How Men Can Support Their Partner with Natural Family Planning (Part 1)

natural family planning

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“Natural family planning” is a form of fertility management where a woman uses the signs her body naturally gives her to determine the point in her menstrual cycle when she is most fertile.  For many women, this system is preferable to the uncomfortable and unhealthy side effects that can accompany the use of hormonal birth control methods.  If you are a man with a partner who has chosen a natural family planning method of birth control, it is important for you to know that you have a part to play in supporting her with her choice.  Below are some ways in which you can work with your partner to achieve your fertility goals. Continue reading

User Effectiveness Rates

the patch birth controlIn a recent post, we discussed the difference between the effectiveness of a birth control method versus the effectiveness of its use.  Method effectiveness is defined as the effectiveness with perfect use.  In other words, the number of unexpected pregnancies which occurred when the method was correctly and consistently used over a period of time.  On the other hand, user effectiveness, or typical use, is defined by the actual practices of the couples using the method, both correctly and incorrectly, over that same period of time, which is usually one year.

As a review, the chart below describes some common birth control methods, along with their method and user effectiveness rates, based on 2,000 users and one year of use.  For comparison, having unprotected sex with absolutely no method of birth control used results in pregnancy 85% of the time.

Birth Control Method Typical Use Failure Rate Perfect Use Failure Rate
Today contraceptive sponge 32% 20%
Diaphragm with spermicide 16% 6%
Male latex condom 15% 2%
Combined oral contraceptive pill 9% 0.3%
NuvaRing birth control ring 9% 0.3%
Birth Control Patch 8% 0.3%
Depo Provera birth control shot 3% 0.3%
Intrauterine device with copper 0.8% 0.6%


As you can see, the typical use failure rates for some of these methods are staggering, and much higher than the more commonly known perfect use failure rates.  The Center for Disease Control is dedicated to public awareness regarding birth control methods, and goes into great detail regarding typical use failure rates on their website.  However, many birth control users remain unaware of just how significant the difference in protection can be if you do not follow the method’s instructions to the letter.

With so much on the line, do you think that condoms and birth control medications should have the consequences of imperfect use right on the packaging in giant bold print?  Do you think more should be done to educate the public on the proper use of birth control?  We want to hear your opinion!  Please share it with us in the comments below.

How Age Impacts Fertility

age and fertilityAs a woman ages, her fertility slowly decreases.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that around age 32, fertility significantly declines, and the decline becomes rapid around age 37.  Despite this, there is no question that women are continuing to have children later in life.  A 2014 report from the Center for Disease Control states that the average age of women experiencing their first birth has continued to rise over the last four decades.  More significantly, since the year 2000, 46 states and the District of Columbia have experienced a rise in the first-birth rate for women 35 and over.

So if your fertility decreases with age, how are more women than ever giving birth in their late 30’s and early 40’s?  The answer truly lies with personal choices and modern medicine.  For example, we now know more than ever before about things women can do to keep their body healthy in order to decrease the chances of having a medical disorder which decreases fertility.  We also have modern technology, such as egg freezing, which allows for the possibility of having a child later in life.  Not to mention that age does not preclude women from pursuing in vitro fertilization or other assisted reproductive technologies.  Additionally, the CDC report shows that older women having children generally are more educated and have the financial resources to pursue these options.

In a recent Time Magazine article, Dr. Rebecca Starck, the chair of the department of regional obstetrics and gynecology at Cleveland Clinic, asserts that for women who want to have children later in life, taking care of themselves is the key.  She believes a healthy 40 year old can have a less risky pregnancy than a 28 year old if the 40 year old prepares herself for pregnancy through healthy food and exercise, and maintains those habits throughout.

Preserving Your Fertility When You Have Breast Cancer

breast cancer and fertilityBecause October is National Breast Cancer awareness month, we wanted to address the important topic of how you can preserve your fertility while fighting this horrible disease.  Unfortunately, breast cancer treatments can leave some women infertile.  This means that if you do plan to have children in the future, you should discuss your options with your doctor before beginning cancer treatments.

