While some fertility awareness based methods use wiping sensation, a large majority of sympto-thermal methods (as well as mucus-only methods such as the Billings Ovulation Method) use some variation of walking sensation. Walking sensation is the feeling someone experiences at the vulva while going about their day to day activities. A good way to think about it is what it feels like to feel menstruation begin. Most people understand that this causes a wet feeling at the vulva without even needing to look to see the blood. Likewise, walking sensation can be felt at the vulva without needing to look for visible mucus.
This feeling might feel like something is falling out of your vagina. It could feel moist, wet, sticky, lubricative, slippery, or similar terms. This sensation opens the fertile window even if no visible mucus is seen. In fact, it is common to have walking sensation open the fertile window before any mucus is seen. It is also common for slippery / lubricative / wet sensation to be set as peak day (depending on your method rules!). Again, this would count as a fertile day even without visible mucus being seen.
Walking sensation is a practice in mindfulness. It involves tuning into the nerves at the vulva as you go about your day. Notice how it feels when you walk around, exercise, or otherwise move throughout the day. Wearing tight pants or synthetic fabric underwears can make it harder to feel. If you are having trouble tracking walking sensation, consider wearing a skirt or dress for a full cycle. This can be helpful if you are having trouble tracking it. Another common suggestion to help learn it is to “chart blind” for one full cycle (obviously you will need to refrain from unprotected sex if changing up your method!). Charting blind means charting your sensation without looking at your visible mucus. This forces you to rely on the feeling at the vulva. Note that the Billings Ovulation Method which relies on walking sensation as the primary sign has done small studies with blind women who were able to chart their patterns with it while never being able to see visible mucus.
If you are interested in learning more, reach out to an instructor. If you want to use it as a part of a mucus-only method, the Billings Ovulation Method focuses more on it than any other existing method. I personally teach this sensation in my Billings Ovulation Method class.
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.
I tried the Pearl Fertility Kit. During my first kit, I got a little confused when the kit did not seem to line up with my fertility signs. However, I contacted Pearl Fertility and they were super helpful. They sent me another kit for free, and it worked perfectly when I tried it this last cycle.
Pearl is a product marketing to women who are trying to conceive (TTC). The product explicitly states that it should not be used to avoid pregnancy. The kit contained 15 follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) strips, 15 luteinizing hormone (LH) strips, and 4 progesterone (PdG) strips. It also included a few pink dye pregnancy tests. As I am not currently trying to conceive, I did not use these.
The app claims to open a woman’s fertile window by scanning the FSH and LH strips and giving you a fertility window from these results.
If anyone wants to try this product, I highly suggest tracking your cervical mucus, as good quality cervical mucus (eggwhite, clear, stretchy, wet) is what allows sperm to survive to meet an egg. Progesterone tests need not be used until at least 4 days past your peak day (the last day of good quality cervical mucus). Even then, some women do not see positive progesterone tests until as late as 7-10 days past ovulation. For more information, visit Proov’s website linked at the end of this article. By charting your real fertility signs, you could use these tests more wisely.
Overall, I thought the Pearl Fertility Kit was super cool. FSH strips are a brand new thing, and I have high hopes for them being integrated into a real fertility awareness based method in the future. If you have the money to invest in Pearl, this can be a fun kit to experiment with. Basically you get to see three main hormones of the menstrual cycle play out. Pearl graphs them for you.
If you cannot afford Pearl, do remember that it is free to chart cervical mucus and that this is always the best indicator for when to have sex when trying to achieve pregnancy. Without cervical mucus, sperm will never make it to the egg on its own.
Here is what my Pearl chart for this month looks like:
The highest pink dot is my positive LH strip.
Here is my Pearl information compared to my symptothermal method chart. In this chart, FSH equals Ferning since Kindara does not have an FSH category.
The Pearl fertile window is indicated by the green lights. It did start my fertile window on a day pregnancy was unlikely since there was no mucus. The blue hearts represent the fertile mucus where sperm can survive. These two fertile windows lined up pretty well.
Overall, I would rate myself satisfied with this kit.
