Charting, and Other Horrors

I just made a private blog for women who are learning to chart and want an online support group. To request access, go here.

If you are an experienced genius charter or something you and your benevolent guidance are of course also welcome.

For fun and profit, here is the first post, in which I read the Marquette user manual.

*********************************

Ok, this is helpful:

“There are four basic methods of natural family planning:

• The Calendar Method or (rhythm) – relies on counting cycle length and a simple formula to determine the beginning and end of fertility.

• Basal Body Temperature (BBT) – recording of the woman’s daily waking temperature and observing the changing patterns

• The Ovulation Method (OM) – observing and recording the patterns and changes of cervical fluids

• The Sympto-thermal (ST) Method – combining daily waking temperature, changes in cervical fluid, cycle length and other minor signs of fertility”

but then

“The Marquette Model of NFP applies these devices in helping the new learner of NFP to gain confidence in the selfinterpretation of the woman’s natural signs of fertility. All methods of NFP in some way help a man and women to get a better picture of their fertility. Learning about one’s fertility aids in 4 understanding, appreciating and holistically living with this precious gift” OK BUT WHICH OF THE 4 TYPES MENTIONED IS MARQUETTE, THIS IS THE KIND OF INFORMATION I AM HERE FOR. LESS PRECIOUS GIFT MORE BRASS TACKS PLZ.

Anyway, I think Marquette is sympto-thermal? That’s what I want to learn, because it seems to encompass the most information, and thus will hopefully make switching/dealing with irregularities easier.

2. “Philosophy of Natural Family Planning” skip skip skip.

3. “Anatomy and Physiology” this seems basically like high school bio, ok if I skip this? Ok.

Oh wait

“However, at certain times of a woman’s monthly cycle a woman produces a fluid (called cervical mucus) that is optimal for sperm survival. When sperm are in this special woman’s fluid they can live from 3 to 5 days. If no cervical mucus is present in the woman’s vagina, sperm will die within minutes.”

Yet another example of men’s dependency on women.

also helpful

“Therefore, in order for a woman to become pregnant and for a couple to conceive a baby, three factors need to be present; good sperm from the man, a good egg from the woman; and good cervical mucus for sperm survival.”

Ok, now we’re going through three phases of ovulation. Tl;dr version, apologies to the biologically literate:

Pre-ovulation: hormone FSG makes an egg develop, developing egg gives off estrogen, which makes inside of uterus develop and produce cervical mucus, which is an indicator of fertility and thus IMPORTANT TO US HERE IN THE COVEN.

Other info: women can ovulate on different days in her cycle, duh. Stress illness weight etc affect when. Biological markers can tell us when YES YES SAY MORE THIS IS THE INFO I COVET.

Ovulation: Luteinizing hormone, LH signals ovary to release the egg, which in my mind plays out like this . Some women experience breast tenderness or swelling, (which is why I once thought I had breast cancer), abdominal pain or cramping, and vulvar swelling, wtf.

Cervical opening widens and fills with clear-slippery and thus sperm friendly mucus.

Post Ovulation: Begins day after ovulation, ends day before period. Called luteal phase, averages about 10-16 days in all women. I would suspect, Watson, that it is in this phase that the baby-making happens.

Then comes a chart, I hate charts, and furthermore this one is not telling me the good stuff about when babby is formed but just general stuff about hormone levels. Nevertheless, should probably not skip because the wonders of understanding your fertility etc, ugh.

“After ovulation, the body increases the release of another female chemical, a hormone called progesterone (See figure 3). Progesterone has a number of important functions. It elevates the woman’s body temperature about 4-6 tenths of a degree Fahrenheit. This heating up of the woman’s body can be detected by taking daily waking temperatures. Progesterone also prepares the lining of the uterus, for possible implantation of a new human being. Finally, progesterone stimulates cervical cells to produce thick mucus that closes off the opening of the cervix and thus serves as a barrier to sperm and bacteria.”

So it sounds like….progesterone is friendly to already made babby, not friendly to sperm and other microscopic supplicants for sanctuary within our glorious cathedrals.

Ok, more about what happens when you conceive.

