#3 The Fertility Awareness Method - A Natural Contraception Approach
The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast
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In Episode 3 of The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast, Natalie Douglas and Kate Callaghan discuss the Fertility Awareness Method, which is a natural approach to contraception.
- Updates from Nat and Kate
- Tracking your cervical mucus
- What to look for and what it means
- Apps and resources to help you learn the method
- What to do if your cycle is irregular but you still want to track
- Alternate methods of natural contraception
- What temperature tracking is
- How to track your temperature
- What can go wrong
- What different patterns can tell you
- Exciting news about Kate’s Healing Hypothalamic Amenorrhea program almost being released!
– “The Billings Method”, by Dr Evelyn Billings and Ann Westmore
– “Garden of Fertility”, by Katie Singer
– “Natural Fertility”, by Francesca Naish
– Fertility Friend
– Be Your Own Health Detective with Temp Tracking by Kate Callaghan, The Holistic Nutritionist
Natalie K. Douglas 0:01
Hi guys and welcome to The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast. My name is Natalie Bourke, holistic dietitian and nutritionist from healthbywholefoods.com.au. And with me, I have Kate Callaghan, the holistic nutritionist from theholisticnutritionist.com. Kate, how are you?
Kate Callaghan 0:20
I’m great. Thanks, Nat. How are you?
Natalie K. Douglas 0:22
Not too bad, actually. I’ve had a very relaxing morning at yoga. Stop it. I know, right? Tuesday’s a good day. And not too much else is going on. I actually that’s a lie. I have released a free e-book on my website. So it’s called The Perfect Digestive Solution. And it’s there for anyone who’s got any digestive symptoms lingering any kind of IBS type stuff going on and just wants to bit of a kickstart into what are some tips and tricks they could kind of do themselves and try out in order to start feeling a bit better, and it’s for free. So go and download your copy from my website. But more importantly, Kate, your book was launched. And was the launch party was very, very enjoyable, particularly your speech and the food. Oh my god, the food.
Kate Callaghan 1:23
There was some nice food there. It was it so yeah, the launch party was last week for my book holistic nutrition. And so many amazing people came along I was so humbled and it’s such a surreal experience. My cheeks were hurting. I don’t think my cheeks have hurt smiling that much since my wedding day five years ago. No, that’d be sad.
Kate Callaghan 1:49
It was just a really exciting experience. Any I had some really good food spots as well and Bee’s Knees TVs provided some TI subway super food snacks and DJ and a kale chips, kale chips and not a good idea to have though when you’re having photographs. They get stuck over your teeth. And Darren nice organic whole food provided some amazing activated nuts and chocolate and I didn’t get any of that chocolate.
Natalie K. Douglas 2:17
Everyone before I got to it. Yeah, sorry about that.
Kate Callaghan 2:22
I mentioned the others. You’ll see coconut water and chat chat calm which
Natalie K. Douglas 2:28
Yeah, yeah, it was it was all amazing. And there was like it was delicious smoked salmon. And I like probably took about half the sermon. I’m not just like, a little bit more, a little bit more about either. Oh my gosh, look, I’m not against you launching another book next week, if you want to. I would be happy to support helping you through the food. I also oh my gosh, when you made your speech, and then your dad, your mom, and your dad replied, I was like tearing up. I’m like, Oh my god, Natalie, pull your #### together. Like you weren’t even crying.
Kate Callaghan 3:08
I almost cried my dad. Yeah, my dad made everyone cry. It was a nice event. Yes, so my book is out in the world now. And it’s available all throughout Australia and New Zealand. And I embed to put it on my website for sale. But if anyone is interested in a copy, before I get myself together, I’m going to try and not swear on this podcast. I’m like, sorry, if anyone is interested in the copy, just send me an email Kate at the holistic nutritionist calm and I can get something sorted for you.
