Family planning the natural way…

| 24 Comments

I took the Pill in college for a year, and then for a year after grad school.  Willing to try anything, I heard it cleared up acne.  Plus, in my women’s studies class, I heard that all women in their child-bearing age should take the Pill for at least five years to prevent ovarian and uterine cancer.

I’m not a medical expert by any means, so when I learned the side effects of fake hormones, I was angry and felt like I had been lied to.  I didn’t feel great taking the Pill either.  I just wasn’t myself.  One of my friends needed to counteract the side effects of the Pill with an anti-depressant.  Not fun.  It’s amazing how we put stuff into our bodies without really knowing what’s going on.

I learned about Natural Family Planning (NFP) at the pregnancy center I worked at in Spokane.  I heard other people mention it before; but I was skeptical.  I had an a ha moment when I listed to the tape (yes, a cassette tape) entitled “Contraception, Why Not?”  It’s a lecture given by a Catholic woman about the Pope’s predictions on the effects of birth control and the benefits of NFP.

I grew up going to a Free Methodist Church rather than a Catholic one, but it just all made sense to me.  It was a while ago, and on paper it’s 25 pages, so the exact details are a little fuzzy.  But I do remember how much it opened my eyes and inspired me to learn more.  I had a new appreciation for the sanctity of life.

Soon after, I heard a local woman talk about her experience with NFP; then one of my work friends who was getting married, took the class with her husband, and told me about it.  I made the decision then that I would practice NFP when I got married.  It was a moral decision.  Though, as I learned, there are health and relationship benefits as well.

Is Hubby game?

Our workbook from the class

While dating and preparing for marriage, I shared my desire to do NFP with my husband.  He was on board because he respected my desire to not take the Pill; but also a little skeptical, like I was, at first.  We signed up for the class so we could learn how to detect and chart my fertility.  During the three 3-hour sessions we learned the science behind fertility – much more than they told us in high school health class or college biology!  I was frustrated that I went so long without knowing about the inner workings of my own body.  It’s really fascinating.

I started charting my fertility so I could practice before we got married.  It’s not that hard once you get used to it.  But it does take some time and effort.  My husband has always been supportive and helpful.  We are in it together.

Does it work?

When done correctly, it’s just as effective as other kinds of birth control.  I can tell you that after our wedding we avoided pregnancy for four to five months, and then got pregnant on the very first try.  Zoe was planned – we wanted to start a family soon after we got married.  Zubair wanted to wait a couple more months but I convinced him it would take a while.  The funny thing about fertility and pregnancy is that even when all the parts are working like they should, there is still only a 25-35% chance of conception.  Life really is a miracle.

Starting again after baby

After birth, and while breastfeeding, fertility is not as predictable.  I keep saying I will start charting again soon so I can be sure of my fertility when we try for another baby.  I wish I already started – maybe I would have known I was pregnant before the miscarriage.  Like remembering to take my vitamins, it’s just one more thing to do.  I am just being lazy; so one of these days I will get my act together and start taking my temp and charting again.  At this point, I am okay with having another little munchkin whenever…

I appreciate the notion that with all the birth control methods available today, we lose sight of the connection between sex and life.  I am amused when I hear people are surprised to be pregnant even if they used birth control.  It’s almost like it’s out of the realm of possibility; when, in reality, procreation is one of main functions of sex.

Fertility Awareness is like NFP, but without the spiritual component.  So whether or not, you consider yourself a spiritual person, it’s beneficial to learn about your fertility.  Our bodies are pretty darn amazing.

If you practice NFP or fertility awareness, please share your story in the comments section!

 

24 Comments

  1. This is actually a very sensitive topic for me. *Warning: I’m about to write a novel, lol. I started reading about NFP/FAM after I was sick and tired of all the negative side effects of the pill. After reading several books on it, I was excited to take my fertility into my own hands. Little did I know that the nasty little pill would continue to make my life difficult. Sure, the mood swings and heart palpitations stopped, but so did my period. I was always regular before the pill, but not now? Eventually my period started up again but still only comes every 4 months. When discussing my new irregularity with my physician and OBGYN, they both nonchalantly said the same thing: “It’s probably a variation of PCOS”. They assured me that it was no big deal and how there are numerous meds I could take when I was ready to get pregnant. They didn’t seem to care that I wanted my period to come, on its own every month, regardless of whether I was trying to get pregnant or not. It was then that I realized just how much of a money making business fertility is for pharmaceutical companies. After researching PCOS, I refuse to believe that I have it. What I do think I suffer from is Post-Pill Amenhorrea(sp?). Few American Dr.’s will say PPA exists, but there are various studies in Australia proving this to be a real condition. Now, back to NFP/FAM! Not only do these methods help you try to conceive, but they help you figure out what your body is lacking or has excess of. Through monitoring your basal body temp and cervical mucus, you can better predict if your problem involves estrogen, progesterone, etc., and what could help you become regular again- whether it’s acupuncture, herbs, or various forms of exercise. It also helps you realize what foods to stay away from, such as estrogen dominant foods, or gluten. So my answer is YES! I proudly use NFP/FAM. It has helped me discover that my body is delicate and requires specific things to help aid it, not artificial hormones.