“The new person will travel down the fallopian tube in a 6-9 day journey.”

Surely I cannot be the only woman who will spend this journey screaming GET OUT OF MY FALLOPIANS at her abdomen. After all, they say the fetus can recognize the sound of its mother’s voice!

So, it looks like there are two paths:

Ovulation happens.

Luteal phase happens, in which progesterone makes sperm entry and thus pregnancy less likely. If your man’s seed has found joyous congress with yours, baby. If its suit has proved unsuccessful, this.

Right now it looks to me like pregnancy is most likely at ovulation, in post ovulation before the progesterone has kicked in, and in pre-ovulation once the cervical mucus is present.

Hopefully as we progress we will see this confirmed or denied–also get a better sense of how long each phase is, though I suspect it varies. And what parts of each phase are fertile for you is probably the stuff you learn by actually charting.

Also, this may be a dumb question, but is there ever a part of any given month where you are neither pre-ovulating, ovulating, or post-ovulating, but just, you know…….hanging out?

Summary, in which my tl;dr is rendered gratuitous:

“Summary of Female Hormones and their functions:

Estrogen:

Secreted by follicle: •Stimulates cervical mucus production • Stimulates lining of uterus to grow

FSH and LH • Stimulates ovulation

Progesterone • Heats up female body temperature • Dries cervical mucus • Supports and nourishes lining of uterus

Summary Facts on Fertility:

There are a number of biological facts that have been discovered in the past century that are necessary to understand how NFP works. They are as follows: • A woman only ovulates one day in each cycleAn egg lives only 12 to 24 hours • Sperm need good mucus to survive • Sperm will live 3-5 days in good mucus • Sperm will die within hours or minutes when not in good mucus • A man and woman together are only fertile for 6 days.

Factors necessary for pregnancy:

1. Satisfactory ovulation

2. Healthy and open fallopian tubes

3. Healthy endometrium for implantation

4. Healthy cervix with adequate cervical mucus

5. Healthy and adequate sperm

6. Mutual and supportive relationship between the husband and wife is helpful. HELPFUL BUT NOT, ALAS, NECESSARY, LET US BE VERY CLEAR ON THIS POINT.

Ah, ok, now they answer my questions!

“A man and woman together are only fertile for six days during a women’s menstrual cycle. These 6 days include the day of ovulation and the 5 days before.”

Apparently the timing of the actual window is variable. They illustrate this with a chart, but seriously, I don’t do charts, so you’re on your own there.

HAHAHAAHAHAHAAHA I JUST REALIZED I AM LEARNING A BIRTH CONTROL METHOD THAT IS ALMOST ENTIRELY COMPOSED OF CHARTS AHAHAHAHAHHAHA. Ha.

For reference: in the sample cycles offered, the post ovulatory phase ranges from 12-14 days, while the pre-ovulatory phase ranges from 11-23 days. Lot more variability before than and after.

Ok, now we’re getting into the nitty gritty.

Fertility monitors: 

-urinary LH test kits (ovulation test kits)

ClearBlue fertility monitor

Oh, I want to get me one of these. I like when machines do my work for me. Will see if my insurance covers it and report back. Will be extremely pissed if not.

You start the monitoring by pushing a button on the morning of the first day of your cycle, which is the first day of your period. What if you get your period at 5pm the day before? Do you wait till next morning to start the monitor?

Every morning you press a button to record a new day in your cycle. It then tells you when you need to take a test (10-20 times a cycle), the mechanics of which I shall skip until I actually have one. Basically, it seems to involve taking a pregnancy test, but for fertility. You’ve got three hours from waking to take the test.

The monitor tells you if you have high, low, or peak fertility.

Here are its disadvantages:

“The disadvantage of the monitor, if using to avoid pregnancy, is that the 2-5 day warning period it provides is not long enough to avoid pregnancy and it does not tell anything about the status of cervical mucus. Furthermore the monitor itself costs about $175 and the test strips cost about $18 – 20 dollars per month.”

So, uh, finances aside, it looks like you might want to supplement it with something.

