The reason I love teaching the Sympto-Thermal Methods of Natural Family Planning and Fertility Awareness (STM) is because they are evidence based scientific methods of charting your cycle. They are based on observing your signs and learning to interpret them.
But what if your periods are irregular? What if you have endometriosis, PCOS, or spotting? What if you have different length cycles each month?
The Great News Is That It Still Works!
The reason the STM methods will work during these circumstances is because they are not calendar based such as with the rhythm method or calendar days method. I'm guessing like most people, you probably don't what either of those methods are, then read on to find out more!
The Rhythm Method - this method assumes two things; 1) that we have a 28 day cycle and 2) that we ovulate on day 14. You purely mark in the fertile time in the calendar regardless of what your body is doing.
Bearing in mind that the average healthy cycle is 26-35 days and can vary by a day or two every month, you can see that we are looking at the square peg round hole scenario. Then, if you bear in mind that ovulation occurs mostly two weeks before menstruation, if we look at a 32 day cycle, then that is likely to be an ovulation on day 18.
So you could assume you have ovulated on day 14, only to still be fertile, which could be a disaster if you are trying to avoid pregnancy and a missed opportunity if you are trying to get pregnant.
But wait, that is not all! Many women now have luteal phase defect (shortened luteal phase) with only 12, 11 or even only 10 days between ovulation and menstruation so it could be an ovulation on day 20, 21, or 22.
This method will clearly not work for the majority of the population and intact its effectiveness is 75% which is the same as not using any family planning method.
Standard Days Method - this method assumes you have regular cycles that never go outside the 26-32 day range and that you have 14 days between ovulation and menstruation.
So if you have a regular 30 day cycle, you would assume you always ovulate on day 16 for example rather than day 14. This is more successful for women with regular cycles. But still not as accurate as sympto-thermal methods and isn't suitable if your period has any variances.
So Why Are Sympto-Thermal Methods Different?
First of all we look for signs of fertility starting, such as cervical fluid and cervical movement. This means we can accurately determine the start of the fertile window.
Secondly, we look for signs of fertility ending by taking our temperature and looking for a qualifying thermal shift. This helps us to identify the end of our fertile of fertile period.
This means that we can see what is going on with our cycle every month, regardless of whether we have regular periods, hormonal imbalances and you can even see if you get pregnant before any test will tell you.
What About Predictor Apps?
The issue with predictor apps is that they tend to work on either the standard days method or the rhythm method and as such aren't very reliable. I always advise women who use them, to turn off the predictor function and to just use them to record their signs and symptoms and trust their body over a computer.
This is a field that is developing a lot and hopefully we will see some amazing progresses in the very near future.
Sounds Great, Is It Infallible?
No, method of birth control is infallible or 100% accurate and that is before you take into account user method failure. However, with STM there are some limitations. Both cervical fluid and temperature can be affected by alcohol, medications, travel, stress, inflammation, essential oils and herbs. So you do really need a teacher to help you figure out whether it will work for you.
But the upside is that you can use your chart to work out hormonal imbalances, inflammation, stress and even food intolerances.
Benefits Of Charting With Hormonal Issues
First of all, when you chart your cycle, you take your chart to your teacher who can read the chart to point out potential issues that may need some investigating or referrals to a specialist practitioner before you even notice other symptoms or before you are trying to get pregnant. I can't tell you how many clients have finally had answers to lots of health conditions when we have looked at their chart and recommended certain investigations.
And one you know what the issues are and start interventions to start fixing them, you can see in your chart whether or not they are working, and how effective each intervention is for you.
So as you can see not only can you use STM when you have hormonal issues, you can actually use it to see what is causing them too.
If you have irregular cycles and use STM, share it with us in the Facebook Group.
Find out more about Whether You Should Use An App to Chart Your Cycle
Find out more about Your Menstrual Cycle
Find out more about Can I Get Pregnant Before My Periods Come Back?
Learn how to chart your cycle with my cycle charting course.