5 Things I Learned After Using the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) for a Year

When I was first looking for an herbal method of birth control, I found several different herbs that were reputed to work. It was in looking for this information that I stumbled across an herbalist who taught the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM).

We quickly connected and there began my journey to learn the method. It seemed safer and more reliable than using the herbs I’d found, and its benefits were numerous—tracking my cycle would give me more insight into my health and empower me to consciously not conceive instead of relying on an outside power.

After using the FAM for over a year, here are five different things I’ve learned.

1. every cycle is different

Before I began tracking my cycle for real, I’d estimate on what day my period would come based on what day it came last month. Turns out, predicting one cycle based on another is not how the FAM works.

Every cycle is different. On some months, I ovulate 12 days into my cycle, while other months, it’s not until 19 days in. I’ve learned that just because I ovulated late last month does not mean that I’ll ovulate late this month, so it’s not ok to rely on that information.

I’ve learned to honor the subtle differences that each cycle brings. Some months, it was obvious what day I had ovulated, while other months, I needed help from my herbalist to determine the exact day. Through honoring the differences, I’ve learned to listen to my cycle rather than trying to tell it what to do or predict its mysteries (which, of course, never works).

2. squatting helps

So yes, the FAM does require daily cervix checking. The method has received some negative attention for this, with some healthcare professionals saying that it’s not sanitary to touch your cervix that often.

I’m here to say that as long as you wash your hands before checking your fluid or your cervix, you’ll be just fine.

When I first began using the FAM, I couldn’t even find my cervix half the time. I’d locate it during my period for my menstrual cup, but now, I was having problems. My herbalist suggested I squat in order for my cervix to appear. As someone who’s cervix tends to be high (yes, it moves!), this was hugely helpful.

Checking the texture and opening of your cervix can be an indicator of ovulation, but the primary indicator is the texture of your fluid. If it’s stretchy, ovulation is not far away!

3. it brings peace of mind

At first, my partner and I were hesitant about the method. To be safe, I had the herb wild carrot as a backup plan for contraception.

Then, after having a pregnancy scare because we had intercourse on a day that I did not check my fluid, we decided to commit to the FAM one hundred percent. Since we’ve made that commitment (never having intercourse on fertile days—typically from day 10 to 20 of my cycle—and only having intercourse on days we know are safe), we feel much more secure using the method.

Practice has helped a lot too, as has working with a professional. My herbalist has answered all my questions, gently guided me, and also been firm and clear when my assumptions were wrong (it’s not ok to assume intercourse is safe if you have not checked your fluid just because you are only a few days into your new cycle).

4. it’s not that hard

The FAM seemed extremely complicated and daunting at first. There were charts. There was a thermometer. There was the finding of my cervix. How the heck was I supposed to keep up with all this?

I initially thought that taking my temperature and checking my fluid every single day would feel overwhelming; now, they’re just part of my routine. Of course, it was an adjustment at first, like anything else. However, my partner and I feel grateful to have found a method that we feel works for us with no side effects.

5. my body’s rhythm

This is perhaps the best thing I’ve learned from the FAM—my body’s natural rhythm.

After over a year of using the method, I know what’s normal and what’s not. I’m more familiar with my menstrual cycles, what my fluid looks like before ovulation, and how long my cycles typically last.

Being familiar with my body and all the amazing little things it does has afforded me insight and clarity into my health and femininity. My partner and I feel more enlightened using this method and we have concrete knowledge on when we can have intercourse and when my vagina is on lockdown due to ovulation.

IS IT WORTH IT?

Absolutely, although the FAM isn’t for everyone. I’m grateful that it works for me and that I’m able to engage in a form of birth control that I feel is not harmful to my body. Yes, I’m still learning, just as we all are. The FAM has taught me many things, just like life, and I’m grateful to have had this opportunity to be its student!

Why We Need to Say No to Pharmaceutical Birth Control

I’m going to be honest here—I do not, nor have I ever, taken birth control pills.

I just haven’t had a need for them. I chose to abstain from sex during my teenage years. As I got older and realized the impact that pharmaceutical medications have on our bodies, I couldn’t help but wonder—why would people take these pills?

I guess having to take a pill every day isn’t nearly as bad as carrying an unwanted child for nine months. When you put it that way, it seems blissfully simple.

Let’s not forget the fact that many women go on birth control not to avoid pregnancy, but rather to control difficult or heavy periods. Some women even get prescribed birth control simply because they have premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which consists of symptoms women commonly experience before their menstrual cycle starts.

Regardless of why women choose to go on birth control—some at terribly young ages—a need has arisen to question why.

There are safer, more natural methods to birth control. I’m not against birth control. What I am against is the pharmaceutical companies profiting from the harm we women are doing to our bodies by taking these pills every day.

So let’s talk about why we need to say no to pharmaceutical birth control.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or nutritionist. The content contained in this blog post is for educational purposes only. 

