Surviving the Challenge of Postpartum Fertility Charting

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This month is a big month for our family.  We are due to deliver our baby girl. 

All the family is over the top excited to welcome our miracle baby after the storm of our pregnancy losses.

Such excitement and anticipation surround the miracle of childbirth.   We welcome the new life into our family and bring the baby home.

As women, we are feeding the baby, sleeping less and just trying to physically recover from pregnancy, labor and childbirth. 

But, as my husband reminded me recently, this time also involves resuming fertility charting.  We had been enjoying 10 nice long months of no worries about fertility charting to avoid a pregnancy.

Now, we are entering what can be a confusing time in a woman’s fertility journey. 

Postpartum fertility charting is not for the faint of heart.  It can be a challenging time, even with the most advanced of fertility awareness methods. 

Sticking to the commitment of using a natural system of family planning can be challenged during the postpartum time. 

It doesn’t help that a lot of doctors and possibly friends and family maybe pressuring you to just take the easy route and go on artificial birth control.

I want to help you stay committed to your decision of using the safest method available to you; fertility awareness. 

Let’s start by reviewing some few basic information about your fertility health postpartum.

  • The first 56 days are considered infertile if you are exclusively breastfeeding.

  • Your fertility can return at any time after the first 56 days, regardless of if you are exclusively breastfeeding.

  • 1/3 of all women will ovulate prior to their first period.

  • Once your cycles return, they may be unusually long or short. It may take up to 6 cycles for your body to return to a regular pattern.

  • Your cycles may not look like they did prior to pregnancy. Each pregnancy is different. You may see things in your fertility cycle that you have never seen before. I have had different cycles after each of my births, including dry cycles and continuous mucus.

  • Observing and charting your fertility signs is key to knowing when your fertility returns.

Now that we have the basics down, how to we overcome the challenge of postpartum fertility charting?

Here are 5 tips that I hope will help you:

1.       Choose a Method or Review your Charting and System materials

If you have not chosen a method to use postpartum, check out my 5 Step Guide to Getting Started Charting Your Fertility.   This will help get started and find a Method that works for you.

I do not usually recommend switching methods postpartum if you have experience and are established with a System that has been working for you. 

I understand the desire to seek out the what seems to work best for postpartum charting.  Just remember, no System of fertility awareness is perfect for postpartum.   There are pregnancies that result during postpartum charting, even for the most “technologically advanced” of methods.

It can also be appealing to switch methods if you feel like your method failed you with this pregnancy or a prior pregnancy.

I am going to be completely honest with you.  I have been there.  I had a confirmed method pregnancy with the Creighton Model.   It was extremely challenging to resume the Creighton Model of charting after his birth.  I was so nervous. 

Was it going to be effective?  Could I still trust this method, let alone continue to teach it?

I did a lot of reflection those months of pregnancy and prayerful discussion with my husband and we decided to continue using the Creighton Model System, a System that had been so effective for us the previous 12 years of marriage.  We used the time of pregnancy to remember that we had used the System effectively to avoid a pregnancy during those 12 years. 

And, guess what?  It has served us well the last 5 years effectively to avoid a pregnancy.  And, the bonus for me for sticking it out with the Creighton Model; we discovered I had severe hormone problems that are now being treated successfully.  I did work closely with a Practitioner, which I will go into in a subsequent step.

Now, I realize our story is not your story.  Do what is best for you.  I do realize that couples need to find the method that works best for their lifestyle and life circumstance.   If you decide switching methods is best for you, go for it! 

I just advise my clients not to jump ship too quickly because it can be daunting to learn a brand-new method during what is already a challenging fertility charting time.

Sorry, I went off on a tangent there.   Back to the first tip!

If you were using a natural form of family planning prior to pregnancy, go back and review your System materials and gather your charting supplies in the first 6 weeks postpartum.   You are having to avoid intercourse at this time anyway, so it is a great time to brush up on your System’s instructions for charting your fertility.  You can read while you are breastfeeding.

You could even do it earlier than that if you prefer, making sure you have everything you need during the last trimester of pregnancy.

