Saturday, May 10, 2008

Reproductive Empowerment! Er, I Mean, Happy Mother's Day!

Just for you, Tessie, here's a nice sappy Mother's Day post topic (and boys, here's a fervent warning to get out now): friends, tell me about your cervical fluid. Or more specifically (and less horrifically,) do you observe it, as such? Do you chart it and discuss its condition with your sexual partner? Because with the long-awaited advent of my first postpartum period, I am now faced with once again pondering a Birth Control Decision, and I'm leaning heavily towards trying the Fertility Awareness Method as outlined in Taking Charge of Your Fertility.
If you're unfamiliar with the concept and don't feel like clicking linkies, basically the FAM is a method of tracking your cycle to either achieve or avoid pregnancy. It involves the generally familiar concept of taking your basal body temp, but just for funsies, also throws in the daily observation and TRACKING on GRAPHS of your cervical fluid condition. Like, essentially giving yourself a nice little pelvic exam every morning.
It is a bit Fussypants, admittedly, which is very not me. There is much charting and temperature taking and self control, and I don't have a brilliant track record with any of those. But I have an even worse track record with most other b.c. options. Mirena and other IUD types just plain freak me out, we want more kids so any tying or snipping of things is out of the question, and the idea of screwing with my hormones long term (aka The Pill) kind of worries me. Also, it makes me feel like crap. And all the so-called barrier methods and sprays and foams and sponges are just... Gaah! Baffling! Messy! Requiring forethought! Un-fun!
(Bitter Side Rant: Boy, there are just SO MANY appealing options for birth control, no? And all are so particularly simple and convenient for the WOMAN! Which is thoughtful, since she has to deal with PMS and periods and pap smears and fibroids and cysts and menopause and pregnancy and BIRTH and all. At least the men have to handle the messy details in ONE area of family planning, at least. OH WAIT...)
So has anyone else tried this method? Is it worth the work? Or am I just going to end up pregnant and once again concerned with things other than birth control?


Swistle said...

YES, I've used it for years! I'm not using it now because I'm breastfeeding and that throws my charts off.

People make jokes, of course, when they find out we use it, because we have five kids so it looks like it FAILED, get it? Tee hee. But what I like about the method is it can be used to prevent children AND to efficiently conceive them. I'll point out that Henry was conceived when we were NOT charting but were instead using barrier methods. (I weaned the twins the same month he was conceived.)

Well, anyway. It works if your cycle is cooperative. Some people have cycles that don't chart nicely for one reason or another, but my cycle was nice and charty. And after awhile, it got to be second-nature and I only had to actually chart about 7 days a month (first day of cycle and the time between fertile-quality cervical fluid and ovulation).

Also: WHOOP in re your paragraph on the grossness/femaleness of birth control options.

constance the eleventh said...

YES! also. We tried for 20 months to get pregnant with our first, a year with our second, six months with our third, and then I discovered FAM. Seriously, it's totally empowering. Why does nobody tell us what our body can actually show us? My cycles are highly irregular and weird and I wasn't sure it would work. I did temperature charting when we were trying before, but I didn't know about the cervical fluid and it made all the difference. Now I'm pregnant with what my husband thinks of as an "oops", but I knew all the signs were there and it was a big possibility. It takes a LOT of guesswork out of it.

You just have to be serious about using a backup method if you don't want a baby- we were very used to being able to roll the dice and thinking I wouldn't be fertile. With this system, you have so much more information handy and you should use it. :) Otherwise you get the stunned silence when you tell him you're pregnant.

Jess said...

I have never tried it but I have a friend who did in an attempt NOT to get pregnant and got pregnant in a matter of months. I think part of it depends on the cycle of the particular person and part of it depends on the self-control of the couple. For me, it's a really cool concept but it's not foolproof enough. There are enough variables and what ifs that I would only use it if I would be at least somewhat okay with getting pregnant. I guess I'm lucky that the pill doesn't give me any side effects.

Jana said...

We used the method when trying to conceive our second child, but I can see how it would work really well when trying to prevent the conception of one (except when breast feeding, as evidenced by the impending birth of baby #3). Definitely learned my lesson on that one!

I think the book you mentioned should be given to every girl around the age of 15 or 16. A friend gave it to me as a wedding gift (in private - not at my shower in front of my mother and grandmother, thank goodness) and I thought it was a little odd, but it was a fabulous idea and I'm so glad she did. My (in)fertility buddies and I call it our "bible".

As for discussing the details of FAM with the spouse, my husband didn't mind at all. Of course, he has a degree in biology and finds all things biological fascinating, including the consistency of my cervical fluid.

If you prefer to use the computer to chart all of the info, I'd recommend
I used it for a few months in addition to charting on paper (I just made photocopies of one of the charts in the book).

Sorry for the long comment....can you tell I'm passionate about this topic?

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree with you about the lack of appealing BC options for women. Appalling!

