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Let Your Computer Do the Analysis in Natural Family Planning



By Tricia Ballad

Successfully practicing natural family planning relies on interpreting fertility patterns accurately. Usually, women record their fertility symptoms on a paper chart, and then she and her partner interpret what the collection of symptoms mean. There are dozens of different rules to use, depending on the patterns that emerge, personal health histories and how careful couples wish to be in avoiding pregnancy.

Remembering so many rules can be difficult, especially at first, so many people go looking for easier ways. If you or your partner is comfortable with technology, keeping your charts electronically can make things simpler — and you can password-protect the files! There are several good choices out there, including one for the PalmPilot.

Electronic helpers
LadyComp (designed to help you avoid pregnancy) and BabyComp (designed to help you get pregnant) are electronic devices that record and store your basal body temperature and make a diagnosis of fertile or infertile. Small enough to sit discreetly on a bedside table, the devices provide a very simple green light/red light indicator for fertility.

Since these devices base their indications only on temperature measurements, effectively avoiding pregnancy using the most conservative rules requires extended abstinence during Phase I and Phase II. Combined with the high cost of the devices (around $800 depending on Euro exchange rates), this make the LadyComp and BabyComp somewhat less than practical.

In the palm of your hand
If you like the idea of recording and storing your NFP charts on a portable device, Chad Brassil has written a free natural family planning interpretation program for Palm OS. This setup allows couples to record symptoms at the bedside, as they travel or during the day as the woman notices mucus signs. He offers the software for free, in keeping with the spirit of NFP’s minimal cost (you do have to buy a thermometer!), but accepts donations via PayPal to cover the costs of maintenance and upgrades. Check it out at PalmNFP.

For your home computer
There are many software packages available for the PC, but it pays to try several before committing to one. Luckily, most offer a free trial period. TCOYF (Taking Control Of Your Fertility, also known as Ovusoft) is a well known and respected software package that is often included with Toni Weschler’s book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Users I spoke with especially liked its intuitive interface and links to an extensive online community of users. Valerie, a natural family planning practitioner from Ohio, liked that her husband “could just open it up to see where I was in my cycle, so he didn’t have to ask if it was fertile time or not.” Ovusoft is available at TCOYF.com for $39.95.

Another commonly used package is Hormonal Forecaster, written by Brian Frackelton. It has many of the same features as TCOYF, including complete sympto-thermal recording and charting. Hormonal Forcaster also features interesting statistical reports and a report on your child’s future based on conception or birth date — not wholly practical, but fun nonetheless. Seeing the dates my boys would most likely graduate from high school, marry and retire was certainly an eye-opener! Hormonal Forecaster can be downloaded at HormonalForecaster.com. Registration is $25.00.

Remember to learn the basics first!
While there are many electronic solutions to the challenges of interpreting natural family planning charts that can make practicing NFP easier, don’t use them as a substitute for a strong understanding of fertility signs.

Staci, a TCOYF user from Virginia, says an electronic device can be “nice as a second opinion, but I wouldn’t depend on it totally. I actually see it as being potentially bad, if a person doesn’t have any experience with NFP or FAM. There has to be some knowledge of how they work to set the preferences and calculations.”

Tricia Ballad was a web developer by profession and a writer and natural family planning advocate by passion. She left her job in September, 2004 to stay home with her children. Her goal is to “negotiate the divide between mainstream suburbia and the strikingly counter-cultural, seeking a balance between the two extremes.” Tricia lives with her husband and their growing family in the Chicago area.

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