From the calendar screen, you can override what tests Pearl is asking for. I only suggest doing this if you are charting your other fertility signs (cervical mucus and basal body temperature) and know that something is not lining up right.
In addition to the strips, Pearl has spaces to track intercourse, your period, and pregnancy status.
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% off the device. This discount only works on the Confidence and Freedom Packages.
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 mothers, and other people who don’t get a regular amount of sleep and wake up at different times. It 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.
Helps Women Practice the Sympto-Thermal Method:If you are not able to take your temperature with a normal basal body thermometer due to breastfeeding, shift work, or other irregular sleep schedules, this device will help you practice any sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness or natural family planning.
Great Customer Service: I have had to interact with Tempdrop Customer Service several times. They are fairly prompt with responses, and they do try their best to troubleshoot with you. While there was an issue with the Tempdrop frame breaking, they fixed this issue for free.
No Alarm Needed: Hate your alarm? You won’t need to set it to take your temperature if you wear Tempdrop. This is a big game changer for people with irregular sleep schedules. It can make your mornings much easier.
Helpful Facebook Group: You may join the Tempdrop Facebook group for support and charting help. They have detailed units about how to use this device to achieve or avoid pregnancy. There are multiple spin-off Tempdrop groups that you may want to explore as well.
Price:Tempdrop Basic Package is $159 (12 month warranty). Tempdrop Confidence Package is $199 (12 month refund guarantee, 24 month warranty, Tempdrop Care available). Tempdrop Freedom Package is $249 (24 month warranty, Tempdrop Care, 12 month refund guarantee, extra armband and battery). While this price could be worth it for you if it’s the only way you can take your temperature, it may not be affordable to everyone. This price is still a little high, especially if you are making minimum wage or have other expenses like childcare. The referral codes only work with the higher price packages (scroll to the end of this to get 10% off the device). If you have kids or animals, you may want to get a better package if you believe your device may be damaged easily.
Battery: The device does not tell you when the battery is dying. However, you can contact support to find out. They now recommend changing the battery at 8 months.
Frame Breaking: Many people (myself included) have had the frame break easily. However, the company promises that they are trying to fix this issue and a newer frame with different plastic will be issued with devices bought this year.
Changing Temperatures: If you are the anxious type, you may not like the last few temperatures changing. While this is due to the way the device functions, some people may find it unsettling. Second, many people who chart expect that they will see a drop in their temperature before they get their period or the day of. I personally never got the drop to indicate my period was coming until Tempdrop retroactively adjusted my last temperature. With oral basal body temperature, changing temperatures is not a problem.
In 2020, Tempdrop released their own app. I do NOT recommend using it to interpret your data for you. It is quite expensive, and it does offers to interpret your data for you. The best app is one that lets you make all the decisions instead of forcing you into certain rules that may not fit your chosen method.
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. Even if I take my temperature later, my oral temperatures are incredibly steady. My oral temperatures also 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).
Funnily, alcohol appears to effect my Tempdrop temperatures MORE than my oral temperatures. I speculate that this is because whenever I would put the Tempdrop on, I was still recently drinking and hotter due to the alcohol. In contrast, I would be sleeping for 8-9 hours and have worn off the alcohol before taking my oral temperature.
Here is one full cycle comparison:
Oral Temperatures (Kindara)
Tempdrop temperatures will either read higher or lower than your oral temperatures. In my case, they read much higher.
Want to try it yourself?
Use this link and get 10% off the device. This discount only works on the Confidence and Freedom Packages.
Full disclosure: I will get a $10 USD kickback if you use my coupon. Thanks for using it!
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.
As a long term charter, I use a doering rule (a rule to limit dry days). My last safe day for unprotected sex is day 5 of my cycle (usually the last day of my period) because of this rule. This rule is included in the high efficacy rates of the sympto-thermal method.
The charts that follow show when my method said I was safe versus when Natural cycles told me I was.
I have compiled 3 of my charts for comparison. During more than one cycle, Natural Cycles told me I could have unprotected sex on the day near my PEAK fertility. Peak day is the most likely day of ovulation, while not always the exact day of ovulation. Suffice it to say, the app told me that I could have unprotected sex on a day when pregnancy was still possible.
