NFP Advice


#1

I have some questions regarding NFP. My husband and I began taking classes in using NFP (Creighton Method) about 2 years ago to try to space out and avoid another pregnancy. During that time I was still breastfeeding my second child. Reading my signs was not easy during that time period. I had pretty much constant sticky mucus. The instructor tried to teach us an alternate version with yellow stickers, but interpreting signs was extremely difficult and I was very nervous that I might not be able to tell if I was ovulating (since child #2 was conceived when I was still nursing child #1, before I had had my first postpartum period). Even when my cycles eventually returned, they were very irregular (varying as much as 21-35 days in a cycle), and double peaks were not uncommon. I had a hard time telling how sensations of mucous felt - smooth or lube. Our NFP instructor, while very nice, didn't give us much confidence or greater understanding of the method. Following the rules often only gave us an infertile window of maybe one or two days each month. As I have a low libido this was not as much of a struggle for me, but it did have a very negative effect on the unitive aspects of our marriage (which I won't discuss publicly on this forum).

I observed my signs daily and tried to follow the rules for infertile periods, but am now 6 months pregnant with our third child. I thought we had waited until phase 3, but as far as I could tell in retrospect I think I misread a yeast infection for an early peak. My husband had doubts about the effectiveness of NFP methods before we started NFP classes and quite honestly this pregnancy hasn't helped convince him that it can work for us - perhaps for people with regular cycles and sleep patterns. I will admit that I am more nervous and have more doubts about the effectiveness of NFP too, especially since I'm not sure I trust my interpretation of my signs anymore. On top of that there were times that I was lax at recording my signs on my chart. My husband rightfully scolded me for sloppy record keeping and I think he blames me for this pregnancy - with some justification, but I don't think it was charting error that made a difference (and I'm not just saying that to absolve myself from mistakes).

We are adapting to our unexpected (but loved) third child on the way, but both my husband and I feel pretty strongly that unless God has other plans for us that having a fourth or more children in the near future is not something that we want to deliberately try for in the near future (if in the future at all). We could probably adapt financially, but emotionally providing time and support for the two we already have seems insufficient already and somehow we will manage with a third, but I'm not sure it would be in the best interests of our current and future children for us to have additional children. My husband believes me that I would honestly intend to do better on charting in the future, but is convinced that despite good intentions I will probably be lax in my charting. I would like to prove him wrong, but I had intended to better in the past and failed to keep the promise so there is not much I can do or say to convince him. Even if I have perfect record keeping with my chart, how helpful is it if I can't interpret my fertility signs? - not very. Even though my faith in NFP has been reduced, I would still like to try to follow Church teaching with regard to NFP.

What should I do from here? Should I look into instruction into another method of NFP? Creighton seemed to be the most scientifically backed method which is a plus but perhaps learning more about Sympto-Thermo method with cross-checks would be good. On the other hand our Creighton instructor discouraged combining different NFP methods so I'm not sure. Also the "iffy" "maybe fertile" days with STM make me nervous. I want to be absolutely sure about my fertility signs. I would also consider using a fertility monitor as an added check to my charting and reading my signs, but am not sure which fertility monitor(s) would be best. I know Marquette method uses the Clear Blue Easy (which uses LH and estrogen levels I think), Others use BBT (like LadyComp), which I would need to track if I were using the STM method. I think OVaCue uses electrolyte levels. I had a hard time finding unbiased comparisons about use of these monitors (most of the information either comes from the manufacturer or just tells how it works but doesn't compare with other types). How do I convince my husband not to give up on NFP? Also I plan on breastfeeding baby #3 for at least a year and how can I be sure about fertility during extended breastfeeding this time around?


