Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Realities of Pregnancy: Infertility

One of the subjects I thought I might get to on this blog last fall, had to do with my own journey to parenthood.

Some of my experiences have been shared on Twitter, under several different hashtags: #RealitiesOfPregnancy, #ShoutYourAbortion, #7MonthsAwesome, to name a few.  I've been slower to write about them here, for several reasons: 1) they're politically charged, 2) they're very personal. But I think it IS important to share, because they are relevant to laws both on the books and under consideration today.

My journey to parenthood was not straightforward. So today, I'm going to begin writing about my Infertility.

Endometriosis runs in my family. One of the ways that it is treated is with birth control, with "the pill," to help regulate the hormones to reduce or eliminate the pain involved with endometriosis. And so efforts by Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters to avoid paying for birth control-- well, they have an impact on people in my family.

Around 14 years ago or so, I saw my doctor asking about if that might be an issue for me. She said that my own symptoms sounded less like endometriosis and more like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS. Like endometriosis, one of the ways to manage PCOS symptoms is through hormonal birth control. Having been raised conservative Roman Catholic, I never expected to go on the pill. We had been trying to use Natural Family Planning and periodic abstinence to prevent pregnancy, and it seemed to be working for us.

A pet peeve of mine is when I told my gynecologists that I was using NFP, their response has been "Oh, so you're doing nothing."  No, my husband and I were actively avoiding sex for the ~10 days of fertility risk. That's hardly "doing nothing."

Often in my readings, I've seen NFP conflated with the "rhythm method," an earlier version that assumed all women had the same length cycle, and has soundly been discredited. My devoutly Catholic mother talked about the differences, how NFP includes charting one's basal body temperature to note when ovulation has occurred.

In fact, as I began learning more about my own PCOS, I found a version of this book, "Taking Charge of Your Fertility". It seems to comprehensively teach the multiple signs of female fertility, which taken together with one's choice of contraception (strict Catholics may choose periodic abstinence, those less worried about it may use barrier methods during the fertile phase) can prevent pregnancy. Moreover, as the Catholics recommend, Fertility Awareness can also be used to encourage pregnancy when one wishes to have a child.

I went on the pill for about a year or two, while I worked on my diet & exercise, and learned to chart my cycles. Then my Ob/Gyn stopped practicing.  At that point I felt I had a pretty good handle on my body, so I stopped taking the medication.

The other point I'd like to make here, is that even as I've moved away from Catholicism as a religious practice, some of the practices that stuck the most have to do with chastity and contraception. Politicians who try to paint every woman on birth control as "slutty" are doing a real disservice to many women who in fact did wait until marriage, are faithful to their husband, but either a) have some medical condition, or b) just aren't ready for pregnancy right then.