September Cycle (First with Natural Cycles)
On my very first cycle, without any knowledge of whether I had ovulated the cycle before, Natural Cycles gave me clearance to have unprotected sex during my period.
This is totally wrong. Without having confirmed ovulation the previous cycle, there is no way to know if this bleeding is safe or not.
The next BIG issue is that it told me I could have unprotected sex on the second day of my temperature shift (CD17). There is a huge chance that my egg could have still been viable and hanging at this point.
With the symptothermal method, you CANNOT confirm ovulation before 3 high temperatures.
The chart below has my actual safe days as calculated by doering. (Keeping in mind that I did confirm ovulation the cycle before so my period is safe. However, there is no way that Natural Cycles could have known that).
October Cycle (Second with Natural Cycles)
For the second time, Natural Cycles gives me a green light on the second day of a temperature shift in the morning. My egg could still be around! In fact, this green light was less than 24 hours after my peak day!
November Cycle (Third with Natural Cycles)
During this cycle, Natural Cycles decides that I’m not safe on CD 5 (I am).
It also gives me a green light on CD20. However, I would not be safe to have unprotected sex until the evening of CD21 due to peak day occurring on the first day of my shift.
Natural Cycles does not follow the rules for STM charting.
When charting with STM, one must always wait until the evening of P + 3 and T +3 (three high temperatures and three days after peak). Both rules have to be met before you can have any unprotected sex. With weaker shifts, this wait can be a day longer.
Natural Cycles does not include cervical mucus. Since cervical mucus is what opens the fertile window (and not temperatures), this causes the method to lose efficacy. Cervical mucus is what allows sperm to survive and fertilize an egg. When cervical mucus dries up for 3 days and 3 high temperatures above the coverline occur, ovulation is confirmed for the cycle. Any app that leaves out cervical mucus, but still lets women have green days pre-ovulation, is misleading women and putting them at extra risk of pregnancy.
Another worrisome aspect of the app is that it frequently gave me a green light on the morning of the second high temperature. Temperatures can easily be disrupted, and new charters may not know their normal temperature ranges. Women need to be certain that ovulation is over before having unprotected sex. The third high temp (along with the third day after peak day) lets you know that ovulation is confirmed. Green lights after only one or two temps can put women at a risk of pregnancy, especially when cervical mucus isn’t taken into consideration. In fact, most STM methods require 4 high temps for women who don’t use cervical mucus (or cervical position). The reason that Natural Cycles may interpret shifts wrong is because of its static coverline. Some women may not see much of a change in coverlines from cycle to cycle. However, others may see a change. Having a static coverline can give users green days before they actually have a temperature shift.
Lastly, the app is misleading because it marks the day of ovulation. The only way to truly determine the exact day of ovulation is with a well-timed ultrasound. In fact, ovulation is most likely to occur over a period of about 4 days. Here is the link to the study that discusses which 4 days are the most likely. Since ovulation is likely up to day 2 of a temperature shift, this proves even further why it is so risky for Natural Cycles to give green lights on day 2 of a shift. In the other 9% of cases not hightlighted in the green box below, ovulation happened up to 3 or 4 days before a shift. This is why mucus is so important to record pre-confirmed ovulation. If there is mucus present, the sperm may live. Natural Cycles does not take enough factors into account when drawing its fertile window.
If you are coming off of hormonal birth control or postpartum, this app may be an even worse choice for you. Those coming off hormonal birth control and postpartum may experience cycles changing in length and unexpected early ovulation even more so than people with regular cycles.
Anecdotally, I have seen many risky charts from Natural Cycles in the group I help moderate. You can find a link to this group here.
I highly recommend learning a real sympto-thermal method from an instructor and not wasting your money on the Natural Cycles app. I found it quite shocking that is was not very conservative when first learning about my cycles.
Check out my last post to learn how to start charting on a budget. Click here to sign up to learn to chart with me when my course opens in September 2019.
