Have you ever seen a fertility awareness chart only to wonder what the hell exactly was going on? When you are first looking at a chart for the sympto-thermal method it can seem kind of overwhelming.
What are all those symbols?
What do these descriptions mean?
Do you have to do all of this every day?
As someone who is less than perfectly organized all of the time, seeing a sympto-thermal fertility awareness chart for the first time made me want to hyperventilate a little bit. Turns out, it’s not so hard to use.
Let’s go through what goes into a fertility chart piece by piece.
1. Your information
This is helpful so you can order your charts correctly, recall what has been going on for the last few months, and see this cycle at a glance. You are keeping track of the differences in your cycle lengths, how long the current cycle is, the length of your luteal phase (which is the time from ovulation until your next period), and then the basic stuff like your age, what number cycle you are on, and the current month.
This is super simple stuff!
2. Don’t forget the date…
Pretty much any fertility awareness chart includes the cycle day (they all start with 1 because you start a new chart at the beginning of each cycle), date, and day of the week. You fill in the date and day of the week when you start a new chart.
For me, as soon as I start a new chart I fill out the info in #1 and #2 right away, and I go down 28-30 days in the date and day of the week section because my cycles tend to last about that long.
3. This could be “at a glance” the most important part of your chart.
You keep track of when you have intercourse with the heart, and you always want to make sure you denote if you used any type of birth control (like a condom). Other than that in this section you have “symbol” and “sensation”.
Symbol is just a symbol used to show what type of cervical fluid you had that day. You can see examples of these symbols in section #8 of the chart. It’s a great way to quickly see what happened on that day, or on the chart overall, without having to read through your cervical fluid descriptions.
Sensation is a feeling you have at the vaginal opening. Some people use it and some don’t, but for a lot of people it’s a pretty important piece of understanding their charts, so I encourage you to use it. This is a simple letter used to denote sensations like dry, wet, lubricative, and so on.
4. Describe your cervical fluid
Why take the time to describe the fluid you are seeing if you are already classifying it in the previous section? It’s a good habit to keep up for a couple reasons: 1) If you are working with a teacher it helps us see if you’ve classified it correctly, and 2) If you want to compare old charts, or even just compare your day to day, it’s good to have a little more of a reminder of what your fluid looked like than just what type you had.
I used to not describe my cervical fluid, or if I did I just restated the type, but starting to describe my cervical fluid in my own words was part of what really helped me start seeing patterns in my cervical fluid and understand my charts better. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
5. Let’s talk about the cervix
If you are checking your cervix, you need to keep track of three things. The texture of your cervix (it changes from harder to softer depending on the time in your cycle), the position of your cervix (lower or higher in the vagina depending on the time in your cycle), and the openness of the os (again, this changes throughout the cycle). These two columns have everything you need to keep a quick record of how your cervix was that day.
6. Just some notes
If you have anything significant going on that might affect your cycles, put it here.
If you have any symptoms that you are tracking, put them here.
If you have anything you do on specific days (let’s say, drinking herbal infusions), put it here.
If you just like keep other details on your chart, you guessed it, put them here.
7. It’s all about the temperature.
Most of the time you have a normal time you wake up and take your temperature (say 7am). Sometimes, though, you will get up at a different time and take it then. If you normally got up at 7am but woke up at 9am for a couple of days, you’d use the first column to jot down a 9 on those days so that if anything was off with those temperatures you would immediately know why.
The other column is for a count. You count your temperatures after you have ovulated both to get you into your infertile time and also so you can count how long your luteal phase is. If you want to physically write this count in, that’s what the second column is for.
Lastly, you have numbers to either circle or dot at whatever your temperature was that day. The layout makes it easy to see when your temperature jumps up.
8. The key to your chart
(P.S. Sort of like “key to your heart”, amiright?)
This gives you the information you need to actually fill in the symbol section in #3 and the ways that you can denote different kids of intercourse or other sex.
Now all you have to do is learn how to check your fertility signs and fill everything out. Pretty simple, right?
Tell me about when you first saw a fertility chart (or if this is your first time seeing one). Does it/did it overwhelm you?