Today I want to tell you about a birth control method way more empowering then the pill, patch, shot, IUD, condom, diaphragm, or sponge. An amazing birth control system that only costs about $10-$15 to start and after that is free. A birth control system that can allow you to have unprotected natural sex for a majority of the month.
Now some of you may be blushing. But sex is natural and a wonderful thing between two married people. Its an intimate physical, emotional and spiritual connection that you have with that one special person. It’s not something to be ashamed of. Now if I have family members or friends reading this and you are uncomfortable hearing about what I use for birth control and why, then you may want to stop reading. But I will keep this PG rated.
First lets establish some facts.
1. The average woman’s cycle is NOT 28 days. Furthermore most women do NOT ovulate on day 14 of their cycle.
2. Women are fertile for only a few days of their cycle. (Approx 7-10 depending on the women)
3. Sperm can live up to 5 days in fertile cervical mucus.
4. After the egg is released (ovulation) it only stays for 24-36 hours before breaking down.
Keep these facts in mind. What I want to introduce to you is commonly known as Natural Family Planning (NFP). NFP is not a Catholic thing. Another very similar method is Fertility Awareness (FAM).
- Both involve learning about your body and charting the biological signs that show when you are fertile.
- The one difference is that NFP involves abstaining from sex during the fertile period. FAM allows the use of barrier methods during the fertile period.
- NFP is more effective because there is no risk of birth control failing during the fertile period.
- These are NOT the Rhythm Method. The Rhythm Method incorrectly assumes that every woman has a 28 day cycle and that they ovulate on day 14.
NFP and FAM involve learning about your body. Your body is an amazing thing. It gives you very very clear signs of when you are fertile. Now I am going to explain a little about the methods but this is not a tutorial. If you want to do this method I strongly encourage you to find an instructor in your area or for FAM look into getting Toni Weschler’s book ‘Taking Charge of Your Fertility’. Weschler’s book allows you to teach yourself but having an instructor is valuable at the beginning when you are learning.
There are a few methods you can use that involve one or more of the following things.
- Cervical Fluid
- Basal Body Temperature
- Ovulation Monitor/Test
I personally monitor just the cervical fluid and the basal body temperature. The ovulation monitor is something you can also do in addition to one or both of these but it is not necessary to use this method. So lets talk a little bit about cervical fluid and basal body temperature.
Cervical Fluid: Your cervical fluid is not dirty. It’s not a sign of uncleanliness. It is perfectly natural and necessary. The cervical fluid is the medium that either stops sperm from reaching the egg or helps them reach it. Generally when you are infertile your cervical fluid will be nonexistent or sticky. As you approach fertility your cervical fluid becomes more abundant and creamy or wet. The most fertile cervical fluid is stretchy and like egg whites. Now these can vary slightly woman to woman so you have to learn what is normal for your body.
Basal Body Temperature: You can take this temperature with an $8 digital thermometer that you buy at Walmart. This is your waking temperature to the nearest 1/10th of a degree (e.g. 97.6). You take your temperature around the same time each day when you awake from sleeping before you do anything else (e.g. get out of bed, talk, use the bathroom). Before ovulation your temperature stays fairly constant and you can use the highest of these temperatures to draw a coverline. When your temperature rises more then 0.2 degrees over the coverline for 3 consecutive days, you know that you have ovulated the day before the first rise. Your temperature will stay elevated until after your period, though your period will cause temperatures to fluctuate a little. After your period your temperature will drop again.
Here is a photo I grabbed off Google image search showing the basic idea.
Combining just these two methods you will know when you are fertile and when you stop being fertile. Now depending on the method you choose and how intent you are on trying to avoid pregnancy your period of time that you abstain or use birth control can vary. The very conservative methods call for 2 weeks (giving extra buffer days on either side of the fertile period). But as I said before a women is fertile only about 7-10 days of their cycle.
So why take the time to learn this?
- You learn what is normal for your body.