I have a Mirena so I don't use FAM, but I did find the knowledge I gained from reading that book to be amazing. So many things I didn't know about my own body. Even though I don't need to know b/c I'm protected, I do take mental note of the condition of my cervical fluid now and it does feel empowering.

bananafana said...

this was what we used to get pregnant. I think it totally works if you remember to do the temp in the morning and have a pretty reliable cycle. I too am a "no pill" girl so we would be using this if we wanted more kids down the road

JMC said...

I'm using it right now, minus the whole checking the fluids and taking the temperature parts. You know, the lazy woman's rhythm method. Basically, my cycle is SO regular, I can just go by calendar days. It did fail me ONCE, because no matter how regular your cycle is, you can have an off month (the ten-day long period should have clued me in that it wasn't a normal month), but we're all happy with the extra kid. So all's well that ends well. ;)

Bird said...

I wrote a really long comment and then deleted it because I thought it was perhaps too detailed and a tad gross.

Suffice to say, this is my method of choice and I am extremely ghetto-tastic in it's application. Like swistle, I paid attention in the beginnng and now I just sort of check the calendar and evaluate from there.

I have had a child, but he was on purpose. I dont' have any experience with my cycle while nursing because I gave up nursing at three months and that's when my period re-appeared. I did not get along with the Medela pump, so nursing had to go the way of the Do do.

A Margarita said...

Wow, I had no idea one could observe your cervical fluid. Hmmm, I was on Ortho-Tri-Cyclen Lo for years and the low does hormone pill was the only one I found to make me have less severe periods while not affecting my personality or general well-being AND of course, making me unfertile.

Tessie said...

Best Mothers Day topic EVER.

I, uh, don't know anything about the charty stuff. I've only used the sucky forms of BC before. I like to be able to blame The Man, instead of MYSELF, when something goes wrong. Not that it helps.

SLynnRo said...

I don't know nothin' about this, BUT FUN TANGENT STORY.

One of my Catholic friends was getting married, and they advocate natural family planning (I guess similar to this?) and she had to keep a chart of her vaginal discharge and discuss it with A MAN.

Annie said...

I love FAM as well, but I second what swistle said about it working really well if you have cooperative cycles. I have weird, very long cycles, and we were using when I unintentionally got pregnant with our first. I had patches of fertile fluid (sorry TMI!) and it appeared like I had a shift, but lo and behold, I ended up ovulating a week and a half later and got pregnant. Also, I highly recommend checking internally for fertile fluid if you're using it as birth control (sorry again!).

I am right there with you though. I don't like BCPs, and I am afraid of IUDs. We aren't ready to snip or do anything permanent either. We have been relying on the grace of God and breastfeeding, but since we're down to one feeding/day, we better figure something else out.

artemisia said...

I have an IUD and LOVE IT. LOVE IT.

If you are at all willing to consider it,I'd be happy to e-mail/chat about it. Really.

Geez - I really AM the IUD Evangelist. But, I LOVE IT.

Jill said...

Did I miss the boat on this one? Enh, I'm going to comment anyway.
I was on the pill for a long time, and did Depo for awhile (you know, the shot, where you only get a period ever 3 months or something? I gained 40 pounds and it took a year to get my period back. No more of that for me)
I started charting last June when we started trying to get me pregnant, but I stopped a few months ago because it just got too tedious for me. Like others said, I think every girl should be given a copy at 15-16 because man, I had no idea about how my body worked and I didn't even know I was so in the dark!
I think you should try it, see if you like it, and then reevaluate options if you decide it's not for you.
I like the idea of it as a birth control method (if we ever have kids and go back to not wanting to get pregnant) but I don't know that it would work that well because I think I would eventually get lazy or just not want to use a condom or something. Or, you know, get drunk and forget about it.

CAQuincy said...

I used charting for babies #2 and #3, and I learned a LOT. Now I do the "lazy-lady's" method and just keep a mental note of the fluid and the dates on the calendar. My husband gets pretty grossed out by the whole business, so I don't discuss it much with him! However, after being together for so long, I swear he knows my cycle better than I do and seems to know just when to use extra protection without my having to say a word. Twue Wuv.

Musings of a Mom said...

My favorite BC was the Nouva ring that was "local" and so I didn't have the weight gain like I had with the pill. Plus, you just put it in once a month.

It's still not as good as having no hormones in your body, but it's better than the pill. But don't miss a month! That's how #3 came along...

All other BC methods (inc. IUD) for me had worse side effects than benefits. But I was never brave enough to try the charting method.

Mommy Daisy said...

I tried charting for a while when we were trying to get pregnant with Zachariah, but I'm so irregular that I gave up on that. I'm happy to read from your commenter Constance that this worked even with an irregular cycle. (You see I got pregnant without even having a period for 2 months.) Maybe I should read this and give it a try. Although I don't think Matt would be impressed by it as a preventative measure. He is WAY to nervous about things like that. He does take control of the BC around here. Takes the stress off me, and if I have it my way (and sometimes I do) we don't use anything. I know TMI. You can cover your eyes and pretend you never read that if you want. ;)

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