This week is apparently National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week! To celebrate, I thought I’d share with you my reasons for practicing fertility awareness.
Note: While NFP Awareness Week is a Catholic thing, I just thought it was a great opportunity to introduce people to fertility awareness methods. So don’t write this post off yet if you’re not Catholic! At least check out all of the reasons why these methods are the bomb dot com.
What is Fertility Awareness?
Fertility awareness is a natural method based on a woman’s menstrual cycle. Most people automatically assume that it’s a birth control method. That is true, but it’s so much more than that. Tracking your fertility can also be instrumental in becoming pregnant, especially if it’s been difficult so far. Plus, fertility tracking is simply a way to know exactly what is going on with your sexual and reproductive health – knowledge I think many women (and men) don’t have.
Fertility awareness methods are a lot more intense than other forms of birth control because it requires a daily routine. You have to track numerous signs of fertility, like basal body temperature, cervical mucus, and cervical position. These things are useful in tracking your fertility because they change during each menstrual cycle in response to the hormones that cause ovulation.
While this is a general way of explaining fertility awareness, there are actually quite a few ways of practicing this method. I won’t go into the details of all of them here, but I can write another blog post if people are interested. I currently use the Symptothermal method, which requires tracking a combination of all of the fertility signs I mentioned and tracking it on a chart.
[RELATED] Getting to Know Me
Why I Decided to Practice Fertility Awareness
There are many reasons to track fertility. Most people know of the religious reasons. That’s actually not what first led me to this. Here are some things that convinced me to try fertility awareness (in order of what attracted me first).
I wanted to educate myself about my own body.
In my senior year of undergrad, I realized how little I knew about my body when I was. I was taking a lot of women’s studies classes, as well as anthropology classes that had to do with sexuality, so of course I got sort of granola. Specifically, I got granola about the way women’s reproduction and sexual health is treated in Western Culture. Our sanitary items are filled with chemicals. We use birth control methods that alter our hormones. We don’t even know what’s normal (and abnormal) about our own bodies.
So, eventually I went off the Pill. I wasn’t having sex anymore (that’s a long story for another post perhaps), so there wasn’t even really a point. I originally went on the Pill because I had horrible cramps. Cramps so bad that my mother once found me passed out on the bathroom floor. I did have to deal with that pain for a few months after I went off the pill. But I decided to stick it out, and eventually my cramps became less severe.
Then I started noticing things down there. Like the residue on my panties. Or the twinge I would get on one side of my lower abdomen once a month. And I liked that I could guess where I was in my menstrual cycle based on these things. Even without researching all of those signs (I didn’t do that until way later), I was beginning to become more in tune with my body. It was empowering.
I wanted the option of conceiving immediately after discontinuing contraception.
Well, eventually I started having sex again. (Although not for as long this time). And when I thought about which type of birth control to use the second time around, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I wanted kids. I didn’t want them ASAP, obviously. But if I got into a serious relationship, I knew I would want to have kids pretty soon after I got married. Some of the birth control methods involve chemicals that take MONTHS to get out of your system. I ended up choosing an implant, since it was a method that took the least amount of time between the end of birth control and conception.
And now, of course, there’s fertility awareness!
I wanted to follow the Church’s teachings.
Okay, here’s the reason most people know. Yes, the Catholic Church is against artificial methods of birth control. No, the Catholic Church is not against ALL methods of birth control. Fertility awareness methods approved by the Catholic Church include the Symptothermal method, the Billings Ovulation, the Marquette method, and the Creighton model.
As a newbie Catholic, I am particularly worried about following the Church’s teachings as exactly as I can. I have realized, of course, that I will fall short. Often. Daily. That’s what the sacrament of confession is for. But when I confessed that I was on artificial birth control in my first ever confession, I left realizing that was something I could change, easier and faster than many of the other things I confessed. So, I stopped taking my artificial birth control that same night.
I wanted to develop greater communication, cooperation and responsibility with my boyfriend/future husband.
Those women’s studies and anthropology of sex classes that made me super granola earlier in my life? Yeah, they also instilled in me a deep sense of equality when it comes to sexual and reproductive health. Well, actually, that sense of equality probably came from my mother and grandmother as soon as I was born. But those classes helped me connect that value to sex and reproduction for the first time.
Men need to take more responsibility for sex and reproduction. And part of that means knowing more about sexual health, both their own and their partner’s. Fertility awareness involves a lot – and I mean a lot – of communication if it’s going to work. Taking my temperature every morning means my future husband is going to hear it. Avoiding pregnancy means my future husband needs to know where I am in my cycle.
Why I Decided to Continue Using Fertility Awareness
I’m fairly new to tracking my fertility. And since I’m not actually having sex, I’ll have to be honest and tell you that I haven’t been following it exactly. But, even though I have a lot more to learn, I know I’ll be sticking with it (and following it to a T) once I’m married. Here are some things I’ve learned about fertility awareness in the last few months that I really enjoy.
I like that fertility awareness has few or no side effects.
Let me tell you my horror story. Like I said above, I used an implant the second time I used artificial birth control. I have a scar from when it was removed. Which may be normal. What’s not normal about removing an implant – the doctor digging around in your arm for about 15 minutes trying to get the damn thing out because it was so far down. And then telling you that if it had gone on any longer he would have had to make a referral to a surgeon.
Yes. That happened to me.
I have another friend who felt like she was going crazy when she was on the Pill. Her mood swings were ridiculous. I’m sure there are even more stories out there. But for me, these are enough to convince me to stick it out with fertility awareness. There’s no risk of either of these things happening.
I like that fertility awareness is inexpensive.
I already worry about finances right now. While the Pill was free the last time I was on it, that might not be the case anymore with the changes in healthcare. And getting an implant put in and removed costs a fair amount of money. And, again, I’m not even sure if health plans will even cover that cost anymore.
Besides the initial cost of the basal body thermometer, fertility awareness is free! You may have to pay for charts with some methods, as well. But I use a free app called Kindara that works with the symptothermal method.
I like that fertility awareness allows me to track and improve my PMS symptoms.
Even though my cramps aren’t as severe as they were when my menstrual cycle first started, I do still have them sometimes. Not to mention other symptoms like headaches and ovary twinges that I never associated with my cycle before. In my free app, I can note everything that happens to me on a given day. And I’ve started noticing patterns!
I haven’t done this yet, but I actually want to track how my mood is affected by my cycle. That might help me prepare better for anxiety attacks and bouts of depression.
Have you ever heard of fertility awareness? Do you use it yourself? Still have questions? Let me know!