If you’ve found yourself in the middle of an extremely negative conversation with your friends, family members, or perhaps your doctor (after mentioning that you use fertility awareness for birth control) let me reassure you that you’re not alone.
The reality is that even though the fertility awareness method is a scientifically proven and highly effective method of birth control, most people have either never heard of it before or honestly don’t really know what it is.
Although the fertility awareness method is basically the complete opposite of the rhythm method, as far as most people are concerned they’re basically the same thing.
What this means for you is that you know way more about it than everyone else. Although at first glance it seems like it would be nice to “know more” about how something really works, it puts you in an extremely difficult position; especially when it comes the the fertility awareness method.
There are a number of ways to navigate the waters when it comes to talking to friends, family members, and health professionals. As you gain confidence in using the method successfully you’ll get to the point where their opinions don’t matter. You’ll know for yourself that it works and you won’t feel the need to convince anyone. You won’t be tempted to justify or explain your choices to anyone, but that lovely happy place takes time to get to. Here are a few suggestions for you to think about until you get there:
Say you’re using condoms
But Lisa, I thought you were going to tell me how to break it to my friends and family that I’m using FAM now! We’ll get to that, but this is my way of gently reminding you of a few key points regarding your body and your fertility:
First, it’s none of anyone’s business. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for how you manage your fertility. You don’t need anyone’s permission, blessing, or acceptance. You’re an adult, it’s your body, and thus, your decision. End of story.
The second key point is that sometimes it’s just not worth it. You’ll soon discover who in your life is genuinely interested and supportive. Those folks are the audience to share with. When you encounter people who aren’t supportive…even if those people are your close friends and family, having a back up answer like “we’re using condoms” can save you hours of unnecessary discouragement and aggravation.
Talk about the health benefits
One of the reasons that I’m so passionate about helping women to connect with their bodies and their fertility is because fertility awareness provides a wealth of information about your body that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Your menstrual cycle is the 5th Vital Sign of your health and vitality. That means you can use your menstrual cycle as a tool to monitor your health. When you chart your cycles with fertility awareness your charts become an early warning system alerting you immediately to possible fertility issues, endocrine disorders, and menstrual cycle concerns.
I’ve personally worked with clients who, through their charting, were able to discover thyroid conditions, PCOS symptoms, nutrient deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and identify their luteal phase defect.
If you focus more on the health benefits of charting this could garner you more support for your decision to use fertility awareness. Who can tell you that you’re wrong for wanting to improve your health? This may not be enough to “convince someone”, but in reality, you’re not going to “convince anyone” anyways.
Talk about the empowerment and freedom fertility awareness brings you
Over the years I’ve found that as women, we all go through fairly predictable phases after discovering fertility awareness. The first is disbelief: “Could this really work?” and, “Are there really days of my cycle that I can’t get pregnant?” After disbelief there’s excitement because you’ll want to share the “news” with everyone you know. And then you’ll probably find yourself feeling frustrated and wondering, “Why didn’t anyone tell me this?” and, “Every woman should know this!”
If you’re able to keep the conversation on your passion for how fertility awareness could impact the world in a positive way, and the freedom and empowerment that it could bring to all women, that might steer the conversation away from the typical objections like “it doesn’t work” and “that isn’t an effective method of birth control.”
Talk about the science
Before I get into this section the caveat here is that you’re not going to change anyone’s mind in one conversation. No one likes to be “wrong” and I’ve met precious few people that aren’t invested in whatever it is that they believe. With that said, if you’re ready to jump into an all out “battle” then when you get the “there’s no scientific research to back up what you’re saying” and “everyone knows the rhythm method doesn’t work” then you can load them up with the science.
Fertility awareness works because you need cervical mucus to get pregnant. Cervical mucus is essential for you to conceive naturally, and you produce it in response to your rising estrogen levels as you approach ovulation. Without cervical mucus sperm die inside your vagina within minutes because of the naturally acidic pH of your vagina, and also because they can’t penetrate your cervix. If you only have unprotected sex on the days when you have no cervical mucus (otherwise known as your infertile days) you can’t get pregnant for 3 important reasons:
1. Your cervix is closed and filled with a thick mucus plug that sperm can’t penetrate when you’re outside of your fertile window (if sperm can’t even get through your cervix and into your uterus they can’t fertilize anything – that means no pregnancy!)
