By Bernadette Jones, FSI Coach and NFP Teacher
I was inspired when a student challenged herself with the goal of making the fertile window as short as possible. This motivated her to chart consistently and accurately and minimizing mistakes that can add unnecessary days of abstinence (in this scenario of postponing pregnancy). Pursuing this goal requires discipline but is rewarding when a couple can relax and rely on the boundaries of the fertile window.
Every good analysis starts with data, so getting good data on a chart from start to finish is the first step. Good charting habits can be made by filling out a chart in the mornings for temperature and the evenings for mucus and cervix observations. Don’t forget to add information that might influence your observations such as stress, illness, or medication. Even little things like not sleeping or eating well can influence the length of the fertile window.
Sometimes couples need a way to recommit to their charting habits and might want to start with a conversation on how to form those habits together. The best way to do this is to change something. Start charting differently whether it is on paper or an app and mix it up a little. Fill out your chart during the same time as other habits such as brushing your teeth or getting dressed. My husband and I came up with a very effective way of ‘getting back in the habit’ by simply taping the chart to the bathroom mirror.
Another suggestion to build good habits would be to schedule a coaching session to establish goals, fill knowledge gaps, and to follow up as needed. Your coach can analyze your chart and work with you through these challenges.
The start of the fertile window relies on the cycle length and accuracy of mucus observations. Patterns on multiple charts can give insights on how your cycle length varies from chart to chart. The cycle length is predicted by the Luteal Phase which should be consistent every chart. A varying Luteal Phase could be influenced by your health and wellness, or you could be coming out of postpartum or going into perimenopause.
The end of the fertile window is determined by fertility observations. The fertility observations from a chart primarily depend on the temperature shift and drying up of mucus. The best way to interpret this is to take out the noise and focus on getting information on a chart accurately. This is when it matters to avoid abnormal temperatures and look for thermal shifts. If your fertility observations are not giving you strong indications on where the fertile window ends, find the outliers and trouble shoot what might be happening. Also, a cervix observation can cut down the number of fertile days. Patterns on multiple charts can also give insights to improvements. A coach can help troubleshoot cycle irregularities and give you a knowledge boost of fertile window interpretation.
There are two goals to pursue when trying to improve the boundaries of the fertile window. One is to improve your accuracy with better chart information and the other is to improve your overall health as to not have abnormalities occur within your chart. These take patience and good observations but can be rewarding when a couple can rely on the boundaries and relax knowing that the effectiveness is proven scientifically. Also, do not forget that we can learn from the occasional outliers by being aware that they are there and to be patient with ourselves in allowing exceptions to occur.
Bernadette Jones and her husband Robert learned STM from CCL when they were engaged in 2006 and it has become a foundation of their marriage. They have been teaching and promoting STM since 2016. She uses FAB methods to strengthen her marriage and faith, as well as, to improve health and environment. Bernadette is looking forward to supporting parish and diocesan communities.
To find a STM NFP class and learn how to chart, visit www.ccli.org/learnnfp