As a younger woman, I tried many forms of birth control but none of them worked well for me. The pill gave me both emotional and physical side effects. Other methods were cumbersome or contained nasty chemicals. I was already studying herbs and natural healing and I knew there must be something better that didn’t have all the side effects. So began my research on natural birth control methods.
Not only did I read lots of books, I spoke to many women about their natural birth control experiences. Several women had gotten pregnant using herbs, specifically wild yam. I heard about wild carrot, but couldn’t find anyone who had actually used it. The herbal avenue started looking risky. Then I discovered Fertility Awareness (FA) (and Natural Family Planning).
I took a class and started using FA when I was 21. I used it for many years as a reliable birth control method, and later used it to conceive my two wonderful boys. Finding the method deeply valuable, I became an instructor and have taught FA for over 30 years.
Sometimes, people confuse FA with the Rhythm Method, a calendar birth control method. These methods are not the same. While the Rhythm Method is notorious for its high failure rate, FA is extremely reliable, based on sound scientific knowledge and research. Fertility Awareness uses a woman’s natural fertility signs such as cervical fluid and basal body temperature to accurately determine when she can and cannot become pregnant.
I love many things about Fertility Awareness. With correct and consistent use, it is 99% effective, which makes it as effective as the birth control pill (Family Planning, 2015). It can be used throughout all phases of a woman’s reproductive life including breast-feeding, perimenopause, and with irregular cycles. It is inexpensive to use and has no side effects. It is one of the few birth control methods I know where the man and the woman can actively participate together in its implementation.
Fertility Awareness is much more than a birth control method. It is an empowering tool for people to get to know their bodies in a more profound way. It is a useful tool in determining how food and lifestyle might be impacting reproductive balance. I have seen FA bring couples closer together and improve their sex lives.
We humans can have complicated relationships with our fertility. Many women are scared of their ability to conceive. Maybe they have had an unwanted pregnancy, or fear they might. Other couples have tried for years to get pregnant with no success. This can be a frustrating and heartbreaking process. FA helps couples make friends with their fertility, seeing it as a natural bodily process and not an inconvenience or adversary.
As an herbalist, I use aspects of Fertility Awareness with many clients. It is especially helpful for couples that are trying to conceive. It is a useful tool to help clarify hormonal imbalances for women suffering from PMS, amenorrhea, irregular cycles, anovulation, dysmenorrhea, hormonal acne and headaches, recurrent miscarriage and infertility. It can also be used to accurately determine some thyroid imbalances.
Similar to herbs, Fertility Awareness is an empowering tool for couples to understand their own, and each others, health and bodies more deeply. It works with the body’s natural hormonal patterns, ultimately helping us to reconnect with the rhythms of the earth. FA can help us celebrate and appreciate the inherent beauty and value of our bodies, in particular the female reproductive system, which in our culture is degraded and objectified. It is one of my life passions to pass on the valuable tool of Fertility Awareness. Isn’t it time we took control of our reproductive vitality and how we choose to think of, and work with, our fertility?
If you are interested in learning more, Elaine is offers webinars for Herbalists and Health Professionals via her Cycle Tracking & Natural Birth Control Webinars. She also teaches classes on FA for the general public.
© Elaine Sheff, Clinical Herbalist 2015
About the Author:
The author of several books on herbal medicine and healing, clinical herbalist Elaine Sheff has been passionate about sharing herbal knowledge for over 25 years. Her latest book is Naked: Botanical Recipes for Vibrant Skin and Healthy Hair. Elaine is the Co-Director of Green Path Herb School, located in Missoula, MT, where she strives to inspire and empower students and clients to remember their connection to the earth, the plants and their own healing process. As a certified Instructor of the Natural Family Planning and Fertility Awareness Methods, Elaine has helped many couples to avoid or achieve pregnancy naturally. An artist and writer, Elaine has written numerous articles about her family’s journey with epilepsy and a special needs child. You can often find her bent over an herb in her garden or marveling at small flowers in mountain meadows with her husband and sons.