I recently started trying to chart my cycle, with slightly mixed results so far. I’ve been trying to keep an eye out for tips and discussions online to help, but I don’t actually know which are relevant to my situation as I’m not really sure which “method” I’m using. I’ve seen references to “Billings”, “Creighton”, “Marquette”, “sympto-thermal”, “rhythm”, and possibly others… So far I’ve been following the advice in the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Does this correspond with any of the methods mentioned? Thanks in advance for any help.
Taking Charge of Your Fertility is virtually identical to the sympto-thermal method, which is the one taught by the Couple-to-Couple League. The only difference is that TCOYF is written from a secular standpoint, and, for example, suggests that condoms could be used during fertile periods, which of course the Church doesn’t permit. That having been said, I’ve found TCOYF to be the best all-around resource out there.
Creighton and Billings both use only mucus observations for charting, and Creighton has very specific codes/colored stickers pertaining to the type of mucus you have.
Marquette uses the Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor, which identifies hormones associated with ovulation in your urine. Some Marquette users also use mucus observations, though not all. Mucus observations can be extremely confusing during postpartum phases, so some women who generally use one of the above methods will switch to Marquette until their cycles are back and regular postpartum. I use Marquette myself, though I’ve used STM in the past. I like not having to take temperatures or observe my mucus, but some women don’t mind that and prefer not to have to spend money on Marquette’s testing supplies–quite understandable.
Rhythm is strictly calendar-based, and assumes that you have a 28-day cycle and ovulate on Day 14, which isn’t true of most of us.
In short, there are a lot of methods out there. My advice is to find the one that works best for you, and then, should life circumstances change, be open to trying another method or combining two methods. Some teachers can be rather irrationally dogmatic about their methods, which is unhelpful; some women find, for example, that Creighton’s highly-specific mucus observations work well for them, but like the confirmation of a temperature rise, and if that makes a woman more comfortable with NFP, so much the better!
TCOYF, as mentioned, is a symptom-thermal approach. It is not technically NFP since it is not abstinence based. TCOYF defines itself as a “fertility awareness method” and combines fertility observations with barrier contraception.
I suggest you take a class, regardless of them method you select. Also reading about the other methods may give you an idea of what is right for your situation and lifestyle. Personally symptom-thermal wasn’t a fit for me and I learned Creighton.
iusenfp.com would be an excellent resource for you. They have a quiz you can take to determine which method of NFP might work best for you based on your style, personality, etc.
Here is an article I wrote about the different types of NFP: blog.secularprolife.org/2014/07/the-basics-of-natural-family-planning.html
The most important thing to do is pick a method and follow it exactly. Learn as much as you can about it, and get in touch with an instructor who can help you through the tough cycles. I use the Marquette Method and am very satisfied with it. I did use STM (self-taught via Taking Charge of Your Fertility) for 10 years, and it worked for us, but I’ve found Marquette to be easier in general, and much better for the postpartum period.
There are methods and there are techniques. The principles are the same.
Read a bit about each of the different methods and learn about all the various techniques. Then decide which techniques are good for you and use that. Also learn the rules according to the different ones and you will figure out what to do.
We got the Clear Blue Easy monitor and I think it took out a lot of the guesswork and insecurity. We haven’t really studied or followed the Marquette method much.
Thanks so much, that’s very helpful. I’ve had a quick look at the links and will return to them again in more detail.
At the moment I like having the added help of the temperature guide as I’m not very good at identifying cervical fluid state. But as all of them apart from Marquette seem to require cervical fluid identification, and Marquette looks very expensive, I think I’ll just have to keep working at it.
With Marquette, the cervical fluid identification is optional. There is a protocol for the monitor only, and a protocol for the montior + mucus. You can choose either one.
It is more expensive than other methods, but for me the added peace of mind is worth it.
I don’t mean this post to pressure you in any way about the method you use–as I said, figure out which one/s work best for you, and go to it!–but before I used Marquette, I thought it would be much more expensive than it actually is.
Here’s a brief breakdown of what to expect in that regard–something I wish someone had told me!
–The initial cost for the monitor (about $170-$200) is steep. You can find them on Ebay sometimes for a bit less, and sometimes women in NFP groups will sell their used ones cheaply. Urine doesn’t actually touch the monitor itself, so this isn’t a hygiene problem, and they can be factory-reset very easily with the help of a Youtube video.
–A box of 30 test sticks is about $45 on Amazon. You can sometimes find them more cheaply on Walmart, and if you watch Amazon’s prices, you’ll occasionally find them closer to $35/box. We’ll say $45 for the purposes of consistency here, though.
–The most expensive time to use Marquette is postpartum when you aren’t cycling. During this time, you test every day. Therefore, you’ll spend $45/month on sticks.
–Once you are cycling, you’ll test on every day from Day 6 through the day you ovulate. As you continue cycling postpartum, this will be a gradually shorter phase. For example, I ovulated on Day 19 my first postpartum cycle, then day 18 the next, and so on until it became the norm for me to ovulate around day 16/17. You’ll test starting on Day 6 for the first few months, using around 15 (ish, depending on how smoothly your fertility returns) sticks per month, meaning about a $28/month cost for sticks.
–Once the monitor gets to “know” you, it will shorten your testing window. After 6 months, it determined that I hadn’t ovulated before Day 17, so it stopped asking for a test on Day 6, and started asking on Day 9 instead. As I said, I generally ovulate on Day 16/17, so I use fewer than 10 sticks/month. I get just about (give or take a stick) four months’ use out of a box of sticks. That’s $11/month.
In short, the initial upfront cost is pretty steep, but it lessens gradually over time. Marquette isn’t the method for everyone, but it saved me a lot of sanity, especially during postpartum when mucus observations can be all over the place.
The problem with this is that mucous (the stuff that allows sperm to survive) can begin before Day 6, and ovulation can occur earlier in a cycle, even in women who have a regular established pattern.
This has been my experience as well! I use Amazon subscribe & save for my sticks, and I can sometimes find them on Ebay for around $40 plus free shipping.
Here is an additional cost: the Marquette forums, which are an invaluable resource, are going behind a paywall as of May 1. They simply can’t afford to keep them going as a free resource anymore. Prices aren’t too bad, though, $34.99/6 months or 59.99/12 months. There’s also a Facebook group for Marquette users that is very helpful.
There is also an algorithm you use with the monitor created by the Marquette medical professionals; you don’t go strictly by the monitor.