In last week’s post, we described ways fertility awareness charting enabled women to identify reproductive health problems like ovarian cysts, PCOS, endometriosis, infections/bacterial vaginosis. This week, we are going to give you the other 10 issues that women told us about. Through daily observations and recordings of their cycles, they were able to see patterns and abnormalities that would easily be overlooked by the non-charting woman.
Again, this article is not a medical recommendation, simply an educational guide, and we strongly advise you to refer to a physician trained in understanding the woman’s cycle to get an exact diagnosis. Of course, this is not a comprehensive list either; a good chart tells you about your hormones, and your hormones are linked to so many functions of the body! But it’s a great place to start.
In this second part, we’re going to cover how other health conditions, some of them major like Crohn’s disease or an ectopic pregnancy, showed up on these women’s charts. They include hormonal imbalance, issues that relate to mood disorders, and miscellaneous dysfunctions.
Hormonal Imbalance/Low progesterone:
Progesterone is a hormone of the reproductive system which is crucial in the regulation of the menstrual cycle, and among other things, prevents uterine contractions during pregnancy to protect the growing fetus.
Kate: My luteal phase was really irregular, so my Creighton practitioner ordered a progesterone panel. It showed an abnormal progesterone pattern, so I started taking HCG injections four times every cycle (post peak). It regulated my cycle (something birth control is often used for) and helped ensure my luteal phase was sufficient to conceive.
Ashley: Charting identified that I have low progesterone in the luteal phase, which was causing migraines.
Anonymous: Basically, I was having extended days of brown spotting at the end of each of my periods, making my periods look like they were 10 to 12 days long, since it was all red stamps on my chart (Creighton model). I had a vaginal ultrasound done, and they decided it was low progesterone levels. A nurse practitioner recommended the “B6 protocol,” where I basically took an overdose of B6 vitamin every day for a couple of weeks. It seemed to normalize my bleeding so I didn’t have such extended periods.
Maggie: My chart showed possible low progesterone with prolonged tail-end brown bleeding, acne, and a couple other things. I’m working with a NFP-friendly gynecologist to figure it all out. I recently had blood drawn and I have an ultrasound soon. I took post-peak progesterone last month, and I already see an improvement in my acne!
Amber: When I started charting, I noticed a consistent pattern of mid-cycle spotting, very heavy periods, and a short luteal phase, which led my doctor to prescribe progesterone during my luteal phase.
Liliana: Sadly, my first pregnancy lasted only 6-7 weeks. I had a miscarriage that changed us forever. To avoid going through that again, we saw a NaPro doctor. After discussing my charts and describing my periods he ordered three months of post-peak blood work. I was surprised to find out my excruciating pain during my period was not normal and might easily be treated. The blood work said my progesterone levels were way too low to keep a baby, and my estrogen was also low. I started taking HcG before my fertile days, and progesterone after my peak days. I did this for all three of my pregnancies and continued with progesterone through the majority of the pregnancy. I’m so grateful for an amazing doctor.
When no ovulation takes place, that is, no egg is released from the ovary, the cycle is considered an anovulatory cycle. It can lead to irregular bleeding and irregular cycles.
Anna: I found out that sometimes I wasn’t actually getting a real period and was just randomly bleeding. No ovulation. Now I’m postpartum and started bleeding with no ovulation. If it weren’t for charting and knowing it was just a random bleed, I’d be freaking out wondering why my period hasn’t come back a month later. I can tell when I ovulate, so I know when to expect a real period.
Diet/ Stress/ Depression
Kat: I noticed that too much sugar pushed back my cycle by 5-7 days! I was also able to connect my depression to my diet and see that it affected when I ovulated.
Olga: Charting helped me understand how my body responded to a lot of stress. Ovulation was delayed by 3-5 days and the overall length of my cycle increased, including a longer luteal phase.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder affects up to 8% of women and is characterized by a multitude of psychological, physical, and behavioral symptoms. Most well-known are increased irritability, sensitivity, and mood swings.
Carol: My chart showed a short luteal phase (progesterone and estradiol levels dropped off too quickly after ovulation; this was treated with HCG injections and progesterone), tail-end brown bleeding, premenstrual spotting. I was simultaneously suffering from suicidal ideation before period. I’m so grateful for my NaPro doctor!
Adrenal Fatigue/ Insulin resistant
Adrenal fatigue is when the adrenal glands don’t produce enough cortisol, which can result in fatigue, and usually follow a stress inducing event. Whether or not adrenal fatigue is real is controversial, but the symptoms seem to be similar, yet less severe than adrenal insufficiency. Insulin resistance is when the body doesn’t respond to insulin, keeping glucose in the bloodstream rather than taking it to the cells. It can develop into type 2 diabetes.