2. When you don’t have any mucus your estrogen levels are too low to trigger ovulation (no egg and no ovulation = no chance of pregnancy), and
3. Your vagina is acidic and sperm die in your vagina on the days you don’t have mucus (if the sperm are dead, that means no fertilization of your eggs and no pregnancy!)
For those who argue that it isn’t an effective birth control method, scientific research has been done in this area showing that when used perfectly, fertility awareness is 99.6% effective in preventing pregnancy.
But even if you bring a horse to water you can’t make her drink. Kind of like making dinner for a toddler – can’t make her eat it either. You can have the most carefully crafted arguments with the most accurate and verifiable peer reviewed studies, but that doesn’t mean the person talking to you will change their mind. You might find that the harder you dig your heels in and argue your points the more firmly your chatting buddy will support their counter points.
I discovered fertility awareness in the year 2000, so for me I’ve had 17 years to marinate on this. I know where I stand, and I also know that it works. If you find that it really gets under your skin when someone challenges you about it or tries to convince you that you’ve made the wrong choice, perhaps it’s only bothering you because you’re not as comfortable in your own understanding as you thought you were. Perhaps you know the research is out there but you’ve never explored it for yourself, or perhaps there is a part of you that doesn’t fully trust the method because there are still aspects of it that you don’t understand fully.
That’s OK. It’s all part of the learning process, and I’ve definitely been there. The key when you’re doing something that falls against the grain and flies in the face of what “everyone else is doing” is that you have to surround yourself with like minded and supportive people who get it. You can’t waste your time fighting with people who won’t change their mind, and frankly don’t really care one way or the other. Save your vital energy for your inner circle. The people in your life who love you and support you. For everyone else just remember “we use condoms.”
Now I want to hear from you! Have you had a negative experience sharing that you use fertility awareness with someone in your life? Do you disagree or feel that lying and saying you use condoms is a cop out? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
You’re saying it’s the 5th vital sign of vitality and health.
I totally agree, only wondering what the other 4 are.
Fertility Friday says
Hi Janine, the 4 main vital signs measured are: pulse rate, temperature, respiration rate, and blood pressure 🙂
Aaah respiration… didn’t think about that! Thank you.
By the way, I can open the links in the blog.
Fertility Friday says
Thanks Janine. Link updated!
Thanks for writing this! I’ve had quite a few experiences telling friends and family and realized quickly that I need to craft the news better. I find that Women my age (late 20’s, early 30’s) are interested and excited to learn about it, as many have had negative effects from the pill and have been on the pill for longer than a decade. I am still using condoms during my fertile period, so I feel OK using that as my back-up argument!
Most of my bad experiences center around older women and a generation gap – do you have any ideas about bringing this up to women who have grown up in a different generation, who may not be as open, and who (I can imagine) may be angered or saddened by the fact that your cycle is within your control? (Especially when they believe only doctors know what’s going on, and may have had trouble, or spent much time/money conceiving)
My mom (68) took the news skeptically at first, but has an open mind and let me rattle off all the info to her, and she trusts me to be responsible. My sister (48) also took it skeptically; though when I asked her what she did after going off the pill she told me, you guessed it…condoms! The worst experience was my Aunt. She is in her 50’s and had trouble conceiving my cousin when she was in her 30’s. She simultaneously told me to be ‘very, very careful’ about getting pregnant (implying that it’s easy to do) while telling me it was so hard to get pregnant (because she had a difficult time) After learning FAM, this explanation seemed illogical and hypocritical.
Her pushback centered around the idea that only doctors could tell when you are ovulating (partly true if you want to find out the exact day) and that it your cycle was so variable that you could never possibly predict/know. The most difficult part was that she didn’t really let me give details, and when I tried to explain the two phases of your cycle, she latched onto the luteal phase being more or less ‘the same’ for each individual woman, (still not understanding exactly what it was) and flat out told me I was wrong. *sigh*
I’m learning that going around telling everyone isn’t the best idea – but I’d still love to share this information who may find it valuable.