceptive app is 93% effective with typical use and 98% effective with perfect use. The intelligent contraceptive app identifies your fertility from your body temperature. Natural Cycles takes fertility tracking one step further. The app uses an algorithm which learns your unique cycle from the BBT temperatures you add. Once Natural Cycles has analysed your temperature curve it can detect ovulation, learn your fertile window and tell you where you are in the menstrual cycle. With Natural Cycles you’ll get a personalised fertility status every day.

My experience: You might be wondering why I chose to use a tool that sells itself as a contraceptive tool? Good question, and in hindsight this is one of the reasons I did not continue using it. Natural Cycles is an answer for women who do not want to put contraceptive hormones in their bodies (because we all know about the horrible side effects!) and instead want to abstain on the fertile days and keep the body all ‘natural’. The idea with Natural Cycles is to give you a fertility status every day by using your BBT to predict when you are likely to ovulate, so essentially one can also use it to time intercourse for maximum possibility. And they do advertise it as a trying to conceive tool as well – the app has two modes; as a contraceptive tool and a trying to conceive tool. Obviously I used the latter. Natural Cycles come as an app that works with a thermometer (which you have to buy separately!) and you have to take your temperature every morning before you get out of bed. In my eagerness it started off really well and I was remembering every morning, all good… The one thing the Natural Cycles app showed me, which for some reason I hadn’t picked up on before was that I had an irregular cycle – and this is VERY important to know when you are trying to conceive. My cycles can be anything from 33 days to 46 to 52 days – every month is different. So I did the temping for a few months, never quite getting ovulation confirmed each month and it discouraged me and I started slacking. What I also realised with Natural Cycles is that it seems to be based very much on a 28 day cycle and I think it would need years of cycle information to learn to make better predictions for someone like me with an irregular cycle… so it wasn’t a right fit for me personally (I’m sure it has worked for some people). And as mentioned before, Natural Cycles markets itself more as natural contraceptive than a trying to conceive (TTC) tool so perhaps it works better that way round.

Price: £49.99 annually including the thermometer (this is what I paid) or £6.99 monthly subscription and an extra £10 for the thermometer. This was the first trying to conceive tool I paid for. I must admit, I didn’t even tell my husband that I had bought a thermometer because you can feel a little bit crazy when you spend on trying to conceive, something that should happen naturally. After 2.5 years of trying though, you quickly get over that… and as you find out shortly, I have paid more than this!

Ovulation tests

Claims: An ovulation kit is also known as ovulation predictor kit (OPK). The kit detects the surge in LH in the urine and tells you when you may be approaching ovulation. The test predicts ovulation based on LH concentrations in urine. The standard kit has two lines. One line is the control line. It will tell you that the kit is working. The second line is the test line. LH is surging when the test line is similar in color or darker than the control line. The more advanced digital version presents a clear smiley face in the digital display when your LH surge has been detected, so you know this day and the following day are your best 2 days to try for a baby.

My experience: I started off with the standard ovulation tests which were really cheap on Amazon, and I used these when the Natural Cycles app prompted me to measure my luteinizing hormone (LH) on particular days leading up to my predicted fertile days. Using the ovulation test helps paint a clearer picture of what is going on with your hormone levels and helps to accurately narrow down your most fertile days. I personally found the standard test sticks hard to read, whether my line was darker than the test line or not, so I decided to switch to the digital version but alas, even with the digital one I had a flashing smiley for 11 days straight and never got the static smiley. In other cycles, I did not get any kind of smiley face at all. Whether that’s a true reflection of my hormone levels considering the suspicion that I might not be ovulation every cycle, I don’t know but the ovulation tests didn’t work for me so I gave them up.

Price: The standard ones are very cheap and I bought a box of 80 test strips for £10.99. The digital one comes with 10 testing sticks and the digital handle for £22 – I bought this one twice.

Taking Charge of your Fertility

Claims: TCOYF has helped literally hundreds of thousands of women achieve pregnancy, avoid pregnancy naturally, or simply gain better control of their health and lives. This book thoroughly explains the empowering Fertility Awareness Method with access to access to a full-featured charting app, our vibrant TTC community, informative articles, and helpful tips.

