Fertility awareness gets such a bad wrap. Since fertility awareness still remains on the fringe of popular culture it is often misunderstood, and since most people have heard of the rhythm method it never fails that the fertility awareness method and the rhythm method are considered to be one in the same. I have found that most women in my life talk about keeping track of their cycles when they decide they are ready to start trying for a baby. This often comes after years of being on the pill. I find it interesting that after 5, 10 or 15 plus years of taking hormones to suppress the natural flow of things, when women stop taking the pill they are surprised to find that it often takes several months, at times 6 months or more, for their cycles to resume.
The pill provides a consistent dose of synthetic forms of estrogen and progesterone either chemically synthesized in a laboratory or derived from the urine of pregnant horses. I used to lovingly refer to the pill as horse piss estrogen. The pill disrupts the endocrine system’s ability to regulate sex hormones and causes an underproduction of the body’s natural hormones, thus preventing ovulation and menstruation (source). That puts the pill in the category of an endocrine disruptor, and as stated eloquently in this article anything that interferes with the natural production of hormones – or how those hormones are disseminated in our bodies IS an endocrine disruptor.
The fertility awareness method on the other hand is an extremely effective, hormone free and relatively inexpensive method of birth control with no negative impacts on a woman’s health or her endocrine system. The fertility awareness method is a scientifically based method of tracking the 3 primary signs of fertility (cervical mucus, basal body temperature, and cervical position). There are different practices when it comes to charting, but the important distinction between the ‘rhythm method’ and the fertility awareness method is the act of prediction. One of the prevalent myths about fertility awareness is that if your cycle is at all irregular or shifts month to month then fertility awareness is not the right method for you. Fertility awareness involves observing the signs of fertility that you see on a daily basis. This takes out the guess work. Once you have learned to observe and chart your fertile signs it is possible to know if you are fertile each day of your cycle based on what you actually observed on that day. Therefore it does not involve looking at past cycles to help you figure out if you are fertile. Looking at previous cycles to estimate if you are fertile is guessing and therefore not a reliable way to use fertility awareness, especially if your intention is to prevent pregnancy.
When fertility awareness is put in the same category as the rhythm method it perpetuates the idea that you should be using what happened last month to determine your fertile days. For example, “well my cycles are usually about 29 days so that means I will ovulate on day 14”. It is nice to use past charts to identify patterns and learn more about your own unique menstrual cycle, however the fertility awareness method involves learning how to identify your fertile signs and developing the habit of checking them on a daily basis. This way you are never guessing. You are relying on what is actually happening in your body on that day. When used perfectly, the fertility awareness method has a 99.6% effectiveness rate. Using fertility awareness helps to increase body literacy and it can also be used as a measure of health. When a woman is charting her fertile signs her charts can help her to accurately determine her due date as well if she becomes pregnant.
As the potential health risks and side effects of hormonal birth control methods become more widely understood the fertility awareness method provides an important option for women whether they are trying to get pregnant or trying to avoid pregnancy. In using fertility awareness women are taking back the control of their fertility, their hormones, their endocrine systems and their health.