By Vicki Braun
Why is it so challenging for us humans to adopt a new diet, take on a new sport or learn new job skills? Maybe it’s because we like rhythm and predictability; we enjoy constancy in our lives and learning a new habit or skill takes time to make it a regular part of the daily rhythm of living. Likewise, learning NFP requires the same things as learning other new skills: proper instruction, time, patience and diligence. To aid NFP newcomers, this article will emphasize the essentials and then provide tips to more easily analyze charts.
Essential #1 — Develop the habit of making good daily observations
As easy as it is to take your temperature, sometimes couples get tripped up with the process and how to handle the readings. Here are some important reminders:
- Be as consistent as possible with taking your temperature within one-half hour on either side of your normal waking time. On days you sleep in, set the alarm for the regular waking time, take your temperature and then go back to sleep.
- After turning the basal digital thermometer on, place it in your mouth under the tongue directly on either side of the midline.
- Close your mouth and keep it closed.
- Check your thermometer model’s directions for the way it operates to know when the reading is complete. With a digital thermometer, it is not necessary to record your temperature immediately since the thermometer will hold the temperature until it is reset.
- Do NOT take temperature again as it will be different from the first time.
- If your digital thermometer measures to the hundredths of a degree, or if the temperature falls between the numbers in a glass thermometer, round it up to the next tenth of a degree.
Mucus observations are comprised of two facets:
Sensations — Throughout the day remember to take notice of how the vulva feels; focus on this awareness when you move about, bend over, and while you go up and down stairs. Next, at each bathroom visit, take note of how the vulva feels when you wipe. Women may feel a variety of sensations like: moist, damp, sticky, wet, watery, running, slippery, and even others. Detecting sensations helps many women know when their fertile time (Phase II) has first begun as they may not yet see visible mucus.
Characteristics — At each bathroom visit, check for mucus on the tissue paper. Mucus sits on the tissue and has substance. A sheen or shininess on the paper can be ignored. Test the mucus for whether it stretches repeatedly or not to determine whether it is considered more-fertile. If you don’t know which characteristic to assign it, write a brief description and check with your teacher/consultant.
Common sources of confusion with mucus observations:
- Focusing only on visible mucus, or not seeing any mucus: Learn to focus on sensations as well as what you see. Some women may not see much, or any mucus, but they can feel/sense its presence. Know that blind women can learn to successfully interpret their mucus sign just through changes in sensations; this fact may help those of you who don’t see much, if any, mucus.
- Questioning whether certain mucus characteristics should be recorded as “t” for tacky or “s” for stretchy: If in doubt, write a brief description and record either letter. What is important is that you have observed its presence. Ask yourself: “Has the characteristic changed from what it was the previous day?” See mucus notation on chart for Cycle Day 17.
Essential #2—Communicate with each other
Sharing what is going on in each cycle helps a lot of couples feel closer. Moreover, it can help you feel more confident about your shared conclusions. Communication can happen at various levels. For instance, many couples share recordkeeping of the fertility data. Some fiances (or husbands) text/email/phone their fiancees (or wives) each day for the data and then record it in CycleProGo®, CCL’s mobile charting app, or on a paper chart. If you are married, this shared communication can occur within the context of just looking at the chart at the end of the day, and asking your wife what her mucus observations were, but certainly it is not limited to this. Each couple should find their own way to share in the charting and interpretation of the charts. Be there for each other.
Essential #3—Ask for help when needed
CCL teachers are ready and willing to help. Far too often we see charts from couples who have had concerns for several weeks before they finally ask for a little help or guidance. If you are uncertain, reach out to the couple who taught you or find another CCL teacher from our website. Sharing your charts with a teacher is easy when using CycleProGo®. Even if you are only a little unsure, talking to someone with experience can make learning much easier.
After you’ve developed the rhythm of making/recording your fertility observations, the following charting tips should assist you in interpreting and organizing your charts.
- Record the appropriate mucus symbol and mucus letters every day. If you observe a more-fertile sensation or characteristic on any day, then the plus symbol is recorded; if only a less-fertile observation, then record a minus symbol. See chart segment.
- Identify Peak Day when it occurs and write in “1,2,3” afterward. See chart segment. The easiest way to do this is to look for last day of plus symbols around the time of the thermal shift.
- Identify the thermal shift. Look for three temperatures above the previous six close to Peak Day. Looking for a lower and higher temperature region comes in handy at this point.
- Sometimes you may have one or two odd high temperatures in the pre-shift six, or one or two odd low temperatures after the temperatures elevate, making it more challenging to see the low and high temperature regions and thereby, interpret. When this occurs, tentatively cross out the odd temperatures to better determine the temperature regions. See chart for example. Temperatures on Cycle Days 19 and 22 are crossed out as they are abnormally low. The post-peak temperatures above the LTL on Cycle Days 17-18 and 20 are more easily visualized, which are the temperatures used for the interpretation.
- Indicate with a “/” or “x” when your menstrual period returns at the end of each cycle. This is helpful for tracking the length of your cycles. This, in turn, helps you update your short/long cycles in the Cycle History box. You need to know your shortest cycle in the last 12 months for purposes of applying the Day 5/6 Rule to end Phase I. See chart segment. In this cycle the menstrual flow began on Cycle Day 28, so this cycle was 27 days. Transfer the first day of the new cycle’s data from your current chart onto a new chart. [Reminder: Day(s) of spotting ( ) prior to the actual start of the menstrual flow are considered part of your current cycle, NOT the start of the new cycle.]
- Number and date each chart. This keeps your charts in order, and makes it much easier for your teacher or consultant to review them. Note that the month(s)/year are recorded as well as the chart # in the chart segment seen here. If one chart continues on a subsequent chart due to a late ovulation, the easiest way to denote this is to label the first chart with the letter “a” after the #, and the subsequent chart with the same number and the letter “b”. This alerts you (and your teacher/consultant) to the fact that this is a longer cycle and ties all the fertility data for that one cycle together as one unit.
- Connect the temperature dots. As intuitive as this seems, many couples don’t connect the temperature dots. It’s much easier to see the different temperature levels when this is done. See temperature dots that are connected on the chart.
The interpretation of this chart is illustrated. Phase III began on the evening of Cycle Day 20 with three post-peak temperatures above the LTL of 97.3 with the third post-peak temperature at the HTL. The last day of Phase I with the Day 5/6 Rule is Cycle Day 5.
Forming new habits like practicing NFP requires some work and patience. Keep at it even if you feel confused at first. Your teacher can help you sort out any confusion. Most women get better at making and assessing their observations within two to three cycles. Your fiance (or husband) can be a great source of encouragement and also help in the daily recordkeeping and frequently, may be more objective when it comes to interpreting the data.