#2

Well I'm a sympto-thermal user, so I have no Creighton training or experience...
But, I had similar postpartum issues with discerning fertile mucous.
However, with the sympto-thermal method I was also able to look at other signs, like my cervical position and my basal body temperature. Personally, I found the cervical position sign to be the most useful (for me, personally) in helping to distinguish those "iffy" mucous patterns. My cycles were also very irregular (anywhere from 20-60 days) at first, but we've made it through 3 times now. I'm pregnant with our 4th now, so praying that it will continue to help us space our children in the future.
BF'ing helped to delay my cycles a little (returning anywhere from 5 to 10 months postpartum after each of my kids), but actually, once my cycles returned I was more comfortable tracking a regular pattern...

I can't guarantee that sympto-thermal will help you... I know a lot of people love and adore the Creighton model... but I do know that personally the mucous sign was very confusing in those postpartum months, and I would have had a lot more issues if I didn't have the other two symptoms (cervical position and basal body temperature) to fall back on as a cross-check.

Just my experience! Prayers for you and your family... congrats on #3!


#3

I don’t have children yet so haven’t had to deal with the difficulty of interpreting signs post-partum. But I will say my cycles can sometimes be irregular and I’ve found the sympto thermal method to be very good. Sometimes my mucous signs aren’t very clear but I can see a clear pattern in my temperatures, and vice versa. I highly recommend taking a local Couple to Couple League class if you can.


#4

Thanks Em, (And congratulations on #4 :slight_smile: )!. Sympto-thermo method is taught by CCL in our area. Perhaps I should contact them, but I’m not sure how much I could learn about reading signs right now since I’m currently pregnant. Our Creighton instructor specifically said that internal cervical checks should not be used with Creighton because it can impact reading of mucus signs… :shrug:


#5

[quote="kaws, post:1, topic:248854"]
Our NFP instructor, while very nice, didn't give us much confidence or greater understanding of the method. Following the rules often only gave us an infertile window of maybe one or two days each month. As I have a low libido this was not as much of a struggle for me, but it did have a very negative effect on the unitive aspects of our marriage (which I won't discuss publicly on this forum).

[/quote]

This is the crux. Find a new instructor, who knows what she's doing and will give you confidence. You seem to be able to make accurate charts, you just need help interpreting them. Months and months of abstinence is not normal or good for your relationship. A good instructor can look at a chart and tell you about the patterns that indicate fertility or infertility, despite the presence of mucus. No such thing as a "double peak" as a woman only ovulates once per cycle, and in breastfeeding you can also experience mucus patches and bleeds that are related to hormonal levels (but not ovulation). The Billings method worked for me, my children (7) are all two years apart, no surprise pregnancies, and I experienced lots of issues while breastfeeding that we worked through with the charts and proper interpretation.

Prayer, too, helps, especially for healing the marital relationship.


#6

[quote="casey_zia, post:5, topic:248854"]
This is the crux. Find a new instructor, who knows what she's doing and will give you confidence.

[/quote]

I think that is true, but I am not sure to try couple to couple league or go with another Creighton instructor.

[quote="casey_zia, post:5, topic:248854"]
You seem to be able to make accurate charts, you just need help interpreting them.

[/quote]

Yes and no... if I have trouble correctly interpreting my fertility signs, does good record keeping of misread signs or proper interpretation of misread signs make a difference? How can an instructor teach how to interpret how mucus feels?

[quote="casey_zia, post:5, topic:248854"]
Months and months of abstinence is not normal or good for your relationship.

[/quote]

I agree.

[quote="casey_zia, post:5, topic:248854"]
A good instructor can look at a chart and tell you about the patterns that indicate fertility or infertility, despite the presence of mucus. No such thing as a "double peak" as a woman only ovulates once per cycle, and in breastfeeding you can also experience mucus patches and bleeds that are related to hormonal levels (but not ovulation).

[/quote]

Yes, I know that typically ovulation only occurs once per cycle. Our instructor used the term double peak to describe when fertility signs seemed to show ovulation but actual ovulation occurred later in the cycle. It seemed like I would have several stretches that seemed to be approaching ovulation. It usually only left maybe three days a month that were clearly infertile (and life or children or schedules more often than not prevented the opportunity for us to fully take advantage of them).

[quote="casey_zia, post:5, topic:248854"]
Prayer, too, helps, especially for healing the marital relationship.

