Today you get a two-fer: book review and body reflection. Wootstock. See, this week I've been reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, and it's fantastic--pretty much the Bible of the fertility awareness method of body knowledge and contraception. It is a nice bit of synchronicity that this week is also the week of the Flow. Warning: here be oversharing.
I have Thoughts and Opinions about birth control, like most women (and hopefully most men). There is no denying the incredible amount of good that oral contraceptives, IUDs, diaphragms, condoms, and all the rest have done. However, for some women most or all of these options may not be the best options; they may not be available; they may be too expensive; there may be allergies or other reactions at work. This is where FAM (or NFP--natural family planning) can be a blessing. And for many other women, it can provide a way of finally getting to know your body. This last is the real reason for my interest. I grew up in an environment which places emphasis simultaneously on the importance of female reproduction and the cultural ick associated with the female reproductive system. I have said here before that I received very little education about why my body did the things that it did; this has caused a good deal of grief and confusion over the years. It's time to toss that out. I imagine many women, regardless of whether or how religion influenced their young lives, are not as in touch with the machinations of their bodies as they might like to be. Before beginning this book I knew "how babies were made" and that's about it. I knew roughly why menstruation happened; I sort of knew why oral birth control works.
But there is so much more! So much more. My body is an incredible machine. FAM is one key to understanding that machine. What's your expertise on the topic of cervical fluid? Do you know a possible reason for that weird sharp pain you get in one side sometimes? Most importantly, do you know when you ovulate? It's shockingly easy to understand these things and all the rest. For some, FAM is a good natural contraceptive--it works on the development of familiarity with your body's cycles. For me, I don't intend to ditch the condoms just yet, but I intend it to be a way to finally begin to really understand the changes my female parts go through each month. My body is a book, and I love to read! It's that simple.
Do note--FAM is NOT the same thing as the "Rhythm Method." FAM relies on two major fertility signs: basal body temperature and cervical fluid. The book goes far more in-depth about these and other signs (as well as everything else from achieving pregnancy to outdated and oft-sexist medical terms that are still in use), but those are the basics. Your basal body temperature, taken in the morning, remains fairly steady until after ovulation, when it jumps. Your cervical fluid undergoes dramatic changes on a monthly basis. Creating a daily, monthly chart for these signs is a way of understanding and seeing patterns in your fertility. Regardless of whether you want to stop using the Pill or condoms, a more complete understanding of your body is never going to be a bad thing.
It's an empowering thing. Gynecological health is something we should all take charge of on our own time. I like my lady-doctor a lot, but I also like understanding the most intimate shifts of my body.
For more info about FAM and Weschler's book, head to the website.