When Charting Becomes a Drag: Making NFP Easier to Chart

Charting requires a learning curve to any couple learning to use NFP, no matter the method.  Every day you must not only observe your fertile signs everyday, but also remember to note down what you saw.  However, many find that over time, charting is such a normal and natural part of their lives, they do it without much fuss.  It takes only minutes a day to observe your fertile signs, and then mere seconds to note them down on your chart.

Still, charting every single day can be a bit draining.  It can be especially difficult if only one spouse is charting (whether temporarily or permanently) and feels burdened by the constant work.  Perhaps the woman travels a lot and wants to know an easier way to note her observations as she constantly moves about.  Maybe you have kids at home and find it hard to recall when you should chart.  And lets be honest...some people like me are just lazy. ;)

Luckily there are quite a few "short cuts" and tricks any NFP couple can utilize that can help lessen the load that comes with charting.  (Note that I am going over short cuts and tips for charting with the Sympto-Thermal Method; for short cuts/tips with other NFP methods, speak with a certified instructor who teaches it).

Remembering to Chart

Whether you are forgetful, busy, or just straight up lazy, sometimes we forget to chart our observations for the day.  It's important to note down what you observed as soon as possible, as you may forget if you wait until the next day.  Luckily, there are ways to help us sit down and get it done.

Consider setting an alarm on your phone.  Perhaps at 8pm everyday, your phone will go off, and it can be a reminder to stop what you are doing and jot down your notes onto your chart.  Of course you can set the alarm for whatever time best fits into your schedule, so long as you do it at the same time each day to help facilitate the habit.  If you often forgo bathroom breaks and don't check your mucus observations much as a result, you can use an alarm as well.  Set up scheduled alarms to make yourself use the restroom periodically throughout the day, and utilize those times to check up on your cervical mucus!

Teamwork tends to lighten the work load.  If you are the only person who charts: bring in the spouse!  You may have to have him read your NFP book on how the method works, or simply go over the charting symbols with him: but whatever the case, having the man participate can make charting easier to bear with.  If need be, have him meet your instructor to ask any questions he has, or to guide him in how to use the method with you.

Temperature-taking has its short cuts too.  The husband can hand over the thermometer after the alarm goes off in the morning, sparing you from fumbling around and moving too much.  After the temp taking is done, he may also take out the thermometer and put it back.  ( This teamwork ties in with the last point ;) ) If you tried all the tips you can but can not get a reliable temperature because of getting up in the night to care for young children, I would recommend looking into Temp Drop.  It is a neat little device that is placed under your upper arm at night, and it takes your temperature for you: without the need for waking up or using an alarm!  It is pricey but well worth it if you just hate using your regular thermometer.

Choose a charting method that suits you.  Some people love their paper charts, others swear by their charting apps: it simply depends on the person.  If you decide paper charts are easier to use, be sure to have it somewhere you will remember to write on it.  Some have it on the bathroom mirror, others on their bedroom dresser or on the wall next to the bed.  Apps themselves are handy for those who prefer electronics, as they are visually appealing and are not at the mercy of your handwriting mistakes.  And if the app is on your phone, it will be easy to remember to chart when you see the icon on your phone or computer screen.

Trouble with interpreting your chart?  Ask for help.  Some people feel overwhelmed with charting if their cycles are confusing, or they are still trying to get used to the rules of NFP.  It's not charting down their observations that are the problem, but knowing what to make of what they see! If this is the case, then reach out for all the support and tips you can.  Do not be afraid to call or email your instructor your chart and asking for her input.  If you are part of a social media group or forum for NFP users, you can also post your chart there and receive help from fellow NFP users or instructors.  If your cervical mucus or other signs of fertility are somewhat confusing you, then consider going over the traits in your NFP books, and repeat the previous steps with your NFP instructor and community.

Charting Short-Cuts

Did you know that you don't have to chart every single day in order to use it reliably?  While you MUST chart every single day when first learning how to chart, after a number of months you may decide it's time to cut it back a bit. You understand your usual pattern and no longer need to note down excess information.

The following short cuts for safe charting can offer a lessen on the load.

You do not have to take your waking temperature during menstruation, nor after you have had a confirmed temperature rise.  Unless you tend to have very early ovulation, there is no need to take your temperature while you are bleeding. 

Also, once you have confirmed ovulation has occurred, through a sustained temperature rise, you also do not need to continue temping in the morning.  Whatever temperature rule you use for your chart, after it has been fulfilled, you are free to put the thermometer in the drawer until the next cycle calls for it again.

Another tip for temperature taking is to wait until day 6 or further to start temping.  Depending on how early or late your temperature shifts from low to high, you can put off taking your waking temperature until day 6 or later in your cycle.  Because the temperature rule that confirms ovulation requires 6 low temperatures proceeding three high ones, you can put off temping until the day you've had your earliest 6th last low temperature. 

Look back at your last 12 cycles.  Write down the day when the earliest 6th last low temperature occurred for each cycle.  Which ever cycle had the earliest occurrence of a 6 last low, that would be the day when you would start temping each cycle.  So if you had 12 cycles that showed a range of 6 last lows from day 11 to day 14, you would start temping the morning of day 11 of your cycle.

If you think it is not safe enough to wait to temp until the earliest day a 6th last low occurred, you can simply put off temping until day 6 or 7 of your cycle.

After Peak Day is established with cervical mucus, and it coincides with a temperature shift, you know longer need to observe or chart your mucus sign.  A peak day means your last occurrence of your most fertile mucus sign.  After Peak Day is confirmed, and it coincides with a sustained temperature shift of lows to highs, it means you ovulated.  And not only that: it means you will not ovulate again for the rest of your cycle!  All day every day until your period begins again, you are completely infertile.  There is no need to chart your mucus until you start your next cycle.

The same can be done for your vaginal sensation and cervical observations.  After you have confirmation that you have ovulated and the egg is dead and gone, you no longer have to keep charting anything (though I would recommend you note down if you had intercourse).

If you don't have to chart this or that: then don't!  Let's say you chart all four signs -- waking temperature, cervical mucus, vaginal sensation, AND cervical position.  Perhaps you note down the specific traits of your mucus as well.  And maybe every single exercise you do during the week.  And also when you ate that one cupcake at a birthday party!

You get my point.  Unless you need to chart down details of ALL your fertile signs to accurately establish your fertile window, or require to note down lifestyle habits for your health, you can cut back on the extras. 

Perhaps, after going over it with your instructor, you find that you can use NFP accurately enough with just waking temperature and mucus observations; the other signs can just be used as back up.  Instead of noting down the exact color and stretch of your mucus, or how many times a day you see it, you just note down what kind of mucus it was and leave it at that.  If your exercise or diet routines don't really affect your fertility at all: then why chart down the who what when where and why of it all?

If you are only charting for sake of avoiding a pregnancy, then don't overbear yourself if you don't have to.  You can keep things accurate by charting simply, granted that you double check it with your instructor first.

There you have it

Charting made more simple, and yet still accurate enough to use for family planning.  Do you have any tips or suggestions yourself?  Then let me know. :)