(Oringinally written for SymptoPro.org)
So you’ve taken a big step in awareness of your cycle and hormonal health to make the decision to begin charting. Congratulations! Whether you’ve taken a SymptoPro class, learned a different natural family planning or Fertility Awareness Based Method (FABM), or have simply been scouring the web, accurate charting is a must. That is, making sure what’s written on your chart actually reflects your daily fertility signs.
So how do you ensure that your charts are accurate? I’m glad you asked.
Here are 5 Tips for Accurate Charting to help you get the most out of your experience with fertility awareness.
1. Take your temperature at the same time, in the same way, every morning.
If you’ve chosen to observe your basal body temperature, or morning resting temperature, consistency is key. Erratic temperature taking practices can make it difficult (if not impossible) to detect the tell-tale temperature shift that serves as confirmation that ovulation has occurred.
To avoid confusion, make sure to take your temperature at the same time every day, preferably before 7:30am and after at least one hour of uninterrupted sleep. It’s also important that this is a true resting temperature. This means taking your temperature while still in bed, before rising, drinking water, brushing teeth, etc. The more accurate your temperature taking routine, the more accurate your chart will be.
1. Don’t skip cervical mucus observations
It’s vital not to miss any mucus observations. Sometimes fertile quality mucus may only appear once or twice a day. In this case, missing observations could create inaccuracies in your chart, potentially causing you to mislabel your fertile window.
For observing mucus on toilet tissue, make sure to check before and after every single time you use the bathroom. For observing mucus by vaginal sensation, make sure you are paying attention and noticing sensation throughout the day. At the end of the day, record on your chart the most fertile sign that you observed. Don’t save it until tomorrow thinking you’ll remember later!
Just like with temperature, make mucus observations in the same way every day. For example, if you learned a method that teaches tissue observations, do these diligently. If your method calls for internal observations, stick with those. Don’t mix and match observational styles – this creates inconsistencies in your chart that are confusing to interpret.
Note: The same principals apply to the optional cervical observation. If you choose to observe your cervix (checking for openness, softness, height, mucus, etc), make sure you do it daily. This is a subjective and comparative sign; if you’re missing days, you may be left feeling really confused about what you’re feeling and causing yourself unnecessary stress.
3. Employ reminders if necessary.
Remembering all this can be hard, especially when you’re first starting out. But there are plenty of tricks to help keep you on track:
4. Take note of any disturbances or special circumstances in your charting.
To help to understand any anomalies in your chart, be sure to note any possible disturbances. These include taking your temperature earlier or later than usual (we say that a temperature within 45 minutes before or after your set time should not be disturbed), traveling, illness, periods of unusual stress, or changing medication. That way if there are any ‘blips’ in your chart, you’ll be able to tell if they could have been caused by some external factor or if they are a true reflection of your hormone levels at that point in your cycle.
It’s important to write these down on your chart, since once the days and weeks go by you probably won’t recall those details. One of the benefits of charting is having a visual record of months and months of cycles, and the ability to compare one cycle to another. Accurately noting disturbances is an important element of producing useful charts and a solid cycle history.
5. Your instructor is a valuable resource
Most instructors include monthly chart reviews as part of the instructional period. Take advantage of this! Chart reviews are incredibly useful – not only can your instructor help to interpret your chart, but they can let you know if anything in your observational routine or charting needs tweaking. In fact, simply knowing that someone else will be looking over their charts helps some women to chart more carefully.
Certified FABM instructors, such as myself, are also a wealth of knowledge regarding all things charting, cycles and fertility signs. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions at any time. There is no such thing as a dumb question, or ‘TMI’; I guarantee your instructor has heard it all!