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‘Taking Charge of Your Fertility,’ by Toni Weschler, MPH

April 28, 2010

Taking Charge of Your Fertility. TCOYF. If you’ve been on TheBump.com, it’s a sure bet that those letters have been bouncing around your head like a bee in a bottle.

If you’re unfamiliar with TCOYF, be patient and hear me out.

It’s National Infertility Awareness Week, and one of my main concerns with calling attention to this devastating subject is education.

I was raised in an average family and was educated in public school. If you’re anything like me, your education regarding the female reproductive system more or less pretty much fizzled out after that one week of Sex Ed. I think, for me, that was in fifth grade. I was 10.

I knew the basics. The ovaries release eggs. If you have sex, sperm can and will meet the egg, which then creates a baby that will grow and then come peacefully out of your vagina to the sound of a choir of angels.

OK, I admit I exaggerated that last part. I’ve never experienced childbirth, but I know enough that the picture that was painted of it back in the day was a whole lot more pleasant and happy and definitely did not include the word “episiotomy.”

Back to my education.

If you don’t have sex, your body will shed the lining it built in anticipation of a baby, and you will bleed. Don’t worry. You can still swim. You can still play with your friends. You can still go to school. Take some Midol, strap on a heating pad and feel free to be a bitch that week.

Easy peasy, right? I thought so.

I got my first period the week before I turned 12 and just went with the, um, flow. I never paid attention to when I should expect things to happen, but I had been warned that week in fifth grade that we shouldn’t expect to have regular cycles at first.

So I didn’t worry.

I got to age 17 and thought it was a little odd that, almost six years later, I still wasn’t at all regular. I was forever surprised by my period, and it was UGLY. I’ll spare you the southern details, but the rest of my body HATED periods. I’d feel weak and feverish and sick to my stomach. I’d shake uncontrollably. It was awful. Inspired by my cousin who had to see a gynecologist for ovarian cysts, I decided maybe I should see someone about this maybe-every-three-months period problem.

“Don’t worry about it. Here, take these birth control pills. They’ll make your cycles regular,” said the gynocologist.

Great! Thanks!

So I started the pill, and WOW! It worked! My cycles were regular, painless, easy peasy – just like I was told they should be.

Fast forward to age 24, when I meet some fabulous women who are way ahead of me in the baby-thoughts game, and my brain starts to grab onto key information like a magnet. You don’t have real cycles on birth control. You don’t really get a period. It’s all a fallacy.

Weird, but whatever. That was then, this is now. And maybe my doctor meant that the birth control would regulate me once I stopped taking it. That’s possible, right? (It actually is, but …)

Fast forward another year and a half. I’ve learned so much more and start to get worried. I don’t think my body ever functioned correctly, and it likely isn’t something the pill would fix. Maybe I should stop birth control and see what’s wrong. Maybe I need to learn more about what’s going on.

And that’s about the time a good friend, who had fought infertility and walked away with some horrible battle wounds but also a beautiful, thriving pregnancy, handed over her copy of TCOYF with instructions to read it.

So I did.

Wow. Did you know that discharge is actually cervical mucus that is essential to carrying the sperm into the uterus? Did you know it changes throughout the cycle and acts as a sperm taxi when your body is bursting forth an egg and doesn’t waste time creating it during not-fertile times? And holy moly! My temperature changes through my cycle, too?

The female body is a GENIUS! Why did I never know this?

Not only did the book finally give me a proper, thorough lesson in the female reproductive system, it pointed me in the direction of what my problem as a teen could have been – what it could be when I finally ditched the birth control.

The book covers everything from an in-depth lesson of how our bodies (should) work to how to avoid or achieve pregnancy to potential health conditions to menopause.

It’s usually recommended to women want to take a more active role in the trying-to-conceive obsession and to those who are having issues.

It’s so much more than a how-to-get-pregnant guide, though, and it should be required reading for all women. We should all have been properly taught about our bodies when the gears fired up in those formative years.

Maybe fertility will never be an issue for you. Maybe your reproductive system will function in the normal way we were taught in grade school. Maybe you’ll never have ovarian cysts or endometriosis, fibroids or cervical issues.

You can choose to leave such knowledge as arbitrary, useless crap you’ll learn about if you ever need it, or you can be proactive and learn about it before you encounter an issue and be that much more armed to face what challenges you.

I suggest the latter. I wish I had learned much sooner. Maybe I would have been diagnosed with PCOS 15 years ago and had it under control by the time I wanted kids. Maybe I wouldn’t be battling infertility.

If you can do something to avoid those questions, why wouldn’t you take charge?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 28, 2010 10:31 pm

    I am grateful for what I learned BEFORE we decided to get pregnant. And um, yeah, our bodies….they ARE a wonderland (dude, I’m singing john mayer now and I.cannot.stop).

  2. Beth permalink
    April 29, 2010 8:28 am

    It really is amazing what the female reproductive system is capable of! I skimmed TCOYF when starting to chart for Emily’s pg, but would definitely recommend it as required reading for all women. Now I need to take another look b.c A)it’s interesting B) I have suddenly missed 2 out of the last 4 periods when my body has been regular since the get-go and I’m getting a little concerned!

    Off to put it on my library hold list!

  3. April 29, 2010 4:51 pm

    I will add this to my to-read list.
    I’m certianly not TTC, but someday.

  4. Speed permalink
    April 30, 2010 8:25 am

    I have a copy that I’m willing to donate to a good cause. I loved this book and I feel like it should be required reading for any woman – TTC or otherwise. It’s just good information. Knowledge is power!

    Maybe we can make like a Wonder Twin type hand shake for “Ovary Power!” No?? Okay…Never mind.

  5. May 5, 2010 9:32 pm

    Thank you for posting this. I was told i would not be able to have kids and hopefully this information will help me.

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