Irregular periods. Skipped periods. Painful periods. Confusion. This birth control. That birth control pill. Another birth control pill. The patch. The IUD. Rinse and repeat. This is the roller coaster that so many women find themselves on when it comes to their cycles and fertility. We sort of know that things aren’t quite right, but how to make them right feels like a mystery. Today I want to talk about why charting when you’re young could save you years of frustration with your fertility.
What is Charting?
At its most basic, charting your fertility cycle means tracking when your periods come and learning how to identify the basic signs of ovulation. It also usually means tracking any and all vaginal bleeding and tracking any vaginal mucus or discharges. This can be done on paper or in an app. It requires a certain amount of knowledge of exactly how to check and what you should be checking for, and learning what is normal and not normal.
You Know if there are Problems Early enough to do Something about it.
The first reason that charting your fertility cycle when you’re young could save you years of frustration with your fertility is that you know, early on in your reproductive life, if you may have fertility issues.
Compare these two scenarios:
A young woman learns to chart at age 25. Through her charting, she realizes that her cycles are long, her periods comes more often than every 37 days, she realizes her cervical mucus is irregular, and she has signs on her chart that she doesn’t always ovulate.
A 35 year old woman is trying to start her family. She has been on birth control since she was 18. She starts to chart and through her charting she realizes her cycles are long, her cervical mucus patterns are irregular, and she has signs on her chart that she doesn’t always ovulate.
Both are the same charting problem, but what is the advantage that the younger woman has?
She has time to work on getting the problems corrected. She has time to make decisions about family planning and growing her family. She has time to improve these issues that may be impacted many aspects of her health and not just her fertility.
Charting when you’re young can help the woman who is uneasy about her fertility
The second reason why charting when you’re young could save you years of frustration with your fertility is that sometimes I find that women can just have this sense of unease about their fertility. They sort of know that something isn’t quite right, but they don’t know for sure what it is.
Charting at its core, is data. Without data, we’re sort of floundering in the dark without good information.
Think about how eye-opening it is when you track your food intake for a week. I bet you eat more or less of certain things than you think you do.
One personal example from my life is with my blood pressure. My blood pressure has been kind of high off and on over the years. I don’t have any major health issues so I don’t go to the doctor all that often. But each time I go, it’s just a bit elevated. When I’m pregnant it’s gotten very elevated and it’s been suggested by my midwife that maybe I actually just have chronically high blood pressure. But who’s to know without any regular data collection on what my numbers are.
So I recently started tracking this at home on a regular basis. Turns out, yeah, it’s probably high. And when I go in to the doctor, I’ll have these numbers to show him so we can make an informed decision with good data.
Fertility and cycle tracking is like this too. You can’t get the full picture without good data.
Charting when you’re young can save you from cycling through birth control after birth control
The third reason that learning to chart your cycles in your teens and twenties could save you years of frustration with you fertility is that it can save you from feeling like you are constantly cycling through different birth control methods to manage your fertility symptoms. Women often feel like they are literally going to be on some kind of continuous birth control until they want to or hope to have a baby.
Why is this a bad strategy?
If a woman is on hormonal birth control she is NOT having true cycles. One of the unintended consequences of this strategy is that women become totally ignorant about their fertility and cycles. They have no idea how long their cycles are, what their periods are like, when they ovulate, and what cycle patterns are normal.
Continuous birth control as a strategy for managing cycle problems also comes with a host of side effects and even increased risk of certain kinds of cancers. Birth control increases the risk of breast cancer by 20-30%.
And really, what’s the end goal if you have a fertility problem? To be on birth control from the time you start your period until menopause? That sounds not awesome.
There are better, more restorative ways to manage fertility problems that don’t involve birth control.
Have you learned to chart yet? Would you like to? We offer free online group intro sessions each month so you can find out more about how charting in your teens and twenties could save you years of frustration with you fertility.