It can be hard to choose the right method for you. In this graphic, I have simplified the main signs, times of intimacy, and efficacies for the four methods that I am most familiar with.
As part of my charting journey, I have personally compared and charted with Billings, sympto-thermal, and Marquette. You can view my charting comparisons here.
The graphic is intentionally simplified. Method rules will vary, particularly if you are using a different protocol of the method or combination of signs. My Marquette example is for monitor-only rules.
Time of day for intimacy is very important to consider as a part of the decision making process. If you and your partner’s schedules don’t mix well, this may sway you towards another method!
Some couple like intimacy to feel spontaneous. If you never want to worry about time of day, Marquette is likely the best method to choose.
On the other hand, if you want your fertile window to be defined by cervical mucus, you may want to sacrifice any time of day sex for the flexibility of opening the fertile window that may come with using alternative evenings of the basic infertile pattern in Billings.
I recommend interviewing an educator and telling them your unique situation before committing to a method.
To find an instructor, I recommend using the Read Your Body Educator directory linked here. You can use it to find an instructor based on the fertility signs you want to chart, your location, price range, and more!
For the last 5 cycles, I have been using the Kegg device that reads the electrolyte levels present in the cervical mucus in the vagina. To use this device, someone would insert Kegg in the same two hour period of time during the day. Kegg takes approximately two minutes to give the user a reading on the graph. Click here to read an article on the science behind Kegg.
This product is an exciting development in the femtech field because it actually does read a real-time fertility sign. Cervical mucus is completely necessary for natural conception to occur. Without the presence of cervical mucus in the cervical crypts, sperm cannot to get to their destination to reach the egg. For this reason, anyone trying to conceive needs to track cervical mucus or use an alternative device such as Kegg (or a device that reads estrogen levels) in order to time intercourse for when they are most likely to conceive.
Here is what a Kegg chart looks like while lined up with my real-time Billings Ovulation Method cervical mucus observations.
Who is Kegg right for?
I know that the question on everyone’s mind is whether Kegg can be used to re-place cervical mucus observations for avoiding pregnancy. Unfortunately, the answer is that Kegg is not suitable for avoiding pregnancy. It is designed to find the most suitable days for conception. For those avoiding pregnancy, the fertile window has to be much longer than the window that Kegg gives. Until Kegg has been studied for pregnancy avoidance, I cannot recommend it as an alternative to cervical mucus checks which must be made multiple times of day until the evening when someone is strictly avoiding pregnancy.
Kegg may be right for someone who wants to conceive without needing to take a class or read a book on cervical mucus. In my experience, for the most part, it detected my most fertile days in a way that would likely lead to conception if used.
Kegg may not be right for you if you have a very erratic schedule. Since it has to be used in the same two hours and cannot be used up to 8 hours after sex, this may make Kegg harder to use. I personally experienced some issues timing Kegg correctly because of the nature of practicing a fertility awareness method meaning that I have sex at different times of the day based on what part of the cycle I am in.
The following images are my five cycles with the Kegg device compared to urinary hormones and cervical mucus observations. The three chicks in the egg represent the three most fertile days with Kegg. All of the charts are from Read Your Body by the Body Literacy Collective.
My Overall Impression of Kegg
I am often very critical of femtech that gives predictions, and Kegg does give calendar predictions at the beginning of the cycle. However, overall, I believe that the readings I got with Kegg did line up with my real-time signs for the most part. Since this device is for conception purposes, it does seem to highlight the most fertile days. I did have to switch from mornings to evenings on my Kegg readings to get clearer charts. I also find Kegg extremely hard to use in my luteal phase when sex may occur at any time of day, but this isn’t a huge problem since you can stop using Kegg once it has detected your rise. For those who want to add an extra layer to your chart or chart to conceive only, I can recommend the Kegg device.
Are you interested in testing your PdG at home with Proov?
Proov tests check levels of the hormone metabolite PdG in the urine. Proov tests are an FDA approved product. People who are ovulating produce the hormone progesterone after ovulation. If you are a fertility awareness charter, you can use these tests to double check that ovulation has occurred along with your other fertility signs. If you are seeking to become pregnant, you can use these tests to help see if your luteal phase is sufficient to support a pregnancy.
