It's time to learn all those things they never taught us in health class - periods, pregnancy and pelvic floor!
I'm a women's health educator, a nerd when it comes to learning "all of the things", and my obsession is teaching women how to take control of their health and create a life they love!
When I look back, I cringe at how little I knew about my body.
When I started to wonder if there was another way to avoid unplanned pregnancy without the artificial hormones, everyone gave me the same cynical answers – Yes, but you’d be crazy to actually rely on them for birth control!
I call BS.
By taking just a couple of minutes a day to tune in to your body, you can use a method of birth control that is equally as effective as the Pill and condoms.
No side effects, no artificial hormones, no prescriptions, no awkward supermarket visits.
This knowledge will help you to know exactly when you are and aren’t fertile.
Not only does this knowledge help you to avoid pregnancy, it also allows you to maximise your chances of conceiving naturally and, according to the research, in half the time!
Hello, and welcome to episode 26 of The Mana Women’s Wellness Podcast. I’m your host, Rachel and today I’m sharing with you the 4 ways fertility awareness and charting my menstrual cycle has changed my life. No exaggeration, this knowledge about my body has influenced just the way I live my life. Not just because I’m a fertility educator, these changes happened before my qualification, even when I was new to charting and still learning this wealth of knowledge for the first time.
When I look back to my early twenties – already a decade ago, my God – I cringe at how little I knew about my body. When I started having sex, I trotted off to the doctor to get my prescription for the Pill like all responsible young women do and thought nothing more of it. I loved the convenience of knowing when my period would arrive, loved being able to just skip it if the timing was annoying, and I (very unwisely) had unprotected sex during my period thinking that was the pregnancy-free time of the month.
I carried on this way for 10 years, oblivious to the effect that this little pill was having on my body. Oblivious that it could be impacting my future fertility, that it potentially contributed to my auto-immune disease. I was even oblivious that it was putting me in a foul mood on the same days every month. It wasn’t until talking to a friend of mine on the same brand of Pill that we realised we were both in a bad mood on the same couple of days. Freaky.
And yet, after my auto-immune disease diagnosis, after I started paying attention to what I was putting in and on my body – from food, alcohol, skincare and makeup, tampons – when I started to wonder if there was another way to avoid unplanned pregnancy without the artificial hormones… everywhere I looked, everyone I asked, seemed to give the same cynical answers that yeah, there were natural options out there. But you’d be crazy to actually use them, because everyone knows they don’t work. And so I actually went on and off the Pill multiple times over the years until I clued up and started researching for myself.
I discovered a book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility. It’s about the size of a large outdoor tile, and I devoured this thing in like 2 days. The Pill went in the bin shortly after that, and I realised for the first time in about 25 years of life, over 10 years of menstruating, that the stuff I was seeing in my undies about 2 weeks after my period – well that actually meant something. It was totally normal. And this knowledge changed my life forever.
I don’t know about your high school health class and sex ed experience, I don’t know the version you got in the classroom or the more exciting version you got in the playground chatting with your friends about your period. But none of us were talking about our vaginal secretions and none of us knew what cervical fluid even was! That this stuff in our undies was the most important sign of healthy fertility, that we were approaching ovulation, that this was cyclical. A lot of women probably think this is a sign of infection. And looking back now, I wonder how the hell nobody ever taught us this stuff? Why did I have to go looking for this information myself? Just like you probably have had to – and I’m so glad you found this podcast to help answer those questions too!
We learn a teeny bit about the Rhythm Method – as a what not to do, mostly – but did you ever learn about fertility awareness and tracking your fertile signs? I would actually love if you could DM me on Instagram and tell me how you discovered this information! @manawomenswellness – seriously, pick up your phone and message me now! How did you learn about it?
By taking just a couple of minutes a day to tune in to your body, you can use a method of birth control that is equally as effective as the Pill and condoms. No side effects, no artificial hormones, no prescriptions, no awkward supermarket visits. This knowledge will help you to know exactly when you are and aren’t fertile. Not only does this knowledge help you to avoid pregnancy, but this exact same knowledge allows you to maximise your chances of conceiving naturally and, according to all the research, in half the time compared to couples who have sex and just hope for the best! It also helps you to identify any potential signs of underlying health conditions that might impact your ability to get pregnant.
And so, here are the 4 ways that this knowledge transformed my life:
I can practice a natural method of birth control and was able to come off the Pill with confidence that I would not get pregnant.
And now, I’m approaching the stage of life where I do want to get pregnant and I know when to have sex to maximise my chances of conceiving. It doesn’t necessarily guarantee I’ll get pregnant first try, but I certainly won’t be playing the guessing game that a lot of couples have to play, relying on an app to tell me when day 14, so I can cross my fingers and hope for the best.
Our menstrual cycle is driven by our hormones, and as soon as our hormones become unbalanced we see this reflected in our menstrual cycle. Ovulation might be late, the body might try to ovulate multiple times before it actually happens successfully. Even insignificant changes to your life like travel, stress, illness can impact your sex hormones and alter your menstrual cycle. At the time I’m recording this, I’ve just gone back to work as a physio, I’m creating a batch of new podcast episodes and I’m planning a wedding for next month. I’m busy, I’m stressed and my sleep has been affected. And I’ve noticed that my cycles are a little longer because I’m ovulating a couple of days later than I normally would. I’m not concerned about it because I know why, because I know my body, and I know that if I’m ovulating a couple of days later than expected then my period will arrive a couple of days late too. So I won’t panic that I’m pregnant and wonder how the hell I’m going to fit into my wedding dress because I’m charting my cycle. And I know how many days my period arrives after ovulation. And considering how full my brain is feeling right now, it’s nice to know that this isn’t something I’ll have to worry about.
