Unless you’ve been living under a rock (as is frankly very tempting these days)… you know all about the Black Lives Matter movement. You also know all about the Blue Lives Matter movement.
But have you ever even heard of the Fertility Awareness movement?
Didn’t think so….and I know why: even most of us who have dedicated our careers to the fertility awareness field don’t think of it as a movement. Not yet at least.
Right now, there are wonderful pockets of wonderful people who work hard to educate people about their fertility and promote this kind of knowledge. It’s time to begin thinking of these pockets as the growing and critical infrastructure of a movement that will change the culture and transform lives. If this sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it will be a lot of work. Fortunately, our first step is clear-cut and simple.
Our first step is to “define the terms.” What do I mean?
Currently, there is a lot of confusion about the “vocabulary” of Fertility Awareness. Because people use the terms in very different ways, there is a lot of misunderstanding (and even false information) floating around our society about them.
I think that the best way to clear up all of the confusion is to promote the most holistic definitions of these terms. This article will address three of the most important (and most frequently confused) terms: “Fertility Awareness,” “Fertility Awareness Based Methods (FABMs),” and “Natural Family Planning (NFP).” When we redefine these terms, our vision for the future will become much clearer.
Some people define “Fertility Awareness” as a specific method of avoiding or achieving pregnancy. Others use the term as the secular counterpart to any religious promotion of fertility education. Still others explain that if someone has “fertility awareness” they understand their own cycle.
It’s time for us to transcend these underdeveloped definitions and reconceptualize Fertility Awareness (also called “Fertility Appreciation”) as a movement. Fertility Awareness is a movement that has emerged to encourage people to learn about their bodies and how they work, specifically with regards to their fertility. Everyone deserves to know that our bodies speak a language, and that we can learn this language.
An interesting side-note: often, the most successful social movements are the ones that are the most counter-cultural. Do you think it can get more counter-cultural than questioning the artificial birth control industry? (A $4 billion industry in the US alone…)
Natural Family Planning (NFP) and Fertility Awareness Based Methods (FABMs)
The second two terms that we need to redefine are Natural Family Planning (NFP) and Fertility Awareness Based Methods (FABMs). You will quickly understand why it’s helpful to discuss them in the same section.
People use these terms to refer to the specific family planning methods that utilize fertility observations. Some people distinguish between FABMs and NFP by categorizing FABMs as secular and NFP as religious (or even more specifically, as Catholic). Other times, people categorize all methods that include the use of barrier methods (such as condoms) as FABMs and those that don’t as NFP. The categories are not so cut and dry. While it is helpful to know if the particular method you are exploring is compatible with your values, using NFP/FABMs as labels is not an effective way to do this.
Rather than using these terms to refer to specific methods of avoiding or achieving pregnancy, it’s more helpful to think of them as lifestyles people can lead that are consistent with the goals of the larger Fertility Awareness movement. In other words, when we are equipped with the information about how our fertility works, we are then empowered to choose to adopt the NFP/FABM lifestyle.
The NFP/FABM lifestyle is a lifestyle that respects the way women and men’s bodies work. An important aspect of this lifestyle is the recording (often referred to as “charting”) of a woman’s daily fertility observations. These recordings help men and women effectively plan their families without artificial birth control. When men and women don’t use artificial birth control, they are freeing themselves from contraception’s many serious (and sometimes fatal) side effects and health risks. When women track their biomarkers, doctors and healthcare professionals are better able to help them target the actual cause of their health concerns and cure the problem, rather than masking her symptoms without knowing why she is experiencing them.
There are many different natural family planning methods. The diversity of methods is a wonderful asset; couples can test out different methods and find the one that works best for them. Although there are different methods, all of them can be categorized as a beautiful part of the NFP/FABMs lifestyle.
Exclusively thinking of NFP and FABMs as family planning methods does not do them justice.
The NFP/FABM lifestyle is not simply about effective family planning and curing our health problems; this lifestyle touches every aspect of an individual’s life. I have seen NFP/FABMs strengthen relationships, heal all kinds of heartache, and restore positive body image. These incredible connections are not coincidences- they are direct results of adopting this lifestyle.
What Fertility Awareness is NOT
Although the Fertility Awareness “movement” has not yet reached its full potential, many critics have already emerged to try to stifle it. As a way of preempting the predictable and inevitable comments that are bound to follow this article, please let me clearly state:
Promoting natural methods of family planning is NOT about taking away access to contraception from people who need it for medical purposes. It’s especially not about imposing any particular belief or ideology on others. It’s about empowering people to make choices by educating them about how their bodies work. If you don’t have information about alternatives to artificial birth control, your “choice” to use artificial birth control isn’t really a choice…
When we redefine the terms, we will discover that Fertility Awareness is a movement for everyone. This is why I started Body Language–to invite people from all backgrounds, cultures, and walks of life to learn about their fertility. The Body Language Life vision is clear: When we meet people where they are and educate them about their fertility, we will improve general health, restore positive body image, foster authentic communication, strengthen relationships, and eradicate misogyny. WILL YOU JOIN ME?
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