Here are some other articles on Natural Cycles that I recommend reading:
One of the first steps many women take when starting their charting journey is downloading a period app. However, not all apps are created equal. A quick search in the app store comes up with dozens of apps. Sadly, very few of them are suitable for those using NFP or FAM. Most are just forms of the rhythm method, an unreliable from of birth control that comes up with predictions based on past cycles. My review only includes apps that allow women to track cervical mucus and basal body temperature–the two main signs in SymptoThermal Methods. I also tried to only pick apps that allowed self-interpretation. Learning how to interpret your own fertility signs is vitally important when charting.
Perk:The iPhone version allows users to share their whole chart.
Con: The Android version is known to be considerably more glitchy than the iPhone version. On Android, users can select “Share This Chart” and “With Community” to access a screen where they may screenshot their own chart.
Perk:Free Version Available
Con: Vaginal Sensation and more than four categories are extra. Premium version is $4.99 USD/month or $49.99 USD/year
SymptoThermal Rules Interpretation
Perk: I don’t know if Kindara has a monopoly on self-interpretation or what, but it’s one of the only apps to allow users to interpret and mark their own peak day and temperature shift. It also lets users mark their own coverline. This means that Kindara is good for those using a method like Taking Charge of Your Fertility (which has a higher coverline) and those using Sensiplan (which has a lower coverline). Lastly, Kindara has a very easy to read, clear chart. This is so important for users, and for those helping them.
Kindara also does not predict fertile windows unless the user is trying to conceive (I recommend ignoring these even if trying to conceive. It is always best to do your own interpretations or ask an instructor if uncertain). It will predict menstruation based on average luteal phase length once it has enough data.
Users may share charts and get feedback from the community
Counts days past ovulation when shift is marked
Cervix Tracking (Height, Openness,Firmness)
Sex Tracking (Protected, Unprotected, Withdrawal, Insemination
OPK and Pregnancy Tests Tracking
Pairs with Wink Thermometer (syncs with the app via Bluetooth)
Pro:Fertility Friend appears to work equally well on Android and iPhone
Pro: Free, paying is not necessary to be able to chart.
Con: VIP membership available starting at $9.99/month. This is a little expensive. The community sharing feature is only available to those who pay.
SymptoThermal Rules Interpretation
Perk: Coverline can be overridden under settings. There are options to chart cervical mucus and temperatures.
Con: The app automatically interprets. For new users, this may be confusing.
Fertility Friend does predict fertile windows, period days, ovulation days, and a recommended test day for pregnancy. As always, users should rely on their own interpretations and get help from an instructor if needed.
Cervix Tracking (Height, Openness, Firmness)
Pregnancy and OPK tracking
Ton of Options for Mood, Health, Diet
Options for IVF, A.R.T., and Fertility Medication Tracking
Lightbox (With VIP compare photos of OPK and HPT tests)
Chart Overlay (Compare multiple cycles on one chart)
Sex Tracking (no option to differentiate unprotected versus protected)
Con: Pretty much the fact that it isn’t available on Apple products
Perk: Free (but with ads). One time payment of $4.99 to remove all ads. This is the cheapest app with the most features for custom tracking.
SymptoThermal Rules Interpretation
Perk:You can pick from multiple methods. Users may turn methods on and off.
Con: No self interpretation available. I have included it because unlike any other app that I have come across that interprets for users, the methods can be turned off. Users may play around with the methods to see if they can mark their chart according to their method’s rules. Turning off all settings would leave a chart for the user to interpret themselves even though they can’t self-mark. Another con is that the temperature scale is very hard to read. Make sure to round or drop your temps. Ovuview may not always do this correctly.
Ovuview predicts future fertile windows, ovulation days, and periods. Users should ignore this in favor of self-interpretation.
A ton of custom tracking like medications, moods, weight, etc.
Syncs with the Tempdrop device (This is wearable BBT. My review is coming soon. Full disclosure: this link earns me ten dollars if you use it to purchase the device)
Cool design. Users can choose their own chart colors, background, custom data colors, etc.
There are limited options for self-interpretation when it comes to FAM apps. The three apps above are the best I’ve found when it comes to self-marking.
Look out for my next blog on how to chart using Google Sheets. I’ll be creating a Youtube video on how to do this yourself. This method of charting allows self-interpretation, custom data tracking, and users can chart on their computer or phone.