Here are a few links on recent studies so that you can be more informed about using this product:
I have personally been using Proov for over a year and a half now. It is a regular part of my fertility awareness routine that I use to avoid pregnancy.
My most common day to get my first positive Proov is approximately 3 to 5 days after a positive LH test. I love having Proov as a crosscheck so that I can have an extra way to confirm ovulation. I like having a ton of data in my fertility awareness routine. While there is currently no official protocol for confirming with Proov tests (outside of Marquette method tentative guidelines), you can use them as a part of your fertility awareness routine regardless of your intentions. You should still rely on the fertility signs in your method rules while using Proov.
For those trying to conceive, the tests can be used around 7 to 10 days post ovulation (counting from peak day, temperature shift, or positive LH depending on what you are charting). If the tests are positive, this is a good sign that your progesterone is high enough when implantation is most likely.
These tests are also useful for people with irregular cycles or tough cervical mucus patterns because they can help you know if you have indeed ovulated.
Proov also has an app that can help you read your tests, including LH tests. It recently updated to include numeric values. This makes the data even more meaningful! Some people struggle reading Proov, and the app is definitely useful for those people.
I highly recommend trying Proov if you are curious about your progesterone! For now, I have decided to make Proov a permanent part of my avoiding pregnancy fertility awareness routine.
Want to try Proov after reading my review? Please use the promo code chartyourfertility for 30% off!
I’ve been moderating a rather large Facebook group for fertility awareness charters for over a year and a half now (26,000 members and climbing, join here!), and before that I constantly scrolled through the Kindara community charts very regularly. These experiences in various FAM communities, as well as my certification as a FAM instructor, have alerted me to some common mistakes that new charters make. I outline what these are and how to avoid them in this post.
Mistake #1:Using a Fever Thermometer Instead of a Basal Body Thermometer
Many folks read Taking Charge of Your Fertility and see that we only chart to the first decimal place in Fahrenheit. Then they think that using a fever thermometer is okay since fever thermometers have only one decimal place. This is NOT true. We need the sensitivity of a basal body thermometer with two decimal places. If you are someone who has weak temperature shifts, it is even more important to have the right thermometer! Many people also miss that the original studies that the symptothermal efficacy is based on requires you to take your temperature for three minutes. Almost no fever thermometer does this, and even some basal body thermometers do not. Make sure that you have the correct thermometer that allows you to either take your temperature for three minutes or prewarm the thermometer.
Mistake #2: Overmarking or Undermarking Cervical Mucus Observations
I often see people overmark “watery” type mucus because the vagina is always moist. Other people will overmark “creamy” type mucus even though what they are seeing may be cell slough. While it is definitely better to assume fertility if you are uncertain, this can cause unnecessary abstinence. The solution to this problem is to work with an instructor. The efficacy of the method is based on working with an instructor anyways, and it is generally best to get a professional’s advice on your chart if you are seriously avoiding pregnancy. If you need an instructor, you can find one here.
I also see people undermark cervical mucus. This is the more dangerous of the two mistakes. Many people decide not to pay attention to wiping or walking sensation or view sensation as less important than their visible mucus. Since vaginal sensation is equal to cervical mucus, it is highly important that you also chart your sensation according to whatever method you are following. If there is any change in vaginal sensation, even if you do not see mucus, the fertile window should be considered opened in the pre-ovulatory time of the cycle.
Mistake #3: Following a Hodge-Podge of Methods
The fertility awareness method only works as a form of birth control when the rules are followed very carefully according to an established method. Simply beginning to take your temperature and marking mucus without reading a manual or taking a class is NOT enough for anyone who seriously does not want to get pregnancy. Do NOT rely on social media posts to learn how to chart. It is necessary to really learn what you are doing if you do not want an unintended pregnancy. You can find out about multiple methods by visiting my post on getting started.
In contrast to hormonal birth control, fertility awareness asks us to change nothing about our bodies. There are no harmful side effects, but there is the beneficial side effect of actually ovulating.
Ovulation is good for your health, and I believe that we as women have the #righttoovulate
Fertility awareness teaches us how our bodies work so that we can modify our behavior rather than our biology. Hormonal birth control changes how our bodies work, FAM teaches us how our bodies work.
I strongly believe that fertility awareness teaches us the value of self-control. We learn that unprotected sex at all times is not necessary for a healthy relationship.
