The benefits of fertility awareness: working with nature, not against it
How does Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) / Natural Family Planning (NFP) empower women?
Almost every woman, at one point or another, finds herself in one of the following situations:
- Trying to
- Trying to
- Simply wanting to understand her body’s
Such women are acutely aware of the implications of fertility in their personal and family lives, whether it’s the heartache that can stem from infertility or the complex emotions, often including anxiety, surrounding family planning choices.
Unfortunately, many women lack adequate understanding about their bodies’ natural processes, including their personal window of fertility, and feel the need to surrender to medicine to dictate what their cycles do. Both the fear of becoming pregnant and the fear of being unable to conceive push women towards artificial hormones and invasive treatments that are often expensive and can have unpleasant—and sometimes harmful—side effects.
However, women are more confident in making decisions regarding their fertility when they understand it. By letting their cycles run their course and pinpointing their peak fertility, women can use such knowledge to try to achieve pregnancy or to avoid it. By learning about and working with one’s cycle—rather than fighting against it—they can take control of their fertility and plan their lifestyle accordingly.
Thus, the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), also known as (NFP), frees women from needing to deal with unnecessary side effects and problems that may arise from trying to control their cycle artificially.
Hormonal intervention: why it's a problem
It may come as a surprise that the birth control pill, despite its effectiveness and popularity, is actually discontinued by as many as 50% of women who begin taking it before the end of the first year of use. Why? Many are left feeling disillusioned by the drug’s promise of regulating their cycle with only minimal side effects.
Certainly, each woman’s reaction to drugs is unique and varies. But some common reasons are the unpleasant of depression (pill users are twice as likely as nonusers to be depressed), decreased libido, increased appetite, breakthrough bleeding, and the small (yet harmful) increased risk of developing blood clots or, later on, breast cancer. Then there’s the cost of monthly pills—just plain expensive!
Additionally, many fertility experts, including doctors, are concerned about the fact that women often are not informed that the birth control pill does not always prevent ovulation, causing a moral dilemma for those who believe life begins at conception. Despite the hormones’ ability to prevent the release of eggs, sometimes a “breakthrough ovulation” takes place. A woman can still conceive a baby (embryo), which in some cases cannot attach to the uterine lining because of synthetic hormones, preventing the embryo from developing fully.
This is due to the of changing the lining of the endometrium, which creates a hostile environment for the newly created embryo. A similar and perhaps worse mechanism of IUDs (coils), like Mirena, prevents implantation of an already conceived embryo by physical intrusion. Thus, a woman’s body, affected by artificial hormones, may involuntarily abort the newly formed embryo, a reality that some women may have difficulty coming to grips with.
Some women, knowing all of the risks of hormonal birth control methods, will decide that it is worth tricking their bodies regarding ovulation and dealing with the side effects in order to prevent pregnancy. But it is essential that first they understand the negative implications of hormonal birth control.
FAM / NFP benefits and roadblocks
There are a plethora of benefits for women who decide to learn their bodies’ natural rhythm of fertility. By tracking the various signals of their cycle, women can identify their peak fertility and use that information to try to conceive or to avoid a pregnancy. Fertility awareness puts the responsibility of family planning on both partners, requiring cooperation and a commitment to working with the woman’s cycle. Couples who have used fertility awareness as a method of birth control have reported better communication in their relationship. As an additional benefit, women who track their cycles will also soon be able to predict with great accuracy their days of menstruation.
If fertility awareness is so great, why don’t more couples use this method to try to conceive or to prevent pregnancy?
Despite the great benefits of natural family planning and fertility awareness methods, some couples sense roadblocks, which may vary from couple to couple. A common turn-off of fertility awareness methods is either lack of fundamental knowledge about women’s fertility, or fear concerning the amount of dedication required to ensure accuracy in charting one’s cycle. Often, it takes a cross-section of two or three elements over a period of time to achieve an accurate prediction of a woman’s most fertile days: charting daily basal body temperature, classifying cervical mucus consistency, and keeping track of menstruation in a calendar. It can be discouraging for those who are not yet familiar with the various stages of cervical mucus in a woman’s cycle.
Fertility tracking made easy
Fortunately, there are aids available for women wishing to use fertility awareness and natural family panning to achieve or avoid a pregnancy. One of these is the natural birth control monitorand its sister fertility monitor, . These monitors essentially do all the hard work and “remembering,” while users reap the benefits of letting their cycles run their course free from artificial hormones or devices. So now – without excuse - every woman can plan a family without any contraceptives or side effects.
These monitors compute users’ individual daily temperatures with data gathered from over 700,000 menstruating women to pinpoint each user’s unique fertile times, even for irregular, long or short cycles. For those trying to avoid a pregnancy, the red light (indicating peak fertility) tells you when to abstain from intercourse. For those seeking to become pregnant, the Baby-Comp® device helps one monitor peak fertility in an unobtrusive way. Many couples are not infertile at all, but simply incorrectly pinpoint their fertility windows, assuming all women ovulate around day fourteen— an error Baby-Comp® can quickly help correct. Baby-Comp® also registers if you don’t ovulate or if you have a hormonal imbalance responsible for potential miscarriages (yellow body dysfunction). According to scientific trials of these products, they boast 99.3% accuracy in helping women to prevent pregnancy, which is equal to and even higher than popular invasive contraceptives and any on-off ovulation predictors.
Thankfully, we live in a time when health education is more readily available than ever before. But it is up to individual women to be proactive in their approach to family planning, including understanding the risks of hormonal and invasive methods and the benefits of fertility awareness and natural family planning. Such knowledge yields confidence and power for women seeking to work with— rather than against— their menstrual cycles.