College-aged women and fertility awareness

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When I was 16 years old, I was referred to a gynecologist for irregular periods. After a few months of waiting for blood test results, I was cleared of any major hormonal issues that may have been causing them. Before I left the office, however, I was not met with the same relief that my mother and I had later experienced.

Instead, the gynecologist began to hype up the birth control pill and how it would benefit me  — despite not having any real medical reason to do so. I remember her saying something along the lines of, “If you want to have a family in the future, you should get on the pill.”

I couldn’t help but think it a paradox to hear that I should take a pill that stops my normally functioning reproductive system for the sake of my future hypothetical children. I started wondering  if this random doctor actually knew better than me. But something felt off, so we researched alternative options.

We then sought the help of a family friend who was trained in the NFP Billings Method, which consists of tracking your fertility through cervical mucus and symptom observation. Through that experience, I learned that the only thing I needed was to understand how my body operates naturally. If I had taken a birth control pill to regulate my periods, it actually would have prevented my body from ovulating — the most vital function of a woman’s reproductive cycle.

Though I have had this experience for about three years now, it always amazes me how few women are aware of this information and the resources that are available to us.

On Sept. 21, Clark Residence Coordinator Bethany Weinand organized a virtual meeting with representatives from Natural Womanhood, an organization that raises awareness about cycle tracking and provides classes and lessons for those interested in learning more about the topic and how exactly to track one’s cycle.

When asked about why she wanted to bring this resource to the UD community, Weinand said: “I ultimately want to instill in young women a sense of wonder and awe at the beauty of God’s design. Women have been endowed by the Creator with tremendous gifts to offer the world, including bearing life in the womb. 

“My hope in educating women about fertility is to bring them to a place of reverence and gratitude for the gifts of what JPII called ‘the feminine genius’. The design of the Creator is perfect and requires a response of respect and responsibility.”

Though these Natural Family Planning methods are primarily for the use of Catholic married couples who wish to follow the Church’s understanding of responsible parenthood, it does not exclude the experience of young women who can also benefit from the knowledge of one’s body such as monitoring and managing symptoms.

“Basic knowledge of a woman’s fertility cycle is owed to young women because of their inherent dignity as persons. This education can assist young women with various medical complications because charting provides important biomarkers and body awareness. It enables women to not only address major hormonal issues, but to mitigate symptoms of other seemingly unrelated medical issues as well as diagnose other problems in the body. I hope UD women will take this time in their life to become educated about this important topic,” Weinand said.

Sophomore English major Kelly Abels, who attended the event, said: “It’s empowering to learn more about how our bodies work, especially since it feels like these are things we should have been taught already. I am planning to look more into charting and try implementing it in the future!”

Periods, ovulation and PMS are all topics that we treat as taboo far too often, even in the Catholic community. The more we educate ourselves and others about the beauty, nature and uniqueness of the woman’s cycle, the more I believe we will become a society better equipped to address women’s issues in a more positive light.

Maybe now we can stop shoving pads and tampons into our sweatshirt pockets out of fear of someone else knowing that we are in the middle of something that is as natural as breathing for us. Maybe now we can have confidence in our God-given bodies and design for life.

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