I am Woman Hear Me Roar, How Understanding My Fertility Empowered Me To Stop Contracepting

Choosing Natural Family Planning Raleigh Moms Blog

Picking up my latest copy of Family Foundations magazine, I flipped through the pages and landed on an article written by family physician, Dr. John Littell, M.D. It started out:

“Some years ago, I listened intently to a presentation on cervical cancer at a conference on women’s health care held in Orlando, Fla. During the Q&A, I asked the expert physician why he did not comment on the increased risk of cervical cancer in women who are using oral contraceptives. His response? ‘Let’s keep that to ourselves.’”

I suppose that I should have been shocked to read that an expert in women’s health care was not only readily dismissing serious risks, but was going so far as to promote the suppression of information. I should have been shocked, but I wasn’t in the least because I’ve experienced this kind of dishonesty and blatant disregard for truth more than a few times while sitting in one of those fashionable paper gowns.

When I got married 23 years old, I took the Pill. It was just what you did, or so I thought. No one bothered to offer options or explain the serious risks I was accepting as a smoker. The daily nausea and monthly cry-fests (which were a great asset in a new bride) went un-addressed.

About two years in, when I was at my wit’s end, my husband agreed that I needed to ditch the Pill. Blissfully, I did, but then I discovered my cycles (which had been previously falsified by the synthetic hormones) were erratic (to say the least). I made an appointment with a female OB/GYN to find some answers. After explaining my dilemma to her, I was handed a blank temperature chart and told to record my temperature every day and return in a few months. That was it. No explanation, no advice.

It wasn’t until after the birth of my first baby that someone (a traditional midwife, as opposed to a medwife) clued me into the idea that my body had a readable cycle and I could utilize that information to achieve/postpone a pregnancy. Providentially, my next trip to the bookstore scored a Fertility Awareness manual on the discount rack and so began my journey into Natural Family Planning.

What’s that you ask? Well, I learned and now teach that every woman’s body has three readable signs that indicate impending fertility and completed ovulation. By simply observing cervical mucus, basal body temperature (that’s the temperature taken at the same time every morning upon waking), and cervical changes, a woman can predict with a high degree of accuracy when she is baby-ready or not. She and her spouse can decide together when they need to get their groove on or when they need to find non-sexual ways to temporarily express their love (there are three phases of the monthly cycle, one of which is fertile).

Armed with this knowledge, I felt empowered as a woman. It allowed me to effectively space my children and detect a few health problems along the way. Additionally, it required my husband’s participation and respect for my whole body which did wonders to heal the distorted image I had adopted as a teen.

In hindsight, I even diagnosed the problem which had landed me in the doctor’s office a few years earlier. Had she bothered to educate me before handing me that empty chart, I would have recognized that I was experiencing anovulatory cycles (extra long and without ovulating) which were most likely associated with my low weight (a problem I unfortunately no longer have). She could have also saved me a bucket of tears because I could have addressed the problem before spending over a year trying to conceive my first child.

Once I became fully entrenched in practicing NFP-only, I thought the days of misguided advice were behind me. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

After the birth of my planned 4th child, my medwife (someone who sacrifices traditional midwifery care for a standard medical model, similar to the expert mentioned in the beginning of this post) slid a chair beside my hospital bed (when I was just a few hours postpartum) and advised me to get on birth control post haste (as though I was going to be impregnated before I managed to step out of the hospital doors).

I mentioned my success with NFP and the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (extended infertility resulting from exclusive breast feeding), but she pressured me into stuffing a prescription for a progestin-only pill into my going home bag. What she didn’t mention was that progestin-only pills are less effective at preventing ovulation than the combination pills and so rely more heavily on the third mechanism of hormonal contraceptives: making the endometrium inhospitable for implantation. That means it (like all hormonal contraceptives but more than some) is abortifacient. She also failed to mention the cancer, blood clot, depression, lowered sexual drive, etc. risks (none of which are problems for NFP and LAM users).

Luckily, the pharmacy was out-of-stock for this contraceptive on the day I sheepishly drove up to the drive-through window. I took that as the sign I needed and regained my backbone for good. I tossed the doctor’s chicken-scratch note in the trash and never looked back again.

Of course, that’s not the end of my struggles with misinformation by any stretch of the imagination, but at least now I am wise enough to fact check all doctor’s room speeches. Too often, they are spewing the latest drug representative’s advertisement without really understanding the dangers or the safer alternatives.

I guess that’s another benefit of knowing my body, I’m no longer willing to load it down with toxins. Heck, what does it matter if I go green with my cleaning products, if I’m just going to load up my system with synthetic hormones (which follow the natural course of things we put into our bodies- they get flushed out into the very water system we’re trying to keep clean).

If you’re interested in discovering more on the beauty and strength of your own body’s reproductive system, take a class on one of the Fertility Awareness Methods (Sympto-Thermal Method, Creighton Model, Billings Method, and more), buy a book on the subject or schedule an appointment with one of Raleigh’s NFP-knowledgeable gynecologists.

Got questions or want to see the studies that prove that NFP methods are as reliable as the Pill and more reliable than some other contraceptives? Check out or research the work of Dr. Thomas Hilgers, who is successfully aiding many less-fertile couples in their pursuit of having a family.

Remember also that planning a family shouldn’t be a woman’s job alone, so get your spouse involved. Talk about your body, about your mutual fertility and allow him to see the full gift that your body is. An added benefit of periodic abstinence for couples who are using NFP to postpone a pregnancy is known as the honeymoon effect. Occasionally, restraining your sexual desires can do wonders for increasing your joy (and satisfaction) in the bedroom when finally you get back together.

Whatever your method of planning your family, don’t sell out your health, your dignity or your relationship (did I mention that couples who practice NFP have a statistically significant reduction in rate of divorce?). Get informed and make educated decisions.

