We’ve said it once, but we’ll say it again: fertility isn’t just about pregnancy. It isn’t just about trying to get pregnant or even avoiding contraception. Our fertility is grounded in the way our bodies are designed to function, but the most popular and seemingly effective forms of birth control can hinder or altogether stop that process.
Understanding our fertility is a lesson in understanding ourselves, and fertility awareness will open you up to things you probably don’t even think about, such as what you eat, how you exercise, your sleeping habits and patterns, and how all of those choices (and more) affect your hormones, thereby affecting your fertility.
Understanding our fertility is a lesson in understanding ourselves.
The bottom line is, knowing fertility awareness can help us to know ourselves better. To even start that journey though, we need the basics, and there’s no better place to start than with a few of the most trusted experts in women’s health and fertility awareness. Their credentials are reputable and trusted, and their backgrounds are prestigious, but their approach to FAM is anything but complicated or overwhelming.
Here are just a few popular manuals that will quickly become your most trusted FAM resources.
Taking Charge of Your Fertility, by Toni Weschler
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Toni Weschler, who has a Master’s degree in public health, is the fertility awareness gold standard for a reason. Widely regarded as the Bible for novices when it comes to learning FAM and for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, Taking Charge is really the best place to begin FAM. It’s also been a national bestseller since it was first published 25 years ago.
When I was diagnosed with PCOS seven years ago, this book was the first one I ever bought. I was overwhelmed at the time, about what my body was possibly going through and what my future health looked like, but Weschler’s approach helped break down everything I needed to know into manageable pieces, especially for someone with minimal scientific knowledge and no biology background.
Taking Charge is broken down into six different parts:
A brief but comprehensive introduction to fertility awareness
Rediscovering female and reproductive health
How to be proactive about your health
Natural birth control methods
The pragmatic benefits and advantages of charting your cycle.
Newer editions also include great visual features on ovulation, charting your cycle, and endometriosis and PCOS. With Weschler’s guide, you can learn the fundamentals of charting your fertility signs effectively, whether you’re trying to conceive or avoiding conception.
Beyond the Pill, by Dr. Jolene Brighten
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Once you’ve discovered Dr. Brighten, you’ll wonder where she’s been all your life. Dr. Brighten takes the widely-regarded myth that there are no actual doctors or medical professionals in an “alternative” practice like fertility awareness and throws it right out the window. She’s a functional medicine naturopathic physician specializing in endocrine health, and she’s made it her life’s work to help women understand hormonal imbalances and take charge of their natural birth control practices.
She’s made it her life’s work to help women understand hormonal imbalances and take charge of their natural birth control practices.
Dr. Brighten has been featured in Forbes, New York Post, and ABC News, just to name a few. Her Instagram page is also a wealth of knowledge and available info. She also writes extensively on her blog on everything women need to know, from UTIs to pregnancy nutrition to exercising on your period.
Her first book Beyond the Pill works to dispel the belief that hormonal birth control is the only (and most effective) solution to helping painful periods and other common menstruation issues.
The crux of Beyond the Pill is Dr. Brighten’s specifically curated 30-day plan to empower women to quit hormonal birth control and introduce them to understanding their fertility. The book also addresses common misconceptions and concerns about quitting the pill, like fertility, avoiding pregnancy, acne, weight fluctuation, nutrition, and more. Dr. Brighten’s essential thesis — understanding your adrenal, thyroid, hormonal, gut, and immune health — is her key to success in quitting the pill and taking the first steps to post-pill success, whatever your fertility goals are.
WomanCode, by Alisa Vitti
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Before I knew about WomanCode, I knew Alisa Vitti from her absolutely incredible Tedx Talk on the female body. (Watch it if you have a spare 20 minutes, or even if you don’t. It’ll make you proud to be a woman, and proud to be in your body, whatever insecurities or perceived failures you may have.)
Vitti is a Holistic Health Counselor and associated with the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, meaning that when it comes to fertility awareness, she’s the real deal. She’s also the founder of Flo Living, a comprehensive, membership-based organization that delivers individualized plans of action to women struggling with period or hormonal-related issues. (Flo Living even has an easy-to-use quiz you can take to jumpstart your post-pill journey.)
The book takes the do-it-yourself approach to reclaiming and understanding your body.
WomanCode is Vitti’s unique approach to understanding your hormones, cracking your period issues, whatever they may be, and creating an empowering, individual-led approach to fertility. It also touches on popular subjects like understanding a waning sex drive and the best nutrition and supplement options for your body as it recovers post-pill. Vitti’s book is definitely a confidence booster and takes the do-it-yourself approach to reclaiming and understanding your body.
Fertility awareness is often thought of as daunting, especially if you’re a newcomer. There’s also a lot of information out there that isn’t necessarily applicable — that FAM isn’t effective as contraception, that it’s outdated or too difficult to learn.
Any new tool comes with a learning curve and fertility awareness is no different. Thankfully, we have expert guides to teach us the best ways to help ourselves, and what’s more, they’re easily accessible and their approaches are as understandable as they are grounded in a foundation of science.
We understand taking a pill at the same time every day or having an implant put in our arm. Why can’t we understand something as simple or as fundamental as our own bodies?
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