Written by By Melissa Gorley. Adapted from a Family Foundations article by Melissa Gorley.
The postpartum season is one of joys and challenges. The joy of holding that precious baby makes all the hard work worth it, but there are also challenges including charting the return to normal menstrual cycles. Coupled with a renewed respect for the strength of a woman’s body to nurture and deliver a baby into the world, there may be uncertainty about cervical mucus observations, charting habits disrupted by sleep deprivation, and sometimes even the challenge of using NFP to postpone for the first time with little experience altogether.
Thankfully, no woman has to navigate the postpartum transition alone! Just as our friends and family rally to help with meals and baby care, local teaching couples and on-line certified fertility awareness coaches (CFACs) are there to help, too. A coach’s individualized support can help you learn or relearn all the essentials of charting your fertility signs, as well as troubleshoot your situation, at a time that works for you and your baby.
CHALLENGES & POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
Does your postpartum and breastfeeding chart seem confusing because it’s so different from a typical ovulatory cycle chart? It may help to know there are additional rules available for finding infertile mucus patterns while breastfeeding: the Mucus Patch Rule and the Basic Infertile Pattern (BIP) Rule. As your body gets closer to ovulating again, you will likely observe even more “more-fertile” mucus. This is often a sign that you are almost there! Is exhaustion making it hard to get consistent morning temperatures? Could your husband help? Would you consider a wearable, syncing thermometer? It will not necessarily capture the exact same daily temps as a basal body thermometer, but reliable, anecdotal experience has shown it can reveal the thermal shift. Do your mucus observations and temperatures still seem inconclusive? A little multi-vitamin supplementation can go a long way in helping with more distinguishable mucus and stronger thermal shifts (when and as they return).
POSTPARTUM BREASTFEEDING CHART
Here we have the chart of a breastfeeding mother to a 7-12 week old baby. When her lochia lessened, she started charting in CycleProGo (CPG) using the postpartum/breastfeeding setting. She took her temperature orally and recorded mucus observations, including mucus descriptions in her own words. Even with a couple of days of missing mucus observations, she was able to use one of the postpartum breastfeeding rules called the Mucus Patch Rule to find a return to infertile Phase I on the evening of Cycle Day 46.
THE BREASTFEEDING TRANSITION
Breastfeeding amenorrhea depends on several factors, including duration and frequency of feeding at the breast and the woman’s unique physiology. The hormones released during breastfeeding delay the return of fertility by suppressing the normal hormonal changes that drive ovulation. As the suppression is gradually released, the ovaries start to produce estrogen as if preparing for ovulation, but this is interrupted because of breastfeeding.
As a result, mucus can come and go, change from looking more fertile to less fertile … to more fertile again or simply be persistent. Eventually ovulation does begin again, and the first few cycles have some common characteristics: they are often longer than pre-pregnancy with very extended Phase II and a short Phase III.
Transitions of any sort are challenging but they can also be a time of growth. Simple practices such as staying hydrated, supplementing a healthy diet, resting, and prayer- things we all know we need to do for ourselves all the time- are especially important for the postpartum woman. Dad’s help makes all the difference here, as does hands-on support from other family and friends. Don’t forget to reach out for the wellness and charting expertise a coach can provide, too!
CCL’s Postpartum class, FSI coaching and Postpartum Place can provide couples with support and abundant resources from the comfort of your home and at a time that is convenient for you.
For more information about FSI’s postpartum place, visit fertilityscienceinstitute.org/postpartum-place/
For CCL classes for postpartum, visit ccli.org/postpartum/
For postpartum coaching sessions, visit fertilityscienceinstitute.com/coaching