For those not abstaining in the fertile window for religious reasons, I also think it changes the generally very heteronormative view of sex and opens us up to new kinds of love and touching in the fertile window. And of course, if choose to abstain, there is room for emotional love during this time as well
If you are ready to take the plunge into FAM, I am now accepting clients for an asynchronous course with 3 cycles of help from myself. Sign up on my learn with me page or send me an email.
I am so excited to be offering this new course for those interested in learning the symptothermal method of fertility awareness. The method I teach is based on the rules studies by Sensiplan. You can read about this study here.
I found fertility awareness after 7 years on the pill, and it really rocked my world. When I started practicing it myself, I realized that it was a grave injustice that women are not taught about FAM. Practicing FAM has put me in touch with my body more than ever before. It healed some of the mind/body split that I had developed through years of resenting my period.
I teach a secular form of fertility awareness including information on barrier methods (condoms, diaphragms, etc). The NFPTA method has the same temperature rules as Sensiplan. I teach cervical mucus, cervical position, basal body temperature, and calculation rules (the doering rule and minus 20 and 21 rules). My distance course is offered on Moodle. It is a 4-week self-paced course that includes video charting examples and information on charting during all life circumstances (perimenopause, postpartum, postpill, and TTC). This class opens in December. Your partner is welcome to ask me questions and take the course along with you.
If you already have charting experience from reading TCOYF or the Sensiplan file (3 or more complete cycles), I will extend a discount to you if you decide to work with me. Reach out to me to find out more. I will also likely be holding a live introduction to FAM session in early December.
*Disclaimer: These methods only work as well as the user. Even with perfect use, there is still a .4% chance of pregnancy. Using a calculation rule is built into the efficacy, and ignoring calculations may result in unintended pregnancy. I will work closely with you so that you understand the rules, but it is ultimately on the user to follow them.
Many people come into FAM overwhelmed by all the data that they have to collect daily. It can be a bit of a turn off for those new to the method. They may wonder why they have to check their cervical mucus ALL day and then set an alarm on top of that.
When you first begin charting, it is vitally important to try to get the information down every day so that you can get into a habit and make sure that you are following the rules. Missing information will leave you with less complete charts that could leave you confused as to whether ovulation is confirmed or not.
However, once you have been charting for a significant amount of time and become confident, you can stop recording fertility signs once you have confirmed ovulation.
I am headed into chart number twenty-two successfully avoiding pregnancy with FAM, and I have been shortcut charting most of the time for about seven cycles now. I personally recommend confirming ovulation in 12 cycles before shortcut charting. This is so that you know how early you ovulate, your normal temperature levels, and how to tell whether something abnormal is going on in your cycle (ie sickness causing temperatures to be higher than normal or an abnormal cervical fluid dry up due to cold meds or some other medication).
Toni Weschler, author of Taking Charge of Your Fertility, recommends that women have several months of experience in the standard rules before taking any shortcuts. She offers some modified guidelines to follow and emphasizes that “contraceptive efficacy won’t be compromised as long as both your fertility signs have confirmed that ovulation has already been confirmed for that particular cycle.”
The Modified Rules
You don’t have to take your temperature during your period.Toni explains that these temps may be unreliable anyways. However, if you have short cycles with early ovulation, you may need those temps in order to confirm ovulation. If you have a temperature shift CD12 or sooner, you will need some period temps in order to have enough temperatures to draw a coverline.
You don’t have to take your temperature after you confirm ovulation with temperature rules. This means at least 3 high temperatures with a standard shift. If you have weak shift or a fall back rise, you must have the extra temperatures needed to fulfill those rules before you stop taking your temperature. Some people take their temperature again a day or two before they expect their period since it can (but not always) give an indication that menstruation is approaching.
You don’t have to check cervical mucus after you confirm ovulation. You will need to check until you meet peak rules (P + 3) and crosscheck this with 3 high temperatures before you can stop checking for cervical mucus. Again, if you have a weak shift or fallback, you will need to check until you meet the rules.
From the day after your period until the day you observe peak type fluid, you should check cervical mucus continuously throughout the day and follow all rules for mucus checks. However, you don’t have to check cervical mucus multiple times a day once you observe peak fluid. If you observe peak fluid first thing in the morning, there is no need to keep checking. You have already recorded your most fertile observation for the day.
