I often toy with the idea of silly alternative names for my blog. “Ring Slings and Breastfeeding” is one. The other is “Parenting Ideas with Really Bad PR”. I totally get why parents balk at even looking into things like educaring, elimination communication or the fertility awareness method. They sound either twee, hippy-dippy or just plain weird. I mean, elimination communication? Who refers to pees and poos as elimination?! I totally get why big companies come up with catchy names like “formula” for a substance that would otherwise be known as “dehydrated breastmilk substitute”.
Here’s the short version: fertility awareness is a method of contraception that involves checking and making a note of your body’s symptoms throughout the month to avoid or promote pregnancy. With fertility awareness you spend the whole of your cycle checking things like your morning temperature, your vaginal discharge (I KNOW, I said the word discharge, I’m quivering too) and some other symptoms to work out if you are ovulating or not. Then you either have sex on the selected days (if you want a baby!) or use some other form of contraception (if you don’t). It is definitely, 100%, never ever the rhythm method (that’s the one where you have sex on certain days based on last month’s period which nearly always inevitably ends up in a Big Fat Positive on your pregnancy test).
I get why fertility awareness isn’t generally the first contraception of choice. It’s like disposable diapers. Yes, you might understand how cloth is healthier, more natural, more environmentally friendly and so on, but when it comes down to it, even simply deciding which cloth diaper option to go with is way more complicated than weighing you baby and popping down to the store for the right size nappy. Plus, I have several cloth nappy friends and they have still failed to convince me that scraping poo off a white muslin cloth is as simple as opening the rubbish bin.
I’m really not trying to get you to ditch the contraceptive pills – they are easy to use and fail-safe. But, terrible name aside, don’t you think the idea of fertility awareness is simply phenomenal? Who knew our bodies could tell us so much about ourselves?! To me it has always felt like the whole menstrual cycle is this big mystery that can only be fathomed by doctors in white coats with needles and hormone injections. I knew when I had a period but that’s about it.
To do fertility awareness you have to get quite intimate with, well, your intimates, which I totally understand is disconcerting for some (many?). I found it absolutely fascinting. Over the years I have battled my body on so many fronts, but when I started charting my cycle I could see it going like clockwork. I knew exactly when I was ovulating and was pretty sure I had to be pregnant about 3 days before taking the first test. All with the help of a cheap thermometer. No doctors or other technology required.
Again, fertility awareness is not going to be the solution for everyone, whether they are trying to conceive or prevent another pregnancy. But I wish it was talked about more. If you’re having problems getting pregnant, the first thing you need to do is chart your cycles but I had no idea that was even possible before I read this phenomenal book (which I’m giving away over here!). I couldn’t believe how much I had to learn about the menstrual cycle despite having studied biology and physiology at university. How many couples spend years trying unsuccessfully to have a baby only to eventually find out that the simply weren’t getting their act together on the right days?
I know the reason fertility awareness is not on any national curriculum is that the teachers are terrified students will go home with the message “I can have unprotected sex 27 days each month”. On the other hand I wish it hadn’t taken about 15 years (and wanting a baby!) for me to learn so much about my own body.
If you’re interested in learning more, there are quite a few websites (fertilityfriend.com) and apps (kindara) that can help you on your way. If you want to dive in the deep end, the definite guide is a book called “Taking charge of your fertility” by Toni Weschler.
How do you feel about contraceptives? Are you happy with your current choice? Would you consider giving fertility awareness a whirl?
Pssst! Did you see I’m holding a giveaway this December? Head over here for more details…