The couple’s coach looked up from the chart and, with a smile, congratulated them on their first child. They looked at each other quizzically, but the coach repeated her congratulations. Mom was just a few days pregnant and her coach was the first person on Earth to know—preempting even mom—and she knew it simply by looking at a piece of paper that contained a row of colored stickers marked with cryptic messages. The first few stickers were red, followed by several green stickers and then some clear.
This wasn’t Miss Cleo reading their fortune off some Tarot card, this was real biological science and it worked. The coach was a clinician specially trained in Creighton Model fertility monitoring and Natural Procreative (NaPro) Technology, a natural and inexpensive method of tracking fertility and treating conditions that inhibit conception. And while that couple in particular was using the techniques to achieve conception, it’s just as effective at preventing pregnancy.
Perhaps you are not ready to grow your Paleo Family just yet, but want a non-pharmaceutical, non-surgical method to temporarily avoid pregnancy that is just as effective. In a healthy woman, there is usually only a short period of about a week when she is capable of conceiving.
This window is recognized by several physiological indicators that can be identified through simple observation and one that requires more substantial testing. In most cases, before ovulation, a woman’s basal temperature drops predictably and she produces a specific type of vaginal discharge known as fertile-type mucus. Both of these changes can be monitored for very little or no cost. These changes are brought about by a change in the bodily endogenous hormones estrogen and progesterone, which can be further measured through blood samples in atypical cases.
Women can track these physiological processes on a mobile app or, as the couple mentioned above did, on paper using a color-coded sticker system. The result is a series of stickered rows with notes on the fertile days indicating what type of fertile mucus is present. A certain quality of fertile mucus indicates ovulation is forthcoming. The obvious takeaway is that if a woman is trying to avoid pregnancy, she should abstain from sexual intercourse during her fertile (clear) days, especially the peak fertility days. If she is trying to achieve pregnancy, she should have sexual intercourse on her fertile days and especially peak fertility days.
Fertility Awareness Methods
If you’re interested in natural fertility monitoring, it is recommended to find a method backed by scientific research and locate a trained professional in that method for education and consultation, many of which are offered online.
The four most popular and successful methods with available resources such as classes, websites, and personal coaches/practitioners include: Symptothermal, Billings Ovulation Method, Creighton Model Fertility Care, and Marquette Model. Symptothermal method uses basal body temperature, cervical mucus observations, and cervical position to indicate days on which a woman is fertile. Both Billings and Creighton rely on observations of cervical mucus and vaginal sensation; but Creighton requires more detailed observations and is the only method that can be used in conjunction with NaProTechnology to diagnose and treat hormonal and gynecological conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis. Marquette requires the purchase of a fertility monitor, which is highly effective when used in conjunction with observation of mucus and basal body temperature.
The success rate of these methods when used correctly to avoid pregnancy is often on par with the pill according to research studies. Additionally, the success rate of fertility awareness methods to achieve pregnancy is quite high as well. As we saw in the previous section, hormonal contraception causes weight gain, mood swings, tumors, and a whole host of medical conditions (not to mention ecological and societal effects), yet it’s touted as health care. Knowledge of her personal fertility cycle can not only help a woman discover ways to naturally optimize her reproductive health, but also empower her with knowledge that can lead to a more healthy, drug-free lifestyle.