If you meet me in real life, it doesn’t take long for the conversation to turn to cycle charting. Observing and charting my body’s physical signs of fertility has given me the ability to know day by day if I’m in my fertile window or not. This allows me to plan my family without the use of contraception of any kind, and I’m a little obsessed. It may sound like a super power, but this skill is firmly grounded in science. Fertility Awareness Based Methods (FABMs) of family planning are increasingly coming into public awareness, and for good reason. When learned and used correctly, they can be over 99% effective at avoiding pregnancy and immensely helpful for those trying to conceive.
Besides giving one access to natural and safe family planning, there is another compelling reason to learn to record your biomarkers on a paper chart or app: paying attention to your fertility signs gives you useful insight into the state of your health.
When she begins practicing fertility awareness, a woman learns to observe physical symptoms of hormonal activity and record these observations in a systematic way. These signs include resting body temperature, cervical fluid, cervical position, and vaginal sensation, as well as secondary signs like breast tenderness, intermenstrual pain and mood changes. These biomarkers respond directly to hormonal changes on a day to day basis, allowing a woman to create a visual record of her menstrual cycle. Day by day, week by week, month by month, a woman will slowly begin to get a picture of what her normal cycles look like. Besides clearly revealing her window of fertility, this helps her to her daily physical changes, emotional highs and lows, what to expect each cycle, and how to take care of herself. Her cycles may be very different than her mother’s, her sister’s or her best friend’s, and that’s okay!
Seeing her monthly cycles laid out in this way helps her understand what her normal is, as well as to identify if something is amiss. Problems that may show up on her chart could include hormone imbalances, thyroid problems, lack of ovulation, sensitivities to environmental triggers, miscarriage, cervical abnormalities, and more. A woman may be aware that she gets migraines, but not realize until she charts that they are related to her estrogen levels. She may have mysterious fatigue, but once she starts noticing abnormally low temperatures she’s prompted to get her thyroid tested. Her apparent infertility may be revealed instead as recurrent miscarriages, a tragedy that requires a very different therapeutic approach than she may have previously tried.
Getting a handle on your menstrual cycle in this manner isn’t as complicated as it may sound. A qualified instructor can teach you a precise and systematic way to observe and chart your fertility signs, and help you to interpret what the patterns on your chart reveal. There are doctors specifically trained to holistically investigate and address any health concerns your charts may reveal. Paying attention to your cycle can open a whole world of information to you, revealing what was once a mystery.