Before I learned about Natural Family Planning (NFP), I didn’t know that much about my cycle as a woman. I knew that my period came around the same time every month, and it usually brought with it cramps, grouchiness and a strong craving for caffeine. In college, I realized that my fertility didn’t just matter when I was married and planning a family. Instead, my fertility mattered regardless of what stage of life I was in.
Learning about my fertility during my single years was a game changer. Here are four reasons why it’s a great idea to start charting your fertility now – even if you’re single!
1. Charting your fertility can reveal just how much stress effects your health.
During my time in college, I was under a lot of stress. But I didn’t realize how much the stress was affecting my health. Charting my cycle revealed irregularities that I hadn’t noticed before. When I charted my fertility, I was able to see how stress affected my hormones and cycles.
Dr. Thomas Hilgers is the founder and director of the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction. In his book, Creighton Model FertilityCare System: An Authentic Language of a Woman’s Health and Fertility, he wrote: “Stress has an enormous impact on the ovulation and menstrual cycles. The stress may be physical or emotional, and it may be acute or chronic.”
But stress does much more than shift the expected date of your next cycle. Stress also impairs fertility and ovulation. In a study conducted by Shekufe Akhter and colleagues, results found that women who experience high levels of stress will ovulate 20% less eggs than women whose stress levels are lower. And that’s not the only research on how stress can mess with healthy fertility.
After conducting research, Doctor Cynthia Bethea called changes that stress can bring to a woman’s fertility “stress-induced reproductive dysfunction.” When your cycle is delayed due to stress, it could be indicative of a much deeper health or stress issue. When I began to chart my fertility, I was able to get to the bottom of what was causing stress in my life.
2. Charting your fertility helps you know about your whole body and how to care for it.
Poor eating habits and other health issues plagued my single years. This led me to charting my cycle as way of becoming more aware of my overall health. Charting my fertility using the Creighton model of NFP helped me understand the bigger picture of how my poor self-care habits were impacting every part of me – including my fertility.
Because I realized what was going on with my body, I was able to quit beating myself up about my health and make real changes. You are a whole person – mind, soul, heart, and body. Tracking your fertility through a variety of methods reveals how intertwined all of the systems of the body are. As a woman, charting your fertility is the best self-care you can give yourself. NFP also helped me realize that my fertility isn’t a disease that has to be cured. Instead, NFP taught me how to appreciate my fertility and not dread my cycles.
3. It’s an empowering, healthy alternative to birth control.
My family doctor recommended a prescription for the Pill to solve my medical issues. Many women in my life took the Pill. According to a study conducted in the United States, from 2006-2010, 62 percent of all women in the United states who are of reproductive age are currently prescribed some form of contraceptive birth control.
But a prescription for the Pill includes long list of medicals risks. The Pill is actually a combination of two different hormonal medications: estrogen and progestin. Because of increased hormones in the body, the Pill carries with it many side effects, one of them being breast cancer. One study revealed that breast cancer rates in women who have been on the Pill for more than five years before their first pregnancy are two to three times higher than in women who had not used the Pill.
Other than just breast cancer risks though, the Pill’s side effects also include:
- Higher blood pressure
- Blood clotting
- A lack of fertility once off the pill prescription
- Increase chance of liver and cervical cancers
- Difficulty breast feeding
- Lowering of the immune system to AIDS and HIV.
Charting my fertility is now a regular part of my routine now. Studying the concepts of Natural Family Planning was an empowering decision that I made as a single, Catholic woman. Now that I have a better understanding of my cycle, I know when and how to prepare for grouchiness and cramps. When I was single, I wasn’t using the method to avoid a pregnancy. Instead, I was able to learn more about my body’s natural fertility and solve some of my health issues. This approach is much healthier than taking the Pill everyday, especially with its long list of side effects.
4. Charting your fertility can alert you to deep health issues.
Charting your cycle could lead to early and quick diagnosis of a variety of health issues. Fertility charts can reveal endometriosis, infertility, risks of miscarriage, low progesterone, hormonal dysfunctions, abnormal ovulation, infrequent ovulation, inflammation of the cervix, and infections. Instructors observe symptoms and recommend healthy, natural treatments. Thanks to NFP, I realized that supplementing vitamins into my diet could remove many of my PMS symptoms.
Charting your fertility can help you discover and address these issues before they cause even larger problems. And regardless of your relationship status (yes, you can chart even when you’re not dating!) charting can tip you off to deeper issues or explanations on issues like why you’re suffering from awful pre-menstrual cramps, have heavy periods, or are experiencing irregular cycles – all by simply charting your fertility.