Monday, December 14, 2009

Taking Charge of My Fertility

Note: this post is for all of the ladies who read this blog. My one or two male readers can just skip this one. K, thanks!

A few months after I started blogging I started to hear more and more about a certain book, "Taking Charge of Your Fertility", particularly around the TTC, baby, and mommy blogs.

I'm a pretty voracious reader, so I thought, "hey, this could be interesting" and headed down to Borders to grab a copy.

The book was very interesting! I definitely learned way more about my body than I had ever learned in any high school class. But a lot of the book, particularly the parts about cycle charting and ovulation, didn't apply to me at the time because I was neither trying to get pregnant nor trying to use natural birth control.

Flash forward almost a year later ...
For the past several months I've had what I believe to be side effects of "the pill", as well as some other "female problems" related to aunt flo (I'll spare you the details). So I've decided to go off of the pill and use other forms of contraception to let my hormones reset and to allow me to chart my cycle to see what is really going on.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility talks about how to use "Fertility Awareness Method" (FAM) as a form of natural birth control. Has anyone out there used FAM as an effective birth control method? If so, please let me know your "best practices."

Obviously, I can't use FAM as my primary birth control method until I've charted my cycle (using basal temperature, cervical fluid, and cervix position) for several months to establish a pattern and let the hormones get out of my system. So in the mean time, I've been researching other birth control methods. I found a really cool interactive Birth Control Effectiveness Chart. Does anyone have experience with any of the female "barrier methods" listed in the third row?

The irony of this whole situation is that one of the reasons that I want to chart my cycle is that I'm afraid that some of my female problems could indicate infertility (although I have no solid evidence for this outside of personal paranoia). But now I'm also afraid that I am going to get pregnant before I want to be!

Note: Sorry if any of you find this post boring or disgusting. One of the reasons I love blogging so much is that this community of women offers such great and diverse advice that I could never find in just my circle of real-life friends.

Regardless, I'll be sure to keep you all updated on how it goes!

PS- Thanks for all of your sweet comments on my sicky post. After a weekend of lots of rest I am feeling much better!


Sara said...

I've read about this book as well. I've read another book on Natural Family Planning (NFP) and the FAM. I too, have been on the pill so long I'm not sure what I'm like off of it, but need to find another method to use while my body regulates itself. I'll defintely be checking out this chart.

Also, talk to your doctor, I find that my own "personal paranoia" can get the best of me, often for no reason.

Anonymous said...

We didn't use the pill for 3 or 4 years, and for the majority of that time we only used condoms. We never had a single reliability with those, but then started to get a little paranoid and doubled up with the sponge. I did not enjoy using them. It's only "effective," and even then really not really, if it's directly covering your cervix, and I spent a lot of time wondering if it was still in place. I also did not enjoy all of the "digging around," but then I would also not enjoy using the Nuvaring, either. The whole experience was weird, and even though you want to take it out immediately, you can't. You have to leave it in for like 6 hours or something afterward, and it changed my...discharge, too. We only used the sponge maybe 8 or 9 times. Then we tried using regular spermicide with a tampon-like applicator, and even though I preferred that method of insertion, it felt weird. Like it kind of tingled, and then I was less sensitive. I've been on the pill for two years now and while I like certain aspects, I'd gladly switch to an IUD. I'd say your best bet is just a condom. As long as you use them appropriately, they are very effective, like 98%. Good luck!

Jessica said...

I've read the book and been doing the same. So far I am very happy with the results.

fncycwgrl said...

I was on the pill for 8 years and wow-o-wow...I have a feeling we can relate on those symptoms...

I have been off now 7 years and things are finally getting back to normal in the general since of that word...but some were sooner than others.

I use the Fertility Friend dot com. and it's a free account and you track all of your above mentioned items and it charts it and you can go back and enter cycles and so forth. They offer a premium paid version that details and predicts ovulation. They offer a free trial of premium and offer it sporadically.

I am not TTC but want to be informed also...good luck.

Heather said...

I just went off the pill, this month. We want to get my body semi ready for kids in a few months.

I haven't had any weird symptoms yet but I hear there can be a lot. My face is breaking out which stinks.

I need to read this book and learn more about my natural cycle. Thanks for the suggestion!

i. me. mine said...

I haven't read the book but learned about NFP during our pre cana that was required by the church before getting married.

I have followed it religiously since and it works great for me. We have been married for over a year now and I'm still not ready for a baby, but this method is an easy way to track your fertility.

Let me know if you want to know more about it.

Classy Fab Sarah said...

I have been on the pill for 3.5 years and the side effects are seriously making me crazy.... every month I swear I'm going to quit but then I chicken out at the last minute (the pill reduces my horrible cramps and I'm afraid to go back!)... but I am nowhere near marriage or children or any of that.... *sigh* why do uteruses have to be such a pain in the butt?

