Fertility Awareness is NOT just about Making Babies
By Ashly Gilmore
Let me introduce you to fertility awareness and a subject that should not be taboo – your menstrual cycle.
My desire for you after reading this is to feel pumped about your period and womanly health. You might even pop out to the shops to purchase an electronic thermometer. Stick around and keep reading to see what I’m raving on about.
Fertility awareness is NOT just about making babies! Your fertility encompasses your entire reproductive health and in turn, your general health too. Your menstrual cycle delivers so much information about your health, in fact sometimes it is screaming at us to take notice. If you’re experiencing extremely painful periods with abdominal cramping, tender breasts, and changeable moods among other symptoms – your hormones are trying to tell you something. You don’t have to suffer monthly from debilitating symptoms. Contrary to what you may have been told, this is not normal. It is common, but not normal.
Fertility awareness is the practice of learning your fertility signs to understand when you are “fertile” and “non-fertile” during your menstrual cycle using a World Health Organisation (WHO) approved and scientific method called the “Sympto-Thermal Method” (STM).
Why track your cycle using the STM?
There are many reasons why tracking your cycle is so beneficial, let me list a few:
You learn your “fertile” and “non-fertile” days and use this information for CONTRACEPTION. You can actually have unprotected sex at certain times during your cycle, safely, without pregnancy scares. How good is that?! NB: please learn how to do this properly before having unprotected intercourse willy-nilly (pun intended).
This is contraception WITHOUT SIDE-EFFECTS like those that come alongside hormonal contraception.
Affordability is through the roof! It is the only contraception that is FREE (after the initial cost of learning how to do it).
You learn the best time to have unprotected intercourse to optimise your chances of creating a BABY human!
You can predict with accuracy when your next period will arrive. Can you see how helpful that can be? If you know when your period is due, you can plan your activities like a boss.
You gain a tonne of information about your hormones and general health.
Not to mention how empowering it is to learn how YOUR unique cycle works and use this information to support your wellness.
Did you know that you are only fertile for 5-9 days per menstrual cycle? And that the window for actual conception to occur is much less than that, perhaps even as little as 8 hours?
Let’s compare that to men who are fertile from puberty – death. Yup! Those cheeky fertile buggers... You don’t have to entirely switch of your hormonal system in order to avoid pregnancy. Learn your body’s physiology instead!
There are four signs of fertility we teach clients about, here are two examples of these to start you off (otherwise we’ll be here all day):
Basal body temperature (BBT)
Your BBT changes throughout your cycle under the influence of certain hormones, particularly progesterone and oestrogen. Every morning you use an electronic thermometer under your tongue to record your temperature. You will see that during the first half of your cycle (from period to ovulation) your temperature is lower. During the second half of your cycle (from ovulation to next period) your temperature is higher.
I know a lot of people cringe at this term but every woman needs to know that cervical fluid is 100% normal and necessary. When we are in our “fertile” phase we tend to have more cervical fluid and it tends to be slippery and stretchy. This is to allow the easy passage of sperm up through the cervix. When we are “non-fertile” we have little to no cervical fluid and it tends to be thicker and stickier. Can you imagine sperm trying to battle their way through that type of cervical mucous? It’s not a happening thang!
Personally I’m a pen-to-paper gal who uses a paper chart to track my cycle and I teach my clients on a paper chart too. I know a lot of women prefer to use an app. Just be aware that many apps track your cycle based on the belief that every women ovulates on day 14 (halfway through your cycle). This is simply not true as ovulation can be influenced by many factors including illness, travel and stress levels.
Are you off to the shop to purchase a thermometer yet? Remember, in order to track your cycle properly and avoid pregnancy (if you want to use the STM for contraception) it is recommended to work alongside a Fertility Educator to get you started on this rewarding journey. Dare I say you’ll even start enjoying your menstrual cycle!
BY ASHLY GILMORE
Ashly is a Naturopath and Natural Fertility Educator based in Christchurch. She is also a tea, animal, and stationary lover among many other things!
Ashly is fascinated by the human body and loves passing on this fascination through educating her clients and the public. Her main focus is on post-contraceptive care, pre-conception care and fertility awareness. She loves seeing clients in clinic and has clients that she sees online across the world.