SO, only 3 days in and I’ve realized that I am missing an awesome graphic for this series. To alleviate this little factoid, I hopped over to iuseNFP and snagged one of their cheeky graphics. Thanks, gals! (and yes, I went back to the other posts and added the graphic there.)
Today we are going to talk about methods of NFP that use mucus observations in concert with other observations: basal body temperature, cervical position, cervical opening, and fertility monitors. This is going to be a general overview and SHOULD NOT substitute for taking a class with a certified instructor or taking a home study course.
This is the method that DH and I learned when we first started using NFP 5 years ago. We took the Couple-to-Couple League‘s Home Study Course and taught ourselves, but I can see how the class would be helpful… especially if you are not a big one on home studies.
We chose the STM because, well frankly, I’m kind of nerdy and I love charts and graphs. I also feel more confident in having a series of observations to cross check, rather than just one… but that’s just me. STM is also the method that is most similar to “Fertility Awareness” as taught in the book “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Welcher.
(As an aside: Postpartum and while breastfeeding, we actually switch to mucus only observations because of the erratic sleep patterns newborns/infants give their parents and how breastfeeding can alter your fertility– that post is to come.)
STM was first organized in 1971. It combined the cervical mucus observations as popularized by Dr. Billings, the basal body temperature observations noted in the 1930s by Rev. Wilhelm Hillebrand and added observations of cervical position. In charting these three primary signs of fertility, a couple can determine their fertile and infertile times.
Cervical Mucus: see yesterday’s post
Basal Body Temperature: This is the body’s temperature right upon awakening (before getting out of bed) or after their longest stretch of sleep (usually a minimum of 3 hours straight.) The temperature is taken with a Basal Body Temperature, which measures the body’s temperature to a tenth of a degree while regular thermometers will measure in 2 tenths of a degree increments. This doesn’t sound like much, but the temperature shift at ovulation is usually a difference of 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit. The thing about the temperature shift is that it indicates that ovulation has already occurred.
Cervical Position: This is the one observation that people either take or leave as it requires the woman to do a quick cervix check. Like cervical mucus, the cervix changes in response to both estrogen and progesterone. The cervix is closed and hard until the beginning of the fertile time. As ovulation gets closer, the cervix will open slightly and the cervix will soften… feeling a bit like your facial lips, rather than like the tip of your nose. These changes are gradual and take place over about a week or so. Cervix observations begin at the end of the menstrual flow and the cervix is checked only once or twice a day, but only in the afternoon or evening. The benefit to adding the cervix check is that it gives the woman a more complete view of her fertility, can reduce the number of days of abstinence and can help during weird times of transition (postpartum, perimenopause.)
To chart her fertility, the couple takes the observations (sometimes the husband will do the charting with the wife’s information, sometimes she records; depends totally on the couple,) and records them on a chart. With the advent of smartphones, paper charts aren’t really needed much anymore and observations can be recorded right on your iPhone or Android! (I’m a big fan of FemCal, personally.)
Sympto-thermal Method Chart (source)
The example chart above shows the temperature record above with mucus and cervix characteristics below.
Ah, the Marquette Method, from my hometown of Milwaukee, WI. The Marquette Method (MM) was developed at Marquette University by doctors and nurses in the late 1990s. This makes it the most recent of the common NFP methods. MM employs technology (fertility monitors such as the ClearBlue Easy Fertility Monitor, OvaCue monitor or urinary luteinizing hormone (LH) test kits,) to monitor female hormones, along with cervical mucus observations.
Example Marquette Method Chart (source.) This chart is actually of a breast-feeding mother.
According to the MM literature, there are only 6 days of fertility in a monthly cycle, the day of ovulation and the five (5) days before. The fertility monitor determines this fertile period by measuring the urinary metabolites of estrogen and LH. To avoid pregnancy, couples abstain from genital contact during her fertile period, as determined by the monitor (high or peak on the read-out.) To achieve a pregnancy… couples have intercourse on the high or peak days.
ClearBlue Easy Monitor (source)
OvaCue Monitor (source)
LH test strips (source)
Now let’s turn to you!
Do you use STM or MM? What do you love about it? What do you hate? Tell us about it!
Tomorrow: Guest Post
Friday: Seven Quick Takes- Talking NFP with your husband
Saturday: Lactational Amenorrhea/ PostPartum Charting
Sunday: Non-religious Reasons to use NFP
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