Why Every Woman Should Have Fertility Awareness
Most women feel completely mystified by the inner-workings of their menstrual cycle. I spoke more about what is normal and abnormal in a menstrual cycle on another blog. The majority of women have also never heard of fertility awareness, AKA fertility awareness-based methods of family planning. So let’s start by talking about what it actually is.
What is fertility awareness?
Fertility awareness is a collection of methods that any woman can use to begin to track signs and symptoms of her fertility. There are many different ways that women can track this, including simple at-home LH test strips, more advanced fertility monitors (like the Clear Blue Fertility Monitor), basal body temperature (with a highly calibrated thermometer), or with observing vaginal discharge (like mucus and bleeding). There are also many apps available on the market that prompt women to track one or more of these symptoms and input them on their phone.
But why would a woman want to track her fertility?
Sex Talks in the Ski Lodge
Let me share a little story with you. I was pregnant and sitting in a ski lodge, while some of the group I was with decided they wanted to try a more intense side of the mountain that I didn’t think I could safely make it down. So I took the opportunity to put my feet up and drink some hot chocolate (as all big, pregnant ladies should). Another women in the group was also feeling intimidated by the slopes, so she was sitting with me and asking me more about what I do. I shared that I am a pelvic health physical therapist, and that I also teach fertility awareness.
She stopped me with a very confused face and asked me what that was. I shared about how it helps women track their fertility for family planning or to just monitor their health. And as basically ALL women do when they hear that I have some magical and often untapped knowledge about menstruation, she immediately started hitting me with a huge list of questions.
“Is it normal that I have spotting for a couple of days before I start my period?” “ When do I actually ovulate? Right after my period? At the end of my cycle?” “Why do I feel cramping a couple of weeks before my period?” Would the birth control pill help me with my acne?”
Whew. Where to begin?
What this woman desperately wanted was more health literacy about her cycle! She had no idea, like many women, what actually takes place through the course of the cycle, so she never knew what was normal. According to one source, “Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.”
By tracking your fertility, you gain great awareness of what is going on in your body. After all, it is a lot more complex and amazing than it may appear at first glance.
Avoiding Adverse Reactions
Another great benefit of tracking your cycle with fertility awareness is the ability to use it in place of the innumerable and potentially harmful forms of contraception out there. This has become a much more mainstream topic lately, that the Pill is actually not very good for you, or that IUDs can slip out of place or even perforate your organs. Oh, and condoms aren’t very effective, and “pulling out”/ the withdrawal method could likely still lead to pregnancy!
But all of that aside, we know that fertility awareness is actually just the absence of any intervention and is absolutely safe. While some may argue that there are health benefits with various forms of contraception, I think we can all agree that there are also risks. Using a natural method is a great way to be kind to your body.
Identifying Health Issues
While we are discussing how we can be kind to our bodies through fertility awareness, let’s talk about how we can find out if there is a problem! While many forms of contraception, like the Pill, are used to manage symptoms of conditions like endometriosis or PMS, the Pill does nothing to actually resolve the issues or even definitively diagnose them.
Contraception may mask what is going wrong with your body, but it will never be able to optimize your health. Fertility awareness can be used to identify health issues in many cases. Some standardized methods even have protocols that allow physicians to use your charting of your cycle. By having you chart out your fertility signs, the medical provider can target hormonal interventions or perform more testing when it is most appropriate in your cycle. It takes the guessing out the matter!
This is a natural way to cooperate with your fertility and to learn more about what underlying health conditions may be causing your concerns.
Family Planning as a Team
While many may think that fertility awareness can only be effectively used to try to achieve pregnancy, it is actually very effective at avoiding pregnancy as well. And while traditional contraception typically requires one person or the other to take on all of the responsibility of family planning, fertility awareness-based methods actually encourage mutual cooperation and ownership of both partners. It is refreshing to imagine men and women working together in this important, if not critical, aspect of our sexuality.
There are so many benefits to learning more about your fertility, that i strongly encourage you to seek out more information. Here is a great site that you can check out to learn more about the various methods and ways of tracking fertility. Happy charting!