The postpartum time can one of joy and wonder, as well as adjustments, anxiety, and sleeplessness. A family is forever changed by the arrival of a new little person,whether it is the first child or the fourth. The postpartum time is also one in which couples commonly begin to explore options for postponing or avoiding another pregnancy. Natural family planning can be a very attractive option for a number of reasons, such as wanting to avoid artificial hormones while breastfeeding. However, many couples have reservations about using this method during a time when a woman's cycles can be irregular, or non-existent. Is it possible to use fertility awareness to avoid pregnancy during the postpartum time, or while breastfeeding? Yes indeed!
One of the strengths of the sympto-thermal method of natural family planning is that it involves observing multiple signs of fertility. If one sign is confusing, there are one or two other signs with which you can cross check.
Here are some tips to make charting postpartum successful for you:
1. Take an NFP class, or have a review session with your instructor
Learning all the ins and outs of NFP from a qualified instructor will give you the confidence to use this method with great effectiveness. Even if you have taken a class previously, meeting with your instructor to review the guidelines for the postpartum time can be very helpful. This is especially important if you are very serious about avoiding another pregnancy in the near future.
2. Chart carefully and consistently
Observing your fertility signs and charting carefully and consistently is the key to success. If you were used to charting before you became pregnant, you might be frustrated by your lack of cycles and the unfamiliar patterns you see. It might be some time before you ovulate and your cycles begin again, particularly if you are breastfeeding. However, if you chart your signs carefully, you will be able to detect the first signs of your fertility returning, whether it is one month or one year after your baby is born.
3. It's okay to only chart some signs
The most useful sign of fertility to chart while in the postpartum period is your cervical mucus. This is a special mucus produced by your cervix that is necessary for conception to occur. While breastfeeding especially, it's possible to have patches of 'mucus episodes' that reflect fluctuating hormone levels, but do not necessarily lead to ovulation. However, increased cervical mucus is one sign that ovulation may be approaching, so it's a very important observation to chart.
The basal body temperature sign, or your temperature taken first thing in the morning, may the the hardest sign to track postpartum because of the unpredictable sleep schedules of newborns. If you are waking at different times each day or throughout the night, your temperature sign may not be as reliable, and that's okay. This sign actually does nothing to predict ovulation, only to confirm once it's occurred. So feel free to take a break from charting this sign and focus on other observations, at least until your baby starts sleeping more.
If you have trouble with both of these signs, your instructor can teach you how charting changes in your cervical position and your cervix itself can be used to crosscheck with your other observations.
4. Have patience
Some women view an extended time without a period as a welcome break, but others see it as frustrating, particularly when they start thinking about having another baby. Some women get their cycles back shortly after giving birth, whether breastfeeding or not. Others can go a year (or even two!) before their cycle returns. And when it does return, it can take some months before it becomes regular again. All of these scenarios are variations of normal, and there is very little that you can do to control when your cycle will return. Asking your mother about her postpartum cycles might give some clues, as daughters often have similar experiences as their mothers.
The best things you can do during this time are to get adequate nutrition, as much sleep as you can, and spend time bonding with your new baby. It's also important to nurture your relationship with your spouse, as postpartum NFP (as well as the presence of a newborn!) can require a bit of abstinence.
If you want to learn more about NFP and your fertility signs, visit my FAQ page or contact me.
photo by Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot-freedigitalphotos.net