[/quote]

Thanks - I won't turn down prayers - much appreciated :). However I didn't mean to give the impression that our marriage is broken or on the brink. When it comes to NFP and Catholic doctrine concerning sexuality in marriage we have some disagreements and conflict. Overall I would say our marriage has been blessed, and is very happy, strong, and loving, and we are on the same page on most areas.


#7

I would certainly recommend using NFP again. My husband has always been against it, but thankfully I’ve been able to continue using it.

I was using STM until I got pregnant with my first child. Post-partum I was unable to keep a regular sleep schedule and regularly forgot to temp. I started learning CrM about 6 months ago and I have been happy with it, mostly because I don’t have to temp.

My husband, though, was not comfortable with me only checking one of the fertility signs. So I made up my own charts which allow me to use a combination of CrM and STM. Basically, I use CrM for all mucous observations, and also check my cervix (but don’t use any mucous I see as an observation unless it’s clearly fertile) and temp in the morning when I remember.

I don’t know why your instructor would advise against this, unless she doesn’t have any experience with STM and therefore doesn’t understand it, or maybe she doesn’t want you to do anything outside of the standard method. I haven’t told my CrM instructor that I’m doing this, but it hasn’t done anything for me but confirm what I’m seeing with the mucous, which is what my husband was after. I didn’t see a need to tell my instructor since I was adding to the method, rather than taking away. If any of my signs say I’m fertile, then I count it as fertile.

Without seeing your past charts it’s hard to give specific advice, but I’d be happy to take a look at them if you want to send them to me in a PM.

A great resource for NFP is Living The Sacrament. It’s a forum community that is dedicated to NFP and marriage. It’s a women-only community, and everyone is super-supportive. You could get some great advice there about your issues with NFP, and they also have buddy groups for pregnancy, post-partum, trying-to-avoid, etc.


#8

[quote="kaws, post:6, topic:248854"]
Yes and no... if I have trouble correctly interpreting my fertility signs, does good record keeping of misread signs or proper interpretation of misread signs make a difference? How can an instructor teach how to interpret how mucus feels?

[/quote]

You/your instructor are looking for patterns from the daily charting of the most fertile characteristics of what you feel and see. You need to chart just that, what you feel and what you see, in your own words. Your instructor's job isn't to tell you what you are feeling/seeing; she might clarify whether one day's terminology defines the same sensation/observation as the same term used another day. Otherwise she should work with your chart, and look for patterns of infertility and for possible fertility. I don't understand Creighton, but a lot of their charting is similar to Billings, which is what I'm familiar with.

[quote="kaws, post:6, topic:248854"]
It seemed like I would have several stretches that seemed to be approaching ovulation. It usually only left maybe three days a month that were clearly infertile (and life or children or schedules more often than not prevented the opportunity for us to fully take advantage of them).

[/quote]

This is the pattern of returning fertility while breastfeeding. The "cycle" can go on for months and months and months, just when you've returned to your BIP, you'd have another few days of mucus.... Just for sport, it helps to draw a diagram of the estogen levels, alongside the charting, with a low line at your BIP, and every advance on fertility (dampness, wetness, slippery) showing higher levels of estrogen. Your BIP could actually progress to that of mucus, as long as its unchanging; this would allow you more days of intimacy. (You need to get a good instructor to go through this with you.) Breastfeeding has its own category; same rules but the science of the last 10 years allows for more understanding of hormonal levels and what constitutes BIP vs the mucus of approaching fertility.

This is a good time to find an instructor who will be with you through your breastfeeding months, someone you both are comfortable with. Test her with your charts from pre-pregnancy!

[quote="kaws, post:6, topic:248854"]
When it comes to NFP and Catholic doctrine concerning sexuality in marriage we have some disagreements and conflict. Overall I would say our marriage has been blessed, and is very happy, strong, and loving, and we are on the same page on most areas.