“TO AVOID PREGNANCY: Do not have intercourse, genital contact or practice withdrawal during the fertile window – i.e., from the first day of fertility through the last day of fertility. The length and time of the fertile window will vary from cycle to cycle. Couples who are using the Clearblue fertility monitor as an aid to avoid pregnancy will be asked to avoid intercourse on all “high” and “peak” days and to use the following instructions for determining the fertile window:”

Ok but wait, I thought the whole problem is that it can tell you HOW fertile you are but doesn’t give you enough warning about when fertility starts? What is the backup here?

“THE BEGINNING OF FERTILITY:

1. Fertility BEGINS on day 6 of the first 6 cycles;

After 6 cycles,  2. Fertility BEGINS on the earliest day of “peak” during the last 6 cycles minus 6 days or the first “high” reading on the monitor – whatever comes first.

THE END OF FERTILITY:

3. Fertility ENDS 3 full (i.e., 24 hour) days after the last “peak” day on the monitor;

After 6 cycles,  4. Fertility ENDS 3 full days after the last “peak” day of the last 6 cycles, or the last “peak” day of the current cycle plus a count of 3 full days – whatever comes first. These instructions are only to be used for those women who have cycles between 22 and 42 days in length and between the ages of 20-42.”

This does not answer my question. I am very confused.

“Those women who are coming off of hormonal contraception, recently were pregnant, or recently stopped breastfeeding should wait until they have at least 2 natural menstrual cycles in a row before using the monitor and following these instructions. There is a separate protocol being developed for women who are breastfeeding and not in cycles. Women who have polycystic ovaries need to have their cycles regulated before using this protocol. The monitor will not be accurate for women who are on fertility drugs. Tetracycline antibiotics may also affect accuracy of the monitor.”

Good to know, also wtf is a polycystic ovary, I feel like I need a professional gynecologist involved at this juncture.

Ok, now we’re getting into the actual charts, which you kind of have to see for yourself. There is a lot of stuff to chart though, fertility levels and heaviness of menstrual bleeding and when you have sex. Which means I, for one, will be marrying Liz Lemon.

And do we, what, download these charts as an image and print them? Is there a chart store? Where do I get my charts.

“The chart in figure 5 shows that fertility begins on day 6 for the first 6 cycles. The earliest Peak day on the monitor for the first 6 cycles was on day 14 in cycle #5. The latest Peak day for the first 6 cycles was on day 17 in cycles #2,3,and 6. Therefore, for the next cycle, fertility will begin on day (14 – 6 ) 8 . Fertility will end on day (17 + 3) 20 or the last Peak day of that cycle plus 3 full days – whatever comes first.”

This is worse than SAT word problems, I hate this I hate this I hate this, help.

I keep trying to make more sense of it but I’m just not, so moving on.

Cervical mucus! Ah, ok I spoke to soon, we’re not stuck with just the ClearBlue and all its empty promises.

Thick, sticky, holds its shape: beginning.

Cloudy, thinner, slightly stretchy: fertility high.

Clear, stretchy, slippery: Peak fertility! The cervix is open! 

Three full days after peak fertility: Progesterone raises your temperature and dries up the once-flowing mucus, your cervix closes up, it’s all over, your body is a barren desert.

“She will only know the Peak day of cervical mucus retrospectively.” Very helpful, very helpful.

Then its just a bunch of pictures of mucus and more detailed descriptions. You test it with your finger apparently, and although magnifying glass and deerstalker cap are never explicitly mentioned, they seem optimal.

It also tells you to mentally note the sensation of your mucus a couple times a day–which idk, I only notice anything if I am actually ovulating or am sexually aroused, so.

“1. Begin observing for and sensing the cervical fluid as soon as your bleeding (i.e., period) becomes light or spotty or no later than the first day after menstruation has ended.

2. Focus on the sensation that is felt at the vulva (vaginal lips) during the day and make a mental note while wiping with the tissue. The sensation of lubrication or slipperiness should be an obvious sensation.

3. If you wish, collect a sample of the cervical fluid (mucus) with toilet tissue and observe the mucus between your finger and thumb.

