Aunt Flo. Dot. My monthly friend or the beast from the East. Most women, from the time they hit puberty, are ruled by the cyclical nature of their bodies.
Some of us, for a time, are obsessed with avoiding pregnancy. Then all of a sudden we hit a certain age and ALL we can think about is making babies. But what do any of us really know about working with our bodies to plan a family?
I realized, only recently, that even though I've had 3 children, I was still in the dark about the inner workings of my lady parts. I don't think I'm in the minority here.
I know many women who wouldn't know how to pick out their vagina in a line-up, much less be able to recognize when she is ovulating. But, as we all know, knowledge is power. Whether you are trying to get pregnant or your baby making factory has closed it's doors, understanding how your body works so that you can work with it is essential.
After having my third son I decided that I was no longer going to pump myself full of crazy making hormones. I'd been on birth control from age 17 to 29, with a brief time off for kid number 2 when I was 25. That's a whole lot of artificial chemicals being pumped into one body.
Since embracing a more natural way of living I told myself I was done with the birth control and had to find another way to get in tune with my body (and avoid having a 4th boy!) It was only after attending a La Leche League meeting that I realized there was another way.
So, if you are not yet ready to read about things like fertile mucus and cervical positioning you might want to bookmark this page and save it for later.
At this meeting was when I first learned that exclusive breast feeding can be up to 99% percent effective in preventing pregnancy as long as:
- Your baby is less than six months old
- Your menstrual periods have not yet returned
- Baby is breastfeeding on cue (both day & night), and gets nothing but breast milk or only token amounts of other foods. (from Kellymom.com)
At that meeting I also learned that the discharge coming from your vagina is a natural indicator of when you are fertile. My mind was seriously blown!
Natural family planning has become a lost art. We are so used to a pill, injection, or implant to regulate our periods, help us get pregnant, or not, that we've become detached from the wisdom our body can teach us.
It was so great when I found out this was the featured topic at the most recent Holistic Moms Network meeting I attend, entitled: Everything you should have learned in Sex Ed.
Our guest speaker, acupuncturist and fellow crunchy momma, Johanna Herget, got down to the nitty-gritty details pertaining to how we can really get to know our bodies. She explained the most useful tool in getting to know your cycle is by charting 3 things: your temperature, cervical fluid, and the position of your cervix.
During your window of fertility, there will be a significant spike in your waking body temperature, about .4 degrees. When keeping a record of your temps make sure to get a reading the moment you wake up. Any change in position or movement will raise your reading, so make sure you thermometer is right next to your bed and you are taking it the same time every day.
The moisture that is going on downtown is one of the clearest indicators of when you are fertile. About 7 days from the end of your period discharge from your vagina begins. It can vary in texture, consistency, and color, but knowing what fertile mucus looks like can tell you when you may be ovulating.
After your period ends you will have some dry days, which means unless sexually aroused you will not have any discharge. The quality of cervical mucus is on a continuum from dryer (less fertile) to wetter (more fertile) as ovulation approaches. A woman's Peak Day of fertility is the last day of a slippery fluid.
Position of the Cervix
This can be the most challenging technique to use, but with a little practice can get easier. Basically as you get closer to ovulation your cervix will got from a low, closed position, to a higher more open position. The Baby Corner has an in-depth how-to description for getting to know your cervix.
Below is an example on how you would chart each item.
1. First 5 Days Rule
It's safe to have sex the first 5 days of your menstrual cycle if you have had an obvious shift in temperature 12-16 days before.
2. Dry Day Rule
Before ovulation, you are safe the evening of a dry day. (Sperm cannot survive in a dry vaginal environment)
3. Temperature Shift Rule
You are safe the evening of the 3rd consecutive day your temperature is above your coverline. A coverline is the point on your chart where there has been a noticeable shift (.2 degrees) in your temperature. If following temps are above the coverline for at least three days, ovulation is assumed to have taken place and you are no longer fertile.
4. Peak Day Rule
You are safe the evening of the 4th consecutive day after your Peak Day, or the day you are most fertile.
I know this is a lot to take in, but getting to know your body is one of the most important steps in being able to naturally plan your family. Luckily technology has provided easy tools like the Period Tracker app to help us out. If that's not for you, you can download a blank chart here.
Have you tried natural family planning? Has menstrual charting helped you get pregnant or not get pregnant? Share in the comments section below!
Naturally Knowing My Body in Granolaville,