Those are the basic changes when short cut charting.
Here is an example chart.
This woman does not take her temperatures during her period. She begins taking her temperature on CD6 when menstruation ends. She checks her cervical mucus multiple times a day and follows the rules for checking until CD11. On CD11, CD12, and CD13, she observes eggwhite mucus first thing in the morning and doesn’t check again. On CD14-CD17, she checks mucus multiple times a day because she knows she needs at least a 3 day dry up (P + 3) to confirm ovulation. On CD 15, she has her temperature shift. CD16 is above the coverline. CD17 confirms ovulation because it is at least .4 F above the coverline. Ovulation is officially confirmed with both peak and temperature rules met. She takes her temperature again on CD26 to see if she gets a temperature drop indicating that her menstruation may begin soon.
People Who May Want to Think Twice about Short Cut Charting
Not everyone is suited to short cut charting.
Charting for Health: If you are charting for health, you may want to record your signs every day. Odd cervical mucus patterns and temperatures can indicate health issues. If this is your goal for charting, short cut charting may not be right for you.
Using Tempdrop: Tempdrop says to wear the device every day. If you don’t, it could disrupt the algorithm. As far as I know, they do not recommend short cut charting at this time. If you use this device, you may not want to short cut chart if you are worried about being at risk of pregnancy.
You aren’t confident in charting: If you are not confident in your ability to chart, you should NOT short cut chart. You should be 100% confident in your abilities before attempting this.
You are sick: If you are sick, you may want to chart more diligently and stay protected if you are uncertain about your chart interpretation.
You are only charting one sign: You NEED two signs in order to short cut chart. If you pick just one, you may be putting yourself at risk of unintended pregnancy. Ovulation must be confirmed with two signs.
Are you looking to simplify your basal body temperature charting routine? Is getting up in the morning just too hard to remember to take your temperature? Read on!
There are currently a few wearable basal body thermometers on the market such as iFertracker, Ava, and Tempdrop. In this blog, I will review the Tempdrop device. If you decide to purchase, use this link and get $10 USD off the device.
Tempdrop is a wearable basal body temperature thermometer that came onto the market in 2017. Rather than setting an alarm, you can simply put this thermometer on before bed. You wear it around your upper arm (and it may be worn in a bra as well). It needs 3 hours of sleep to determine your basal body temperature. The device uses an algorithm to find your true temperature, regardless of how many times you have gotten up or whether you had restless sleep this night.
This device is very popular with shift workers, breastfeeding folks, and other people who don’t get a regular amount of sleep and wake up at different times, or just to those who don’t want to set an alarm!
Tempdrop holds 24 hours of data, and it must be synced at least every 24 hours or you will lose previous data. After wearing it for 15 days (as of March 2020), the algorithm will kick in. (If possible you should back up temp with oral basal body temperature for the first 60 days if you are avoiding pregnancy. If not, use a different method of protection). By day 60, the device will only change and make improvements to the last 2 temperatures taken.
Once you wear it, you will need to sync it to an app to see your temperature. Tempdrop has its own app, but I highly recommend using Read Your Body (pictured below) instead! This app is customizable for every method and can be synced to Tempdrop.
My Experience with Tempdrop
I used the Tempdrop device for almost 12 months. I found my oral temps to be more predictable and more steady when observing my own trends over time. I get very steady or repeating temperatures with oral charts most of the time.
However, I am not a shift worker, so I will admit that I do not need Tempdrop like some people may do. I already have to wake up at the same time 5 days a week, and I don’t find it inconvenient to take my temperature on the weekend. My oral temperatures caught my shift earlier than Tempdrop did on two separate occasions. I have seen other people say that Tempdrop catches their shift sooner than oral temperatures, so this is really an individual thing.
For full disclosure, I ultimately stopped using my Tempdrop in favor of using a sympto-hormonal form of charting that doesn’t require temperatures.
If you are dedicated to using a sympto-thermal method and can’t get accurate temperatures otherwise, and you have tried trouble shooting your routine (vaginal temperatures, pre-warming the thermometer before taking it, using longest stretch of sleep), then Tempdrop may be your best option. You can use my code for $10 USD off, and I will get a small kickback. Thank you for using my code!