[/quote]

The NFP/sexuality stuff is so important.... It's hard enough on men who are understanding and on board! (My husband was the one who introduced me to NFP; had never heard of it before! It still wasn't easy for him/us, but in hindsight, it was very very good for our relationship and how we raise our children.) Build on what makes you happy and strong and loving.


#9

[quote="k8e308, post:7, topic:248854"]
Post-partum I was unable to keep a regular sleep schedule and regularly forgot to temp.

[/quote]

I would feel much more confident with the temperature cross-check to compare against mucus observations, but lack of a consistent sleep schedule is a concern I would have with STM. I don't follow a standard uninterrupted sleep schedule now, and I know from past experience adding an infant into the picture is not going to help improve uninterrupted and consistent sleep schedules ;).

[quote="k8e308, post:7, topic:248854"]
So I made up my own charts which allow me to use a combination of CrM and STM. Basically, I use CrM for all mucous observations, and also check my cervix (but don't use any mucous I see as an observation unless it's clearly fertile) and temp in the morning when I remember.

I don't know why your instructor would advise against this, unless she doesn't have any experience with STM and therefore doesn't understand it, or maybe she doesn't want you to do anything outside of the standard method.

[/quote]

I'm not sure. My instructor was very new at being an instructor. I think we were one of her first sets of couples she counseled on her own once she had completed her training. She warned that her instruction materials said that doing internal checks could bring mucus down and make signs look more fertile than they actually are (which for TTA I'm not sure is a bad thing). She also said that if mucus got on hands or was knocked loose during internal cervix checks it could cause a woman to miss observation signs of fertile mucous (which wouldn't be good for TTA). :shrug:

Before I took classes in NFP I read TAking Charge of Your Fertility and did try to check my cervix. I was able to detect changes, but not confidently enough without more instruction.

[quote="k8e308, post:7, topic:248854"]
If any of my signs say I'm fertile, then I count it as fertile.

[/quote]

Yes, I would also follow the most conservative signs as far as deciding fertility.

[quote="k8e308, post:7, topic:248854"]
A great resource for NFP is Living The Sacrament. It's a forum community that is dedicated to NFP and marriage. It's a women-only community, and everyone is super-supportive. You could get some great advice there about your issues with NFP, and they also have buddy groups for pregnancy, post-partum, trying-to-avoid, etc.

[/quote]

Thanks! I will certainly check them out. I could use support on this. I will need to be careful though. A while back I posted on this forum under a different account about some of my struggles and conversations with my husband on this topic. He felt like I had betrayed him or violated his trust by discussing details about conversations concerning our private sex life on a public forum. Basically he said asking questions about interpreting signs or how to effectively practice NFP is OK but sharing details of our conversations and disagreements is not. It is a hard line to separate sometimes though and I wish I had more support but I am trying not to cross that line.


#10

#11

[quote="kaws, post:9, topic:248854"]

Thanks! I will certainly check them out. I could use support on this. I will need to be careful though. A while back I posted on this forum under a different account about some of my struggles and conversations with my husband on this topic. He felt like I had betrayed him or violated his trust by discussing details about conversations concerning our private sex life on a public forum. Basically he said asking questions about interpreting signs or how to effectively practice NFP is OK but sharing details of our conversations and disagreements is not. It is a hard line to separate sometimes though and I wish I had more support but I am trying not to cross that line.

[/quote]

My husband feels much the same way, about this forum and LTS, so I know exactly how you feel. It's difficult to know when you're crossing that line sometimes, and I've learned it's not just intimacy, but the whole marriage you have to be careful to protect. He wants to present a united front to the world, and if I do something to subvert that, it hurts him deeply, no matter if it's online to people we'll never meet or what I thought was an innocent question in front of his mother.

Anyway, LTS is a great place to discuss NFP and daily life, but no one ever presses for details or makes me feel uncomfortable. I've been able to be open with DH about all of my posts, and that's my guideline. If I feel comfortable letting him read it, then it's okay to post, but if I don't, then I change it. I've found that, with a little creativity, I can often discuss the problem without going into details. Sometimes I've crossed the line, but DH knows I'm making an effort and that counts for a lot.


#12

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