Today’s Guest Post comes from a long-time CCM reader! Enjoy!
Does the mingling of these words feel uncomfortable? It shouldn’t, and I’d like to explain why. Before we get started, I just have to get the “natural family planning/fertility awareness is NOT the Rhythm Method” statement out of the way. On the same page? OK, let’s continue. Fertility awareness method (FAM) and natural family planning (NFP) have gotten bad raps in the non-Catholic world, almost exclusively because of the confusion of these concepts with that of the flawed Rhythm Method that people have associated with Catholics and family planning for decades. You can read the above link as to why these things are quite different.
What I want to argue in this article is why feminists should be on board with scientific, physiologically-based methods of fertility awareness. What I am NOT arguing is for the abandonment of all hormonal or barrier methods of contraception should a woman and her partner decide that those are more appropriate and/or realistic options for them. However, in addition to these commonly utilized contraceptive measures often promoted by feminists, I also see a place for fertility awareness methods to take hold as an effective means of avoiding pregnancy for the following reasons:
1) Fertility awareness first and foremost provides a woman with an intimate knowledge of the workings of her body and reproductive cycles, and that knowledge is empowering. We can all agree the way we handle sex education in this country is far from adequate, and educating young women about their reproductive cycles and fertility signs (yes, this means talking to girls about normal cervical fluid) is a huge leap in the right direction.
2) Providing young women with ways in which to view their bodies as strong, capable, and amazing is something that feminists have been fighting to achieve for years. We need to be teaching young women why their body does what it does without shaming normal body processes (and yes, fluids). And I would argue that feminists should be on board with young (and old!) men knowing about and respecting these processes as well. These cycles are an essential part to the continuation of our species, and that is not just a “women’s issue”.
3) No bodily harm—despite the statistically minimal risks of hormonal contraceptives (religious arguments aside), there are still risks and those risks range from the relatively benign (loss of libido, weight gain) to the serious (blood clots, an increased risk of breast and cervical cancer). While one may have control over whether or not to take “the pill” or to choose between brands, we have no control over what is in the pill and what it does to our bodies. The aforementioned risks associated with hormonal contraceptive use do not address the cumulative effects that environmental exposures to synthetic estrogens, such as those found in birth control pills or plastics containing BPA, have on our fertility and overall health. Fertility awareness methods carry no known health risks.
4) Perhaps my most favorite of the reasons why feminists should hop on this bandwagon—complete control. When implemented within a stable, healthy relationship with open communication*, FAM allows women a great degree of control over their sex lives and fertility (we LOVE control!). You learn to know when you’re ‘safe’ to have unprotected sex and you know when it’s best to abstain or use a barrier method.
Do I think that all women should abandon their current method of contraception in favor of FAM? Surely not. While I think every woman would benefit from reading a well-researched book on fertility awareness (such as Taking Charge of Your Fertility), I understand that this is not a realistic family planning program for all women. However, rather than dismissing its use based on false assumptions of its association with the Rhythm Method or out of dislike for the Catholic church, I invite my fellow feminists to take pause and educate yourselves on the scientific validity of fertility awareness methods in order to provide women with a viable alternative to pills, caps, condoms, and IUDs.
Isn’t that what choice is all about?
*For me, the key to success with FAM is a stable, healthy relationship with open communication. It requires a deeper level of respect and understanding between you and your partner. Really, you probably shouldn’t be having intercourse with someone that you do not have a stable, healthy relationship with open communication, but that’s for a different post, a different day! *smile*
Kim is a graduate student interested in health communication and has a strong passion for helping to empower people to take charge of their own health.
Thanks for writing and sharing, Kim! Share your thoughts and comments here or on the FB page!
Tomorrow: Seven Quick Takes- Talking NFP with your husband
Saturday: Lactational Amenorrhea/ PostPartum Charting
Sunday: Non-religious Reasons to use NFP