Friday, November 18, 2011

Natural Fertility

Women have been controlling their own fertility since time immemorial. Hormonal birth control is a relatively new science that I have come to personally believe is unnecessary intervention into what should be a very natural process. Hormonal birth control teaches you to override your body's natural rhythms with the use of chemicals, which can be dangerous. Hormonal birth control blocks the natural production of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). These two hormones are integral to the proper functioning of the female body! Side effects of traditional birth control (pills, shots, IUDs, etc.) can include (but are certainly not limited to):

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Heart attack and/or heart palpitations
  • Stroke
  • Depression
  • Irregular vaginal discharge
  • Increased susceptibility to vaginal infections
  • Breast tenderness
  • Loss of libido
  • Hypertension and variation in lipid profiles
  • Fluid retention
  • Follicular changes to the hair
  • Decreased calcium retention
  • Eye problems (increased likelihood of cataracts)
  • Gallstones
  • Jaundice
  • Increased clotting and/or thrombosis (a very dangerous form of blood clot)*

Why would a woman want to subject herself to these risks when natural fertility control is so possible?!

Most women believe that the "perfect" menstrual cycle is 28 days, but this is far from true. Every woman is different! Your cycle could be 25 days or 33 days...a "normal" menstrual cycle varies anywhere from 21-35 days. There is also no "normal" time for bleeding...average bleeding ranges from 2-7 days. So if you've ever thought you had a "short" or "long" cycle or bled for "shorter" or "longer" than average, you were probably wrong. You are just being you. 

This is the key to natural fertility. You must know YOU. Natural fertility involves two methods: you can either observe the physical signs of fertility, such as cervical position and mucous (if you don't know what your cervix is, it's the opening to the uterus), or you can chart your body temperature. I prefer a combination of both. 

The key to natural fertility is to avoid having sex while you are most fertile. That's it! It's that easy. You will know when you are most fertile by observing your body. As a woman, your body engages in regular cycles, just as the Moon does in nature. As above, so below. 

Regardless of which method you choose, you will have to start at the beginning of your menstrual cycle. This is the first day of bleeding. RED bleeding. Brown (old) blood is spotting and so is pink blood. Both are perfectly normal, but you must consider the first day of your cycle as the first day that you see red blood. If you begin bleeding at night (like myself), then you count that entire day as day 1. 

If you are using the cervical method, obviously you cannot check your mucous while you are menstruating. After bleeding has ceased (usually no later than day 7), it's all about the egg! Everything your body does after you cease bleeding is designed to make things as easy for the egg and sperm to dance as possible. Here's what you need to be aware of:

Cervical Fluid
  • 3-4 days after cessation of bleeding = hardly any secretions. Might be dry as a bone. 
  • Next 3-4 days = secretions are cloudy and sticky. Thick. Might look like lotion.
  • Next 3-4 days = Lots of mucous! Clear, wet, slimy. This is referred to as "egg white" cervical mucous (EWCM) for a reason. THIS IS YOUR PRIME TIME FOR FERTILITY. Your body is making your own personal Astroglide to make the trip for your partner's sperm as smooth as possible. If you want to get pregnant, you need to be horizontally mambo-ing like crazy. If you DO NOT want to get pregnant, you must abstain from intercourse during this time. Do not count on withdrawal--sperm are abundant even in male "precum" and all it takes is ONE overly enthusiastic spermatozoon to ruin your careful tracking. 
  • After EWCM is gone = hardly any secretions until 3-4 days after you stop bleeding on your next cycle. Back to step 1. That's the key word...cycle. 
Cervical Position 

The first step to checking cervical position is to know HOW to check your cervix. Again, the cervix is the opening to the uterus. The cervix is usually open unless you are pregnant,  when it remains closed until you are ready to give birth. You need to know and love your cervix!

To check cervical position, insert your longest finger into your vagina. Sometimes it's easier to do this with one foot elevated or while squatting (the same position you may use to insert a tampon). Push up and inward as far as possible until you feel something. That's your cervix! This becomes easier to do with practice. Depending on your relationship with your partner, they may be able to do it for you, but I recommend you do this yourself. 
  • Immediately after bleeding ceases, the cervix is low (easier to get to) and firm, like the end of your nose. 
  • As your cervical fluids get...juicier (for lack of a better term), it will get higher and softer. 
  • At max fertility, it is at its highest, its softest, and is MORE open! Yes, you can tell how open it is. Each time you touch it, you will feel the opening. When you get to the point that you can "almost" push a little and insert the tip of your finger into it, you are roaring to go! This in combination with the EWCM means you are super fertile. Again, do NOT have intercourse during this time if you want to avoid pregnancy.
The other method of tracking is the basal body temperature (BBT) method. To use this method, you must take your body temperature every day, at the same time each day, after you wake up but before you get out of bed. Once you begin to actively move, you will throw the readings off because your temperature will escalate. I recommend keeping a thermometer on your nightstand or in a drawer next to the bed so you don't have to worry about reaching it. 

Basal Body Temperature 
  • From the first day of bleeding onward, your BBT will be very consistent. 
  • Right before ovulation, it will drop slightly.
  • Within 12 hours of ovulation, there will be a large increase in temp. If you check your temp that morning and it has skyrocketed, YOU ARE OVULATING. If you want to get pregnant, attack your man. If you don't, avoid him like the plague. 
  • Once body temp has stayed high for at least 3 consecutive days, your fertile period is over. 
  • Your temp will stay elevated until it is time for your period, where it will drop drastically. As soon as you see the big drop, get the pads/tampons ready. Bleeding is imminent (see, there are no surprises with natural fertility). 
Note: The BBT method is best for determining when ovulation occurs and when bleeding will begin. Because you can remain fertile for up to 3 days post-ovulation, you must temp religiously. The key is high temps for 3 days. After that, you are good to go. Personally, this is why I use this in conjunction with cervical observation. Can't go wrong with all 3 methods. 

That's it! See how easy? Use your body's signals to determine your fertility, not fake methods that destroy your natural cycle and make take years to recover from if you decide to come off the hormones. Natural fertility planning is uniquely tailored to YOU. YOU are unique and YOUR natural rhythms determine your fertile times, not a book or generic definition of when ovulation occurs. 

It is not as intense as it sounds. Make a habit of temping in the morning, just like checking the alarm clock, or if you choose not to use BBT, make a habit of checking your vagina daily. This is a good habit to develop anyway. You can do it in a matter of seconds before or after you get in the shower. 

Take responsibility for your health and your fertility, and get to know your body. 

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