A version of this article was originally published at www.ccli.org.

We know, we know. It sounds like common sense that formal training in an FABM method makes users more consistent and committed to charting, but it’s important to back up claims with data…and now we have data.

Couple to Couple League’s (CCL) Scientific Advisor Mike Manhart, PhD conducted the study which analyzed anonymous data from CycleProGo users who gave their permission. CycleProGo is CCL’s mobile fertility charting app generally used by CCL members, CCL teachers, and those who — otherwise unrelated to CCL — merely discover it in an app store.

Manhart found that CCL students — that is, newer members who only recently learned the method through a class series — “are the most diligent at daily recording [of fertility signs],” followed by the remaining CCL members, and then nonmembers.

“CCL teachers have the lowest frequency of cycle days with a recorded observation,” the study states, which may surprise some readers. Manhart explains: “This may reflect their experience and knowledge of their personal fertility patterns, allowing better ‘targeting’ of days where recording observations is crucial.”

However, while CCL members average more consistent observations than teachers, after six months of use those numbers tend to synchronize. This “suggests [that] growing confidence in use of the method reduces the need for strict daily compliance.” In other words, as members become more familiar with the method, their behavior mimics the relaxed expertise demonstrated by CCL teachers.

While the study shows that those who use CycleProGo without formal training chart well initially, they also quickly fall off the wagon. The average nonmember user records fertility signs for a mere four months before either failing to make regular observations or entirely abandoning the app. In fact, the accounts of 60 percent of nonmembers were never used once the app was installed.

So what does this mean?

Basically, that formal education in a FABM significantly increases the likelihood of effective, long-term charting. It’s hard to establish new habits without help, and a FABM requires new habits.

For the purposes of this study, “formal education” refers to CCL’s main class in any of its forms. (The formal education of nonmembers, if any, is unknown.) However, there’s reason to believe that classes — be them online or in person — aren’t the only way to receive the necessary groundwork to promote long-term charting.

Trials and studies done with other methods, including Marquette and Billings, indicate that online learning platforms and interactive web portals could be just as effective.

Here’s the takeaway: not only do many fertility charting apps fail to correctly identify the fertile window, but even the most robust algorithms cannot accommodate for inconsistent charting habits.

If you’re serious about charting, make the effort to invest and educate yourself on the method. You’ve got to put in the effort — there just isn’t an app for that.

— Forest (Hempen) Barnette
Marketing and Communications Associate