Fertility charting can be used for postponing pregnancy as well. The term Natural Family Planning is often used to describe use of fertility awareness techniques to avoid pregnancy. This approach can help couples delay starting a family or to limit the size of an existing family. There are many good reasons to consider symptothermal charting. The most common are:
- Appeal of a natural means of birth control
- To aid in understanding your fertility - possibly with the intent of trying to conceive at a later date.
- Religious beliefs
- Relatively inexpensive
These techniques are scientifically based and supported by clinical studies. During a woman's menstrual cycle, her body prepares for a possible pregnancy. The brain sends hormonal triggers to the female body to prepare for ovulation and release an egg. These same hormones trigger observable side effects (or symptoms) in the body. By monitoring these symptoms, it is possible to understand when ovulation occurs.
Couples interested in postponing pregnancy simply abstain from sexual intercourse during fertile days. Fertile days are often highlighted using vertical lines on the chart to define a Fertile Window. Pregnancy is only possible during a few days of each cycle. Fertility awareness techniques can be applied to identify these fertile days (the window). This information makes it possible to avoid the likelihood of pregnancy by abstaining from intercourse when conception is likely.
What do these techniques require?
The fertility awareness method involves recording and charting daily symptoms indicative of fertility. The most common symptoms are basal body temperatures and cervical mucus observations. Other symptoms such as cervix status, fertility monitor readings, and hormonal test results can also be optionally charted.
It is not necessary to chart every possible symptom though. Basal body temperature (BBT) is one of the most common symptoms to chart for women interested in postponing pregnancy. It can identify ovulation after it occurs. Another symptom such as cervical mucus should also be charted. It helps identify approaching fertility as can a fertility monitor. Women with irregular cycles should especially consider charting one of these symptoms to know when ovulation is nearing. This is important because ovulation may not occur on the same cycle day every month.
During the beginning of a cycle, fertility levels are low. These levels slowly rise as ovulation approaches. Cervical mucus observations can help women know when fertility levels start becoming significant prior to ovulation. Cycle history can also be factored in to put conservative bounds on the fertile window. Once this occurs, intercourse should be avoided due to the pregnancy risk. After ovulation occurs, the daily temperatures will sustain an elevated shift. Ovulation can be confirmed once this shift is verified. It is then considered safe to resume intercourse. To be safe, other symptoms should also confirm the passing of ovulation before considering the fertile window closed.
Natural Family Planning: An investment in your future
One of the largest benefits of fertility charting is the fact that it puts women in tune with their cycle and fertility. This not only makes postponing pregnancy possible, but can also be used with the opposite objective in mind. Many women interested in avoiding pregnancy later use the same charting techniques to aid in getting pregnant. By taking the time to learn the fertility awareness methods now, you can simplify getting pregnant later when the time is right. This benefit is significant since a majority of healthy couples can become pregnant within 1-2 cycles once they have mastered the techniques and decide to try to conceive.
Calendar or rhythm method techniques
Some sources advise estimating your fertility using only cycle start dates. This approach considers the average length of your cycle and makes certain assumptions to decide when you are likely to be fertile. It is called the calendar or rhythm method and applies a simple calculation using your most recent cycle start date and your longest and shortest cycles. A more recent variation is called the standard days method. These differ significantly from the fertility awareness techniques described on this site which are commonly referred to as the symptothermal method.
The rhythm method should generally be avoided. It only works for some women. The technique assumes that cycles will occur predictably and that all women have the same luteal phase length. The results will be off if either of these assumptions are incorrect. This is particularly important for women with irregular cycle lengths. Although it requires more effort, charting daily symptoms is much more effective and is recommended.
More details on the effectiveness of these methods are available here. Keep in mind that no form of birth control (other than abstinence) is 100% effective and there is always a risk of an unintended pregnancy. Fertility charting is only as effective as the data you put into it, so consider taking a class and always double check charts by applying rules yourself as well.
The Next Step in Learning to Chart Your Fertility
This site contains the information necessary for you to begin charting your fertility. Now that you are convinced of the potential benefits and effectiveness of natural family planning, you can follow a recommended path to learn more. Many readers may wish to read up on background information describing how these techniques work. This background information can be helpful to put fertility charting in perspective. Other readers may want to skip this scientific explanation and skip ahead to review the different symptoms you can track.
- An Overview of Which Hormonal Events Signal Fertility
(scientific explanation: recommended next reading)
- Overview of Possible Symptoms to Track
(skips over scientific explanation above)
Recommended Navigation of this Site
The links in the left margin at the top of each page suggest what information you should consider reading next. This is helpful to know as you navigate this site. Links at the top are also available to allow you quick access to any page. Overall, readers new to fertility awareness will find the following sequence of information helpful.
- First, may readers will benefit from reading the medical background. This explains the hormonal triggers associated with female fertility that make natural family planning possible.
- First, you should check out the possible symptoms that you can chart. This will help you decide what information you want to record and understand the fields on the symptothermal charts.
- Once you understand your options, you can start looking into how these symptoms are charted to determine your fertility. The charting legend page helps introduce you to fertility charts. You can also consider whether you want to chart manually on paper or electronically using software that automates the process.
- Readers new to natural family planning may find recording tips helpful as they look to begin recording personal symptoms.
- Even if you are using software to interpret your charts, you can still benefit from understanding how to interpret them yourself. This is the last recommended reading for new users.
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