Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fertility Awareness: Do You Know Your Body?

I came to read the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility, 10th Anniversary Edition: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health after a long and frustrating journey with birth control. Six months before my wedding, I went to the health clinic, watched some old VHS tape about different forms of birth control, and was prescribed the pill (I don’t remember exactly what brand). For the first few days I took it, I was throwing up and extremely nauseous. Awesome. That eventually went away and seemed to be the only negative side effect. A few months after we got married, we moved across the country, and I ran out of pills for a couple of weeks. When I finally went back to the doctor to get a new prescription and started taking the pills again, I had yet another several days of vomiting. Lovely. Again, it eventually went away. Even though there weren’t any apparent side effects, I began to realize that I had not been the same since I’d started taking pills. I knew something was “off”, and so did my husband. So I decided to take control of my health and demand a new form of birth control that didn’t wreak so much havoc on my hormones. My doctor and I decided that the IUD was the best option for me.

Okay, let me just pause for a moment here to discuss the IUD with you ladies. If you’ve never had a baby (or even if you have), getting an IUD inserted is not a pleasant experience. I had not eaten much that morning, and to make a long story short, it was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my entire life, I was not at all prepared for it, and I ended up vomiting and nearly passing out in the doctor’s office after the procedure. Really? Again with the vomiting? Not off to a good start. Needless to say, I had to call my husband to come pick me up and drive me home. The next 9 weeks that followed were full of heating pads and hot baths. My cramps didn’t really get better (typically the cramps should be gone by 6 weeks), and I had now developed a sharp pain that happened every few days. I remember thinking to myself, “Why am I putting my body through this torture? There HAS to be a better way.” And as always, I began to research. After talking with several of my friends, I realized I wasn’t the only one to rebel against hormonal birth control. Many of my friends exclaimed their happiness with finally being off the pill! Who knew you could be so happy when you’re not medicated?

I don’t remember how, but I came across the book by Toni Weschler, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, 10th Anniversary Edition: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health. I have a pretty open mind, so I had no judgments about the claim of “natural birth control”. I know we all have friends who use “natural birth control”, aka the rhythm method or the pull-out method, and they are now all parents. Rest assured, this book teaches something very different. As I read, I learned that there are 3 separate signs I can keep track of to know when I’m fertile and when I’m not. The author teaches you how to chart these signs so you can get to know your body and use that information to your advantage (avoiding pregnancy or achieving it). These 3 signs are 1) Waking basal body temperature 2) Cervical fluid and 3) Cervical position. It’s important to realize that basal body temperature is not effective by itself because it can only tell you when you’ve ovulated after the fact. Anyway, this method is called the Fertility Awareness Method, and there’s no way I can explain it all in this post, so I highly recommend that EVERY WOMAN read this book (if you can’t find it in your library, it’s well worth the money to buy it), no matter what stage of life you’re in, and even if you’re not interested in natural birth control or pregnancy achievement, because it still contains important information about the female body that we never learned in high school health class.

I started using this method a couple weeks ago (when I got rid of that stupid IUD!), and it’s actually kind of fun to keep track of your temperature patterns and learn how to listen to your body! I also want to point out that Toni Weschler wrote a book for teenage girls called Cycle Savvy: The Smart Teen's Guide to the Mysteries of Her Body, which I’m reading right now (so I know whether to recommend it on my Top Picks or not). And no, it does NOT talk about using the method for birth control or getting pregnant, but it does teach girls how to get to know their own body, which I think is so important. It’s also a great guide for talking to your daughter about her reproductive health and sex. Fact: Well informed teens make better decisions. I’ll talk more about this book when I’m done reading it. So far so good, though.

I know this post is super long, so I’ll be done for now, but I want to really encourage you to get your hands on this book and read through it. Like I always say, knowledge is power, and I promise you will learn something about your body you didn’t know before.


  1. I have read this book twice. I started FAM about three years ago, just before I got married. It has worked for me for both birth control and pregnancy achievement. Even though I lost my first baby nine months ago, at least I know I can get pregnant and that the FAM really works. Good for you for "taking charge of your fertility". I highly recommend that book! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hope it works for you as well as it has worked for me.

  2. Just as a FYI..there is no REAL way to explain the labor pains to someone who hasn't been pregnant, but the CLOSEST thing to a real contraction (a small one) is getting an IUD put in. After natural births, it wasn't much to talk about for me, but regulating my body to it was a whole other story. I am so proud of you for getting your body on track and taking this huge step!

  3. Yeah when my doctor was doing the procedure and I almost screamed, she said, "that's what labor pains feel like". I was like, sweet...I did not have 9 months to prepare for this, and I don't get a baby at the end of it.

  4. I got an IUD put in after I had my daughter almost 2 and 1/2 yrs ago, and I have to say after 23 hrs. of labor and an inverted uterus the IUD barely hurt! I guess everyone has different experiences, It was great for me, I knew I would never remember to take the pill, I just wanted something I didn't have to worry about and gave me very little chance of getting preg again, and not having a period was nice too! I got it removed in Feb. and the only neg. I would say about it is that my periods have not returned yet and we would like to get preg. in June but that is looking like it will not be possible.
    I would definately recommend the IUD but I am sure it is not for everyone!

  5. Even though I'm not sexually active, I am amazed at how just paying attention to my body can tell me things about my moods and when I'm ovulating, PMS-ing, etc. I will have to read that saavy teens book. I wish I had read something more like that in sex ed instead of the very awkward crap my mother gave me to read.