Mrs EyeCanSee said...

I read this book when we first starting thinking about trying for kids. I never full out charted my temp, but it was very interesting seeing all the other things that happen during your cycle.

I personally wouldn't want to use that method if I wasn't ok with getting pregnant. You can't pinpoint ovulation until AFTER it happens, and that was a roll of the dice I wasn't willing to take.

Rachel said...

I've been on the pill for about 2 years, and I'm one of the lucky ones who have had no bad side effects. I'm hoping it stays that way.

I just want to say that I looked that the chart you share and I find it interesting that breastfeeding is a form of birth control. Never knew that before now!

As for NFP, I've got a few friends who use it ans swear by it. I'd be interested in using it once I'm in a place where a baby would be okay. However, right now I'm not at that place. Good luck!

Lucy Marie said...

I went off the pill a few months ago - for what seems like many of the same reasons that you did. So far, so good. I am really interested in using the FAM as well, but I haven't gotten my act together enough to actually chart my cycles. Good luck with it!

Lucy Marie said...

I went off the pill a few months ago - for what seems like many of the same reasons that you did. So far, so good. I am really interested in using the FAM as well, but I haven't gotten my act together enough to actually chart my cycles. Good luck with it!

Ams said...

I, too, used fertility friend. You should try it!
I was obsessed with all things baby about 4 years ago so if you ever want to bounce something off me feel free to email me!

a H.I.T. said...

Once the baby is born, Husby and I are going to try the FAM method. After my experience going off the pills last time, I really don't want to start them back up again. Good luck with the process!

Shalay said...

I was on the pill for 6 years, and late last year I decided to go off of it. I bought Taking Charge of Your Fertility and began using FAM as my bc method. It worked great, and I felt like my body was way more balanced and not being pumped full of artificial hormones.

(It should be mentioned that we also always rely on the trusty "pull out" method. It's second nature, and something that we did even while I was on the pill, so that was our back up method, so to speak.)

Unfortunately, I decided to go back on the pill (a different one) last month, after several months of serious acne breakouts. I did it for the sole purpose of clearing up my skin, but I wish I didn't have to. I loved using an all natural method of bc. We never had one scare because there's no way to think you "might" be pregnant, especially if you're charting your temps and fluids.

Good luck if you decide to start using FAM, I think it's a great decision!

Kelley said...

thanks for highlighting this book! I have an IUD and generally like it, but my periods are a little odd still. It would be nice to not have to use anything! I'm not a big fan of the hormones!

d.a.r. said...

I've been on the pill for a good long time now...I would love to get off of it, but quite frankly, I am allergic to condoms, don't trust the ones I am not allergic to, and am not willing to take the risk of using FAM unless I am okay with getting pregnant. But, I think that is one awesome thing about being a woman now...the freedom to have all of these options!!!

Mrs.Olson said...

My body cannot handle birth control, so I do not take it. My husband and I have not been using any form of birth control. Just God's awesome timing. Not saying that those using birth control aren't on God's timing, my immune system just cant handle much.

Anywho. I am interested in reading that book. After 2 miss carriages, my mind and body are so focused on baby that each month I go into a massive depression when I notice my period arriving.

So I am looking forward to getting this book.


Suzette said...

I am sure you're going to get lots of feedback on this one, but here's my experience with this..

I was put on the pill at a VERY young age because of ovarian cysts... 13 to be exact... And at 23 I decided that 10 years was a LONG time to be on the pill, so my husband & I decided to get off the pill and try to prevent it on our own. I can say, we did exactly that, for one year we used the foam - spermicide.. We NEVER used condoms... NEVER! My husband would rather have 10 children then use a condom! lol! So, we used the foam and tried to be concious of when I ovulated... It worked like a charm... The one week we said, whatever, well, we got pregnant! I truly just thought it was my body! I didn't think the foam worked, but obviously it did! I think the % is 97.9%! I also tried the vag strips, I hated them.. They were very uncomfortable!

Anyway - hope this helps! Good luck!

CJ said...

Most effective contraceptives are of course the pills. But they can make your hormones go all wild when taken for a long time. You do get advanced ones with minimal side effects, so do consult your gyneac for the latest pills. You also can just stop taking pills for 2 months every 6 months, which will keep your hormones straight. The other options like calender method are not so reliable especially if you have irregular periods. Condoms are the next safest but we all know that they can break down too. Better to consult a gynaec before starting anything new as you would not want any mishaps happening with your body

♥ CJ

Anonymous said...

I've heard about this, but never tried it myself. Now I want to. Thanks for the reminder. :) I know some people who use this method, and it seems very interesting. The pill did not agree with me at all - any of the kinds I tried. If nothing else, I'd like to read to learn - it seems very informational.