12 Responses to I am Woman Hear Me Roar, How Understanding My Fertility Empowered Me To Stop Contracepting

  1. Avatar
    Jenny July 22, 2015 at 9:39 am #

    I read the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility when we were having trouble getting pregnant with our son. The book taught me so much and I fell in love with charting! Unfortunately, due to PCOS, I don’t have to do anything to prevent pregnancy but I am so thankful for the information it provides to me about what is going on with my body and the times when I’m anovulatory. So many women don’t realize how much you can tell about yourself and your health if you know what to look for!

  2. Tara Brelinsky
    Tara Brelinsky July 22, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    Yes, Jenny that is the book that began my journey. It is a great starter, although it didn’t teach how to set strict parameters for those who seriously want to postpone a pregnancy. She also advocated barrier methods during the fertile time which means couples would be relying on the effective rates of condoms, etc. will are much lower than NFP methods that recommend periodic abstinence during the fertile window. It is awesome that charting assists you with managing or at least understanding your cycles with PCOS. Charting helped me diagnose my luteal phase defect.

    Just for a bit of correction in the post, there are NOT several NFP-knowledgeable doctors in Raleigh. In fact there is only 1, Dr. Amy Bruton and she is HIGHLY recommended if you are having any hormonal issues, cycle irregularity or if you just want a gyn who is willing to listen to you and educate you.

  3. Avatar
    Angela Holmes July 22, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    I wish every woman knew the benefits of NFP methods….they have been a blessing to my marriage! I love that I know what my body is doing every month and being able to identify problems if they arise in my cycle. I also see recommend Dr. Amy Bruton in the Raleigh area as an NFP knowledgeable doctor and NaPro Technology-knowledgeable as well. Dr. Hilgers’ website also has a nice set of links on the right hand side for websites for NaProTechnology and FertilityCare, both of which give a lot of useful information for those wanting to know more about their bodies and about this type of care.

    • Tara Brelinsky
      Tara Brelinsky July 23, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

      Thanks, Angela for the tips on where to find good information on the website.

  4. Avatar
    Ivy Houghtaling July 22, 2015 at 4:39 pm #

    Great post! Love your approach to NFP! Also loved the phrase ‘medwife’ I hadn’t heard it put that way before but man is it true!

    • Tara Brelinsky
      Tara Brelinsky July 22, 2015 at 9:10 pm #

      Thank you and I wish the type was applicable, but sadly in my state it has become the norm. It was a progression that I watched over two decades of childbearing.

  5. Avatar
    Jen @ Faith and Fabric July 22, 2015 at 5:09 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this article – it’s so true…if more people understood what NFP was – vs. what they think it is – things would be a lot different. The push from the world at large seems to say, “take a pill for it” (fertility and many other things), but the long term consequence of daily hormone modifications is just so, so unhealthy. Thank you again for sharing this information with so many women out there!

    • Tara Brelinsky
      Tara Brelinsky July 22, 2015 at 9:12 pm #

      Thank you for the encouragement. I agree if all women got the full facts, I think more would find themselves better able to make a good decision. It is unfair to hide or misrepresent information and ask someone to make a good choice. Thanks for helping share the truth.

  6. Avatar
    Tracy Bua Smith July 22, 2015 at 9:45 pm #

    It was so interesting to read more about your NFP journey! You have hit a homerun with this article as you touch on so many aspects of living the NFP lifestyle, most importantly your change of heart and the trials and triumphs of a woman (and her spouse) really understanding the beauty of her fertility. I heard somewhere awhile ago that our fertility is a gift to be understood, not a disease to be manipulated and eliminated. That’s so true! Thank you for your wisdom and great gift of writing! I am always blessed by your words! God bless!

    • Tara Brelinsky
      Tara Brelinsky July 23, 2015 at 11:59 am #

      Thank you, Tracy. That’s so true that fertility is a normal, healthy function of a woman’s body and if we recognized what a gift it is our whole perspective on ourselves (and our marriages) could be changed.

  7. Avatar
    Marguerite July 24, 2015 at 12:35 am #

    Dear Tara,

    What a terrific testimony about the beauty and benefits of NFP and the lack of knowledge among most medical professionals. I had the pleasure of listening to you speak at a woman’s retreat a few years ago organized by our mutual friend, Cindi, and wish I had the opportunity to share my story with you then as I am a family doctor who never heard a thing about fertility awareness in medical school. Sadly, this is not unusual as medical professionals are trained to view fertility as a “disease” and learn that The Pill is the panacea for most women’s health problems.

    Fortunately, as a medical intern, I had a senior resident, who was trained as a Creighton Medical Consultant that taught be about NFP. When she first told me about it, I was shocked and angry that I never learned anything about these methods before both as a woman and as a physician. So, when I had the opportunity, I offered an introductory class about the different fertility awareness based methods (FABMs) to a small group of first year medical students at Georgetown University. The response was overwhelmingly positive and they shared my sentiment that this was basic women’s health information that should be taught to all medical students.

    Thus, they inspired me to co-found an organization called FACTS, which stands for the Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science.
    Our mission is to educate physicians and healthcare professionals using medical evidence so they may empower women and engage men to appreciate and care for their fertility. We do have resources for women and couples including information handouts on each of the evidence based methods. We also have trained speakers that can give an introductory medical presentation about the different FABMs and the evidence to support their use as true methods of family planning. Please fee free to share with others and thank you for spreading the good word!

    • Tara Brelinsky
      Tara Brelinsky July 24, 2015 at 7:59 am #

      I remember you and your sweet little boy from that retreat. The work you are doing is so necessary. Thank you for sharing the links and for earnestly working to provide truthful education.

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