Go Green Between the Sheets with Fertility Awareness
Guest Post by Ashley Annis
You love farmer’s markets, co-ops and the organic section of every grocery store. Your recycling bin is full of Dr. Bronner’s bottles, and you pay extra for organic, hormone free foods. You try to make your life as eco-friendly as possible… but have you ever thought about your birth control? Going hormone free with your food is a great step towards a healthy, happy body, but did you know that you can go hormone free with your birth control too? Fertility awareness is a method of charting your cycle (not just menstruation, but your whole cycle) and using that information to prevent pregnancy–naturally!
Maybe you are thinking, “Ah, yes. The rhythm method. A clear path to pregnancy.” But let’s get one thing straight before we move along though: Fertility Awareness is NOT the rhythm method. It’s been practiced, studied, and shown to be up to 99.6% effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly. And along with fantastic effectiveness, you also get no side effects, no need to renew a prescription, no reason to have an invasive IUD procedure, and amazing information about what is going on inside your body.
The whole method revolves around charting, which you can do one of two ways: old fashioned paper and pen, or with an iPhone app (check out kindara.com). With the sympto-thermal method, there are two essential observations made each day: cervical fluid (sympto) and waking body temperature, or BBT (thermal). With these observations, a little practice, a good teacher and a good chart, a woman can know whether or not she could become pregnant on any given day.
Seems fairly simple, right? The reason the method works is because of what science has told us about sperm, eggs, and the human reproductive system. We know that the egg, once ovulation has occurred, can only live for 12-24 hours, and only one ovulation happens per cycle (except in the case of twins or triplets, where two or more eggs are ovulated but all basically around the same time). And we know that sperm can live anywhere from one hour to five days, depending on the environment. We know that cervical fluid is a great environment for sperm and can keep them alive, and we know that without cervical fluid present, the vagina is too acidic for sperm to survive. Basically, there are times in a woman’s cycle when she can get pregnant (when she has cervical fluid present in the vagina, and near the time of ovulation) and there are times when she cannot get pregnant (after ovulation has occurred, and–for some women with longer cycles–towards the beginning of their cycle before their body has had a chance to produce any sperm-lovin’ cervical fluid).
The next logical question then, is: How can I tell when I have cervical fluid? How can I know when I have ovulated? How will I know when I’m safe and when I’m not?
The best thing to do is to find a fertility awareness teacher, who can teach you the rules, help you understand what to look for, and how to interpret what you see. They can also give you guidance with anything you may be confused about, and encourage you on your charting journey. You can also check out the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. This fertility awareness bible will get you pointed in the right direction and give you a great foundation for your future practice. You can also start paying more attention to your lovely lady parts, and see what you can observe. Are there certain parts of your cycle where you notice cervical fluid? Start checking in with your body on a daily basis.
Not only is fertility awareness an amazing way to prevent pregnancy, but once you start to honour and understand your body a little better, you might also begin to feel more connected and confident with your whole self! And charting your cycle is not only useful for preventing pregnancy, but also for knowing when your period will start again after having a baby, and helping you through the transition to menopause. It’s a practice that spans the whole female life cycle and has much to offer women at any stage of life!
Ashley Annis – Fertility Awareness Teacher