Natalie K. Douglas 3:42
Excellent. All right. Well, today everybody, we are talking about the fertility awareness method. So the last last week, we talked about the pill and, you know, a few reasons why it might not be the best choice. But we didn’t want to leave you guys hanging without a form of contraception. So we thought that we would go through the fertility awareness method, we’re not going to go into it in great detail because it is quite, you know, complex, and you need some time to to look into it yourself as well a bit further. But we definitely are going to give you a bit of background a bit of insight into what it is and the general gist of of how you do it. And also will point you towards some great resources, and apps and whatnot to help you along your way. So before we get started, I do have to read a bit of a disclaimer. So the advice given in this podcast is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from your primary healthcare physician. The facts and information offered are based on a combination of scientific evidence, clinical practice, experience, personal experience and opinions of both my self and Kate. So guys, I am going to be talking today about cervical mucus tracking. Isn’t that delightful? And,
okay, no nicer way to say I discharged, maybe discharged.
Kate Callaghan 5:16
It’s people get freaked out about the term mucus.
Natalie K. Douglas 5:18
Yeah, no. Added to But anyway, it was juicy.
Kate Callaghan 5:21
Natalie K. Douglas 5:26
Okay, sorry, I’m a professional. Yes, mucus is fine.
And then Kate’s gonna talk about temperature tracking. So I will admit, when I first heard of cervical mucus tracking, I was both intrigued, grossed out at the word mucus. Yes. And also a bit overwhelmed to be completely honest. And I even remember the first month or so trying to do it and literally staring at the mucus on toilet paper for like five minutes being like, dude, I have no idea if this is a clean stringy white, cloudy blue Brown. Just kidding. It was not.
It wasn’t Brown, a
beta to do is be everybody that is
but you get the point. How about what really helped me was actually reading about it a lot and seeing pictures as groceries that nice down to some you it does help. And you know, yes, spending your Sunday looking up another woman’s mucus patterns might not sound like the ideal thing to do. But the more you know, and the more you know what you should be looking for and noticing the more likely you are to have confidence in using the method. And it’s a good method to use once you know what you’re doing. So, as I said, in the interest of time, and also not over complicating things, I’m not going to go into all the ins and outs of the method. What I want to do is make you aware of what it is the general gist of what you’ll be doing, what you’ll be doing and what it can tell you. I’ll also make sure we give you like I said some resources so that you can get some more information. So tracking your mucus patent is based largely on the fact that your reproductive hormones affect the types and amount of mucus that is produced by your cervix. It indicates to you when you are fertile and likely to get pregnant and when you aren’t. And therefore when it’s safe to have sex if pregnancy isn’t your goal, of course. Now the reason why mucus matters in this regard is because fertile mucus which I’ll describe shortly, also allows the sperm to move by providing like a guiding channel and a protective environment for them. And it also sustains them nutritionally throughout their journey to the fallopian tubes, and also captures damage boom, there’s there is actually significant evidence that indicates that unless fertile mucus is present conception can’t take place. And just on the topic of evidence and validity of the method, I should point out that the method is extremely close to the effectiveness of the pill when followed correctly. In a study done in 2007, it was was found to have a 0.6% failure rate. With a pill he has about 0.3% failure, right? That’s pretty pretty. Like that’s pretty good. Given that you get none of the unpleasant side effects of the pill. And, you know, it’s also being used in many African tribal groups and amongst Aboriginal cultures for many years, even without the scientific validation. However, I know in our fancy pants modern society, a lot of us need hard and fast figures and trials before we feel safe, which is fine and understandable. And they’re there to which is which is great. Now, let’s point out a few things in regard to fertility before I have the pleasure of describing your cervical mucus to you. Firstly, you’re fertile for roughly seven days of your cycle, which are the five days leading up to population and the two days past ovulation. The reason why it’s five days prior to ovulation is because that’s how long sperm can survive in your fallopian tubes kicking back awaiting for the world, I will have an egg before getting jiggy with it and producing a lovely human. The reason why it’s two days after ovulation is due to the fact that that’s roughly how long you’re a place awaiting gaming your fallopian tubes. So if we’re talking textbook site cycle, which is a 28 day cycle of relation usually occurs on day 14 of your cycle. If you have a longer or shorter cycle, then you would need to adjust the numbers. However, I do caution he against just purely using numbers as your God without taking into account what you’re physically seeing in your temperature patterns. And also your mucus changes because things like stress, or being sick can cause your cycle length to change. If you rely just on numbers, then you aren’t using the method accurately. And you don’t have that guarantee of you know, a 0.6% failure right? By failure. Right? Well, that didn’t sound right. So let’s get to the lady garden bids talk. Now. What on earth does fertile mucus look like? Well, I hope no one is eating breakfast of the egg variety because the best description of fertile mucus is mucus that looks just like raw egg white. It’s clean, stretchy and slippery. It will usually up to three days before you all be light. And this is a time when you are most fertile. How you can check on monitor your mucus is up to you because there are a few different methods out there. So you can walk your vagina before you go to the bathroom and have a look on the paper for what type of mucus is there. You can also observe the sensations between your legs as you walk and go about your day. So again, you would be looking for somewhat of a slippery feeling. Or you can actually insert your fingers into your vagina, provided they’re clean and observed that way. I personally use the first first two because it’s convenient and works well for me that whatever tickles your fancy is fine. And that line sounded a little bit dirty in this context. But let’s just let that one slide.