4. If you have difficulty differentiating between cervical fluid and vaginal secretions, dip the sample in a glass of water. If the sample is cervical fluid it will form a blob and sink. If it is vaginal secretions it will dissolve. Slippery cervical fluid should feel slippery even when held under water – like a FISH” [why did you capitalize this word you weirdos]

A helpful tip:

“However, in the pre-ovulatory infertile phase (also called the relative infertile phase) you should limit intercourse and genital contact to the end of the day only.The reason that it is limited to end of the day only is because the daily activity of the woman observer is what helps to bring down cervical mucus to the opening of the vagina. Thus, it is at the end of the day that the woman/couple user can be sure of her cervical mucus indicator. Another reason is that the pre-ovulatory phase of the cycle is the phase that varies the most. Using greater caution in this phase is common sense.”

“The following algorithm for determining the fertile phase with the cervical mucus sign is for women who have cycles between 22 and 42 days in length. ”

Wait I have no idea how long my cycle is, do I just measure between periods?

Then follows the algorithm for avoiding pregnancy, the specifics of which are not super important to me at this time.

Then a bit about arousal fluids vs. cervical: one is stretchier and doesn’t dissolve in water, so either test it or see if it just goes away eventually.

Then, how to rid yourself of semen after intercourse so as not to confuse the auguries: also categorized as not super important to me at this juncture.

Ok now charts–looks like you’ve got separate mucus chart and the ClearBlue charts. Is there anyway to combine them for easy comparison? You enter the same data on the same days, shouldn’t be that hard.

AND THAT’S A WRAP.

Takeaway:

-I need to get some charts. Possibly I will try to make my own for the sake of easy data comparison.

-Need to see if insurance covers a ClearBlue. I want that ClearBlue.

-So I guess that was not actually sympto-thermal given that there was no thermal? I shall familiarize myself with the basics of that method next, that I might combine them.

-I don’t have an iphone, but if anyone uses the, I’m sure, many apps for this, please tell.

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6 thoughts on “Charting, and Other Horrors

  1. This is what you are really looking for:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Persona-94031-Contraception-Monitor/dp/B001DUJZUC

    But you’ll need someone in the UK to buy it for you which, what with all your readers, shouldn’t be that hard to do. I asked an online fellow Catholic (a stranger, mind you) in Ireland to get one for me years ago and she, God love her, did. I sent her the $$ plus shipping and I used ClearBlue test sticks with it. They are interchangeable with the Persona test sticks and you can get them locally. It takes care of that problem that ClearBlue monitor has and gives you your *entire* fertility picture. I still can’t believe that you can’t buy this in the US, but…politics. I mean, it’s 100% non-invasive. This gave me such freedom, such peace of mind. I always cross-checked with other methods, just for funsies. It was always right. And for what it’s worth, no surprises in 25 years of marriage.

  2. Just gonna say: ClearBlue is going to be a waste of your money, insurance or not, if you’re just, you know, charting for informational purposes and not actually doing the nasty. Temps will help, but they’re a negative indicator — this has already happened and is over, so to speak. Follow the mucus for a few cycles (cycle: first day of period to first day of period; therefore, the last day of your cycle is also the first day of the next). Mucus is a positive indicator of fertility, is pretty easy to spot once you know what you’re looking for, and if you’re healthy and not post-partum, should be very reliable.

    Also, they lie: fertility does NOT necessarily start on day 6. Fertility starts with mucus, which may or may not manifest on day 6. You might assume fertility on day 6, if you don’t want to get pregnant and don’t want to take any chances, but if you’re dry or typically have cycles longer than 28 days, you might not mark the beginning of Phase 2 (sympto-thermal talk for the fertile period) until you observe mucus.

    I want to be part of your super secret blog!, though I’m not an exciting person in discussions anymore.

    • I want a servile machiiiiiine though, it’s bad enough that fate has denied me a valet.

      Mostly I want to get in the habit of doing the stuff I will need to do if I am trying to avoid pregnancy, because the kind of routine, habitual consistency that seems required does not….uhhhh, come naturally to me, is a charitable way to put it.

      And ugh, nasty lying hobbits.

      Also, invitation sent to your darwincatholic email.

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