We talked about how we remembered sex education at our public high school − mostly as a scare campaign to have us believe that if we had unprotected sex we would almost certainly end up pregnant or contracting a sexually transmitted infection. We couldn’t recall being advised about our fertility, and how it begins to wane after a certain age.
Three years ago, I watched with bemusement as close friends in their late 20s struggled to conceive their first child. It was a most agonising time for them as they faced disappointment every month despite all their efforts to achieve pregnancy and a variety of invasive medical tests. Eventually, polycystic ovary syndrome was found to be the problem. The syndrome had probably always been present but had been masked by taking birth control pills.
With the knowledge that my partner and I wanted to start a family of our own in the not-too-distant future, it occurred to me I knew nothing about my own fertility because I, too, had been using the pill as a means of contraception for a number of years. I became curious about fertility and conception.
I came across the Billings Ovulation Method – a natural method of fertility management − online. No hormones, no barrier devices – nothing but simply taking heed of the fertility signs of the female body. Certainly sex education at school did not highlight the fact that females are only fertile for quite a small window each month, and our body tells us when that is!
So how does the female body signal its fertility? The cervix produces mucus, which can be seen and felt when it reaches the vulva. It varies in appearance depending on the hormones being produced by the body. The body produces different hormones during certain stages of the menstrual cycle. Using this information you can plan or abstain from intercourse during the time you are fertile, depending on whether you want to prevent or achieve pregnancy. Another way of describing this method is “women cycling naturally”!
We took the decision to switch to this method very seriously, conscious of the potential outcome. Ultimately, we decided we were at a stage in our lives and relationship that, while it was not in our plan to have a baby just then, if we did misinterpret the signs and fall pregnant, it would not be catastrophic.
We practised the Billings Ovulation Method as a way of understanding our fertility as a couple for two years, abstaining from the intimacy of intercourse when my body indicated I was fertile (and in the beginning, whenever I wasn’t sure!). I kept a daily record of my fertility symptoms on a chart and over time noticed a distinct pattern. I found it remarkable that the symptoms were so obvious and yet, as an educated woman, I was totally unaware. In my schooling this topic was never explored, and yet every woman would benefit from knowing.
When we were ready to start our family, the tools we had applied for two years helped us to improve our chances of conceiving. Knowing when I ovulated also allowed me to know how soon I could take a pregnancy test and pinpoint my baby’s due date.
We welcomed our son in October. It was so empowering and amazing to learn about and become one with my body and to create a little human as a result.
Photo courtesy of Angela Hardy Photography.