From our lovely guest contributor, Kate
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had wonky cycles. I never really minded that I only got my period every two or three months. I did mind the acne and the really cute mustache and chin hairs that bring the boys a-runnin’. At 19 they put me on the pill, and I bounced on and off for the better part of seven years. The pill made my periods regular – or, seemed to – and helped a little with the acne and facial hair, but I never really liked it, thus the on & off.
One thing that bugged me, in college I was a rower. I rowed on the crew team, and worked out for an hour or two every day, five days a week during the fall, winter, and spring. I mean, we took breaks, but rarely. And I never got thinner. Never lost the squish around my middle.
It wasn’t until I went off the pill for the last time – when my then-fiance and I discussed practicing NFP after our upcoming marriage – that all the pieces fell together. Using the Sympto-Thermo (STM) method learned mostly from Toni Weschler’s Taking Charge of Your Fertility, I charted for a few months, tracking temps all over the chart, mucus that didn’t make sense, and no clear ovulation. So we went to a doctor, who diagnosed me with PCOS. I got a prescription for Metformin, and was fine & dandy until my husband and I decided we wanted to start trying to conceive.
After a few months of marriage, we decided to start trying. My charts were clear enough about when to abstain while trying to avoid pregnancy (TTA), but once we started trying to conceive (TTC) determining my fertility was more challenging. It didn’t seem like I was ovulating.
Trying to conceive is a struggle, and I won’t pretend that I fully understand it. There are couples who have tried for much longer, with much bigger disappointments. But the monthly hope & disappointment take a toll on you. As a woman, I questioned my identity & my worth. So, Adam and I made an appointment to see a NaPro doctor in our area. We had only been trying for a few months, but knowing that I had PCOS, we decided that we wanted to find out what we could do now, rather than waiting a year or two.
There’s the major difference between my experiences with NFP & NaPro doctors, and your average ObGyn. In my experience, every ObGyn I’ve gone to does the pelvic exam, answers my questions with concise, simple answers, writes me a prescription & sends me on my way. My NFP doctor looked at all of me. She was a little scattered, and changed topics frequently, but she asked about everything – my diet, my exercise habits, my job, my routine, my stress levels, how much I usually slept at night, on & on & on. Intermittently she’d tap the chart & purse her lips before asking another question that seemed to come out of nowhere.
She gave me a list of vitamins to take – more magnesium, 3,000 ius of D3, 500 mgs of b6 – asked me to please use Billings charts, and we made an appointment for a cycle or two later. After two cycles on the new vitamins, we got a positive pregnancy test. We had been trying for six months.
Now, every woman is different, and we were very blessed. I’m not here to tell you that NFP is a magical cure-all, quite the opposite – it’s a process by which you and your doctor work to untangle the of symptoms and complications that make up PCOS. It’s not just ovaries and estrogen, it’s insulin and weight and androgens, and a hundred other small things. An NFP doctor isn’t looking to fix a single problem like “irregular cycles” or “heavy periods,” an NFP doctor is looking at the problem you’re reporting as one part of a complicated system, and they want to find the real problem, they want to get the system working properly.
NFP gives you a window into the complications and confusion. It empowers me to understand what’s going on in my body, and gives my doctor more insight. By contrast, hormonal birth control masks symptoms and fills my system with more synthetic hormones to turn into androgens, which further complicates things.
So, for me, I don’t practice NFP just because my religion tells me to, though that’s true. I don’t practice NFP only because it improves my relationship with my husband, though it does. I practice NFP because my body is a beautifully complex symphony of different systems which should function together in harmony. When one is out of tune or loses rhythm, it throws off the whole thing. I want to know why, and I want to fix it, so that the symphony can keep playing.
PCOS is a giant pain in the butt. NFP is a challenge. But for me, I’d rather have a challenging solution than an easy bandaid any day. What about you?
Oh, and we’re due in December