What Every Woman Needs to Know about Fertility Awareness

She was free in her wildness. She was a wanderess, a drop of free water. She belonged to no man and to no city. ~Roman Payne

Less than 4 years ago, I distinctly remember discussing the Fertility Awareness Method with a gynecologist after a brief pelvic exam. It was my first, and last, encounter with this particular female doctor. She asked the question that every woman in America gets asked at these appointments: “What are you using for birth control?” In my experience, unless you are already on the pill, this is usually followed by: “Are you interested in getting on birth control (aka hormonal contraceptives)?”

I let her know that I was tracking my cycle and cervical fluid (I was not doing basal body temperature charting then) and using a barrier method around times of peak fertility. She laughed and proceeded to tell me that there is a joke among OBGYNs that people who practice this method are called parents. I was not laughing.

Luckily, I was smart enough to not see her again and to continue to learn more about the Fertility Awareness Method or FAM for short. I had originally picked up pieces of this method after getting off hormonal contraceptives when I was in my very early twenties and curious about hormonal health. Now, I rely on it both for contraception and for getting a more detailed look into my hormonal health throughout the month.

Every woman should at least have some education around FAM, even in she doesn’t use it as birth control. Here’s why:

  • It provides valuable information about hormonal health by tracking the three main fertility signs: basal body temperature (BBT for short), cervical fluid and cervical position.
  • This information does not cost anything, besides a few minutes a day (if that).
  • It empowers you to know when you can and cannot potentially get pregnant. Take the guessing game and fear out of your sex life.
  • It helps you plan your life in a way that respects your body’s natural rhythm. It’s really great when you wake up, notice a drop in your BBT and know that your period is coming soon.
  • It’s an easy way to start noticing if you have any potential hormonal health issues, and hormonal health is vital to overall health. For example, it can indicate if your luteal phase (second half of the cycle) is too short suggesting inadequate amounts of progesterone. Or it can show you how erratic your temperatures become during a week of stress, which results in delayed ovulation (been there!).
  • It’s an embodiment practice that allows you to create a deeper understanding of your body and all the amazing things that it is accomplishing daily without any additional effort on your part.

The Fertility Awareness Method is really a comprehensive way to track your fertility for natural birth control, trying to conceive and overall reproductive health. There are rules if you want it to be your main method of birth control, but it is not hard to master by any means. It’s all easily found in “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Weschler, MPH. In the next post, I’ll explain the basics around charting your cycle, what to track and how to interpret the results.

In the end, what I really love about this concept is that it puts the woman at the center of her fertility. It teaches her how to determine when she’s ovulating or if she’s ovulating without hormonal testing or medical procedures.

While I believe the pill was a necessary step in feminine empowerment, it cannot be the end. Hormonal contraceptives may give women some control over when or if they have children; however, it also disempowers their relationship to their bodies by shutting off their endocrine systems. Take it or leave it, but that’s the truth that nobody wants to tell you.

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