Thousands of years ago, women created the first calendars by marking the moon’s phases and the days in each menstrual cycle with tallies etched into objects like bison horns. In The Lunar Calendar, publisher Nancy Passmore writes, “The origins of a wholistic view of the world lie in these early observations: we are part of nature, and nature is part of us.”
My dedication to observing nature began when I learned that rocks, glaciers, plants and menstrual cycles all evolve from cycles of heating and cooling and drying and moistening. A woman of childbearing age can chart her waking temperature and cervical fluid (signs of heating and cooling and drying and moistening) and know, every cycle, when she is fertile and infertile, whether she is ovulating, if she may have a thyroid problem and more. Fertility charts provide a way to prevent pregnancy—and, when a couple wants to conceive, to know the best days for trying.
Every woman knows plenty about her own body. With Fertility Awareness (FA—also called Natural Family Planning), knowledge of the sequence of events in every cycle expands. A woman does not need pharmaceuticals to prevent pregnancy. When problems arise, she can give doctors an introductory gauge of her health and ask informed questions.
When I taught Fertility Awareness, I met people who talked with their parents and grandparents about how they had prevented pregnancy. I heard discussions about what makes welcoming a baby easier—and more difficult. I often wondered, when a woman takes pharmaceuticals to ease menstrual cramps, prevent pregnancy, or increase chances of conceiving, what is a healthy menstrual cycle?
Indeed, I saw problems with any woman’s cycles as messengers from nature signaling a need to adjust diet, rest more, exercise differently or investigate unconscious thoughts. One third of the women in my classes did not have ovulatory cycles. After coming off of the Pill or Depo Provera, women researched returning to healthy cycles. Charting inspired them to eat eggs, butter and greens for breakfast—and to delight when they ovulated.
I fell in love with the menstrual cycle. I fell in love with women conducting research.
Capitalizing on reproductive health
Around 2004, when I published The Garden of Fertility, my first book about Fertility Awareness, a pharmaceutical corporation began selling a contraceptive that offered women the “convenience” of bleeding only once per season. Tech companies began selling ovulation-tracking software. Women could buy a program for their desktop computer and give it their daily temperature and cervical fluid readings. (Smartphones didn’t show up until 2007.) The program told users when their chances of conceiving were enhanced. A few told women when to postpone intercourse if they wanted to prevent pregnancy. (I heard about more than one unintended pregnancy after “the program told me I was not fertile.”)
The scope of any program depends on the depth and breadth of its programmer’s knowledge. Users are thereby limited to the programmer’s knowledge.
These apps often come with a monthly fee. Users risk having their reproductive health data hacked. They do not learn about their menstrual cycles. They do not learn to question relationships between reproductive health and diets, pharmaceutical history or night lighting. They learn to read the app.
Advocating for healthy menstrual cycles
Given our diets’ decreasing nutrient-density, increasing use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and GMOs, several generations of women taking the Pill and other hormonal contraceptives (which suppress events like buildup of the uterine lining, buildup of cervical fluid, and ovulation), in utero exposure to electromagnetic radiation (EMR) from a mother’s cell phone, teenagers and adults keeping EMR-emitting cell phones near their genitals, etcetera, healthy menstrual cycles may be hard to find. What’s an advocate of healthy menstrual cycles do?
I can plead: Learn what happens in a healthy cycle.
Chart your cycles on paper. List your questions and discuss them with a Fertility Awareness teacher and others who have used their charts to prevent pregnancy. Do not use FA to prevent pregnancy until you can discern fertility from infertility even in atypical charts—and all of your questions have been answered.
Beware: if you chart your cycles on an app, hackers can access that data. If the app tells you that you’re pregnant—and then you search for information about getting an abortion, in some U.S. states, you could be subject to a criminal investigation. Acquire the skills necessary to guard your privacy2.
Whether or not you’ve got reproductive health problems, reduce EMR exposure as much as possible. Do not keep a cell phone in your bra, your shirt pocket (near your heart and breast) or your pants pocket (near your genitals). Use it only in speaker mode. Unless you’re using it, keep your mobile phone in airplane mode.
These guidelines apply to men, too, since studies have shown a relationship between keeping a cell phone in your jeans pocket and reduced sperm quality as well as erectile dysfunction.
Do not sleep with a charger, phone, or computer near your bed. If you’ve got electronics on the wall behind your bed, move your furniture. Keep Wi-Fi off while you sleep. If you can (they are not always available now), get a landline, a corded telephone and wired Internet access.
Do not look at a screen while feeding a baby. Look at your baby’s eyes. Do not use chipped diapers that will message a smartphone when your baby’s diaper needs changing.
Reproductive health depends on a web of clean water and air, nutrient-dense soil and food, conflict resolution skills, competent health care providers, and economic and regulatory systems that respect nature’s limits and public health. I know of no community that has all of these things. What does that mean for reproductive health?
We can still learn nature’s way. Imagine a world wherein every woman knows how to read her fertility signals to gauge her gynecological health. She knows how to strengthen her menstrual cycles with diet, herbal remedies, daily movement (like walking) and questioning her own thinking.
1 Barnett, Daly, Security and Privacy Tips for People Seeking an Abortion, Electronic Frontier Foundation, June 23, 2022.
2 For resources about EMR-exposure and reproductive health: Divan, H. et. al., Prenatal and postnatal exposure to cell phone use and behavioral problems in children, Epidemiology, vol. 19, no. 4 (2008); Herbert, Dr. Martha and Cindy Sage, Autism and EMF? Plausibility of a pathophysiological link- Part 1 and Part 2, Pathophysiology, 2013; About mobile phone exposure and reduced sperm motility and viability; Singer, Katie, An Electronic Silent Spring, Steiner Books, 2004; Uche, Uloma, PhD., How exposure to cell phones and other technology affects reproductive health, EWG, June 27, 2022.