How Does Charting Work?
I teach women how to chart their cycles by making observations as they wipe throughout the day. At night, they record on their Cycle Chart what they feel (sensation); what they see on the toilet paper (observation); and whether the mucus can stretch (“finger test”). The fertile days, or “cervical fluid days,” are days when the woman’s cervix discharges sperm-friendly mucus that is rich in fructose and glucose and which is alkaline in nature. This cervical fluid is biochemically similar to seminal fluid.
The discovery that specific types of cervical fluid correlate to the precise timing of fertility was elucidated by 2 Australian physicians, John and Evelyn Billings. Fertile cervical fluid is produced in response to rising blood estrogen levels. The key factor in determining whether a woman’s cervical fluid is fertile is its sensation. When wiping it off, the sensation is slippery. The last day of this slippery fluid is called the Peak Day and illustrates the action of Peak Blood estrogen levels. The day after the Peak Day, the cervical fluid is no longer slippery, and has much resistance. This new dry sensation correlates to the abrupt drop in blood estrogen levels. This drop triggers the release of luteinizing hormone and ovulation. This sensation is so easily detected that even blind women can determine their fertility.
I love seeing in my practice how cycle charting increases communication between spouses — how it nourishes the mental, emotional, and spiritual side of a couple’s sex life. Charting is a family planning system in which the woman doesn’t bear sole responsibility. I’ve seen how charting creates true intimacy for couples. Couples who chart together have a very low divorce rate.
Charting is a proven method for achieving pregnancy on days of shared fertility, or postponing pregnancy on days of the woman’s infertility.
When pregnancy does occur, charting has obstetrical benefits: Identifying conception (the days surrounding the Peak Day) results in a more accurate “due date,” hence less need to induce labor. Charting also facilitates earlier detection of Group B Strep infection, which presents as a light, watery discharge. Through early treatment of infection, charting can reveal the need for antimicrobial treatment, thereby preventing pregnancy loss due to infection-induced premature contractions.
Charting as a Diagnostic Tool for Infertility
I am trained in the Creighton Model FertilityCare System and NaPro Technology, which uses the following protocols:
For days of bleeding, a red stamp is placed on the chart. Some cultures refer to these days as “Red Flow.” For dry days, a green stamp is placed on the chart.
For cervical fluid days (sometimes called “White Flow”), a white sticker featuring a baby is placed on the chart.
For the Peak Day, the letter “P” is written directly on the sticker. The subsequent 3 days are considered fertile. The numbers 1, 2, and 3 are written on the stickers. A consistent number of “Post-Peak” days (9-16 days) are then given green stickers.
A healthy chart features 5 days of bleeding, followed by a variable number of dry days, followed by 5-7 days of sperm-friendly cervical fluid, followed by the luteal phase (consistent from cycle to cycle). The range can be 9-16 days, depending on the number of days until a woman’s next period. A healthy luteal phase only varies by 3-4 days from cycle to cycle.
Typically, it takes 2 full months of charting before a woman can confidently identify her Peak Day. At this point the chart becomes a road map for assessing the root cause of her infertility.