A Brief History of Birth Control Pills

The need for birth control goes back centuries. Pulling out (also called the withdrawal method) is one of the oldest methods of birth control.

Pharmaceutical birth control can trace its roots back to Mexico. A chemist by the name of Carl Djerassi in Mexico created birth control by synthesizing compounds from Mexican Wild Yam (which is one of the herbal methods for natural birth control that we’ll discuss later).

The year was 1951 and chemists at pharmaceutical companies were looking for a way to provide birth control to women—but in a synthetic version that they could patent and profit off of. Since people cannot patent nature, no profit was to be made on the natural, Mexican Wild Yam version of birth control. Djerassi could have been credited with the invention of the birth control pill if he’d had the means to test and distribute this product.

In 1952, a pharmaceutical company with the means Djerassi lacked created synthetic progesterone, which hits the market as the pill Enovid in 1960. Despite the fact that women experienced side effects of depression, stroke, cancer, and blood clots, the pill was still deemed safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). By 1970, several more pharmaceutical companies had FDA-approved birth control drugs on the market to get their share of the profit.

It seemed like a miracle—but for whom? The pharmaceutical companies that profited from what’s now a $2.8 billion dollar industry, or the women who no longer had to worry about getting pregnant?

The Risks of Pharmaceutical Birth Control

The side effects of birth control continued to reveal themselves over the years.

Pharmaceutical birth control has been shown to increase the risk of breast, cervical, and liver cancer (it’s been shown to decrease the risk of ovarian cancer, so hey—increase your risk for three or more cancers while decreasing your risk for one, woo hoo!) It has also been linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack, which is the leading cause of death among women in America.

Hormonal oral contraception has also been linked to:

  • Migraines
  • Infertility
  • Decreased bone density
  • Yeast infections (candida overgrowth, which has a wide variety of unpleasant symptoms)
  • Blood clotting
  • High blood pressure
  • Weight gain
  • Mood disorders
  • And more!

In addition to this, birth control pills produce waste that affects the environment. What this means is that hormones are ending up in our ecosystems, therefore altering life as we know it.

Covering Up Symptoms Rather Than Addressing the Problem

Women’s bodies change when they’re on the pill. We no longer ovulate because our body is tricked into thinking that we’re already pregnant. When we stop taking the pills, we’re supposed to get our period and menstruate as normal.

Birth control pills often cover up symptoms that women commonly experience before and during their period—for instance, acne, mood swings, and painful menstrual cramps. These medicines do not address the root cause of these problems. Our bodies are trying to tell us something when we experience symptoms such as this. For instance, consider:

  • Acne is usually a result of a food intolerance or a lack of fresh foods and omega-3s in the diet. A poor diet can also lead to bad menstrual cramps!
  • Muscle cramping can be a symptom of magnesium deficiency. Simply by getting more magnesium along with calcium and vitamin D in your diet can help prevent painful periods.
  • Poor pelvic circulation was found to be the cause of my painful cramping, and some intensive periods of ginger tea and the right dose and type of magnesium cleared that right up.

What Can We Do?

Say no to pharmaceutical birth control. Say no to a billion-dollar industry that’s increasing our risk for certain types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and hormonal problems. Say no to animal testing. Say yes to alternative methods!

If we’re taking the pill as a contraceptive

We have so many other choices! From the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) to Neem oil, Mexican Wild Yam, Queen Anne’s Lace, Slippery Elm Bark, and more, the herbal methods we can choose from are numerous.

My partner and I use the Fertility Awareness Method, which took some time and training from a professional herbalist to learn. It’s important to learn what method works best for you. Like any method of birth control, nothing is 100% effective at preventing pregnancy, so it’s important to be informed and diligent about what you choose.

If you choose to go with a natural method, working with an experienced herbalist can help ensure the best chances of pregnancy prevention success. I would absolutely not recommend Googling these things and trying them on your own, especially if you are not ready for a child.

If we’re taking the pill to reduce period symptoms

Diet can alleviate many of these symptoms, as can proper nutrient intake. Everyone should have the right to eat healthily and know their body. We have the ability to get tested and know if we’re deficient in any nutrients and take the proper steps to correct it. We have the right to a healthy body and healthy choices.

Regardless of what symptoms you’re experiencing surrounding your menstrual cycle, work with a professional to discover and address the root cause of the problem. Attempting to find a solution on your own can work, but it typically takes a lot more time, effort, and money. Working with an herbalist or other natural doctors can help you stop your period pain, reduce your symptoms, and help you feel better during your cycles!

Do we need another reason to say no to harmful contraceptive pills that are man-made? Why not just use the natural substances and eliminate the harmful side effects? With a little more knowledge about our bodies as well as the plants that can help us, we can better understand our choices for pregnancy prevention. Let’s say no to pharmaceutical birth control and save our bodies and our environment!