Sympto-Thermal Method Effectiveness

Question

I’m a relatively new user (eight months) of the Sympto-Thermal Method. I’ve been having continuous bleeding… I’m on cycle day 48 and I’ve had continuous bleeding since day 15. I contacted an ob/gyn about it and went into great detail w/ my temps, mucus, cervical position, etc. Basically she told me that I am most likely “ovulating erratically” and should “use another method of birth control as a backup” (not an option). She also said that breastfeeding can cause some of the signs of impending ovulation (cervix opening and softening). She said it’s not a cause for concern yet, but to wait three months and if my cycles are still mixed up, to go see a doctor.
I’m wondering how accurate her advice is…I’m really leery when someone tells me NFP “doesn’t work” in a particular situation. I’d really appreciate your input, specifically…  How effective is NFP in my situation? Will I get enough “advance warning” from the mucus sign to be able to avoid pregnancy? Is it true that breastfeeding can cause the types of cervix changes listed below? Should I be concerned about the length of this bleeding?  Is it just related to breastfeeding, or could it be something more serious?

Here’s my basic info:

* I’m on cycle day 48; bleeding (mostly lighter than a period, but a couple of moderate flow days) since cycle day 15.
* Days 7-17 I had more-fertile type cervical mucus. No mucus from day 17 to day 26. More-fertile mucus from days 27-32, then nothing until day 37. Day 37-46: more fertile mucus.
* Cervix was High, Soft, and Open on days 8, 40, 44 & 45
* Temps have been low (96.8-97.2) except for the following rise:  Day 43: 97.2, Day 44: 97.0, Day 45: 97.6, Day 46: 97.6, Day 47: 97.0, Day 48: 97.6
* I’m 22, mother of a 12 mos. old (1st child/1st preg), 5’7″, 195 lbs (trying to lose), no unusual gyn history.

Thanks for listening.  I recently lost my health insurance, so your help is greatly appreciated!

Answer

Last Updated: June 9, 2013
Although you seem to be keeping up with your charting, your special circumstances can be best addressed by a personal consultation with a CCL teaching couple. Please try to contact one in your locale soon. In the interim, here are some responses that may help.

Working with the limited data you gave us, your cervix sign, mucus pattern, and low temperatures are common for a mom whose fertility is returning. These signs are not “caused” by breastfeeding; rather, they are the normal course of restoration of your fertility following childbirth, of which breastfeeding is a natural part. The average time for the return to fertility during ecological breastfeeding is 14 months. Since you do not indicate if you’ve had prior menses or a thermal shift on previous charts, we do not know if you’ve previously ovulated. If you haven’t, because your baby is 12 months old, you should be very careful to keep accurate charts. Either way, your mucus sign appears to be giving you a clear signal, and can be used avoid conception. Five or more days of mucus in a row are generally ample warning of possible ovulation.

What is different about your signs is the bleeding. This is not associated with breastfeeding. We would encourage a check-up with an NFP-knowledgeable physician.

Occasionally, irregular bleeding can be caused by nutritional factors. Questions that immediately come to our minds are the methods you might be using when trying to lose weight. Are you observing good nutrition? Are you using caffeine? Aspertame? Are you over exercising?

To help you any further, it will be important to review your prior charts, so you really should contact a CCL teacher in your area. Without seeing more of your cycle history, we can’t be any more specific. However, you should know that it certainly is possible to effectively use NFP, even under conditions of “erratic ovulation.”

Referrals for both teaching couples and physicians are available through CCL or CANFP. Please get in touch soon.

Ron & Andrea Gronsky

Answered By:

Andrea and Ron Gronsky
Andrea and Ron Gronsky, PhD, Professional Members of CANFP,now retired, taught the Sympto Thermal Method through the Couple to Couple League, in the Oakland Region.

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