as a little educational tool. i thought i would go into more detail about what charting your cycles actually looks like. it’s not for those who are easily squeamish about bodily functions and most men probably want to know little to nothing about this. but for those ladies out there who would like to know their physical bodies a little better, i would recommend giving charting a second thought.
first off, when i say “charting” i am referring to observing different fertility signs your body gives and keeping a daily record of them on some type of chart. i highly recommend finding a very knowledgeable source on charting. i personally followed the charting method described in the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. the type of charting in this book is called the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). many Catholics practice Natural Family Planning (NFP) which is essentially the same thing as FAM. if you do a little research, you should be able to find a local group that educates people on NFP. there are lots of other books out there on charting your cycles along with different theories/ideas on what to actually pay attention to and chart.
with FAM you chart three fertility signs: temperature, cervical mucus and cervical position.
temperature. first thing every morning before i stirred out of bed (and at relatively the same time everyday), i would pop a thermometer in my mouth and then record the temp on a chart like this one. essentially, before you ovulate your temperatures will stay low. mine sat in the low 97’s. after you ovulate your temp will rise and stay high until menstruation. my high temps were high 97’s into the low 98’s. when i became pregnant, my temperature rose another time into the high 98’s (this is know as triphasic and not all women observe this when they become pregnant). this observation was one reason i tested as soon as i did.
cervical mucus (cm). this one is a personal favorite of every lady out there! my mom would be shocked that i am even writing about such an unsuitable topic of conversation. but, alas, this stuff is amazing because it can tell you a lot about where you are in your cycle. i will leave it to the books on the best way to actually observe your cm but i will say it is best done daily and recorded on your chart. you are essentially observing the consistency and color of your cm. for example, the most fertile cm (a great indication you are or are about to ovulate) has a clear color, egg white consistency and is stretchy. and i will leave it at that.
cervical position. another good one but a little more confusing than the rest. this one takes practice at figuring out. i never really did. throughout your cycle, the position and feel of your cervix changes. with practice, a woman can recognize differences in her cervix which can help indicate where she is in her cycle. observing your cervical position is not as important as observing your temp and cm but it is one more helpful fertility sign.
so why chart?
*for birth control *for pregnancy achievement *for preparing to conceive *for knowing your body better *for observing potential issues
personally, i chose to chart because i wanted to increase my chances of getting pregnant faster. i also wanted to be able to observe any possible warning signs of something being off with my cycles. for example, some woman chart and realize they are not ovulating which is obviously a huge problem if you are trying to get pregnant. charting also provided me the added benefit of knowing almost to the day when my baby was conceived.
some women choose to chart instead of using the pill or other contraceptives. i had a friend who successfully took her temperature every morning for almost four years as her “birth control” and did not get pregnant until she and her husband had decided they were ready (and it took them almost no time at all to get pregnant).
i know charting is not for every lady out there. just like natural birth is not for every woman. just like taking the pill is not for every woman. but i do hope learning more about how your body works is for every woman. i did not know my body had this incredible rhythm (besides the period that couldn’t be ignored month to month) until i was out of college and about to get married. no one ever told me my body will tell me when it is fertile and when it is not. i really thought there weren’t many options out there but birth control or contraceptives. i thought you just kept trying and trying and trying until you magically got pregnant one month. maybe i didn’t pay enough attention in health class or something but i am pretty sure the woman’s body is not properly taught to growing girls in our culture.
ladies, your body has a beautiful, amazing rhythm. your period is just one part of that rhythm. get to know yours!
***if you are using a hormonal contraceptive, you may not be able to chart effectively. i would recommend doing research before trying to chart.***