Anonymous: I use Billings. I was having mid-cycle spotting and a lot of fertile type mucus (which meant a lot of white baby stickers and a lot of abstinence). Thankfully my mentor had gently pushed me to get saliva testing done that showed borderline adrenal insufficiency and insulin resistance. I’ve had thyroid ups and downs since my early teenage years and I’ve been using this method for over 10 years. When my chart gets funny I know which issues cause which charting abnormality. My cycle has always been sensitive to stress and travel. I’m still working on the insulin resistance but my adrenal fatigue has been properly dealt with.
The thyroid is responsible for making thyroid hormones, which affect every part of the body.
Jacquelyn: I started charting and realized my temperatures were in the 95’s and 96’s which was at least two degrees lower than they should have been. Also, I exclusively breast fed both of my kids and yet always got my period back at three or four months postpartum, which is pretty early from what I’ve read. I researched both of these and found that it could be related to a thyroid problem, which made sense since I have had thyroid problems before. I started taking natural supplements to help my thyroid and was able to get pregnant within a few months.
Jessica: Charting helped me because I had really long cycles and some of my mucus symptoms were consistent the whole month even when I wasn’t fertile. My NFP instructor suggested I get my thyroid checked.
A pregnancy is termed ectopic when the fertilized egg implants somewhere outside the uterus, such as the fallopian tubes, cervix, or abdominal cavity. This can be life-threatening for the mother, and unfortunately nothing can be done to save the pregnancy.
Katherine: I had two menstrual cycles in a row that were much longer than usual. The first one was about 10 Days (normal for me is 5-7 Days) and the second was more than 12 days with mostly spotting for the second half of it. By that time, I was feeling tired/ fatigued and a little bit nauseous. Despite being on my period, I felt pregnant. So out of curiosity I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. After calling my Doctor I was advised to come in for an ultrasound. I was about 5 weeks pregnant at the time and it was confirmed that the embryo implanted into my tube. After the fact, my husband and I looked back on my chart and we believe I ovulated early and conceived at the end of the first menstrual cycle and based on how far along I was at the time of the ultrasound, that would have been accurate. If I hadn’t been paying attention to my cycles/chart or my symptoms, I could have easily ignored how I was feeling and gone on for weeks with the potential risk of rupture.
Crohn’s Disease flare ups
Crohn’s Disease is a painful inflammatory bowel disease affecting different areas of the digestive track with active and non-active phases.
Liza: I noticed that I was pretty consistently having flare ups after ovulation and learned that it can be associated with the rise in progesterone. If I had a flare up during ovulation I knew it was a true flare up and not a temporary one. A flare up after ovulation was more temporary. This information was extremely valuable and helped me prepare by making adjustments to my diet.
Also known as Cervical Ectropion, cervical erosion is when cells normally found inside the cervix are found on the outside of the cervix. When these cells are exposed to the acidity of the vagina it can create pelvic pain, discharge and abnormal bleeding.
Gabrielle: I had irregular bleeding three out of every four days. My Creighton teacher agreed that wasn’t normal, even ten weeks post-partum, and recommended I follow up with my OB/GYN. She thought it was normal but I got a second opinion by another OB/GYN. She performed an exam and found the abrasion and prescribed medication. This resolved the problem. If I hadn’t been charting I wouldn’t have realized in my new-mom, sleep-deprived state that there was a problem and would’ve accepted the first doctor’s opinion and continued to be in pain. I found out later that irregular bleeding can indicate a variety of other serious health issues.
Amber: Charting also gave me the peace of mind of knowing when to expect a drop in my milk supply and severe nipple sensitivity (I’m breastfeeding a 10-month-old). I have a week just before ovulation every single cycle where my supply just TANKS, and nursing is incredibly painful. Before noticing the pattern, I would panic and think my milk was drying up, or that I had thrush and that was causing the pain when nursing. Now, it’s expected, and knowing that it’s only temporary helps tremendously to get through it.
Kathy: Based on my Creighton chart, my doctor ordered a partial MRI to check my pituitary gland. The result came back normal, but they did find that another part of my brain is enlarged. Mayo Clinic sent me to their neurology department and was able to intervene early, thanks to NFP!
I hope this sample of stories from women helps many of our readers. If you have any concerns, speak to a medical professional. The great news is that a good number of women’s health conditions can be diagnosed and treated by doctors trained to read these signs. Check this section on our website for more information and where you can find help.