Score 1 for Charting!

If you’ve ever had nausea or diarrhea before your period go read this. No I mean it, really, it will change your life! Okay, maybe not but for me it was an amazing, lightbulb moment of awesome! And you know how I got there? Through monitoring my cycle.

Let me explain. Here’s what happened. I’ve noticed before that sometimes just before my period other things are going on down there. (Yes I mean diarrhea.) And today I noticed the same thing. Because I’ve been keeping track of my period I also know Aunt Flo should be visiting me soon. So I entered diarrhea as a symptom on MyMonthlyCyles.com which is one of the sites I’m using to chart.

Then I thought “hm…is this common? normal?” I suppose I could have asked if it was related at all but experience was suggesting that it was. So what did I do when I had a question I couldn’t answer? That’s right. I asked Google. That’s how I came across that article linked to above (go check it out!).

But the article did more than just tell me this was something other women experience. It also told me why. And it told me that another symptom is nausea.

For months now, actually over a year, I’ve been struggling with weird bouts of dizziness/nausea. It had flitted through my mind that this might be period-related but I really had no idea and was also thinking allergies or something else. I had also read something about how it could be related to ovulation. But this article has shown me the light! (Sort of.) Now, for the next few months I’ll pay special attention to these weird dizzinesses and see if they align with my cycle. If they do, then I’ll know FINALLY what’s causing them.

Discovering what might be the cause of my dizziness (and the thing about diarrhea too) just blew my mind! I went to pin it as soon as I finished because I want this article forever!

It’s like my life suddenly makes sense!!! If I hadn’t been keeping track of cycles and paying attention to my body I might have totally missed this. I guess this is at least part of what people mean when they say that charting teaches you about your body. I hope you realize just how happy/ecstatic I am and just how amazing this was for me to learn.

I’ve already discovered this and that’s without doing much temping either (I only started that 3 days ago). Imagine how much more I could learn. So yes, score 1 for charting! Being on the pill would never have taught me this.

My New BBT Thermometer and Online Charting Sites

Yesterday I somehow forgot to mention that when I went shopping I got a basal thermometer. That’s right! A fertility thermometer to help determine ovulation as I chart my cycles.

Here’s what mine looks like:

Thermometer 1

I’m actually really excited about it! It was less than $8 at Walmart. It’s a basal thermometer and it said “family planning” on the packaging (but I don’t think the cashier gave me a funny look). It took me a while to get around to getting it. But I got it before my next cycle starts so I’m calling this a success. 🙂

As I was about to head to bed last night I remembered about the thermometer and that I would be able to use it the next morning. I opened up the pink packaging and read the directions. Cleaned it like it said to, stuck it in its case and set it on the dresser next to my bed. Then I just had to try to make my excited self get to sleep. (Hm…after re-reading this I realize I might be a bit of a charting dork.)

This morning I got to “temp” for the first time. That is, when I woke up I grabbed the thermometer and stuck it in my mouth under my tongue. I didn’t think I’d done it right the first time so I did it again. But the temperature was about the same. So I guess I did all right.

I made sure to jot down my reading and the time I took it on a piece of paper so I could enter it into my fertility tracking sites later. I’m currently signed up for 3 and am trying to whittle the number down.

The 3 are:

There are advantages and disadvantages to each of them.

TCOYF is all official and puts cool, easy to read, icons on the calendar for menses and ovulation. However, it doesn’t allow me to add symptoms such as cramps, dizziness, or mood except as a note (and those are hard to review). This is because I just have a free membership instead of a paid one. I think with the free version I can only store 3 months of cycle data too, which is lame.

TCOYF example month
TCOYF calendar with cool icons

Fertility Friend has a chart and calendar all on one page. They also are sending me a 30 day course via email that teaches you about charting and your cycle. Right now I can also add symptoms which are then colored-coded and numbered and put on the chart. But this is only because I was given a free 30 day trial of their premium membership.  After that, I would have to do notes.

FF Chart
My FertilityFriend.com chart. The blue dot is a BBT temp observation. And the orange squares represent different symptoms.

My Monthly Cycles allows me to add symptoms free and easy. (It actually has a pre-set list which you select from). For anything not listed I can write a note which are a lot easier to read and access than on TCOYF. However, My Monthly Cycles doesn’t have a chart per se. Rather they have a graph for BBT which will also give you your CM observations as little abbreviations at the top.

MMC 1
like this

I’m still deciding which to use. TCYOF isn’t really working for me and my needs (at least not the free version). I do like My Monthly Cycles. Their symptom entry is great, especially compared to just taking notes. You can also chart symptoms on their site too. But not having a standard chart for my cycle is kind of a drawback (though not a huge one I guess).

