Fear and Fertility Pt. 2

Over the past few weeks, I got caught up with life, traveling home and back, and school starting again.

I write a lot about NFP. If you read this blog regularly, you might even eye roll when it’s “yet again another fertility post”. But I’m on this journey and fertility charting isn’t going anywhere because I’m very passionate about it. I’m passionate about the well being of women. And I’m especially passionate about empowering women.

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I love this photo from Holly Grigg-Spall’s Sweetening the Pill because it’s pro-woman and pro-fertility.

I really wanted to finish my most recent post – it didn’t quite feel like a finished product. I felt like I touched on a gold mine, but didn’t dig very deep. For those of you who didn’t read it, it was called the Fear of Fertility. (Catchy name, huh?)

I had the odd experience of “evangelizing”, so to speak, a friend from back home on NFP. She told me she was considering getting off hormonal birth control, but of course she’s getting married soon, so that throws a wrench into the equation. I tried so hard to be polite, not pushy, just informational. (It’s extremely difficult for me – I want to shout from the top of buildings to women everywhere “Guess what? If you feel crappy on hormones – you have options!!!! And it’s empowering, and really cool and helps you monitor your health!”) When I told her I’d been off hormones for 2 years her reply was, “I would be so scared not being on birth control. I feel like everything would be out of control. [Presumably, cramps, acne, heavy periods.] And a pregnancy would ruin my life.”

I identify with that. At least a few years ago, I did identify with that. It’s easy to be scared of something you don’t understand. I’ve had a couple wonky cycles that have driven me crazy because I can’t get the answers I’m looking for. (Which is a whole other post in itself.) There’s very little research on how to actually fix cycle problems. (Believe me, I know. I’ve combed through the internet, medical journals, and books.) That’s partly why I started my local support group because women have questions. And if they can’t get answers, they at least need someone to say “I’ve had that happen too.”

Explaining NFP/FAM to anyone who has never heard of it is like describing quantum physics. (Well, I don’t actually know quantum physics, so correct me here if I’m wrong.) There are all of these factors. Does it work? Yes, but there’s a very small, practically non existent margin of error. Is it hard? No, but you have to do it correctly. How many available days do you have? About 18. But It depends on your cycle. Some cycles may only have 5. (And the person’s going “Huh?? How did you jump from 18 to 5 that quickly?”) There aren’t a whole lot of clear cut answers with NFP which makes it difficult to explain in one sitting.

So no wonder people are scared of it. The pill and the IUD have (somewhat) clear(er) cut answers. The pill, you take every day. The IUD, you pray to God it doesn’t get dislodged in some strange place, and it works.

I was watching Pink Ribbons Inc the other week, which was a fascinating doc. One of the doctors was saying that breast cancer is still one of the least understood of all the cancers. She said doctors resort to “slash burn and kill” when they don’t understand a disease. NOW. I am NOT comparing fertility to a disease, let alone something as heart breaking and unfortunate as breast cancer. But the metaphor is there where people don’t understand how a bodily function works (fertility), so we “slash, burn, and kill” it with birth control and sterilization.

Quite frankly, I am repeatedly amazed that in this generation, with the outrageous amount of technology, there isn’t some clear cut monitor that tells you distinctly when you are post ovulation. (I am aware of the clear blue monitor, but to my knowledge, it doesn’t say you actually ovulated, just showing your fertile window is open. ? Anyone who knows better, please do correct me.) We have made crazy advances in the medical field. The creator of paypal (who is creating a fertility app) explains “You can become a total quantified-self junkie. Anything that can be measured, you record—and it’s applied to things like managing your weight, or deciding how likely you are to dope in the Tour de France. But with fertility? You get a Xerox from the 1960s.” Obviously, people aren’t interested in understanding this stuff because the “slash burn kill” mode is the pretty much monopoly option on the market currently. If you want to learn NFP/FAM you have to search, and hard, for it.

Even sex ed is rife with fear. I think it’s very important to teach young women options on birth control, simply because not informing someone doesn’t make teenage sex not happen. But I think the current way it’s done “OMG slash burn and kill it because you will get pregnant. And die.” is completely rooted in fear. Which leads to adult fear.

My friend was really interested in NFP, but she wanted to consult with her OB on it. I warned her that she would have to do her own research because there are a lot of obstacles to learning NFP. People will try to scare you out of it, potentially including her OB. (Mine did.)

In general, there’s a lot of fear of fertility because there’s not a lot of knowledge. There’s not a lot of knowledge because there’s not a lot of money in it to do research. There’s not a lot of money, because there’s more money in pharmaceuticals*. So the vicious cycle continues and continues. And my rooftop shouting gets very little done. Ah well.

 

*It’s not that pharma is all bad, but I wish more research was done on how fertility works rather than research on how to suppress it.

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