Roughly three months ago I decided to go off hormonal contraception and I haven’t regretted it for one second. If you’d like to read more about my reasoning behind no longer using the NuvaRing and my experience, I suggest you check out my first two posts about it HERE and HERE. My cycle is slowly becoming more regular each month which I’m really happy about, but I’ll come back to you with more detailed updates about that when I hit the six-month artificial hormone free mark. Today I’d like to share something with you that got recommended to me a few times when I talked about contraception online: the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. This book was first published in the 1980’s and has been popular among women worldwide ever since. It’s received several revisions so it’s fully up to date, and the book and method even come with an app now. Taking Charge of Your Fertility deals with cycle tracking as a natural means of both birth control and pregnancy achievement, but mostly it just provides lots of information about the female reproductive system that every woman should know. If you ask me, this is an absolute must-read.
I’ll be honest with you guys, I was a bit skeptical going in to the book. I had a lot of prejudice about using the menstrual cycle as a means of birth control, I felt like that was just an accident waiting to happen. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks that way, as Toni Weschler begins the book by talking about exactly the method of natural birth control we all know isn’t reliable: using protection or abstinence around the 14th day of the menstrual cycle only. She goes on to say that this is indeed a very unreliable method for both birth control and pregnancy achievement, and she begins to explain the differences between that method and the Fertility Awareness Method, that the book deals with. This is a completely different method based on the idea that every woman’s body is unique, and so is every menstrual cycle.
The basic idea of the Fertility Awareness Method is that you can determine when (and whether) you’re ovulating by tracking two or more fertility signs: most importantly your waking temperature and cervical fluid. The hormonal changes that set off ovulation in the female body have an influence on your basal body temperature, which changes quite noticeably when the egg is released. By writing down your temperature daily you can check to see whether you’ve ovulated, and whether the temperature shift aligns with your other fertility signs. The most important one (especially for pregnancy prevention) is the quality of your cervical fluid. Sperm cells need a certain environment in the vagina to be able to reach the ovaries and available egg. The ideal condition for that is when the cervix produces a liquid that is very similar in consistency to the liquid the male produces during ejaculation. This quality of fluid is only present in the female body for a few days. In the days leading up to that, you can notice your discharge slowly changing towards that state. The combination of the fluid getting more liquid, the temperature shift on ovulation day, and if you wish to track that as well: the position and sponginess of your cervix, are tell-tale signs that you’re fertile and can become pregnant.
If you’d like to give the Fertility Awareness Method a go, please please please don’t take my word for what I just explained but read Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I’m re-phrasing this information from memory and there’s a whole lot of science behind it that’s explained wonderfully in the book. The author is a doctor and knows exactly what she’s talking about, every “but what if..?” gets answered. You’ll learn exactly what every hormone does when in your cycle, how hormonal contraception works, the full beginnig to end story of egg production… Everything. If you’re not interested in using the Fertility Awareness Method for contraception or pregnancy achievement but do have a female reproductive system, I still highly recommend you read this book. I thought I knew a lot about female reproductive health, but I’ve learned so much more from this book, including a lot of information that can be helpful if I ever feel there’s something odd going on down there. Taking Charge of Your Fertility encourages you to get familiar with your unique reproductive system, and points you to a few things you may want to keep an eye on.
I’m super glad I got this book recommended to me, and I honestly wish I had read it sooner. I haven’t started tracking myself yet, as results can be a bit confusing when you’ve recently come off hormonal contraception. I do plan to start tracking when my cycles become a bit more regular, and I probably won’t feel comfortable using it as a method of contraception for a few months afterwards (if at all). To me the method has more value as a health check, to be sure everything works the way it’s supposed to. If fertility awareness ends up helping me avoid or achieve pregnancy according to my wishes, that’s an added bonus.
Have you heard about or read Taking Charge of Your Fertility? What did you think?