Fertility Awareness in Boston

This past month has been insanely busy - I've been meeting with a mama-client to plan for her birth, working with an amazing group of women on a Muslim natural birth project, planning a lesson on the fertility awareness method, and on top of that day-jobbing. This weekend was especially busy, in part because I facilitated a workshop yesterday at the 2011 Boston Skillshare. The Skillshare is an event that brings together people from all over the city who teach workshops on whatever they know how to do really, really well. There were courses on energy conservation, urban foraging, website development, and, among other things natural birth control. Yep, that last one was mine.

The fertility awareness method is a system based on the idea that the hormones released during a woman's cycle produce observable changes in the body that, when recorded, generate patterns. These patterns can then be used to establish fertile and infertile periods during the month which make it possible to safely avoid (or achieve) pregnancy without other forms of contraception. It's a fantastic method for me, in part because I have an aversion to unnecessarily medicating myself or to manipulating my hormones, but also because it gives me radical responsibility and control over my body and fertility.

One of the best things that came out of this class for me was thinking about how fertility awareness can be a useful tool for women who might not want to use it as a birth-control method. For example, because it doesn't protect against STDs and because it requires honest and open communication from both partners, it is best suited for women with long-term partners. However, even if someone prefers to use a different method of  birth control, I recommend that every woman try charting their basal temperature, cervical fluid, and cervical position and density for at least a few months. Here are a two reasons why:

  1. With a deeper and more profound knowledge of our bodies, we take a greater responsibility for our health. Women who chart can identify health problems, from the mundane to the life-threatening, before they take hold, by recognizing irregularities in their cycles.
  2. This is a fantastic way to get to know our bodies. At yesterday's class, only one of the participants knew, roughly, how menstruation worked. Up until last year, I couldn't have told you the first thing about estrogen. It's almost as if we learn how our bodies work in middle school health class just long enough to be able to pass the final test. Whether she likes it or not, every woman on the planet has an experience of her body as a fertile agent (or non-fertile, which raises a whole host of other important issues in which awareness of what the body does remains critical). It is not just good, or useful, but powerful that we have at least of basic knowledge of how and why we menstruate, how hormones act upon our bodies, and how they manifest. And you know what? It's fascinating. There's a whole unexplored world of our selves right here, no where but here.

I recommend that all women at least take a look at a good text on fertility awareness - my favorite is Taking Charge of Your Fertility, and give charting a try.


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