Kate Callaghan 11:12
If that’s what you’re into that
Natalie K. Douglas 11:16
five year old, yes, women are going to continue. Moving on. It’s also really important that you track this stuff. So there are lots of apps out there and a few fertility friend period to track off. And Kate’s favorite one, which what’s it called again? k Kingdom Dora
KINDAR, a dar which I’m about to switch to because why not? There’s also a book Well, I’m sure there are many books however, the book that goes into most detail about this that I actually read and found to be pretty helpful was the billions method by Dr. Evelyn Billings and and whistle Katie know of any other books that have helped you understand the method or any other resources do Yeah,
Kate Callaghan 12:03
yeah, actually haven’t checked out the buildings when I have the guts looking at my room, the garden of fertility by Katie singer and natural fertility by Francesca. Nice,
Natalie K. Douglas 12:15
awesome. So there are another two. And you know, do some reading because sometimes it takes a few times, like you know, a few different ways of it being presented to you before you before it sinks in. And before you understand it a bit more. Now, a few cautions when getting started that I often recommend which Kate I’m not sure what you think of this, but when very first starting out, if you’re not wanting to get pregnant, then I recommend giving yourself a good kind of two to three cycles to get to know your pattern and changes, get comfortable with observing them, while still using another form of contraception, such as condoms. And then if you wish, once you’re comfortable with knowing, you know, your fertile days, and in fertile days, you can restrict condom use to fertile days if you are having sex on those days and not wanting to get pregnant. Kate, do you have any thoughts around that?
Kate Callaghan 13:09
Yeah, absolutely agree. definitely give yourself at least a few months of getting to know your signs and symptoms. And yeah, using other contraception because you you need to know your individual signs and symptoms in your individual body. And so you might be thinking that you’re not ovulating. But that is actually an indication of your ovulation. Sir. Yeah,
Natalie K. Douglas 13:29
yeah. So give yourself some good time. It doesn’t like it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get comfortable with knowing your cycle. But you know, you those are, the methods are still there for you to use, while getting comfortable with this method. And look, they’re even still there for you to use. While you’re doing this method. I actually, I personally am a fan of using, you know, mucus tracking, temperature tracking, and still condoms in, you know, and that’s a personal preference. Because I I’m not looking to get pregnant at all at the moment. But you know, and I have a lot of clients that do that. But I also have clients that don’t use condoms and all and do just use the fertility awareness method. So completely your call. Now, I will add that they are actually they’re not sure if they still are. But there were teaching centers around that actually teach you this kind of method as well. So that’s just I’ll check it out and put something in the show notes. If I can find some around in Australia. It used to be one, I’m just not sure if it’s still around. Yes.
Kate Callaghan 14:40
I was just gonna say I think this stuff should be taught in schools. Instead of saying he does take the pill. Yeah, it should be taught to us at a young age. But here’s what your body is actually telling you. And he is how you can take charge of your own facility.
