How to Chart Using the Fertility Awareness Method

[UPDATE: Here's the actual chart, and here's the one with a lower temperature range! Enjoy!]

Now that we've gone through why it's important to chart, what the entire menstrual cycle looks like, and how to interpret your fertility signs, we're ready to actually start charting!

Before we dive in, I will say this: the Fertility Awareness Method is incredibly effective as birth control if you are willing to be diligent. It doesn't take much time or effort, but it does require consistent efforts day to day. If you are planning on using FAM as your primary form of birth control, I strongly recommend reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility or seeing a FAM instructor before you begin. I don't want to scare you, I just want to make sure you're taking the proper precautions. I have been using FAM for a year and a half now with no problems whatsoever.

Also, if you are already pregnant or if you use hormonal birth control, charting won't be accurate for you since you're not ovulating, so keep that in mind!

Should you use an app to chart your info?

There are tons of apps out there that track your fertility and tell you when your fertile windows are. While there are some great ones out there, not many of them are actually specifically geared toward tracking all three fertility signs.

If you're hellbent on using an app, look for one that allows you to easily record all three fertility signs (waking temperature, cervical fluid, cervical position), and make sure you're still paying attention to what your fertile signs are telling you. not what the app is telling you, since it may be wrong. Some good ones: KindaraReady to Groove, and Glow. However, I would strongly discourage you from using an app and tell you to chart on paper, at least for the first couple of months while you get the hang of it. I'd be the first one to tell you to use technology if I thought it would benefit you (hello, I work for Apple...), but in this case, I see it causing more confusion and work than it's worth.

As far as the paper charts, I've created a simple chart that you can download here  as a printable PDF.

(Don't download this one, click the link above. Click on this image to enlarge)

How the heck do you fill this thing out?

It may look a little overwhelming at first, but trust me--it takes about thirty seconds a day to record the necessary information. I usually fill mine out right before bed each night.

Start at the top of your chart, filling out your name, age, and the month and year. If this is your first month charting, start with a 1 for your cycle #. Then put the length of your shortest and longest cycles for the past year. (If you don't know, just leave them blank.)
Next, under the "Day" row, fill in the day of the week. Fill in the month and date underneath that. Skip the "Luteal Phase" row--we'll come back to that later.

You can put a diagonal line to start a new month, like 3/13 above.

Now that you've got the top filled out, you're ready to fill it out day by day. The red column highlighted above is where you would record the info for the first day of your cycle, which is also the first day of your period.

Here's what it looks like filled out. Let's go over the different entries.

In the temperature slot, find your waking temperature and circle it on the chart. Underneath that, you can record if you had sex that day or not. You can also record your cervical fluid--since this is your period, you'll fill in the corresponding box to record that.
You don't have to check your cervical position while you are on your period. If you're having any other symptoms, like cramps, bloating, or acne, you can fill that in as well. If you have any notes for the day, jot them in.

Voila! You're done for the day! Easy as pie.

 Here's what it looks like when you've been charting for a few days:

You'll connect your waking temperatures with lines. If your period gets lighter, you can do dashed lines instead of filling it in completely. 

After your period ends, you'll most likely have a time of dry or sticky days. To indicate a dry day, put a dash through the Period line.
Leading up to ovulation, your cervical fluid will start to get sticky, creamy, and/or eggwhite (fertile/stretchy).  Carefully record these sensations in your chart day by day.

Here's what it looks like when you've ovulated:

See the temperature that's higher than the rest? That's called your Thermal Shift. That is one of the signs that indicates your body has released an egg. The thermal shift is also the first day of your luteal phase, which you can mark by writing a 1 for that day in the Luteal Phase row.

As your Luteal Phase progresses, you can write out 1, 2, 3, and so forth in the Luteal Phase row so you can start to get an idea of how long your typical luteal phase is.
After your temperature shifts, you can draw your cover line. Your cover line helps you see when you're in or out of your luteal phase. To draw your cover line, take the six temperatures before the thermal shift (colored in with black above) and draw a line one tenth of a degree above that.
When your temperatures falls below the cover line (see the pictures above and beneath on day 29), your luteal phase is over and that day is the first day of your next cycle.

If you want, you can draw a vertical line to indicate that your cycle is over. Duplicate the last day's information on your next chart for Cycle #2.

There you go! You've officially charted for one month. 

If you're more of a visual learner, here's a five-minute video I made that covers the same basic information above. 

As you start charting, please feel free to reach out with any questions! I remember how confused I was when I first started, so if there's anything you have questions about, just let me know.

It was so amazing during my first month of charting to actually see my temperature shift and my body respond in predictable ways--I knew it was supposed to do that, I just didn't know if my body would do it. When it did, it was one of the most amazing feelings in the world. I hope you get to feel that as well as you start charting!

And if you haven't should join the party on Instagram and Twitter!

All the cool kids are doing it. 

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