The basic practice of charting your menstrual cycle is one of the foundations of the fertility awareness method. Charting is a way in which you can begin to take note each day of your cycle, and it brings an awareness to your day of what energy the cycle day is bringing to YOUR day. It also helps you keep track of your fertility biomarkers, such as cervical mucus and basal body temperature, so you can identify your fertile window and use the method to track your fertile window, for effective hormone free birth control or to get conceive easily. For more on how the fertility awareness method works as an effective birth control alternative, visit this page.
Tracking your cycle is a wonderful way to get more in touch with your body, your cycle and your period. I firmly believe that what we pay attention to, grows. When we pay more attention to our cycle and put energy into noticing the subtleties of our cycle, we can live in more ease and flow. We talk a lot about how to do this in my FAM charting course, Cycle Love, but I wanted to suggest some tools and tips for where to begin.
Establishing new habits
There are various ways to chart your menstrual cycle, as well as varying levels of detail that you can go. If you are new to charting, I would recommend by just starting to track the basics, and slowly adding elements as you go. Building habits take time, and charting is no exception. The longer you track, the more it will feel like second nature. Building slowly will help you stick with it!
Begin with the basics
The first step in charting and the most basic, is keeping track of cycle days. Remember, your cycle begins on the first day of your period, the first day of full bleeding. The last day of your cycle is the very last day before your next period. Begin by noticing and starting to track which cycle day you are on. This is the foundation of charting, and from here you can start to add more to your charting routine.
Add a little more
The next step would be paying attention to your general wellbeing and energy levels for each day of the cycle. You can jot down a sentence a day of how you are feeling emotionally, physically and mentally. Once you have several cycles worth of charting, you might notice some synchronicities on certain days! This is where cycle charting becomes really fun. You may also notice a general rise and fall of energy throughout your cycle. This is because of the influence of estrogen and progesterone at certain points of your cycle. In general, the first half of our cycle from menstruation - ovulation, we might feel more outward, yang, extroverted energy. The second half of the cycle we might feel more inward, yin, introverted energy.
Habit tracking and charting
The next level would be starting to incorporate a habit tracker with your chart. This means selecting several aspects of your life that you would like to track, and incorporating that into your chart. Things that you could track could be exercise, vitamins, sex drive, meditation, time on social media, caffeine intake, nutrition, PMS symptoms etc. By tracking certain aspects of your health or wellbeing, you can see what impact certain habits have on the health of your cycle.
Full on FAM charting
The next level is starting to track cervical mucous and basal body temperature. I go much more in depth into how to track cervical mucous and BBT, and how to interpret it, in my FAM charting course. Just briefly, cervical mucous is what is secreted from your cervix, depending on what hormones are present in your body at different times of the cycle. Depending on what method you are charting with, you will categorize your cervical mucous differently. Just start by paying attention to consistency, appearance and sensation and chart that. Basal body temperature is your lowest body temperature attained during rest. You will want to take your basal body temperature before you get out of bed in the morning, after at least 3 hours of sleep. A basal body thermometer is not the same as a fever thermometer! You’ll want to look for something that goes to 2 decimal points.
Paper vs App: How to Chart
Many people are introduced to FAM through paper charting, and switch to fertility tracking apps for convenience. There are also many others who are introduced to it through apps, and switch to paper to get away from their phones. I began with paper, switched to an app quite quickly, and now I am back to paper and I love it. With both the app and paper, you don't have to input all the information they ask for, you can make it as simple or as advanced as you like!
The obvious upside of charting with an app is the convenience! Wherever you are, you can input information into your chart, which will make it much easier to integrate with your life. The downside is that some apps require wifi connection, as well as encourage you to be on your phone much more. Apps that I recommend for charting for FAM are Kindara, Ovuview(android only) and Fertility Friend. If you are charting for health, I would recommend Clue or FEMM apps. Try out a couple and see what you like best!
I have recently discovered the joys of charting with a paper chart. I use Pen and Paper Fertility’s charting journal. She also has downloadable/printable charts that are very affordable. If you are doing basic charting, you can also use a calendar method, and write the days of the cycle in your calendar, with anything else you would like to track as a small note in your calendar.
Once you have your method of charting, you have to be consistent and stick with whatever rules and method you have chosen. Just like any new habit, tracking at first might feel cumbersome and hard to remember, but after a few cycles it will become second nature.