Natalie K. Douglas 14:53
Yeah, definitely. No, I agree with that. And, look, I would also like to point out that, in terms of who is this method, not for the art, like, I would say that it’s not for couples who are not motivated in this regard, or rather, who don’t see contraception as a mutual responsibility, which in my opinion, it is, neither party should have to suffer ill quantum field consequences of medication such as the pill, without at least at least being aware of, and given the opportunity to explore other less invasive or less health compromising methods. So having those conversations with your partner about it, and then going from there. So just to note, also that, obviously, like the pill, it doesn’t protect you against STDs. So just be mindful of that, too. Now, Kate, I know a lot of our audience may not actually have regular cycles and be a bit fearful of using the method because of that. And there is some caution around around it, in that fertile mucus can appear any time that there is high estrogen compared to progesterone. So yes, it is possible to see fertile mucus more than once in a cycle. But this doesn’t mean you are be late more than once. So I guess my advice to you guys would be that you can still use the method because as I said, it’s not just going off numbers of that, you know, I’ll be late on day 14 type thing is going very much of physical changes, including temperature, including mucus patterns, you can even check the position of your cervix and whatnot. However, I would still be using another form of barrier protection and to like become comfortable with with my cycle. Kate, do you have any advice around? That?
Kate Callaghan 16:50
Yeah, no, I 100%. Agree. I was also going to say if you notice other sorts of discharge, so you’re the fertile kind is the, the clear, slippery kind. And the your mucus was actually changed throughout the month. So you’ll see, you might see creamy white mucus, you might see sticky mucus, and you might see none at all, especially after menstruation that’s completely normal. And your body should be going through these sort of cycles of changes and cervical mucus. And also, if you are recently off the pill, you might not notice any cervical mucus at all, because that’s one of the roles of the pill is to dry up cervical mucus to prevent pregnancy.
Natalie K. Douglas 17:31
Excellent. So that’s helpful to know. So as you can see, there’s you know, a little bit of information to know but you know, at least this is a bit of a, a general chat about what you should be aware of. But like I said that all those resources are great things to do a bit more reading on, and don’t be scared by them. And oh my god, there’s so many different things to observe. It’s, you know, once you get comfortable with what you’re looking for, it’s actually a really easy thing to do. The other thing I wanted to go back to you before I forget, so just talking about using condoms, and no non condoms, which is important is that make sure when you’re buying them by ones without sperm aside. So sperm aside is toxic and can lead to an increase or susceptibility to bladder infections. And having spent aside EA also offers no advantage over not having it in there in terms of contraception and STD STD prevention. So that’s just a bit of a handy note. And there are other methods that we won’t go into now. But for us to be aware of and do some research on or chat to your health care practitioner about which include population test strips, which measure LH and, therefore help indicate ovulation. This is more a tool in the toolkit of the fertility awareness method, rather than a standalone method. Then you have things like female condoms, withdraw pullout method, personally, not a big fan of it, but it is an option, and cervical caps without spoon aside. So there that’s kind of a brief overview of that. And Kate talking about temperature tracking, which I find really helpful and really interesting, so not just in regard to, you know, fertility, and cycle tracking, but also can tell you a bit about other hormones and other kind of systems in your body did you want to talk to us a bit about temperature tracking?
Kate Callaghan 19:34
Sure, I would love to. So basically what your basal body temperature is, is it’s your temperature upon waking. So it’s the temperature of your body, before you move before you eat before you drink before you have morning fix. If that’s your cup of tea, good good to you.