I am very fortunate that I don’t have any reproductive health concerns like PCOS or endometriosis, but charting would certainly help me to identify if anything irregular was starting to happen month after month. I’d be able to identify where this was happening during my menstrual cycle and this would potentially help me to narrow down what might be causing these irregularities. Now I have this knowledge not because I’m a fertility educator, because I chart my cycles every day and note down symptoms and fertile signs, and this is something you absolutely can do too. And this knowledge is especially life-changing if your periods are really irregular and unpredictable. You can identify any potential problems that could affect your ability to get pregnant now or in the future and deal with them sooner rather than later.
Without a doubt, the very best thing to come out of my years charting my cycle – the thing that has changed my life the most, is the absolute privilege is having this knowledge that is so fundamentally part of being a woman. It’s knowing when my period is due, it’s knowing when I’m fertile – even without charting these days I know this, because I can feel the difference in my body, I can see those fertile signs like cervical mucus and just know. I expect to feel different in terms of my mood and energy throughout the month and I know why I’m craving a block of chocolate the week before my period. I change what I eat based on where I am in my cycle – not dramatically, just enough to support my hormones. I change up my workouts because I know that during my period I will not be keen to anything more intense than yoga. And this helps me not to feel guilty about skipping a workout or sneaking a few extra pieces of chocolate. Because it’s all intrinsically linked to my menstrual cycle and my fertility.
Because, when you know your body, you are confident. You are confident in your ability to achieve or avoid pregnancy without relying on apps, pills, hormones. You are in control and you know that you can manage your fertile window however you choose to at this point of time, at this season of your life. And when your reproductive goals change, the knowledge stays the same, you just apply it differently.
When you chart, and you can identify patterns in your chart, irregularities in your cycle, and you take this information to your doctor or a medical professional, you’re going to be confident enough in what you are observing that you’re not going to leave until you have answers. You’re not going to be brushed aside, you’re not going to accept hormonal birth control as a band-aid solution. You’re going to be confident enough to ask questions, not just assume that this person in front of you with a degree saying that everything is normal is right. Even when you know deep down that it isn’t. You’re going to be confident enough to get a second, third or fourth opinion until you can work with a practitioner who understands what you’re telling them, who can help you get to the bottom of it. And you’re not going to dread your period every month, you’re not going to see it as an inconvenience. I know I’d think to myself “Ughh, again” when my period arrived. Now I see it as a fresh start, a new cycle, a new chart to start tracking all over again. Maybe I’m just weird that way, but your perspective on this incredible thing that your body does will certainly change. Because you finally understand what is happening and why it happens.
And you can then spread this knowledge with the women in your life. You’re more confident talking about this stuff with others, you’re more confident telling that friend of yours who is constantly complaining about her period pain to go and see her doctor. Because those symptoms aren’t normal, and she doesn’t have to put up with them. Share this knowledge with anyone who will listen. The more women who know this stuff, the better!
If you have already started on your journey to understanding your menstrual cycle and your fertility, or you’re keen to get started, I cannot wait for you to experience this feeling for yourself. This knowledge is an absolute life skill and gives you so much practical value so that you can achieve or avoid pregnancy, but so much more than that, it allows you to take control of your health. Be informed, make better decisions, ask more questions, get a second opinion. And that is something that every woman deserves.
If you learnt something new or found value in today’s episode, or if you’re getting started in your own fertility journey I would love to hear from you! Send me an Instagram DM and let me know how you first started learning about your cycle and your fertility, what was the catalyst for you? And tell me what you want me to talk about in upcoming episodes of the podcast. This podcast is for you and so I want to talk about the things that are most important to you!
And if you’re keen to jump in and start learning about charting your cycle, don’t forget you can also grab your free Fertility Roadmap on the shownotes page too. This is my proprietary 3 step system to understanding your menstrual cycle and charting your body’s natural fertile signs so that you can achieve or avoid pregnancy.
Ok, bye for now and don’t forget that knowledge is power!
When you truly understand your body, you are empowered to make informed decisions and take control of your health!
Until next time.
Want to say goodbye to hormonal contraceptives and their weird and unpleasant side effects?
Want to improve your chances of conceiving quickly and naturally?
You need my Fertility Roadmap– My simple 3-step system to understanding your body’s natural fertile signs and pinpointing ovulation day so that you can use this knowledge to achieve (or avoid) pregnancy.
Does your pelvic floor need a little extra TLC? Take the Pelvic Floor Quiz and find out how to start strengthening your pelvic floor today!
Want to make sure you’re exercising safely during your pregnancy? Get your Free Guide: 10 Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy.
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Get my simple 3-step system to understanding your body’s natural fertile signs and pinpointing ovulation day so that you can use this knowledge to achieve (or avoid) pregnancy
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