    • Hi Meagan – thanks so much for sharing your story and all the info. I’ve heard that many women have a hard time getting pregnant after being on the pill for a while and that most doctors will tell you to expect it to take a few months after coming off the hormones.

      I’m glad you mentioned diet and fertility. Over the counter meds can have an effect too. So crazy all the stuff we should know and don’t about our bodies!

  2. When I first was married I tried to seek the counsel and wisdom from other women who had been on this path so long already… To know avail. They were no help! So I attacked all the material I could find about birth control… Of all kinds, methods, beliefs…… All that to say that after using various methods including NFP, we are now on #7 (without trying once)! We do pray however, “Lord, this is our will, but Your will be done!”. I think I am done adding that prayer and changing it to, “Lord, I am done!”

  3. Very well written Jenn…I think this is your best blog yet! Information is power…thank you for giving it freely to those who read your blog! 🙂

  4. FYI – I am going to overshare 🙂

    Although I am not by any means in the family way, I do understand your frustration with the pill and, shall I say, its marketing. I was diagnosed with Leukemia six years ago. After switching treatments I started having a perma-period. It was progressive but after a while constant. The lack of iron effected my energy levels and made me anemic. I talked to my oncologist who put me on brutal pre-natals (which are a lot of fun to pick up at the pharmacy …” so these help the baby..” lady there is no baby). Ok, I’ll speed this up… I saw three different OB/GYNs in the span of four months. I told them I didn’t want to be on pills but they told me that was my only option and that I was irrational to consider anything else. I tried three different pills including one that seriously made me very Dr. Jekyll – it is amazing I didn’t lose my job or that my boyfriend didn’t break up with me. I would get so worked up! One day I sat on the lawn of my grad school hysterical because I couldn’t control myself – I felt insane. I spoke to Dr #2 who said it was me so I tried #3. I am still on the pill although I don’t want to be. I guess I could try going off and seeing what happens. Anyway, moral of the story is that I agree that we are “sold” on these pills and more of us need to speak up and challenge the culture of medication.

    • Hey Cassandra! We like over-sharing on here! Thanks for telling your story. I have a hard time trusting doctors when it comes to prescription medicine – how can they possibly remember all the side effects, etc.?

      Have you tried talking to a naturopath or nutritionist? I wonder if they might be helpful…

  5. Thank you for sharing your story!! I love hearing about women finding out how wonderfully made their bodies are!

    You may be interested in the new website http://www.iuseNFP.com. It’s got a bunch of similarly awesome NFP stories! 😀

  6. Thanks for sharing your passion in regards to this topic. I have had so many friends that have had problems when they have went off of birth control, due to being on birth control. It is probably going to be one of those things that they find out in 20 years or so…oh wait, it isn’t the best for their body, and causes x, y, and z.

    • Hey Grace – thanks for your comment. Yeah, I really hope doctors will see the negative effects of the Pill. They really push it, and it’s harmful.

  7. Hey Jenn (its been a while)! I enjoy reading your posts and can’t help but comment on this one because this is such an interesting topic 🙂

    I agree that there should be way more education out there for girls and women to know exactly how their reproductive system works and to have information on NFP as accessible as prescription birth control.

    I tried the Nuva Ring a few months before becoming sexually active with my husband. I lasted a month on it. The side affects were awful…I was so anxious I ground my teeth, I gained weight, and I cried almost every day. I tried this form of birth control over the pill because I understood it to have a lower and more localized dose of hormones.