Natalie K. Douglas 19:54
Kate Callaghan 20:00
it’s sticking at the moment underneath your tongue, and taking that temperature just with a simple digital thermometer before you get up in the morning. And, and as net pity can be useful for helping with fertility. And we’ll talk about that in a second. But it can also be useful for diagnosing an underactive thyroid, it can pinpoint even when ovulation is occurring, it can show up if you have a luteal phase defect, which can affect your ability to maintain a pregnancy. And you can discover adrenal issues. And you can also confirm pregnancy without paying on a stick or going to the doctor just 18 to 20 days after conception, which is pretty cool. It’s pretty cool. And that’s that’s the way I confirmed my pregnancy with my daughter a couple years ago, was with basal body temperature tracking. And it also helped me to pinpoint when I actually conceived. And which was good because when you go to the doctor, they kind of take it off your last menstrual period. And my were a bit wonky when I fell pregnant. And so they thought that I was a certain length of pregnancy a certain duration and pregnancy along I said no, I’m not that a lot far along because I’ve been tracking everything. And they said yes, yes. Yes, you are. You are you are. And so I had to have a skin and they like on you know, thinking I know your body better than you. Yeah, exactly. So it’s, it’s really actually an empowering tool to have. And because you can have all this information and that can help down the line at the end of your pregnancy. And if you get to 40 weeks, their time, but you know, you’re actually a nice a 39 weeks your time it can they might might want to unnecessarily induce pregnancy or birth. Labor should I say? And so it can be handy to have his information on hand to feel comfortable in saying no, I don’t want to be induced right now. Unless, of course, it’s medically necessary in which case definitely get induced, sometimes of theory anyway. So how do you track your basal body temperature, as I just said, purchase a digital thermometer, preferably one, correct two decimal places, and stick it have the have the moment it on your bedside table near your bed so you don’t travel far. And as soon as you get up to stick it on your tongue, you’re taking maybe 30 seconds if that it’ll be and then record that somewhere handy. So you can write it down. But as net that I like to use King Dora. And that’ll give you a nice little chat throughout the month. And it’s important to you do this for a few months to get some information. So I have people who start doing it and they they’ve taken five temperatures in total, and then they start freaking out. So you’re not going to get any meaningful information from a week’s worth of temperatures. Our temperatures fluctuate throughout the month. So the first half of the month in your follicular phase is your temperature going to be relatively lower to the second half of your cycle, your luteal phase, which will be quite high. So luteal phase is when progesterone is dominant. And progesterone has that role of warming up your body in creating a nice little oven for the baby to, to cook in your temperatures divert is going to be warmer.
Natalie K. Douglas 23:16
Okay. So I love cooking babies cooking baby.
Kate Callaghan 23:25
brewing a human
I should stop.
A couple things to note down, that can affect your temperatures. So you need to note down if you’re sick, that can affect your temperatures that can artificially elevate temperatures. If you got on the booze the night before, if you had a big night that can increase your temperatures. If you use electric blankets, if you spoon with your partner all night long if you travel across different time zones, and note those down because that can throw things off. If you rise earlier than usual, you can adjust temperatures. So you would add naught point naught five degrees for each half hour before you would usually record and do the opposite if you wake later. So if you wake up half an hour later then add point 05 or takeaway point? 05. Does that make sense? Yes,
Natalie K. Douglas 24:17
Okay. All right.
Kate Callaghan 24:20
I’m following good. So what does it all mean? So as I said, perfect, textbook cycle 28 day cycle, first half of your cycle is follicular phase, temperatures will be relatively lower when you ovulate, that’ll cause the release of progesterone which will warm your body up, and then your temperatures will be relatively higher. So when you see that by physic pattern, that temperatures shift up and halfway through your cycle, that’s a good indication that you’ve accumulated. Okay, so that’s a really handy thing to to put together with the cervical mucus tracking. So about that time when you notice that temperature a little bit before it probably, or around it, you’ll notice the first one week or so the slippery mucus, egg white consistency,
Natalie K. Douglas 25:07
Kate Callaghan 25:11
Natalie K. Douglas 25:13
I was promised I promised I was going to be a bit more mature. But it didn’t work out for me.
Kate Callaghan 25:18
One of my best friends who feels he listens to this. Well, he listens. I’m laughing if he’s even if you’re listening to this, this is for you.
Natalie K. Douglas 25:30
Guys, my auntie and my little cousin. Listen to this as well. So sorry about that while they making dinner. so brilliant. Brilliant.
