Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Becoming an Advocate for My Fertility

As women, we spend a lot of our lives resenting our fertility. We dread our monthly cycles, take pills to avoid pregnancy, and either skip or complain about our yearly well visits to the gynecologist. I was out of college before I abandoned this mentality -- that fertility is akin to an illness, in a sense -- and began to celebrate it for the beautiful symphony it is, cramps and all. Here is the story of my journey from infertility to conception, and three ways that you, too, can become an advocate for your fertility.

Avoid hormonal birth control methods.

At the age of 18, I thought I was old enough to have a sexual relationship with my boyfriend, but I certainly wasn't old enough to have a baby, so I started taking oral contraceptives. When I eventually stopped taking the Pill at age 23, I had, for the first time in five years, the opportunity to see how my natural menstrual cycle functioned -- or didn't function, as it were.

Hormonal contraceptives have been touted as a way for women to regulate their menstrual cycles and take control of their fertility. On the contrary, what these contraceptives actually do is to eliminate menstrual cycles and essentially render women temporarily infertile. By suppressing ovulation, contraceptives may mask underlying hormonal issues. When she decides she wants to become pregnant, she might realize that she has issues that need to be addressed before she can conceive -- issues that hadn't been obvious because she hadn't been menstruating.

Chart your menstrual cycles.

I began charting my menstrual cycles in preparation for using Natural Family Planning with my soon-to-be husband. Healthy women generally see a week or so of fertile cervical mucus leading to a temperature shift that indicates ovulation around day 14. I, on the other hand, had patches of fertile cervical mucus lasting for weeks at a time and leading to ovulation anywhere from day 17 to day 50 of my cycle. It was as if my body kept preparing itself for ovulation but had trouble actually achieving it.

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