Surviving the Charting Learning Curve—With Support
“I just started charting my cycle…and I’m so confused! How am I supposed to use this for family planning when I can’t even figure up from down??”
Sound familiar? As a Fertility Awareness Educator, I often hear people say they want to learn to chart but it feels too daunting and difficult. For some, there can be a very sharp learning curve when you are just starting out. But there are a few things you can do to support this learning curve.
Find the Right Support
Lean on your instructor, if you have one. There are many support groups on Facebook and social media for Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (FABM), but there is nothing like that one solid piece of guidance from someone who knows your background, history, and medical condition.
A FABM instructor should be able to give you quick, reliable, and helpful guidance on any charting question. If you’re wondering whether you had a fertile sign or not on a given day, they will likely tell you two things you may not want to hear. The first is “consider any day of uncertain fertility to be fertile.” The second is “Let’s wait and see what happens.” Hindsight is 20/20 and part of the learning curve involves seeing the cycle in reflection, not in real time. Once you’ve established your individual patterns you can make better real-time decisions.
Take a Month Off
The most ideal time to learn a Fertility Awareness-Based Method is before you need it for family planning. Understandably, not everyone gets a chance to learn it before they need it. If you are currently sexually active and wanting to learn a FABM, consider taking a month off of sexual activity to really learn your body’s biomarkers without the confusion of other fluids (and the pressure of “getting it right”).
This is the head and shoulders, the most important piece of learning a Fertility Awareness-Based Method. It just takes time to learn your body’s language. FABM couldn’t be farther from “set it and forget it,” but it also couldn’t be more valuable for your health. So give it time, and don’t give up if it doesn’t instantly make sense to you. As charting people, we’re looking at patterns over time, so I always tell people not to get too hung up on individual days of observations. Remember the forest matters, not the individual trees as much.
Find the Right Fit
Different biomarkers make sense for different people at different times. Some people want every biomarker in the book, so they use temperature and hormonal monitors on top of cervical fluid observations. The only non-negotiable bio-marker I make students use is cervical fluid. Everything else should be supporting and clarifying those observations of cervical fluid. Choosing the right combination of biomarkers to measure is key to making charting easy and giving you confidence.
Highlight Your Weaknesses
The FEMM method uses yellow markers, that I call “TBD” markers. If you are confused and not really sure what you’re seeing, describe it, mark it, and ask your instructor. Over the course of a few cycles, highlighting the pieces that are confusing for you make it easier for you and your instructor to figure out what’s going on—such as if it’s just part of the learning curve, or if something going awry in your cycles.
Dehydration is one of the most common ailments I see affecting cervical fluid. If you aren’t staying hydrated the body won’t be able to make the fluids it needs. It’s so simple and so powerful. Carry a refillable water bottle with you and be sure to refill as you go throughout the day.
As someone who has used a FABM for almost 10 years now, I can say it truly does get easier. I hardly even think about charting anymore, while it remains an active part of my health management. I recognize it’s not always easy to learn your cycle—especially if you didn’t receive any information about it during puberty (probably most of us!). But I hope this has given you some tips to ease the learning curve. Hang in there, and remember: you’re taking amazing steps toward body literacy!