Nicole said...

What type of symptoms have you all been getting once you took yourself off the pill? Is Nausea one of them??

Brittany Ann said...

I used FAM, and let me tell, if you do it right, it works like a charm. I took my temp every morning and I never had a scare when we were using it. (We have since decided to stop caring and "see what happens." Fingers crossed.

My periods are pretty regular, though, so it pretty easy to do. It only took me a couple months to truly figure out when my fertile days would hit.

Good luck with it all!

the BLAH BLAH BLAHger said...

A couple of friends who were told that they were infertile used "the book" and got pregnant. One had even paid an adoption attorney for two months before buying the book and immediately getting pregnant!

Laura said...

I need to get this book. I actually just got off the pill 2 months ago and honestly feel a lot more "normal" already. We are planning on trying to have kids sometime during 2010 so I was okay with taking the chance. I have one friend whose religion doesn't accept her using bc and she has been going by this for years with no problems. Then on the other hand I had 2 other friends who tried to use this and ended up pregnant. Maybe they just weren't paying attention though! Who knows. I feel like I need to be more in tune with myself though so I will definitely check it out. I totally would like to kick the pills to the curb!

Megan said...

Hm.. I might need to check out this book. I recently got off BC, not because we are ready for kids but because I started to feel weird about putting that hormone into my body, plus I was moody and felt sick alot so I wanted to see if it was related to the pill. I have wanted to look into FAM but haven't done it yet. Now that I'm off BC my cramps are really really bad and of course the acne came. So now I'm torn as to what to do!

Sara P said...

My husband is Catholic, so it was very important to him that we not use birth control. Plus, I didn't like the idea of putting artificial hormones in my body, and I figured if it didn't work and I did get pregnant, then it must all be in God's plan and I'm okay with it. The method we learned was the one where you look at cervical mucus. At first, I was nervous about it. I'm in vet school and having a child now would be very difficult. And of course I was hearing from everybody "Oh, that doesn't work, blah blah blah." When most people think of NFP, they think of the "Calendar/Rhythm Method," which really DOESN'T work well. Anyway, we have been married about 18 months with no issues and I have learned to trust my chart. I should also point out that I have very irregular cycles (anywhere from 26-42 days), and it still works. I won't lie, it takes dedication on both my part and my husband's, but I think it's worth it. For anybody who still thinks NFP is unreliable, read this:

A scientific study of 900 women showed the sympto-thermal method (where you check both your temperature and cervical mucus) to be just as effective as the pill when done correctly. To anyone out there who is sick of being on the pill or doesn't want to go on it, I highly suggest giving Natural Family Planning (or whatever you want to call it) a try. It's also wonderful for those TTC--I've heard some great stories of people who had tried everything to get pregnant, and NFP was what worked.

Legallyblondemel said...

Reading this book, in conjunction with a few other blogs, actually led me to suspect a fertility condition that was shortly thereafter diagnosed by my OB. Happily, it was easily resolved in my case, but I definitely recommend following up on any hunches you may have about this (even if you're not trying to conceive yet).

dee said...

I can thoroughly recommend this book - I can honestly say it changed my life! I have been using FAM for 7 years with 100% success.

Just before I was a newly wed like you (7 years ago) I read the book and started using FAM which I found very easy to do - why doctors think it is beyond women is beyond me! I had a very active sex life for a year using FAM and like a previous commenter said, I had no scares during that time. I stuck to the rules religiously though!

When we got married we turned to the "how to get pregnant" section of the book and 8 weeks later I was pregnant ... with twins! I started telling friends who were having problems conceiving about the book and one by one they all got pregnant too. I was so impressed that I left my career as a hospital manager and went back to university when my twins were 2 to re train as a fertility awareness practitioner. Once I was qualified I set up a natural fertility clinic with a friend who is an acupuncturist. 3 years later we have helped over 200 couples to have a baby, many of whom had been told they were infertile.

It's a brilliant book and should be on the the school curriculum for all adolescent girls. Go for it newlyweds - you have nothing to lose!

Dee Armstrong

In this wonderful life... said...

I think it's great you are aware and keeping an eye on things. I have no advice in these areas but I will tell you I'm thankful to have found out my issues before trying to have a baby. It would have set us back many years had things been different. A lot of docs only do paps at annual appts. Doing lab work can help detect some other things as well. That's how my normal gyno detected I had PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and sent me to a specialist. So, never hurts to have things checked ahead of time!

Lindsay said...

Interesting post...I did hottible on the pill and went off of it years ago. For now, my sister, my best friend (who is a nurse/doctor in training!) and I are all super happy with our copper (non hormonal) IUDs and definitely recommend it! Just another option to think about. :)

Paige said...

