Why Fertility Awareness will (Probably) Never be the Popular Choice for Birth Control

Today, I googled NFP in my area code. A few things popped up, namely the local clinic that provides affordable care to low income people. They mentioned “family planning” but not “Natural Family Planning”. Apparently the campus health service does provide Fertility Awareness, but it was not very appealing. In fact they stated, “The Rhythm Method is not an effective way to prevent pregnancy. More effective methods, such as the pill and shot are recommended for those who wish to successfully avoid an unplanned pregnancy.” My first automatic spasm – “Did you just confuse Fertility Awareness with the dreadful Rhythm Method?” My second reaction, “No wonder all my peers think I’m crazy. This is the information that’s being endorsed, I would think I’m a crazy fool too.”

As I continue forward in my journey with NFP, which I consider also somewhat synonymous with my spiritual journey (The more I discover about my body, the more I realize how magnificent and impressive the maker of it is.) I realize why it is not the popular choice. It’s a lot like Christianity. Christianity is not the popular route, never was, probably will never be. NFP is tricky, not impossible! But tricky. Charting can be confusing, temps can be fluctuating and sometimes determining consistency can be…delicate, to say the least (watery or stretchy? cloudy or opaque?) For me, the rewards far outweigh the effort. But others simply may not feel the same.

I highly value the information learned from a chart, knowing, “Wow, look at my temps, along with a pattern of fluids. Fascinating! My migraines now show a pattern in correlation with all these other symptoms.” I find this information incredibly valuable. Let me reemphasize that – the information I gather from a chart, is precious and valuable to me. If another female does not find this information about herself empowering and valuable, FAM is deemed useless to that female. I know plenty of people that would rather pop a pill than have to deal with charting. Heck, even popping a pill is too burdensome for many women, that’s why we have the ring and IUDs. The reason I knew FAM was for me was because when I first heard about it, I thought, “If I had known about this, I would have been charting since 7th grade! This information is enthralling! I would do it single, engaged, married, hell even if I was a nun!”

Sex Ed. teaches that contraception is responsibility. For those who are not willing to pay close attention and chart their cycles, and are sexually active, hormonal contraception is a wise route. (After all, if you don’t WANT to chart, it’s effectiveness is, well, not very effective.) Personally, I feel far more responsible by knowing what my cycle’s doing than I ever did on the pill.

I use the OvuView app and love it. It’s all stored on my phone and I can email my charts to get a better look at them on the computer or send them to my gyno for checkups. In which case I would argue that technology has given modern women an advantage who want to practice FAM. In a sense, it’s just as easy to take a temp in the morning than to pop a pill. (Ok maybe it takes 60 sec more to get your temp and record in your phone. I’ll admit that.) But phone apps are a great way to go for FAM – just a few taps and the chart is there, no paper trail.

But I would also argue that the media doesn’t encourage women to think about birth control – I mean really deliberate it. The message typically is “Effectiveness and Easiness”. The Nuva-Ring’s big advertising push is “stick it in, don’t think about it, take it out”. IUD’s are primarily advertised upon the benefit of “Effective (I believe they are the most effective on the market right now ?) and you don’t have to worry about it for YEARS.” FAM has a grave disadvantage in this mindset. Women can stick something in their uterus for years and have carefree sex without worrying about pregnancy – why would they bother charting?

I choose to chart because I care about my cycle, I want to know, I am continually curious about the inner workings of the human body. And this is an integral component of FAM. I remember telling someone about coming off the pill and my decision to chart. I explained, “It’s so cool to see how my body changes throughout my cylce!” to which she replied, “Who cares about temperatures and fluids? All that matters is that no baby forms down there. I’ll stick to my pills, thank you very much.” That shut me up pretty darn quick. Women who don’t value their monthly symptoms and would rather go the hormonal route are never going to turn to FAM. Because it may be effective, but hurdling that mindset of “easiness” is quite counter intuitive for the modern gal. And if you don’t care about your symptoms within your cycle? Then you don’t care about charting. For me, charting is not a burden, but rather a privilege.

And now I will finally come back full circle to my proposal that NFP and Christianity are quite similar. Nobody past the age of reason turns to Christianity unless they care to. As my dear Christian friend once told me, “Nobody is going to be evangelized unless they want to be.” People are going to do what they want to do. Nobody will turn to NFP because “Logically it makes sense.” Perhaps in a roundabout way that will be a motivating factor, but there are also “logical reasons” hormonal contraception makes more sense too (no charting, no periods of abstinence etc.). People will turn to NFP because they WANT to. And that group of people can not be counted by quantity, for they will always be the minority. As the minority, we must simply keep going, humbly accepting that our numbers are small, but our hearts are big.

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