I am so frequently asked about charting post-baby that I am sharing with you my own individual process when it comes to charting post-partum and why I am doing what I am doing.
To see general tips about post-partum charting, see my post here.
Let me first tell you what my general trying to avoid to trying to conceive ratio is post-partum. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I already have baby fever and want another, but I am almost positive I want to avoid pregnancy for at least a year to avoid any problems with breast milk supply, build up my own body’s reserves again, etc. Although things can change, I could see my ideal time to get pregnant again being June/July 2018, because having a baby in March/April seems nice (I hated being pregnant in the summer) and I don’t know if I want to wait over three years between kids (assuming I even have a return of fertility by then).
So obviously, I’m not in the dire trying to avoid camp, but I’m also definitely not actually wanting to get pregnant right now. For now, anyway.
Most people assume that if they are exclusively breastfeeding they don’t really need to worry about return of fertility for the first six months, since the lactation ammenorrhea method (LAM) is 98% effective for the first six months. However, I would not trust LAM alone because the way it has been studied generally differs from our situation in the United States (different nutrition and way of breastfeeding). Because of that, for myself and my clients I highly recommend ALWAYS looking out for cervical fluid, even if not fully charting.
Cervical fluid is the MOST important thing to be looking out for/tracking when looking for a post-partum return of fertility. It’s signaling both that there is higher estrogen activity going on in the body and that sperm has the potential to live inside you.
Since I am very familiar with my cervical fluid after having used the sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness for over 5 years before getting pregnant, I am ready and waiting to see it’s friendly face again. However, I haven’t had a speck of cervical fluid yet. I will say, though, that from what I see in others I am not having the most common experience in regards to cervical fluid and I believe that is because I loosely follow the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding, which has been surveyed to show a relatively late return of fertility (on average) in the users. I’d say I follow almost everything except for the daily nap part.
I wish I didn’t follow the not giving a pacifier part, but alas, my child will not take a pacifier and prefers to use me as a human pacifier.
So here are the steps I am taking for my own post-partum charting:
- Not trusting I am infertile based on the LAM (first six months of exclusive breastfeeding should be a 98% effective form of birth control).
- Using the Seven Standards of ecological breastfeeding to ideally keep my cervical fluid pretty dry until my fertility returns and ave my cycles be more normal when they do return.
- ALWAYS keeping my eyes open for cervical fluid.
- When I see cervical fluid I will begin charting in earnest.
- When I see a lot of cervical fluid I will start taking my temperature. (I’m just assuming cervical fluid will come before I am feeling ready to take my temps again. I’ve been charting so long I honestly wouldn’t care if I didn’t catch my first ovulation via temp because I think I’d be able to tell easily from cervical fluid, anyway.)
When I am in a fertile patch, I plan to go back to my old standby of withdrawal.
If I were very strictly trying to avoid I would start charting no later than 6 months post-partum regardless of what I had or had not seen by that time, just to make sure I am in the habit and not missing anything. If I were very strictly trying to avoid I’d also probably not use withdrawal, but I’m not sure I’d ever be THAT strictly trying to avoid, though things can change.
Though post-partum charting can be frustrating and feel like it drags on and on before finally getting your ovulation, it’s something that can be easily worked with (and done effectively!) depending on your own needs and situation. And remember, as you need to with everything else relating to parenting, it’s a small season of life and then you will get back to your normal, easy-to-track, cycles.