    So I did some research on NFP and ended up investing in a Pearly (http://www.raxmedical.com/) to help me track my cycle. I LOVED my Pearly…made the whole thing a lot easier. When I was in the “fertile” stage we used condoms or the sponge. I definitely felt emotionally and physically better using NFP and I liked feeling more in control of my body. If I could go back in time I would probably talk with my hubby about using abstinence during the “fertile” stage because either the condoms (or more likely) the sponge failed and I got pregnant only 6 weeks after getting married (definitely NOT what we were planning).

    After my first child was born I was at a loss of what to do since my cycle was all out of wack from breast feeding and I really didn’t want to get pregnant again for a few years because I strongly disliked being pregnant (I LOVE my son, but hated being pregnant!). My husband and I decided I should try a copper IUD because of the high success rate for avoiding pregnancy and because it was hormone free. I got pregnant with my second child when my first was 5 months old…with the IUD in place. The doctor who removed it said the IUD had “slid down a little” but that some practitioners would have left it there believing it to still be affective. Wow.

    So basically all that to say, I fulling agree: when sexually active NOTHING is 100% guaranteed…no matter what type of birth control is being used the best thing for a woman is to know how her body works, and to be ok with the possibility of pregnancy if she is sexually active.

    And because I have to go through all of this just for being a woman, when it comes time to make our family complete, my husband is going to be the one to undergo a vasectomy!

    • Hi Lindsay – Great to hear from you! Thanks so much for your comment. I love hearing the stories of others. I never heard of the Pearly – I knew there were instruments, but I didn’t really look into them.

      I HIGHLY recommend the class we took. It was just my husband, me, and the teaching couple. Very intimate – and love that the men are included! They need to know about our fertility just as much! We signed up through the Couple to Couple League – http://www.ccli.org/.

      Also – if you get a chance – check out the Contraception, Why not? link above. I think you’ll find it very interesting…

      And I totally understand about not liking pregnancy. Thankfully, I wasn’t that sick or anything – I just didn’t like it for a multitude of reasons. I probably should do a post on it because it seems like something we don’t usually talk about.

  8. I also tried the pill for acne…blah is all I can say. I also tried it again for 3 mos for endometriosis symptoms. When the doc said that getting pregnant also makes those symptoms go away, I choose to try that route haha. But, I also just wanted somethign different than chemicals and man-made hormones and junk in my body that made it feel weird and gain weight and such. I began reading and looking up info on how fertility, for or to avoid pregnancy, works. I don’t chart, really, I have an app that tells me “my most fertile days” and when my period is due. But, I rely on my body, I found I don’t ovulate when the charts say I should, etc. I tried to do BBT for a week, and it was too much haha, so I rely on external signs, and luckily the consistency from one month to the next. We have used this method, and when we decided to have kids, it was pretty much the first try each time. Now, when I want another one, I try to use the “it will take awhile” argument with my husband. He says “no, you said that the last 2 times and we ended up with these two!” It’s more freeing to learn and realize your own body and what it can/can’t do and to just *know* it.

    • I need to get that app! Haha. My temp. reading was very strong and accurate before. The mucous I was always a little unsure about. I never did around to feeling my cervix… I guess that’s a sure sign though. I like that this way allows us to be in “tune’ with out bodies. Pay attention – it will tell you!

  9. Great post. We used NFP for over 20 years. I was a nurse & had not been taught about nfp + there was no internet; so we used artificial stuff until we stumbled onto nfp classes while moving for the military. What a wonderful way to live married life! Hopefully you can write about the difference between exclusive nursing and a fuller “ecological breastfeeding”. The two are often confused but only the latter form gives 75% of women 9-20 months of infertility before monthly cycles would resume. We used the ecoBFeeding + began charting when the cycles came back a year or longer from the “eco-nursing”. Sheila Kippley’s new slim book is: ” The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding”. Happy Mothering

    • Hi Ann, thanks for your comment! Thanks for the info about breastfeeding. I remember learning that in class. The more you breastfeed, the longer your fertility stays at bay. There are so many factors – including the binky. We ended up using a paci because I had overactive letdown, and my daughter was upset she couldn’t comfort suck without getting a mouthful of milk. I hear some women don’t get their cycles back for 18 months or so! That would have been wonderful… maybe next time.

  10. PS – John and Sheila Kippley started ccl but they are NOT associated with ccl anymore

  11. oh – so glad that you are still nursing – so good for you and baby; we just had a La Leche League meeting for the nursing moms and it amazes me how confident the nursing women become, pretty quickly, when they nurse successfully. “Mothering thru breastfeeding” is the LLL motto and it is amazing how well we learn all about our children from this intimate act w/them.

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