No… I wasn’t always comfortable. I was always curious, but I often felt like there was something wrong with my curiosity.
I remember asking, during my sixth grade sex ed class, about cervical fluid. The teacher just said it was normal and rushed over to the next subject. I wanted to know more. I wanted to know why it changed color and texture sometimes. I wanted to know what was normal and what was a warning sign. Was pain also normal? What was my body trying to tell me? I wanted to know more about a lot of things. But I didn't ask, and to be fair, my teacher probably didn't know about it herself. I was never particularly squeamish, but I was very shy when talking about sexuality or sexual organs, and I grew up being extremely critical of my body.
That changed slowly over the years, and after the birth of my son it changed radically. I was terrified of getting pregnant again too fast (my sister and I are only 11 months apart and I don't know how my mom survived that). I wanted a birth control method that would be very effective, empowering, and that wouldn’t have any negative side effects.
"I was terrified of getting pregnant again and I wanted a birth control method that would be very effective, empowering, and that wouldn’t have any negative side effects."
In contrast, Fertility Awareness is the observation of your body’s fertility signs, which include the cervical fluid, cervix’ position and texture, and your body’s temperature when you rise in the morning (Basal Body Temperature). By observing these signals you learn to listen to your body and determine your fertile days and ovulation. I was fascinated and inspired by the new tools I was discovering that enabled me to learn about my own body.
I have been successfully practicing Fertility Awareness for two years now (while breastfeeding the entire time, which makes my cycles irregular!), and I’m amazed at how much I have learned about myself.
I really wish I had learned all of this a lot sooner!
Fertility Awareness has transformed my life and my relationship with my body.
Beyond helping you achieve or avoid pregnancy (which is huge!), these are five unexpected benefits of being literate about your body.
Basal Body Temperature (BBT) is a very important element of charting. After reading a story in 'Taking Charge of Your Fertility’ about a husband that would take his wife’s temperature every morning, I decided to ask my husband to do the same. It took us a little while to get used to it, but now he takes my temperature every morning before going to work at 6am and I check it and enter it in an app later when I get up with my son. It’s also nice because by observing my cycles, he gets to understand that I have more energy and more patience before ovulation, and that I’m more tired and introspective after ovulation. I find it a very lovely detail when he puts the thermometer in my mouth in the morning, even after a fight, like a sweet little gesture that says, “hey, we’re in this together.”
Due dates are usually calculated based on the date of your last menstrual period. It’s then assumed that ovulation happened 14 days later, and the whole calculation is done based on that date. The problem is that some women have longer or shorter cycles, ovulating earlier or later than the predicted date. If you are familiar with your cycles' unique patterns and know with certainty your ovulation date, you can help your care provider calculate a date based on your own body, instead of a general average or a possibly inaccurate ultrasound.
3. KNOW WHEN TO EXPECT YOUR PERIOD (EVEN IF YOUR CYCLES ARE IRREGULAR)
After a while of charting and paying attention to your body, you might be more aware of the feeling of ovulation. Maybe you had noticed it before but you didn’t know what it was.
If you’re also taking your BBT (Basal Body Temperature) you will be able to confirm your body signals.
After that, you will get your period 12-16 days later. The date is pretty consistent within your own pattern. When stress hits your life and it affects your cycles, ovulation may be delayed, but if you keep charting and you identify a late ovulation, you can still be pretty sure your period will happen in approximately two weeks. The second stage of the menstrual cycle, called the luteal phase, it's not affected by outer factors.
Cycles can sometimes be anovulatory (when you don’t ovulate), but that’s a different story to tell.
You can get a way more detailed explantation of all this by reading 'Taking Charge of Your Fertility' or taking a local Fertility Awareness class.
Knowing around which dates to expect your period is an awesome way to relieve anxiety when trying to avoid pregnancy, and it will, more than often, help you to be better prepared.
4. GAIN VALUABLE INFORMATION FOR CHOOSING A MENSTRUAL CUP
If you choose to check your cervix as a fertility sign, you get a better understanding of how it behaves: you know how to find it and how it feels, but if you dare to check it during your period you will get the most useful information in regards to finding
the best menstrual cup for your body. Your cup has to be smaller than the measure of your finger when you reach your cervix during your period. It took me two years of dealing with a leaky cup to finally figure out that I have a low cervix and after choosing a cup that fitted my unique anatomy, all the leaks stopped.
Your charts can provide you and your doctor a valuable source of information to understand what is going on with your health.
At the same time, the understanding of your own body allows you make decisions based on what you know about yourself.
Your body is no longer a mystery that belongs only to “experts.”
YOU are the expert on yourself.
If you would like to learn more about getting in touch with your menstrual cycle, or about reusable menstrual products, let me know!
You can download my Ultimate Guide to Reusable Menstrual Products to help you get started.
I hope this inspired you to tune in with your menstrual cycle and learn about your body. Even if you don’t want to use it for birth control, body literacy is a wonderful tool to understand, honor, and love yourself!