A few months ago, Umbra Fisk's column answered a question about the greenest method of birth control, which was followed by a reader who commented, "In your most recent post, I thought there was a pretty big type of birth control missing: Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)...FAM is extremely "green" as it requires no rubbers or chemicals; it is also extremely empowering to women and supports personal health."
I found Umbra's response intriguing: "According to Planned Parenthood, FAM is as effective a birth control method as condoms."
I had always heard that the natural method of birth control was extremely unreliable, ineffective, and unscientifically sound, and yet here was Umbra citing Planned Parenthood (a group that certainly does not want people choosing a poor birth control method) and saying that it's just as effective as condoms.
I had to find out more...
A short history of my personal birth control
Before I had my oldest, I was on the pill, and I hated, hated, hated it. I will never go back on the pill. N-E-V-E-R! Since his birth, my husband and I have used condoms as our birth control method of choice, but I've intended to look into getting an IUD for a couple of years now. Intending, but never actually doing. You see, I'm not completely sold on it. I know lots of you readers have gotten one and love it (because you've told me so), but it just didn't feel like the right choice for me. So condoms it has been.
But if we didn't have to use condoms...well that is worth looking into.
So I checked out The Book from the library: Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. The 500 page bible on fertility awareness. Weschler describes in great detail exactly how to understand and keep track of your own body's fertility signs so you can act accordingly: either abstaining from intercourse during your most fertile time if you don't want to get pregnant, or focusing your intimacy on your most fertile time so you do get pregnant.
As far as birth control methods go, I'm still not convinced that this one is right for me (and my husband is even less convinced). You have to be able to take your temperature every morning after three consecutive hours of sleep, and that's problematic for me because I totally suck at sleeping. I don't know that I ever get three consecutive hours of sleep at night. I think I'm still running on infant schedule, even though my last baby stopped nursing a year and a half ago.
Plus, during your fertile time, you either have to abstain from sex or use a barrier method (like a condom), and since I have a short cycle, we'd be using condoms almost as much as we do now.
And as my husband says, "If this method is so easy to use, why is the book so long?"
On the other hand, I think every woman should read this book. I think they should require classes on it in high school, or at the very least every mother should teach her daughter about fertility awareness. The more I read, the more excited and empowered I felt. To think that my body had been giving me these signals all along, if I had only known how to read them. As Weschler says:
Imagine growing up being told that your body is a marvel of biological beauty that will orchestrate amazing changes every cycle. Rather than thinking that you keep producing infectious discharges, you'd know to identify healthy cervical secretions as a reflection of the remarkable hormonal system working within. Imagine going to the doctor and feeling knowledgeable rather than vulnerable...Even if you have no intention of using fertility awareness as a birth control method, I encourage all of you, male and female readers alike, to check out this book and unlock the secrets of female fertility that they skipped in health class.
Imagine being able to utilize your body's own fertility signs to provide you with a completely natural, safe, and effective method of birth control that promotes shared responsibility and communication between you and your partner...And if by chance you or your partner really do have a fertility problem, picture a dialogue of truly informed participants. Imagine you, your partner, and your doctor using your own charts to find the least invasive strategy first...
Have any of you tried the Fertility Awareness Method as birth control? How has your experience been?