I recently asked in the FAM for all genders facebook group what people would like me to write about and one of the topics that came up was post-partum. Post-partum is allllllways something that comes up and that is because it’s a weird time.
What makes it so weird/hard?
- You will likely be anovulatory for a while, and with that comes a new set of rules and a strong focus on cervical fluid.
- You aren’t only focusing more on cervical fluid because temps are downright useless for telling you anything before ovulation happens, but you are also focused on cervical fluid because temp taking can be inconsistent when you have a baby waking up at night.
- You may/probably will have excess cervical fluid for a while before ovulation. That means more days of potential fertility. So, even if you feel great about deciphering cervical fluid and have the rules down pat it can still be a frustrating experience of loooong periods of potential fertility where you are just dying for ovulation to happen.
- You have to remember to chart. This can be more difficult when you have taken a good chunk of time off (pregnancy) and have something eating up your attention (newborn baby).
- You can have changes in your cycle after a baby. You might see different types of cervical fluid from normal, different temperature levels, your cervix will almost certainly feel different, and very very likely you aren’t going to have the same length cycles and luteal phases right away.
But, charting and having an effective fertility awareness practice IS possible while your hormones are all whacked out on post-partum/breastfeeding craziness. That being said, it can often benefit from some modifications.
One of the biggest things is NOT being super reliant on temperatures. So, if you were someone who charted pre-baby and were too afraid to use dry days and would never really trust your cervical fluid, you will be in for a rude awakening charting post-partum. And by rude awakening I just mean it will be very hard to keep that mindset and be successful at using fertility awareness. That doesn’t mean you can’t chart, just that you should be prepared to use protection a good deal of the time because you will not feel safe going unprotected.
However, there ARE safe times to go unprotected when you are post-partum and in “cycle 0.” Actually, it’s simple. The basics are these:
- You have to treat it like an anovulatory cycle, which means you need to apply patch rules to the cervical fluid you observe.
- If your are not taking your temperatures you should use any safe days as if they are pre-ovulatory safe days.
- In general, you will also be establishing a basic infertile pattern, or BIP, because many women will have some type of secretion daily that isn’t part of a hormonal change associated with ovulation. These days that are part of a BIP are used like dry days.
Again, charting post-partum is hard because there are often more days of potential fertility and because many people don’t learn cervical fluid suuuuper well pre-baby. The actual rules are simple.
So what specific options do you have for post-partum charting?
- A cervical fluid only method. These can be simpler for people who just do not want to deal with temperature taking for various reasons. Examples are Billings, FEMM, and Creighton.
- The sympto-thermal method. A completely valid option, though does not tend to be as popular post-partum due to lack of enthusiasm for temperature taking. Most people begin temperatures when they feel they are close to ovulation or just ovulated.
- The Marquette method. A very popular post-partum method since they combine cervical fluid with estrogen level readings using a fertility monitor. This gives most people many more safe days. The drawback is that it is expensive (there is a recurring cost to the monitor strips) and it’s slightly less effective.
While there is no reason to believe that you can’t chart post-partum, most people do modify their practice. Whether that be towards a method that gives you more safe days but a little less efficacy or a method that is very very effective post-partum but gives less safe days depends on your personal fertility goals. The sympto-thermal method is just as effective post partum or not, but DOES tend to be harder/less fun to implement due to a large amount of potentially fertile days.
What questions do you have about charting post-partum? Let me know in the comments.