My experience: I wish I had found this book by Toni Weschler in the earlier days because it is a big book with so much information and illustrations and hard science – I still haven’t finished it but I would highly recommend it. So Toni’s method is basically the old school method (the Fertility Awareness Method – FAM) of checking your cervical mucus and position every day and logging this information. This can be accompanied by the BBT if you so wish. I did try this, I really did for about 6 weeks, but I couldn’t distinguish the different cervical indicators even with all the instructions and explanations in the book. As you’ve probably figured by now I need things to be presented to me very black and white when it comes fertility, I need to KNOW, not assume, so I did not feel confident about the observations I was making which in turn made me feel less empowered. Also I think the information in the book is invaluable, but when you have already been trying it can feel like such a huge task to get through it in order to feel empowered by it. Toni does say on her website that it is meant for early reading before you have to seek medical assistance and this would make sense because after a couple of years of trying, the last you want to do is try to get through a very thick and very scientific book! But I will finish it one day because it’s such an important book on fertility awareness. The app, compared to all the other apps out there is very dated and clunky in my opinion. They were making some improvements to it when I stopped using it so I’m sure it will get better.

Price: The book was £18 from amazon and the app was free.

Ovusense

Claims: OvuSense provides live updates predicting ovulation up to 24 hours in advance using your current cycle data. This helps you time your conception during each individual cycle, even if you have irregular ovulation timing. OvuSense then confirms ovulation with 99% clinically-proven accuracy. Helping you diagnose any issues and track the effect of any medication you may be taking. Giving you every answer you need about your cycle all in one device.

My experience: There is so much more about Ovusense so I encourage you to click on the link for more info. This is what I am currently using and might be strange for some people but basically Ovusense comes as a sensor in the shape of a sperm and you insert this in your vagina overnight (or whenever you sleep) and take it out in the morning and tap your phone on it (after washing it of course!) with the app open and it downloads all your core body temperature logs and produces a daily graph to identify when you are most fertile in real-time. I prefer Ovusense because it basically does all the work for me without me guessing or missing the temperature reading before it disappears or even remembering to take my temperature. Because you keep it in as you sleep, I have found it easier to remember to put it in and when I wake up once I start walking I feel the little tail so I remember I need to take it out and you have 2 hours to log your reading. So you can take a shower, wash your device without any rush at all. It is also very easy to put in (much easier in squat position) – a bit like wearing a tampon so nothing unusual there for most women. Obviously you don’t use it during your periods or during sex! So far (2 cycles) I have not had a confirmed ovulation and I cannot say what that means… and although I have not been confirmed to have it, Ovusense states that it can be used by women with PCOS unlike most other TTC tools.

Price: This is where it gets a bit interesting… you can get a starter pack for £99 with 2 months free subscription or £199 for a 12-month subscription. Your device will not work without a subscription. I cannot remember what I initially paid but I recently paid £99 for 12 months subscription as part of an offer for returning customers (this is my second stint with Ovusense – took a break for a couple of months and to be fair did not use it consistently enough initially).

Seven Seas Trying for a Baby

Claim: Seven Seas Trying For A Baby contains 400µg of Folic Acid which is recommended by the UK government. Folic acid is essential for your baby’s development as it is needed to promote the healthy formation of the baby’s neural tube. It also contains essential vitamins and minerals expertly blended for pre-conception and early pregnancy which work in harmony with your body.

My experience: I currently take one pill daily based on recommendations from other women, for example, a lady at work fell pregnant quickly while taking these and she had been told by a friend who also fell pregnant quickly about them. I know it’s never that simple and there are other factors that could have played a part but I figured why not, babies do need folic acid anyway. So it’s generally advisable to take these and you keep taking these until the baby is 12 weeks. Obviously, I can’t vouch for their effectiveness but I take them more as a way to prepare my body for a baby when the eventually occurs.

Price: You can get these in any supermarket or Boots for about £5 or on Amazon where I get mine for £4. The box comes with 28 pills, taken once a day.

Ava Bracelet

Claims: Tracks 5 physiological signs of fertility. Clinically proven fertility tracking bracelet which uses sensor technology to reveal what’s really happening with your cycle—whether you’re trying to conceive, are pregnant, or simply want to better understand your body. Worn only during sleep, Ava eliminates the guesswork around tracking your cycle. Tested for cycles 24 – 35 days. Not tested for PCOS.

My experience: I have not used the Ava bracelet as it has only been tested on cycles that range from 24 – 35 days and as you may know by now, my cycles can be and often are longer than this. The fact that it is also not tested on PCOS even though I haven’t been confirmed to have it just makes me think it is aimed at people with regular well-behaving cycles. I also haven’t tried it because of the hefty price tag!

Price: £250 #enoughsaid

So this is my list of trying to conceive tools. Have you tried any of these? How did you or are you getting on? Have you tried any others? I am always very interested in learning about other assistive tools so please do share.

Sidenote: Unfortunately, they haven’t started manufacturing the #justrelax pills yet, for those who are always dying to say that to someone dealing with infertility #shadenoshade #sorrynotsorry #pettyfertilityqueen #infertilityclapsback #okbye !