- You can identify health problems much earlier then most people because you will know when something is not right. e.g. things like hormonal imbalances, hypo and hyper – thyroidism, polycystic ovaries, ovarian cysts, stress, infertility, suboptimal fertility, endometrial polyps, cervical inflammation, and fibroids.
- You can either prevent pregnancy or work towards achieving pregnancy
- You can identify reasons why you may be infertile without undergoing a battery of unnecessary and possibly painful tests.
- It’s free after the initial start up purchases.
- It only takes a few minutes a day.
- It can be done at any point of the reproductive part of your life. All ages can use it, even perimenopausal women.
- It can be great for your relationship with your spouse because it requires that you communicate and work together on preventing or working toward pregnancy. It also makes you both responsible.
- There is no health risk at all. No hormones, insertions of foreign objects, monthly doctor visits etc… No risk of cancer, stroke, heart disease, mood swings, lower libido etc..
- The divorce rate among NFP users is less than 2%. Whereas the average divorce rate is 50%.
- NFP encourages couples to find other ways to spend time together and have fun during the fertile period. So in essence it takes the focus off of sex and lets you both focus on other ways to connect as a couple.
- It can be used as an early indicator of pregnancy. If you have 18 high temperatures after ovulation it means that you are likely pregnant. This can be an indicator long before a urine test would turn positive.
- You can prevent pregnancy scares. Because you know when you are fertile, as long as you abstain or know that the barrier method could didn’t fail you don’t have to panic when your cycle is longer then usually. It usually is just because you ovulated later then usual.
- You will know for sure when your period is coming. If you have very irregular cycles like me, you never know when Aunt Flo will strike. However the Luteal Phase (time after ovulation until the first day of menstruation) rarely ever changes it’s length. Once you know your luteal phase length you can count from the day you ovulated and know exactly when your period will start.
- It can be just as effective as hormonal birth control. What makes the difference is how much you are willing to follow the rules and you learning how to chart properly.
- You can have natural, unprotected sex for most of your cycle.
So how did I find out about this and why am I so convinced it is the best method? When I was a junior in high school I did a term paper on birth control. Through my research I found that ALL forms of hormonal birth control have the possibility of causing an abortion. They generally work by 3 mechanisms. The third mechanism is rarely mentioned, that is the thinning of the uterus’s lining (also known as the endometrium). This lining builds up over your cycle to allow a place for the fertilized egg to implant. So if a egg does happen to be fertilized when you are on hormonal birth control there is the possibility that it will be unable to implant and therefore will be aborted. You would never know this happened. So if you believe that life begins at conception this can bring up a moral and ethical dilemma. Personally I can’t live with that without feeling guilt and worry that I had possibly caused the abortion of a child. My husband knew this and supported me, even though it made choosing birth control a lot more difficult. So I was left with the barrier methods, most of which have their own risks (such as the sponge and diaphragm). Let’s just say that sex is not meant to be experienced with a barrier. It’s just not as good.
Hence our two children, William (our son) and Kai (our angel). Both unplanned. After losing Kai my husband and I had a serious discussion. Whenever we tried to plan when we were going to have children, God changed our plans. So we decided to give FAM a whirl and see what happened. Of course at that point I still had a lot of misinformation about it. I thought that it wouldn’t work as well for me because I had irregular cycles (untrue). I thought that I couldn’t take my temperature because I don’t wake up at the exact same time every day (untrue). I’ve only charted one cycle but it is amazing to see that temperature jump and know that my body was designed this way. All these years and I have had no idea that I had all this knowledge right at my fingertips.
I’m sure I’ll be adding onto this as I go. As I said before, I just wanted to let everyone know about these methods and clear up some ideas that were untrue about them. If you’d like to pursue one of these methods I strongly encourage you to contact an instructor in your area or at least pick up ‘Taking Charge of Your Fertility’ if you are good at teaching yourself. Many doctors are also misguided about these methods so do not be surprised if your doctor does not trust the method. Many doctors think that NFP and FAM are the same thing as the Rhythm Method and they are not.
If you are interested in more information leave a comment and I will try to connect you to the right sources.