Day 122/365 - On fertility awareness
I recently took a pilot class with Katinka Locasio, of Earth and Sky Healing Arts (http://www.earthsky.dreamhosters.com/) in Long Island City. She’s becoming a certified Fertility Awareness Monitoring educator, and this was the launch of her class, consisting of 3 group lessons and a private consult. Though I’m trained as a pharmacist, have taken tons of biology classes, and read about women’s issues regularly, this class had a lot to teach me.
A woman is only fertile for ⅓ of her menstrual cycle, around the time of ovulation, and for a maximum of 5 days. A woman’s body cycles through menses, a fertility wave with a peak fertility around ovulation, and preparing for either menses (progesterone and estrogen levels drop) or pregnancy (progesterone and body temperature will stay elevated). Throughout this cycle, cervical fluid and position checks, as well as basal body temperature patterns can be used to predict the peak fertility time. The ovum (egg) only lives for one day, and allowing for multiple eggs released in the span of another 24 hours, that results in a maximum of 3 day-viability for ova. Sperm can live for an average of 3-5 days. Considering all that, it is fairly straightforward to calculate which days are ‘safe’ for intercourse and which need a contraceptive method (barrier can be used in those days). Any other days that seem questionable should also be treated with precaution (abstinence or contraception).
The term ‘Fertility Awareness’ is so apt, because it teaches women to be aware and attuned to their bodies, to notice what’s happening at each phase of the cycle. It can also correspond to the cycles of nature, especially the lunar cycle. It’s amazing that this simple, free, and accurate method is not taught in schools! This is what girls should be learning, rather than the efficacy of the ‘Pill.’ The FAM method has been demonized, but it’s actually quite effective, when followed diligently. Sure, it takes a bit of work to monitor the 3 signs (cervical fluid, position, and BBT) - but it becomes a habit that is easy to keep, without any exogenous hormones or side effects!
P.S. Here is a great video, wittily titled Miscontraceptions, that Katinka’s coworker Cassandra made back in college, which summarizes the method with a bit of humor - enjoy!