For seven years, we have used fertility awareness to avoid pregnancy. I am so honored and thrilled to have Kimberly of Fertility Flower here today to share more with you on how to use this approach to natural family planning:
Many of you are already aware and perhaps even benefited from using fertility awareness to achieve a pregnancy. Did you know that it is just as effective as a natural, chemical-free form of birth control?
As with any alternative movement, the onus is on advocates and practitioners like me to present what we know in the public square. This is a particularly timely post given the recent discussion swirling around true feminism with regard to President Obama's mandate for the availability of birth control. But, the point of this piece is not to preach the ills of hormonal birth control in order to praise fertility awareness. Rather, I want to show you that with careful observation, fertility awareness is not only just as effective as a method of birth control but it's also aligned with our personal nature and mothernature.
I know that there are a few myths and misconceptions about 'charting to avoid' a pregnancy circulating around internetland and so I want to take a bit of time to deal with some of the most common ones in order to get things rolling.
Myth #1: Fertility awareness isn't as effective as a means to delay pregnancy as it is a way to become pregnant.
This is a common belief and one that can be easily debunked. At the crux of fertility awareness is its ability to identify when ovulation is approaching. If you are aware that ovulation is approaching, how you use that information depends entirely on you! If you want to grow your family, you time intercourse to happen during those few days of the month when you are most fertile. But if you want to delay pregnancy, you avoid intercourse during those periods. There are certainly rules associated with charting to avoid and bending those rules puts you at greater risk of getting pregnant but that's true of any birth control method.
The most well-known peer-reviewed research shows that the Sympto-Thermal Method used as birth control is associated with a failure rate that rivals that of birth control pills, at less than 1.8%. That's the case when couples abstain during the woman's fertile phase. The effectiveness of the Sympto-Thermal Method as birth control decreases a bit when couples continue to engage in intercourse during the woman’s fertile phase but instead use barriers to prevent pregnancy. That is an intuitive step down in effectiveness since couples are engaging in intercourse precisely when the woman is most fertile and barriers have their own failure rate.
Myth #2: Fertility awareness used to avoid pregnancy is only effective if you have regular cycles.
This myth would probably be true if fertility awareness were based on a calendar method, like Standard Days. That's also why the websites that promote calendar methods usually come with a disclaimer saying that they are only appropriate for women with cycles that are between 28 and 32 days. That covers most women but in order to be an effective birth control method, they require abstinence for large swathes of the month to accommodate slight variations in women's cycles.
With fertility awareness, you observe what is happening hormonally inside your body THIS cycle. The calendar can't tell you that this cycle might be 35 days instead of 30 due to travel, extra stress or Spring allergies which are starting to crop up. Fertility awareness is effective for women with regular, irregular or non-standard cycles because it demands that you tune in to your body whether your cycles are 28 days or 40 days.
Myth #3: Fertility awareness is too complicated - for example, I can never remember to take my temperature.
The waking temperature issue is a sticking point for many women, that's true. And, I can't say that I have an easy answer for that one. Apart from total abstinence, we have to remember to do something no matter which method of birth control we use (take the pill everyday at the same time, etc). For regular practitioners of fertility awareness - and they are normal, everyday women - it's second nature and takes no more time to observe one’s fertility signs as it does to engage any other method of birth control. But what practitioners gain in fertility awareness is more than birth spacing. I think the real selling point is that it's a system that works with your body and the rhythm of life rather than against it.
Think about it.
Our experience of life is an exercise in dynamic equilibrium. Rather than being still or static, we are forever bopping from one extreme to the other and it all works together to make something that we call ‘balance.’ There are times in our lives for feasting and times for fasting. Stillness and flux. Barreness and fruitfulness.
In science, there's a concept called parsimony – which means basically that the simplest answer is usually the right one. Once you start observing how your body moves through its cycle, you start to tune into that same kind of ebb and flow that is so much a part of our human experience and so it makes sense – is parsimonious. Meaning, there's a natural alignment between the precepts of fertility awareness and how we live our lives.
Hopefully I've dispelled some of the most common misconceptions about fertility awareness and charting to avoid a pregnancy. I’d love to hear about any others that you’ve heard. Only by bringing the truth into the light of day can we make our best decisions.
Kimberly is the owner of FertilityFlower.com, a cutting edge online ovulation calendar, offering fertility monitoring using a natural and science-based sympto-thermal method. They have been featured in The Stir, Pregnancy and Baby, and About.com, and they are March's featured sponsor here at SortaCrunchy.