In this blog, I’m going to refute some of the arguments against fertility awareness. At the risk of losing some of my audience immediately, I have included the word feminist in this blog title. A while back, I got into an argument in a Facebook comment section with someone who was offended by this article that questioned the pill and it’s effect on women. The argument went nowhere fast, but it got me thinking.
In many circles, questioning the birth control pill is tantamount to attacking women’s rights. I have been told that I’m not a good feminist if I don’t support the pill. As someone who fully supports women and their choices, and as someone who only wrote about women in my graduate degree (I did a lot of gender studies topics), this assertion really hurts.
I know that the birth control pill changed many people’s lives. It brought women into the public sphere more than ever before. Women could now work and have sex without fear of pregnancy. It is considered a great achievement. What’s better than that?
The problem is that not many women are not fully informed about what their birth control options are before being put on the pill. In addition, women are put on the pill for reasons other than birth control (things like heavy bleeding, endometriosis and PCOS). However, we now know there there are alternative forms of birth control, and that the pill does not treat gynecological conditions (it masks them).
I was put on the birth control at age 15. I suffered from heavy bleeding, and mostly my mom just wanted me on it out of pregnancy fears. My doctor did not give me any information about the pill or expected side effects. (Some may point out that the packet comes with information, but freshman year aged me from high school did not think to read my birth control pack in depth). I was switched between at least 4 different types of birth control that I remember. The pill gave me migraines with aura (which I recently learned means I should have gotten off of it immediately, there is a link with having a stroke and migraines with aura while on the pill). I would lose vision while at work and had other disturbances in my vision. I also had pretty regular nausea, weird bleeding, depression, and digestive issues.
When I came off the pill for the first time at age 21, everything felt different. My emotions felt different, and my relationships changed. However, I was left with little alternatives for contraception. To me, taking the pill had become synonymous with being responsible, and I felt like I was failing at being a responsible woman and controlling my fertility.
At the same time, I felt so great coming off of it that I knew it wasn’t an option for me any longer. I felt truly like myself for the first time. One line in particular from a short film called Birth Control Your Own Adventurereally resonated with me. This film is about how one woman struggles to find the right hormonal birth control. At one point a friend asks her, “How do you even know who you are if you’ve always been on the pill?” And, truly, I don’t think I knew myself while I was on it.
In my search for a better birth control, I stumbled upon fertility awareness methods. I found out that it was possible to track my cycle and determine daily whether I was infertile or infertile. Charting my cycle helped me learn when to expect a period. I had no idea that you could literally count high temperatures after ovulation in order to know when to expect a period. This feeling felt revolutionary, and I wanted to tell everyone.
When I try to share the joy I have found in this method, I often hear a few retorts. I’ve listed a few below along with my responses to these arguments.
The Arguments Against Fertility Awareness
Why should I have to plan sex? It seems kind of sexist that you expect women to wait to have sex at certain points in their cycle. On the pill, I can have sex whenever I want.
With fertility awareness methods, you don’t really have to “plan” to have sex. You can, however, choose to have unprotected sex during the infertile times of the cycle. If you are using a secular form of fertility awareness, you can also use condoms or other barriers during other points of the time in the cycle (keeping in mind that these barrier methods have their own efficacy rates).
I think it’s also worth noting how often the average couple has sex. A 2017 study found that the average American couple only has sex once a week. My window for abstaining or using backup protection is only about 9-11 days long. That’s a little over a week and a half a month. (I’m aware that some women have longer fertile windows. This aspect of fertility awareness is very individual and based on your own unique cycle). So, are these women really missing out on having unprotected sex a little less often?
Finally, yes, you can have sex on the pill whenever you want. However, the pill has been known to lower women’s libido and testosterone. Read this article to find out more. So, while you can have sex any time you want on the pill, doesn’t quality of sex matter? You can still have sex pretty often while using fertility awareness, and you may find you enjoy it more too.
This method seems really irresponsible. It only takes one time for a woman to get pregnant. What if she decides to have sex in her fertile window?
If someone is fully informed and taught by an instructor, they will know when their fertile window is. Yes, it only takes one time to get pregnant but if you are using fertility awareness, you know when that window is. If she decides to have sex in her fertile window, she may consider a barrier method. Anyone who has sex during their fertile window should be cognizant of the risks of pregnancy. By the way, at a typical use rate of 91%, someone could also have sex in their fertile window without knowing it while on the pill. At least fertility awareness lets women know what is going on in their own body.