Kate Callaghan 25:38
You okay, so just just quickly, what else can show up in when you’re tracking your temperature, so all the elation you can see. And if you so ideally, you would have kind of 12 to 16 days post ovulation that your temperatures will be elevated. So that’s your luteal phase, you want it kind of around 12 to 12 to 16 days long. If it’s less than about 10 days long, that’s not really long enough for maintaining a pregnancy. So that’s what’s called a luteal phase defect. So you can pick that up on a temperature chart as well. So you’ll notice within the 10 days with high temperatures, it’ll drop down again in your study period. Again, that can be really handy to see. And that’s often due to low progesterone. So to help with progesterone production, best way to help with progesterone production is stress management. And vitamin C can be really helpful as well, that always work with the health practitioner on that. And if you notice more than five temperatures below about 36.4 degrees Celsius, you may be looking at an underactive thyroid, so there’s low temperature, so thyroids, important for whole body metabolism and maintaining your body’s temperature. So if you’re, if you have those really low temperatures over time, 36.4 or lower, back in the day, when I had a thyroid issue I had temperatures in in the 35. And if you research that, and 35.6 I think it was they tell you that you’re hyper hypothermic, I wasn’t I wasn’t dying, I was I wasn’t warm enough to be healthy, especially if you notice other symptoms of low thyroid, that is constipation, dry skin, thinning out a third of your eyebrows, low mood, low energy, and inability to lose weight. And that’s even more reason to do some further investigating, and go and see a doctor get tested for TSH t 324. But we won’t go into that too much. And that’s another podcast in itself. Yes, it is. Some other things you might see unstable temperatures in the follicular phase of the first half of your cycle. So if you see your temperatures going up and down quite significantly, but I mean, they will go down, up and up and down a little bit from day to day. But if you see them jumping by more than about point two, five degrees Celsius per day, that can be a sign that your body’s not handling emotional psychological stress at the moment. So incorporating some stress management into your life would be really handy. Deep belly breathing. Dancing and the meditation.
Natalie K. Douglas 28:15
What was that dancing in the kitchen and you’re under
Kate Callaghan 28:17
dancing in the kitchen? in your in your underwear? Of course. It’s Yeah, it actually
Natalie K. Douglas 28:21
doesn’t work. Unless you’re in your underwear. Guys. Just I’m just picturing. I’m cruise. Oh, yes. At the high socks. Yeah.
Kate Callaghan 28:33
I’m just, yeah, I’m not that old.
Yeah, I’m gonna get this out, because then I’m gonna go and pick up my daughter. Okay, keep going. Okay, so other things that you might notice, so no temperatures black. If you don’t notice that by physic pattern, if you just kind of got temperatures around the same level the whole way through, then you probably not ovulating. And so that’s really common with hypothermic aim area, and other conditions as well PCs. So take note of it, don’t be disheartened, there are things that you can do about it. But obviously you need to work with your practitioner on that one. And if you see elevated temperatures for more than 18 days after the temperature shift, then you are probably pregnant. So go and get tested, whoo. If you have a short cycle, so less than about 26 days, with periods lasting long with an eight days, it could be a sign of endometriosis, especially if you experience bad period pain. So looking to that. And finally, if you see the executive temperatures around ovulation, that could be another sign of low progesterone, and problematic for maintaining a healthy pregnancy. So be mindful of that.
Natalie K. Douglas 29:48
Awesome. Alright, well, we did go a little bit over time. Sorry, everybody. However, I think we’ve given a fair bit of information there. So I will pop up some showing notes for everybody. So I’ll include the some links to the resources we were talking about, and the names of the apps and I’ll also link to a great blog post that Kate did on tracking your temperature if you prefer to read a bit of this information. So thank you so much Kate for giving us all that information and for taking time away from cute little Olivia to help us out and we will be back in two weeks time with another another podcast as always jump on over to iTunes subscribe and leave a review because you love us. Yay. And we need friends Yay. Friends. I love
Kate Callaghan 30:47
Can I just say one more quick thing. Yeah, I am launching my ha ha ha polemic ME course. Next week’s I’m opening the doors for enrollment. Next Monday we is the 19th of September and then hoping to launch the course the following week, the 26th of September. So obviously send out details about that. But just if anyone’s listening,
Natalie K. Douglas 31:12
come and join me yes do it will be amazing. So please do check that out. And I will include that as well in the show notes. So thanks everybody for listening. And thank you Kate. And have a lovely day.
Kate Callaghan 31:28
Thank you know you have a lovely day too. Thank you.
Natalie K. Douglas 31:30
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