If you are new to charting your fertility, try and obtain the System materials prior to your baby’s birth or contact an Instructor soon after you give birth so you can begin to read through the materials and schedule an appointment.

2.       Be patient with yourself

You just had a baby.  Your priority should be taking care of yourself and your baby. 

Rest is key to taking care of yourself.  I know that sounds funny since in the first year I know I did not get much rest.  There are a lot of sleepless nights.

Take one day at a time.  Try to slowly ease back into an observational routine during the end of those first 6 weeks. 

Strive to improve your observational routine each day.  You can do some simple things like having what you need easily accessible to you: such as pre-folded tissues in the bathroom if you are observing mucus or your thermometer or other measuring device in a convenient location.

You could even try and start getting back into the observational routine during the last trimester of pregnancy.  Of course, I know that can be challenging with a growing belly.  Ha!

Check out this previous post giving great tips on how to keep to an observational routine.  I have found this extremely helpful as I am trying to ease back into the observational routine postpartum.

Keep your chart right by your bedside table.  Don’t forget a pen!  I am so guilty of not having a pen when I need to chart.

3.       Have your husband be your accountability partner

You are in this together!  Remember, you need to work together to ensure effective use of your method during the postpartum time, especially if you want to avoid a pregnancy.

When I am tired or in a hurry, it can be easy for me to become lazy with my observational routine.  I personally need my husband to help keep me accountable.

You can have your husband ask you each day about your observations.   I also recommend that you have your husband chart your fertility signs. 

4.       Seek help from your Practitioner

I highly recommend you make at least one appointment with your Fertility Practitioner postpartum.  If my clients are veteran charters, they will schedule a refresher follow-up to review their chart and how to chart postpartum. 

If you can’t seem to get a handle on your fertility chart or if you are seeing fertility signs that are causing you to look like you are fertile every day, seek help from your Practitioner.

Your Practitioner is there to guide you and assist you in navigating your fertility postpartum. 

Your Practitioner can help you manage your chart so that you know when you are truly fertile and infertile.

If you do not have a Practitioner or it has been awhile, I highly recommend contacting a new one.   If you are new to fertility charting or have decided to switch methods, I do not recommend winging it or trying to learn on your own.  Seek out help from a trained Fertility Practitioner who can walk you through the System and instructions for postpartum charting.

By talking with a Practitioner and having your chart managed, your confidence in your fertility chart postpartum will increase.

5.       Keep the lines of communication open with your spouse

Postpartum charting can be challenging.  Sometimes there is need of extended periods of abstinence while a woman figures out her fertility signs.

This has been the case with my personal fertility journey postpartum.  Continuous mucus has proven challenging for me postpartum and resulted in abstaining for several weeks.  It was a challenging time.  Open lines of communication and realistic expectations that we set prior to birth helped me and my husband during this challenging time.

Granted, it wasn’t always easy.  But, making time together when we could was important and being open about our feelings helped.  When I mean time together, I mean 5 to 10 minutes here and there.  Or, watching a tv show or movie at the end of the night.  Nothing fancy.  But, making sure the other spouse knew they were loved.

During this time, it is important to communicate with your spouse.  It is important that both spouses feel they can express themselves.  It is okay to say, “This sucks!”  I have been there, done that!

This is a great time to practice SPICE and build intimacy.  The key is to keep the lines of communication open.  Need help with this?  Check out my SPICE eBook: SPICE: A Guide to an Intimate Marriage.  It includes some easy, daily tips to help improve communication and deepen intimacy.

Postpartum is a time of recovery for your body and a time to enjoy the precious moments of babyhood.  

Some Systems of natural family planning work better for others postpartum.

I have personally found the Creighton Model FertilityCare™ System to be a great fit for my postpartum fertility needs.

If you are confident in your fertility charting, you have one less thing to worry about.   You can spend the time enjoying your baby.

 If you need help navigating your fertility postpartum, I would be happy to help.  I teach in person and long distance online and offer free 15 minute phone consultations so you can ask any questions.  Schedule your FREE consult today!