Then bam. You have a baby. Ok well technically 9 months later. You rummage through your bathroom looking for your thermometer. Brush the dust off. Is this thing still on? How do I FAM?
Postpartum is the Wild Wild West of FAM charting where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter. Ovulation seems to always be impending, but somehow yet never happening. Depending on if you’re breastfeeding, and how often this can affect return of fertility, but not for everyone. In short, postpartum is a crapshoot and it’s hard to pin down just what’s going on. Here are some tips to surviving the season of postpartum charting. Because yes, it is a season, and yes it does come to an end!
- When do I start charting again?? You might hear from one person you're safe for 6 months no matter what as long as you are following Ecological Breastfeeding. You might hear to start charting at 6 weeks no matter what. I say start charting whenever you are comfortable, feel up to committing to it and/or start to see cervical fluid, whichever happens first. And of course, whenever you find your family planning needs call for it. For me, I started around 12 weeks when I started seeing change in cervical fluid. (Spoiler alert, didn't get cycles back until 12 months. That's 8 months of charting in the dark!
- What should I expect? You can generally expect your first cycle, that is after your first menstrual bleed, to be pretty long. Cycles will shorten in length over the course of approximately 6 cycles. If by after 6 full cycles, you are still not ovulating regularly (in other words, cycles are longer than 35 days) it's worth getting your hormones checked. But before 6 cycles, you can expect things to be a little wonky, especially if you are nursing. This isn't the case for everyone, but it's a general rule of thumb.
- What's not normal? Pain in the pelvic area that surpasses a 6 on the 1-10 scale, bleeding that lasts more than 7 days, heavy clots, and difficulty with intercourse.
- How important is avoiding another pregnancy? Discuss your family planning intentions with your partner. And often. If the answer is no to “Do I want to see a positive pregnancy test in 2-3 weeks?” on a day of questionable fertility, then play it safe. Light a candle, cuddle, do whatever you normally do during fertile phases while TTA. This, too, will pass.
- There are many, many FAM methods! Alter your methods to fit your lifestyle. I used the Marquette Clearblue monitor for a while postpartum and it was immensely helpful. They have OPK strips, progesterone strips, and smart thermometers you can play around with during the postpartum time to get a better window into what’s going on. Don’t be married to a method of FABM during this time, because your needs are going to be changing constantly.
- Cervical fluid is your friend. Get even more intimate with your cervical fluid. If you are someone who has constant cervical fluid, talk to an instructor about the possibility of creating a basic infertile pattern. If a BIP isn’t workable, consider hormonal testing with methods mentioned above.
- Be intentional about using the days that are available. That’s right, set aside time. Make an attempt. No pressure, of course, but I always try to make the effort.
- Patience, grasshopper. Laugh. Then cry. Then take a deep breath. Your body has done amazing things, it has grown and birthed a human and your ovaries are doing their very best to boot back up. You can’t rush greatness.
- So I can't do anything to help regulate my cycles?? Ok, while you can’t rush greatness, you might be able to encourage it. Make sure you are eating lots of healthy fats and consider implementing herbs, like vitex, nettle, and red raspberry leaf into your daily routine to give your system a boost. Castor Oil packs on your abdomen and Mayan Massage work really well during the postpartum time as well. I’m no expert on this, but my Appleseed sister, Katinka is.
- Strength in numbers. It helps to commiserate in confusion with other women in the same boat. Think about starting a monthly charting circle with your girlfriends or find a group online, either on Facebook or elsewhere. It sounds cliche but it’s nice to just vent about it from time to time.
- Self-care. It's not the first time you'll hear it and it won't be the last. Life with a little one is no walk in the park. But don’t sweat the small stuff and lower your stress levels as much as possible. Put self care as a priority. Mothers are some of the most overworked employees around, so don’t forget to fill your tank with relaxation, good vibes, and compassion. Your ovaries will thank you.
- Get schooled. Again. Lastly, it's a great to time reconnect with an instructor. Even though you may feel like a pro in FAM, it's a good time to get a second opinion and a refresher course.
That's it, that's all. Have baby. Chart. Be Merry! (If only it was that simple....)