"LEARNING TO CHART YOUR CYCLE WELL ENOUGH TO USE IT FOR CONTRACEPTION TAKES AN EDUCATION. I'M SORRY TO SAY THAT, NO, NATURAL BIRTH CONTROL DID NOT JUST BECOME AS EASY AS ENTERING YOUR DATA INTO AN APP AND WAITING FOR THEM TO TELL YOU WHETHER TO HAVE SEX OR NOT."
These pages are designed to be read in order. Please follow the navigation links to read through all sections before charting.
BEFORE YOU START...
The instructions on this website are not sufficient to use FAM as birth control and are not intended to be used as such. There are specific rules and exceptions that are not covered here that MUST be followed strictly when using FAM for birth control. If you are planning on using FAM as your primary form of birth control, I strongly recommend meeting with a FAM instructor when you begin charting and/or reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility and The Garden of Fertility. Do not attempt to begin using fertility awareness as birth control from the information on this website alone!
Also, if you are already pregnant or using hormonal birth control, charting won't be accurate for you since you're not ovulating, so keep that in mind.
For the purposes of this demonstration, we'll be using and filling out a paper chart. Once you feel comfortable understanding your fertile signs and your cycles, you can switch to an app if you prefer. You may find it easiest to download a copy of the chart so you can follow along.
The purpose of the paper chart is to track and record your primary fertility signs so that you can see the patterns and learn how to interpret your fertile times. Each day, you'll record information about your waking temperature, cervical position, and cervical fluid on the chart.
I know it looks overwhelming at first, but trust me--it takes about thirty seconds a day to record the necessary information. I usually fill mine out right before bed each night.
If you're anything like me, sometimes it's just easiest to see how to do it. The video below may help answer questions you have about how to fill out a chart. If you'd rather have step-by-step instructions, skip past the video and follow the tutorial below.
STEP ONE: FILLING OUT THE HEADER
Start at the top of your chart, filling out your name, age, and the month and year. If this is your first month charting, start with a 1 for your cycle #. Then put the length of your shortest and longest cycles for the past year. If you don't know, you can just leave them blank.
STEP TWO: MARKING DAYS/DATES
Under the "Day" row, fill in the day of the week (M, T, W, etc). Fill in the month and date underneath that. Skip the "Luteal Phase" row--you'll only fill that out after your confirmed temperature shift.
That's it! You've filled out the header information for your chart and you're ready to fill out the rest of it day by day as your cycle progresses.
Now let's take a look at what recording daily information looks like.
STEP THREE: DAILY INFORMATION
The red bar below highlights one column, which represents that day's information. Remember, the first day of your cycle and the first column on your chart always starts with the first day of your period.
Not all sections will be needed for all days; for instance, in the chart below, "Vaginal Sensation" and "Cervical Position" are both left blank because there is no need to measure that when you are on your period.
In the "Sex" row, list what type of protection was used: "C" for condoms, "D" for diaphragm, "S" for spermicide, etc. If two methods were used, write both initials in the box. (Again, this tutorial is NOT sufficient for using FA as birth control. Find a teacher who can teach you the specifics on FA and birth control.)
I usually fill out my chart a minute or two before I go to bed, so I have an accurate summary of all the pertinent information from that day. You can also jot down notes about anything you think might be relevant to your chart.
Now let's skip ahead a week or two...
STEP FOUR: MARKING THE COVERLINE
Once you've got a few days filled out, you may be able to see a pattern emerge. Your coverline can help you spot temperatures that are pre- and post-ovulatory.
Keep in mind, though, that you can only draw the coverline in retrospect--since you have to wait to confirm ovulation, you may not be able to draw an accurate coverline until several days into your luteal phase.
To determine where your coverline should be, find the six temperatures recorded prior to your temperature shift (again, this may be easier to do once you're well into your luteal phase and a few days after ovulation). Of those six temperatures, find the highest temperature recorded. Your coverline should be marked at 1/10th degree above the highest recorded temperature.
Any temperature outside of the six days before ovulation do not factor in to the coverline. You'll notice on Cycle Day 9, a temperature of 97.8°F was recorded. Since this was outside of the six pre-ovulatory temperatures, it isn't taken into consideration when drawing the coverline.
On the chart above, the highest out of the six pre-ovulatory temperatures was recorded at 97.7°F. That means the coverline should be marked 1/10th degree higher than that, at 97.8°F.
Your coverline can help you see a clearer pattern between pre- and post-ovulatory temperatures, as well as help you diagnose any deficiencies you may have in your luteal phase. It also helps you see when your luteal phase ends and your next cycle (and period) begin.
Once you've confirmed ovulation, you can also start marking the length of your luteal phase in the "Luteal Phase" row above. Day 1 of your luteal phase is the first day of your temperature shift.
An ideal luteal phase is anywhere from 12-16 days, although most women experience a luteal phase of 10-12 days. If your luteal phase is regularly 10 days or less, this can indicate hormonal imbalances and potentially cause problems with conception or sustaining a pregnancy.
Last but not least...let's talk about finishing out the chart and getting ready to start a new one!
STEP FIVE: COMPLETING YOUR CHART
The end of your luteal phase is marked by the arrival of your next period (or, if you are pregnant, by sustained higher temperatures) and the start of a new cycle.
Here's a chart that is fully completed:
On this chart, the luteal phase was 12 days long. Spotting began the day before the luteal phase ended, which can be normal. Spotting for several days before your period starts, however, can indicate hormonal imbalances as well.
How do we know the luteal phase is over? Two ways:
Once you've completed your chart, you are ready for a new one! Fill out the header information, copy the first day's information on your new chart, and you are good to start another month of charting!