(NaturalNews) As of now, the FDA has yet to approve of a safe option for birth control. The pill has been linked to higher breast cancer risk, the Depo Provera shot to infertility and osteoporosis, and the Mirena IUD to spontaneous abortions and even death. The Nuva Ring and the Patch can result in weight gain and blood clots, which can increase a woman`s risk of having heart attacks and strokes. Women are taught that the risk of pregnancy cannot be avoided unless they take one of these hormone-altering drugs. They are taught to treat fertility like a disease and medicate it away, not realizing what a detrimental effect this can cause on long-term health. They are rarely taught the usefulness of fertility tracking as a means of monitoring one's probability for pregnancy throughout the cycle.
Fertility awareness is a subject learned thoroughly by couples trying to conceive. By following their cyclic calendar and observing telltale signs of fertile mucous, women can plan their sexual activities around ovulation in order to increase likelihood of a pregnancy. On the other hand, women trying to avoid pregnancy can use this information to refrain from sexual activities (or make sure to use protection) when they are most likely to get pregnant. By combining fertility tracking with condoms, the same desired results of birth control drugs are achieved, without the pressing health concerns.
Regardless of whether the goal is to conceive or to avoid conception, every woman should understand and record the patterns of her own cycle. The average cycle lasts 28 days, but anywhere from 21 to 35 is perfectly normal. As it happens, women are not machines with identical wiring, so their organic bodies run unique courses. Unfortunately, women with cycles over 28 days are often urged by doctors to get on birth control drugs in order to normalize "the problem." Having a regular 35 day cycle, though, is not a problem at all and women should not feel pressured to take drugs in order to fix their bodies` natural rhythm.
Menstrual cycle length is measured by counting the first day of bleeding as day 1 and the last day before the next bleeding as the last day of the cycle. Assuming a 28 day cycle, somewhere between days 11 and 21, the ovary releases an egg which travels to the uterus and awaits fertilization. If sperm does not reach the egg during this time, the lining of the uterus will be shed on day 28 (or on the last day), and the cycle will start all over again.
It is important for women to log their cycle patterns in a calendar in order to get a clear picture of when ovulation occurs. It usually begins some time between days 11 and 21, but this may vary every month. There are about 14 days between ovulation and the last day of the cycle, so if a woman has a longer cycle, she can backtrack from the last day for a good estimate of when she ovulated. The longer a cycle is tracked, the more reliable the results are. By tracking one`s cycle for a full year, a fairly accurate picture of fertility can be assumed.
In order to determine her fertility period, a woman should take her shortest cycle out of a year and subtract 18 days from it. If her shortest cycle was 28 days, then her fertility window begins on day 10. Next, she should take the longest cycle and subtract 11 days from it. If her longest cycle was 34, then the fertility window closes on day 23. She is most likely to ovulate and become pregnant some time between days 10 and 23 of her cycle. In other words, a woman who is trying to avoid pregnancy should either abstain from sex during this time or use condoms as contraception.
There are other clues that one`s body offers when ovulation time has arrived. For one, the basal body temperature will rise between 0.4 and 1 degree Fahrenheit. Cervical mucous also becomes clear and stretchy. Some women will experience pain on one side of the lower abdomen the day an egg is released from the ovary. Many women experience tenderness in the breasts. By noting these subtle changes, fertility awareness can be achieved and used as a substitute to invasive birth control drugs.
Recording these patterns requires keen attention and a several month commitment, but is well worth it as an alternative to birth control drugs. If fertility has been tracked accurately and condoms are worn during the fertility window, pregnancy can be easily avoided. Women who have more than one partner should note that fertility tracking does not protect against STDs and condom use is encouraged throughout the cycle. For women who have irregular cycles, results of fertility tracking will be less reliable. There are supplements such as chasteberry and yam-based progesterone creams that can assist in regulating cycles before trying to track them.
Although much less harmful to the body than phytoestrogen-containing birth control drugs, fertility awareness should only be considered dependable if used by responsible, dedicated individuals. Forgetting to mark a cycle for a month or two can make getting an accurate picture of one`s fertility very difficult. But for those who have the diligence and ambition to understand their own bodies, this is a highly recommended tool that can help avert unwanted surprises today and maybe even provide a head start a few years down the road, when the time to have a baby has come.
Melanie Banzer is an independent research journalist with a passion for health, political truth, and raising babies as nature intended! She believes it is everyone's personal responsibility to take charge of their own well-being and pursue an ongoing quest for knowledge. Her website http://www.ohbabybabyblog.com provides holistic pregnancy-related information as she explores an alternative approach to first-time motherhood.