There is a lot of misinformation in the dominant culture about natural contraception, and about almost everything that has to do with women’s fertility and reproductive health. The public discourse still contains a lot of shame and judgement regarding women’s sexuality. It can be difficult to know where to begin finding answers to our questions, and harder still to decipher truth from fiction. I often hear a lot of myths being repeated over and over again, by well meaning people. But many of these myths can actually be very harmful to women, severely limiting our ability to listen to our body, and trust that our body is capable of health and healing.
I recently wrote an article debunking some common fertility myths for the website Natural-Fertility-Info.com I thought it would be a good idea to add to that article, and write a post filled with with some serious butt-kicking, myth-busting!
So here we go… let’s look at some common myths about Fertility Awareness and women’s reproductive health.
“Natural contraception doesn’t work, I have a friend who got pregnant while charting”
There is a lot of misinformation about charting for contraception. By far, the most common one I hear is that it is not effective. This is a myth that runs deep, and does a huge disservice to women by convincing them that they couldn’t possibly know their bodies well enough to naturally avoid pregnancy. This is a lie. All women have this power within their reach.
Women have gotten pregnant on every known form of so-called “birth control” in existence, including permanent methods like tubal ligation & vasectomy. There is simply no such thing as truly controlling fertility, and I really dislike using the phrase “birth control”.
Studies have shown that charting with a sympto-thermal method (like the Fertility Awareness Method) is 99.6% effective as a form of contraception! This means it is as effective as the pill or an IUD. The difference between natural methods like FAM and all other methods is that whether or not FAM is going to fail is up to you. You learn how to apply the method, and you chose to follow the rules of the method. When all the rules are followed, it is highly effective. If you cut corners, the effectiveness drops dramatically. It’s up to you, plain and simple. But if a condom is going to break, or your IUD fails to prevent a pregnancy, it will be completely out of your control. So tell me, how much of a say do you want to have in your fertility choices?
Most people think all forms of charting are the same – they are not! Many are familiar with the calender method, also called the rhythm method. That method relies on predicting when you will be fertile during your cycle based on when you were fertile in previous cycles. This is a highly ineffective method, as even the most regular women sometimes have cycles that differ from others, not to mention that this could never be used by someone with irregular cycles. Because it is well known that the rhythm method is ineffective, most people assume FAM is the same. But FAM is a scientific method and it does not play guessing games – you chart your fertility signals on a daily basis and are then able to know with certainty whether or not you could be fertile on any given day. Straight forward, and highly effective.
Last but not least, FAM has ZERO potential risks or side effects, while the same cannot be said for hormonal contraceptives, IUDs or even permanent methods.
“You cannot get pregnant by making love while you are bleeding”
Although a rare occurrence, a woman can absolutely get pregnant while she is bleeding. Bleeding is not, by definition, an infertile state. Let’s look at an example of a situation where a woman could get pregnant while menstruating.
A woman bleeds for 7 days, and ovulates earlier than average, let’s say on day 10 of her cycle. Blood could be masking the appearance of fertile cervical fluid present in her vagina, so she could be unaware that she was potentially fertile. If fertile fluid is indeed present, sperm can live up to 5 days in the uterus / fallopian tubes, waiting for the egg to be released from the ovary. So if she made love on day 6 of her cycle, had a lot of fertile fluid to sustain sperm, it could stay alive for 4 days until she ovulated on day 10.
Situations where a woman can ovulate very early include: the first few cycles after stopping the use of hormonal contraceptives, the first few cycles postpartum, and during perimenopause.
“You cannot use FAM for contraception if your cycles are irregular”
I hear women repeat this myth all too often… “I really wish I could use FAM, but my cycles are all over the place, so I can’t”. Women with irregular cycles can still use Fertility Awareness as a form of contraception. The “rules” of contraception used for women with irregular cycles are simply different than those used by women who are ovulating regularly. But they are still just as effective. The rules involve determining what your “basic infertile pattern” is, and using that as your primary gauge to know when you should avoid unprotected sex in case you could be fertile.
FAM can be used successfully by women with long irregular cycles, by perimenopausal women, as well as postpartum mothers who’s cycles have not yet returned. Learning to chart directly from a teacher (like me!) is the best way to guarantee that you can apply FAM in the unique context of your life. Let’s put this myth to rest once and for all: you do not need to have textbook perfect cycles to use FAM for contraception!
“PMS and painful cramps are just a normal part of being a cycling woman”
Although they are common for many women, I would not call them “normal” – not in the sense of being biologically normal and healthy.
Pain is our body’s way of getting us to pay attention… “Hey you, look over here, something isn’t right, please do something!” Pain should never be ignored. Is menstrual discomfort normal? Yes, feeling a bit achy can be expected given the hard work that our uterus does every cycle. But crippling pain that makes you stop your normal daily routine? Not normal. Something is going on.
Charting your cycles is one wonderfully easy and powerful way to start figuring out what could be the root cause of your menstrual cramps. The cause can vary quite a bit from one woman to another, so the treatment would vary as well. Common causes include things like endometriosis, poor pelvic circulation, low magnesium and anemia. The good news is that the root cause can generally be addressed naturally, and you can truly look forward to pain-free bleeding! I had disabling menstrual cramps for almost a decade, it was absolutely awful. I am happy to report that I now bleed without pain, and only ever experience some light twinges here and there. What a relief! (I will be talking about healing menstrual cramps in an upcoming FREE webinar, stay tuned!)
As for PMS, it’s all in the severity of the symptoms. Experiencing changes in our mood and overall energy is absolutely normal – we go through some pretty big hormonal shifts throughout our cycles, and it would be silly not to acknowledge the reality of how profoundly that can impact us. However, if the second half of our cycles we turn into a completely different woman, become highly irritable, angry, or experience very uncomfortable physical symptoms, it is worth looking into what could be hiding underneath the surface. Some of the common causes of severe PMS include estrogen dominance, low progesterone, and an over-taxed liver. Charting may be able to help you figure out what is causing these disturbances, which will allow you to begin your healing journey. No one should settle for feeling like they are losing their minds for half of their cycles. If you are someone that suffers from PMS or PMDD, I would be happy to work with you to help you regain balance.