Understanding Fertility

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When Jeremy and I got married, I was on birth control. You know, the kind that wreaks havoc on your hormones and emotions and body. I was on it for about 10 months before Jeremy and I decided it wasn't working for us.

I was angry, so angry all the time. I was gaining weight (which was also due to our healthy diet of Hamburger Helper). Jeremy and I were done with the hormonal outbursts, it really was hurting our marriage. A marriage is hard enough in the first year anyway.

So we started looking around for other options. Thankfully, I have a friend who was already crunchy way back then and she suggested a book called Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Back then, it was kind of hard to find it. But now it's got a nice new cover.

I read it cover to cover and was amazed. This book has so much information about the female body! It's astounding. I had no idea how to get pregnant, or how to prevent pregnancy, or how my body worked at all. I vaguely knew my cycle was longer than the average, but I wasn't sure.

This is probably where all my crunchiness started. I didn't start changing our diets for a long while yet, but right away I realized how much I didn't know about my own body

I think it is deliberate that the education and medical systems refuse to teach useful information. How scary is that? What else aren't they teaching us? I won't go into all the problems I see in the education system and medical system, because this post is about starting to fix our lack of knowledge, and why we should worry about it. 

Knowledge is the only way we will ever have true freedom. If we don't know what we need to know, we will have to rely on the experts. (Like this group of doctors who are discussing inducing every woman at 39 weeks gestation.) One of the things we women need to know about is our own bodies. We need to know what is normal for our body because guess what! Not every body conforms to the 28 day cycle. (Really 28 days is just the average, not actually the norm.)

So, here's a brief introduction to a woman's cycle. It begins on the first day of her period. The temperature drops during the night (so you can know exactly which day you are going to begin your period), and estrogen takes over. The period lasts for a few days and your body prepares for ovulation. Estrogen makes your body ovulate. Ovulation usually happens in the middle of the cycle, although it can happen early in the cycle or later. On the day of ovulation, her temperature rises. The day of ovulation is the only day a woman can actually get pregnant. Luckily, sperm can live for up to five days just waiting for that egg. (The book also talks about how girls and boys are decided: boy sperm are fast but die off quicker, and girl sperm are slow but live longer.) After ovulation, your temperature rises during the night. And progesterone takes over. Progesterone keeps a body pregnant until the body lets it know it isn't pregnant. Or until the progesterone runs out. The period of time from ovulation until the beginning of your next cycle is called the luteal phase.

My cycle is normally 32-33 days, with an extra long luteal phase of 16 days. After Gideon was a year old, we started trying to get pregnant again. I thought it was odd that my cycle was only lasting 28 days, but didn't look into it further until after we had our first miscarriage. After our first, I carefully charted my cycle and realized my ovulation was still on the same day of the cycle (day 16 or 17), which meant my luteal phase was only lasting 12 days. Unfortunately for me, a 12 day luteal phase is still well within the average range. So it was difficult getting help. Thankfully, my Dad is a doctor, and he believed me and allowed me to test myself in his office.

It turned out that my progesterone was so low, that my body wasn't producing enough to last the normal (for me) luteal phase of 16 days. And it definitely wasn't enough to keep a pregnancy. So I started researching ways to build up your progesterone. Progesterone is beaten down by estrogen, so if you have too much estrogen, you won't have enough progesterone. And it just so happens that the average diet in America is full of estrogen and xenoestrogen (fake estrogen) food. Take soy, for example. It's a xenoestrogen, and it's in everything! I cut out soy, and started eating foods that will build up progesterone (like yams). (This article has quite a bit more information on that subject.)

When I finally got pregnant and it lasted long enough to get to the doctor, I asked to have my progesterone tested. They were surprised to find out my progesterone was incredibly low. It was only by God's protection that Esmond had lasted as long as he did. I started taking a progesterone supplement, and the relief was immediate. I suddenly had some energy again. My body had been trying so hard to keep the pregnancy that I had no other energy. Noemi's pregnancy was the same way.

If it had not been for that book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, I would not have known there was a problem with my cycle. And therein lies the problem. We are supposed to know how our bodies work in their own uniqueness, so that we'll know when something it wrong. Once Eowyn comes of age, I'm going to have her read through this and chart her cycle. I want her to know her body well before she'll need to use it. I think every girl/woman needs to know everything in this book.

Have you read it yet? 

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