Fertility awareness charting is so much more than just knowing when you are fertile! When you are consistent with your chosen method of charting, you can discover valuable information about your body, and possibly see signs of disorders that call for treatment. Through daily observations and recordings, you can begin to see patterns and abnormalities that would easily be overlooked by the non-charting woman. To get an idea of what kinds of things your chart can tell you, I found some women who were willing to share. These are their own words.
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 things! But it’s a great place to start.
In this first part, we’re going to cover how four fairly common reproductive health conditions showed up on these women’s charts: ovarian cysts, PCOS, endometriosis, infections/bacterial vaginosis. Next week, we will discuss the signs of several other dysfunctions including hormonal imbalance, issues that relate to mood disorders, and miscellaneous issues.
Kimberly: Using Creighton and Marquette methods, my instructors noted I had weird spotting, which prompted me to get checked for cysts. It was confirmed and luckily, they burst during pregnancy.
MaryAnne: After two abnormal chart readings coupled with intermittent pelvic pain and spotting, I found out that I had an ovarian cyst….benign, thank God. If I hadn’t been charting, it probably would have taken twice as long to discover it.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
This condition is believed to be the number one cause of infertility; often times, ovulation is not occurring and periods are noticeably irregular. Some, but not the majority of women with PCOS, have cysts on their ovaries. Issues with insulin, androgens, and progesterone cause these and other symptoms, such as mood swings, pelvic pain, and fatigue.[ii]
Sarah: I was charting using the sympto-thermal method, and I noticed I was having false peaks before finally ovulating. I brought it up to my doctor who said NFP doesn’t work and that the chart doesn’t mean anything, but he agreed to check my ovaries during an ultrasound anyway. It showed they were polycystic and we were able to order lab work to help confirm my PCOS diagnosis.
Kerry: I would bleed for weeks with only a few days off in between. I brought my charts to a NaPro (Natural Procreative Technology) doctor who was able to interpret them and told me my body was trying to ovulate and couldn’t. I was prescribed folic acid and myo-inositol combined. My abnormal bleeding stopped.
Blanca: My chart was showing irregularly long phases, and abnormal bleeding and mucus patterns. I sometimes would have 90-day long cycles with two weeks of bleeding. Using the Creighton method, I was unable to identify a peak day/ovulation. My chart was proof of my concerns and because of my chart and my other symptoms (mood swings, hot flashes and anxiety) I had an ultrasound and hormone panel to confirm PCOS. Previously, I had only ever been given birth control to regulate the bleeding.
Lauren: My charting showed lack of ovulation and confirmed the PCOS diagnosis. After the ovarian wedge resection, charting pointed to the fact that I was ovulating for the first time in years.
Endometriosis is a disease where endometrial-like tissue (tissue similar to the lining of the uterus) is found outside of the uterus, typically somewhere in the pelvic cavity such as fallopian tubes and ovaries. The condition commonly causes extremely painful menstrual cycles and can be a cause of infertility.[iii]
Lorna: My cycles were long, 35-38 days, with lots of tail-end brown bleeding at the end of my period. My cervical mucus was also never really “peak type,” always 6 PY (that’s pasty and yellow). My husband and I had been trying to conceive and charting diligently and following appropriate instructions for five months and nothing had happened, so my practitioner referred us to an OBGYN who was familiar with the Creighton model of family planning. He performed a pelvic exam on me and found scar tissue on my uterus and endometriosis. This explained why we weren’t conceiving since the fertilized egg could not implant within the scar tissue. It was a relief knowing that my chart could provide meaningful information to doctors and help generate answers for the fertility struggles I was having.
Melissa: I started using the Creighton Model System of NFP when I was a single adult to see what was going on with my cycle. Based on the cervical mucus observations I recorded, my CrMS practitioner and NaPro doctor were able to tell that I likely had severe endometriosis. The tail-end brown bleeding I recorded in my chart also signaled to them that I had a progesterone deficiency. With this information, I was able to be properly treated for both of these conditions.
Infections/Bacterial vaginosis / PH issues related to products
Bacterial Vaginosis is an infection that takes place when anaerobes (“bad” bacteria) outnumber lactobacilli (“good” bacteria). Many women have no symptoms, but when symptoms are present they include itching, burning, discolored discharge, and foul smell.[iv]
Anonymous: While charting with Creighton, I was noticing an abnormal cervical mucus and was getting it fairly consistently but I had no other symptoms. I went to the doctor and was treated for bacterial vaginosis and my chart returned to normal. I can also tell when I need to switch a product, like shower gel, because I can now tell when my PH levels are off based on my chart.
Genevieve: When I was charting my cycle a few years ago I observed that my body was creating a certain amount of discharge in my non-fertile times. I was advised to have a swab taken and I was diagnosed with Bacterial Vaginosis. Easily treated if you know you have it. Since then that discharge has left. If it returns I know immediately through my observations and charts.
As you see, these women were all able to find signs of abnormalities and get help for it, sometimes way ahead, thanks to a careful reading of their chart. That’s an amazing benefit of fertility awareness. Again, always refer to your medical professional to get a correct understanding of these signs and the condition they may reveal. Click here for part two!