Hey! I've been following your blog (among others) for awhile now. I'm not a big comment-er, but your FAM post made me smile!

I've been using the FAM method for about 14 months (or 15 cycles), and I LOVE IT.

I haven't read the other comments (I'm at work, and didn't have the time), so I'm sorry if I provide some repeat information.

For the first, oh, eight months or so (hubby was pretty paranoid) we used condoms 100% of the time. Then we switched to only using condoms during the fertile window--and so far, we're 15 cycles in and no oopsies! :)

Follow the rules, and you'll be fine. It's generally only when you start pushing the boundaries that things get a little...iffy. ;) When in doubt, use protection.

The beauty of FAM is that it IS 100% natural. There are no hormones to deal with, and when you decide you're ready to start trying to conceive, there's nothing you have to phase off of, or have removed. You just stop protecting/abstaining.

FAM has honestly changed my life. I love using it, and I love how much I've learned about my body since getting off the pill. If you have any questions about FAM, feel free to email me at paigemoreland(at)gmail(dot)com. Another resource you might check out is the Christian Family Planning Network at christianfamilyplanning(dot)net. It's a great forum, filled with women who are experience FAM-ers. :D They've really helped me during my journey!

Naturally Caffeinated Family said...

I went off BC for several reasons years ago too. Felt low energy, like it made me a too even tempered, I didn't get as happy as I normally would, I know that sounds weird, but definitely didn't like that, I like getting excited over things, ha!

I haven't read this book but I did start keeping track of my temperature, etc. when we were going to start trying to conceive. We did use condoms for a while, but neither of us liked that for several reasons, so we stopped.=) We have friends who did NFP and like it. It took me a few months to figure things out, exactly when I was ovulating.

I hope everything goes really well for you!

Perfectly Imperfect said...

I actually bought this book on a suggestion from another blogger and loved it. I haven't been on BC in years because of all of my other issues (I didn't want to put anything foreign into my body when it was already having such a hard time), so we started using the FAM method. Loved it. Not only that, but it puts you so in tune with what's going on with your body that you would probably never notice otherwise. I recommend also using condoms until you get this down pat though. Just in case! Also, if you think you might have some issues, go with your gut and talk to someone about it. You can save yourself a lot of time and heartache by possibly finding out issues before you start trying for a family.

Ok.. I'm done with my book. =)

JKSeattle said...

I know I'm late to the comment party on this one, but I thought I'd share my experiences anyway.

I have had some problems with side effects on the pill in the past, and wanted to get off it, so I did my research and decided the copper (non-hormonal) IUD was the right thing for me.

If you opt for this, be really sure the person inserting it has done a lot of them - don't let the nurse practitioner who does your annual exam do it just because she's nice! Find out who in the practice has done the most, because they will do a much, much better job. If it's done poorly, you will probably be in more pain than you've ever experienced before. A couple of things can help make this less likely. Get an ultrasound of your vagina and uterus first, to find out what its shape is like - mine is apparently somewhat curved and tilted, which meant the IUD wound up resting on my cervix, causing severe cramping, and I had to have it removed. Had I (and my doctor) known this in advance, the insertion could have been done in a way to make this less likely. The second thing you can do is ask for a prescription for Ativan at your consultation - take one the night before and one an hour before - it will make you less nervous and relax your muscles a bit, making the whole procedure much easier.

My unsuccessful IUD experience was so intensely painful that I just couldn't bring myself to try it again - if it's what you really want, prepare yourself so the experience isn't a barrier to actually making it work.

Nuvaring is supposed to have fewer side effects, but I found it caused me a lot of vaginal irritation (I have really sensitive skin, so I think it might have been a reaction to the plastic) and I got a couple of yeast infections. Not so pleasant.

So where am I now? Back on the pill, but this time on a very low dose pill, and I'm pretty happy with it. But I've now been on hormonal contraception for 10 years, so I have no idea what it would be like without it!

One other note related to someone else's post - while breastfeeding is somewhat contraceptive, it's definitely not nearly as effective as you might hope - I know two people who've gotten pregnant while breastfeeding, and that is not a pretty place to be!

Katie F said...

I love your blog! I saw your post on this book and now I want to go get it. Alot of my blogger friends have said it is a good book. Your post convinced me
I also feel more comfortable telling my blog friends things than I do my actual friends. People who blog don't seem to judge or look down on you
I am now following your blog

Chelsi said...

I have lurked for a bit but felt compelled to comment on this even though it was posted LONG ago! :)

I have had issues on the regular pill, nuvaring and then YAZ, which is supposed to be a low dose. Well, I decided to buy the book and attempt to temp. While I can definitely say that I haven't been 100% successful. However, I have detected ovulation which has helped us not conceive for five months now. So, maybe give us readers an update as to how the method is working for you?

Good luck!

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