The next month or so I’m going to be getting myself in the habit of temping every morning. And I can use those temps to determine when ovulation happened and by extension when my period should come. I have wonky cycles (as this post explains). In fact, I entered the dates of a few of my last periods on Fertility Friend and it told me this:

Irregular
really??

So yeah, that’s my update on my charting journey. Check back later (or follow!) for more!

Let me hear your questions and/or comments below! I’d love to hear from anyone else who’s temping/charting!

Blood, Tears, and More Blood: My Journey to Charting my Menstrual Cycle

I announced last Friday that I was considering doing a post regarding cycles and charting. Then I found out that this week is national NFP awareness week (which is pretty awesome in and of itself). It also turns out that there’s a linkup over at NFP and Me for the occasion. So apparently, somebody up there wants me to write this post. And here I am.

I want to start off with a warning. If the title of the post hasn’t scared you off, here’s a heads-up. This is going to get personal. And maybe a little gross. So don’t say I didn’t warn you. Also, if this topic makes you uncomfortable feel free to move on. It’s really ok. You won’t offend me. Be warned that in this and other posts like it I might use words such as period, menstruation, ovulation, ovaries, luteal phase, uterus, libido, cervical mucus, sex, menstrual cycle, pads, and blood.

Whew! Got through it!

For anyone who’s still with me, here’s my story and why I plan to start charting my cycles.

charting with thermometer

I’m single. I’m not dating. I don’t plan on being sexually active until after marriage. I may, in fact, never get married. So why the heck do I want to start charting my cycles like those awesome people who use NFP do?

Towards the beginning of this summer, after I had just finished my freshman year of college, I had a conversation with my mom about my desire to chart. I had already begun taking note of when my period happened and now wanted to get more in depth. I had noticed that my cycles didn’t seem to follow the rules. One month it was 33 days long, another it was 39, the next month 28.

When I was younger I never paid much attention to my period. It was something that just “happened” every few weeks. My understanding was that it should be every 28 days. Even so, I generally didn’t bother to make sure that was when it was happening. Usually, I would think something to the effect of “well, I got it around the 20th last month, so it should come about then this month”. Besides being bad math, this method didn’t account for the fact that my cycle might be longer or shorter than 28 days (not every women’s cycle is the same). Using this method, I remember having what I considered late periods every now and then.

The sad thing is, I really didn’t know much. I could offer a number of excuses but the hard fact is I was never taught much about my fertility or cycles. All I knew from my mom came from one conversation about how the lining of my uterus (which she said nourished a baby when a woman was pregnant) would build up and then shed once a month. And I would bleed.

For the first few months after I got my period I kept track. And I distinctly remember, just a few months later, having one period follow on another within 2 weeks. I freaked out. What did this mean? It was my 5th period. Did that mean my fifth pregnancy would be a miscarriage? These were the thoughts that passed through my 12 year old brain. I wish I had understood that irregular and anovulatory periods weren’t that unusual for a girl who was just starting.

Anyways, after a few months more I wasn’t really keeping track of my cycles and had moved on to my “once a month” bad math. And I let it be that way for years. Eventually, I started reading pro-life news, learned more about how my body works, stumbled across the awesome NFP website 1Flesh and got more interested. At this time I headed off to college.

At school, I made some great girlfriends and we talked about NFP and charting. I came to realize that I should be keeping better track of my body and listening to what it was telling me. I knew by this point that I was seeing a connection between my mood and my cycle. I would often get really high-strung and anxious before my period. I also learned that brown spotting at the end of a period , which is something I had seen in myself,could be a bad sign. Eventually, I came around to my current decision to go all out with charting.

There’s a number of reasons I guess.

1) to know my body better and be empowered with that knowledge

2) to make sure there’s nothing wrong (my irregular cycles as well as brown flow might be cause for concern)

3) to monitor the correlation between the different parts of my cycle and my mood

4)–last but not least–to know when my period is coming

I’ve already signed up for a few different free online charting sites (I’ll see which one I prefer) and have done a little charting. I’ll hopefully be starting all the official monitoring, including temperature taking, soon. It’s actually kind of exciting. Hopefully I’ll be posting more about my adventures in charting in the weeks and months ahead. Would you be interested in joining me as I learn more about cycle charting and myself? Let me know what you think in the comments section below!

This post is linked up to the NFP and Me NFP week link up. Check it out for NFP-related posts from other bloggers.

A little disclaimer: I am only starting to chart and I am not using those charts as a form of NFP. If you are interested in that you should speak with an NFP teacher or practitioner. I’m not an expert.