it's amazing what we're not taught in school. health class in high school teaches you how to put a condom on a banana and i can certainly label male and female reproductive parts on a diagram, but i was clueless about how the female reproductive cycle really worked until i started learning about fertility awareness from my dear friend and trusted herbalist, sarah. turns out its relatively easy to discover when a woman is fertile, and it's only about 5 days per cycle. learning where in they cycle these days fall is the science of fertility awareness. it takes somewhat of a commitment to do this, and the pattern emerges over time so don't expect to see the whole picture in the first month. the process is basically this:
1. take your temperature at about the same time every morning before getting out of bed with a basal body temperature thermometer, this measures your temperature more precisely than a regular one.
2. check your cervical fluid several times a day. this can be done by several methods, the one i use is just to observe it on my underwear. the fluid varies throughout the cycle from pasty and dry to stretchy like eggwhites and everything in between. come up with a name for each kind so you can record it.
3. keep track of this information and other pieces like mood and pain (like headaches/cramps) on a chart. you can find premade charts online or make your own. record information every day and watch the pattern.
that's it! well, there's more, but thats where you start, just by observing. it's best to start this when you are not sexually active so there's no chance of making a mistake. the way you read the chart is to look at when the temperature spikes by a half degree or more. when that happens it indicates that ovulation has occured. this usually coincides with stretchy "eggwhite" cervical fluid. since you can't predict exactly when ovulation will occur, you can only tell after the fact, it is safest to avoid sex before ovulation if you are trying to prevent pregnancy. then 48 hours after ovulation, the egg has died and you are no longer fertile. then it is safe to have sex with no worries about pregnancy. this method can be used to achieve or avoid pregnancy and it's 100% safe for all women, no side effects, and minimal cost. why this is not common knowledge is a mystery to me. maybe because it can't be locked down, formulated and codified. because it's different for each woman and you are solely responsible for following the clues. because it can't be sold and doesn't come in a convenient pill form. because no one makes money from it.
and these are the things that make it valuable to me. i love that i have the power to know my own body and to choose my reproductive status without relying on dangerous pharmaceuticals that could ultimately make my reproductive choices for me. i love that if i decide to get pregnant, there is no period of waiting for the drugs to wear off, i'm already following the natural rhythms of the lunar cycle.
a good source of information if you want to give it a try is a book called "Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, MPH.
viva la reproductive revolution!