Hi Mary, I have been charting my cycles since July.
I second everything Lora had to say.
Charting was very helpful for me. My doctor had suspected that I had PCOS before I went on the pill when I was 16 because I went a year without my period but after going off the pill and charting I was happy to find that I did ovulate every cycle.
Unfortunately my cycles could be quite long but I found that the cycle immediately after going off the pill was the best in terms of length. My LP stayed about 11 days for each cycle and I could easily tell when I O'ed from CM and temps. However I got terrible acne in month 4 cycle 3 and went back on the pill since it is so cheap and apparently has been keeping my hormones in check and my skin smooth all of these years:)
Now that I know that my cycles are normal enough my plan is to start trying as soon as I go off the pill next time. I also know that I don't have to worry about BD'ing until about CD 18 or so;)
I've only been charting for 2.5 cycles, but it has been really fun and really eye opening for me. One big thing I have learned is that our bodies give us clear signs of what is happening inside. It's such an easy thing to take your temp each morning and to test your CM - seriously it's about 3 minutes a day TOTAL - and yet those things can tell us so much about our cycles!
When I started charting, I assumed that my cycle would be all over the place, since many women experience that after being on BCP for years. I guess I am lucky in that my cycle has seemed to be really regular - I O on about the 14th day and AF comes on day 28ish. Granted, I'm just in my 3rd cycle, so we'll see if it continues this way.
The biggest thing for me though is how great it is to be in tune with your own body - it's very liberating to know what's happening and when! There are no surprises!
It's hard to say what you should expect, as everyone is different. One thing is you'll probably find it a bit confusing the first month, but after that you'll have a good feel for it!
Definitely join the charting thread below - it's great to ask questions :D
What helpful information!
I just thought I'd add that I learned that even if your temperatures don't seem really consistent on paper, once you plot them on the FF tracker, the pattern is a lot more obvious. You can have ups and downs within each phase, but that won't prevent you from seeing the thermal shift. HTH!
<a href="http://lilypie.com/"><img src="http://lbdf.lilypie.com/WEETm5.png" width="400" height="80" border="0" alt="Lilypie Pregnancy tickers" />