Isn’t that a super religious method? I don’t care for that. It’s my body and I can have sex when I want.
Natural Family Planning is based in religious teachings. Fertility Awareness is not. Women can pick what they feel comfortable with based on their intentions. You can also still learn from NFP resources even if you aren’t religious. The method works the same regardless of any ideology attached to it.
Isn’t that like the rhythm method? You can ovulate at any time!! That’s not gonna work!
No, it’s not. There are many scientific studies on fertility awareness. Here is one. Here is a recent article reviewing all the studies done on FAM.
Women cannot ovulate at any time. Once ovulation has been confirmed in cycle, it is almost totally impossible for it to happen again. Some people say, “What about superfetation??” This is so rare, and almost impossible to prove. If you are confirming ovulation with a double check method, then you can be safely assured that ovulation will not happen again. At the beginning of a cycle before ovulation is confirmed, it could happen at any time. However, there are rules to follow so that women know when to stay protected.
The typical use rates of fertility awareness (when abstinence is practiced in the fertile window) is higher than the typical use rate of the pill. See my about section for more information.
But women need the pill for medical conditions, you know like endometriosis? Do you want women to suffer?
Obviously, I don’t want that. What’s important to know here is that the pill doesn’t actually treat endometriosis, or PCOS, or anything else really. It just masks the problem. If you have extreme period pain, you need expert care. The pill may mask problems that would eventually hurt a woman’s health and fertility. In particular, I want to note that if you are suffering from endometriosis, there is help. Join Nancy’s Nook Endometriosis Education to learn what your options are. For PCOS, Alissa Vitti is a great resource. Here is her website.
Isn’t it kind of anti-feminist of you to promote this? Women should be able to control their fertility however they choose.
Ah, my favorite question. I do agree that women should be able to control their fertility however they want. My whole shtick is that they should be fully informed in order to make this decision. With the dearth of good sexual education programs in the USA, almost no one is informed enough. Even doctors aren’t informed enough. Many only take one measly birth control class. Fertility awareness instructors do more than that, and they aren’t even in medical school. If more women knew that fertility awareness methods actually worked, they could make the decision to learn more about their body. I believe that all women should learn about fertility awareness methods as soon as they have their first cycle. It is so useful for girls to know what’s going on in their bodies!
I also argue that we have a #righttoovulate. I saw Dr. Lara Briden post this hashtag a while back, and I love it. Ovulation is amazing. And actually, I think it’s sort of anti-feminist to take that away from women, especially if they don’t understand what they are missing. Women are only fertile for around 24 hours a cycle (men’s sperm life makes up the rest of the fertile window). This is such a small window. Don’t we deserve the benefits of ovulation? Read Dr. Lara Briden’s article, “Ode to Ovulation” to learn more. In addition, some people have argued that it takes 7 years to develop fully healthy hormonal cycles, shouldn’t we be able to do that too? Putting women on birth control when they are young prevents so many of those benefits.
**I will note that I understand that hormonal birth control can be invaluable in domestic violence situations, or when a woman really cannot do FAM, or is forced on HBC for unrelated medical conditions. I just want the average woman to know that she has other options.
Most of the arguments against FAM are from uniformed people who don’t know what they don’t know. Fertility Awareness is actually feminist, and it’s certainly not anti-woman. It allows women to take control of their own fertility (here’s a great book on that). What’s more feminist than fully owning and living in your own body, while also avoiding pregnancy and planning it as you choose? Why should women subdue their own fertility when their fertile window is so short?
Do you want to learn more? Visit my other articles and reach out to me.
I always have trouble finding charts without temperature scales. As someone with lower temperatures than average, the standard temperature scale just doesn’t work for me. These charts have totally blank temperature scales. They will work for F or C charting.
I also included a page with space for cycle notes, method rules, and legends for certain things on the chart.
Click Here to Download a Blank Paper Chart Microsoft Word Document
If you don’t want to print them, screenshot the PDF of the chart and paste it into a program like Microsoft Paint. You can fill in the squares of the chart yourself to make your own kind of chart pattern.