There are currently three ways in which doctors are working to preserve fertility for cancer patients.  The first is by using treatments that will produce embryos or eggs.  One example is in vitro fertilization (IVF).  With this procedure, you will take hormones to increase your egg supply.  The doctor will remove your eggs, fertilize them with the sperm of your partner or donor, and freeze them for later use.  Another method, which involves freezing unfertilized eggs, has met with mixed success and is currently not considered as reliable as IVF.

The second thing doctors can do for cancer patients is take steps to reduce the impact of chemotherapy on their fertility.  Some combinations of chemotherapy drugs are less likely to affect fertility than others.  For example, FEC and AC carry a smaller risk than CMF.  Unfortunately, for those over 40, all chemotherapies carry a greater risk of permanently stopping your ovaries from producing eggs.  Currently, scientists are researching the use of luteinising hormone blocker injections during chemotherapy. These injections temporarily stop the ovaries from working, and may shield them from the impact of chemotherapy.

Finally, doctors can try to preserve a patient’s ovarian tissue for future use.  This would involve a minor surgery in which some of your ovarian tissue is removed, then frozen.  After cancer treatment is complete, the healthy tissue is put back in place.  This procedure is relatively new and does not have widespread data, but has met with some success so far.


Birth Control Post-Baby

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If you have recently given birth, sex may be the last thing on your mind, but birth control actually should be.  A female who chooses not to breastfeed will ovulate for the first time between 25 and 72 days after giving birth, making it difficult for you to guesstimate.  Additionally, despite popular belief, breastfeeding your child is not an automatic protection against pregnancy.  You must breastfeed at least every four hours during the day, every 6 hours at night, be providing 90 to 95% of your baby’s food through breast milk, and breastfeed for more than six months before you can remotely rely on breastfeeding as birth control.  Otherwise, your chances of pregnancy are reduced, but not eliminated.

After you have just had a baby, hormonal birth control may not be your best option.  Breastfeeding women will want to avoid it because the hormones can actually be secreted into the breast milk.  The hormone estrogen, which is found in many brands of birth control pills, is known to impact both the quantity of breast milk produced, and the quality of the milk. Estrogen actually decreases the protein, nitrogen, and lactose content of the breast milk, making is less healthy and satisfying for the baby.  Additionally, those not breastfeeding must wait until four weeks after delivery to use any form of birth control containing estrogen, because the hormone increases risk of blood clots in early postpartum weeks.

Out of concern for your health as well as your baby’s health, you may choose to use barrier methods of birth control.  These include condoms, the diaphragm, or the cervical cap. (Please note that if you were using a diaphragm prior to giving birth, you should have it resized postpartum, as childbirth impacts the size and shape of your vagina.)  Another option is Lady-Comp, an intelligent fertility monitor that will predict your fertile days with 99.3% accuracy based on the information you provide it.




The Emotional Repercussions of Infertility


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When a couple is trying to conceive a baby, it can be a thrilling time in their lives.  However, as months continue to go by with no pregnancy, the hope and excitement can turn to stress and anxiety.  While couples may know that infertility is possible, actually dealing with it can result in an unexpected emotional roller coaster.  It is not unusual for one or both partners to experience the following:

  • A sense of loss and disappointment
  • Physical symptoms of depression or grief, such as headaches, low energy, irritability, inability to concentrate, extreme sadness, and insomnia
  • Denial or numbness
  • Anger
  • Jealousy towards those who are able to get pregnant easily
  • Feelings of inadequacy, guilt, or shame

Unfortunately, infertility can also put a huge strain on a couple’s relationship, as each person struggles to cope with their own feelings.  Each may have a fear that their partner will leave them to have a child with someone else.  Couples undergoing fertility treatments may experience financial strain, or find they are not in agreement about which options they are willing to try.  Furthermore, after endless attempts at trying to conceive, having sex can feel less like fun and more like a chore, adding additional emotional difficulties.

If you are experiencing infertility, the most important thing you can do as a couple is to keep the lines of communication open and be totally honest about what you are feeling.  Take time for each other, and do not let infertility become the entire focus of your existence.  Make it a point to find fun activities you can do together to help release some tension and relax.  Finally, if you are experiencing any of these emotional issues, please know that you are not alone, and that professional help is available to you both as individuals and as a couple.



Clear Skin without Hormones

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In previous postings, we have discussed how doctors are very quick to prescribe birth control pills to women suffering from acne, without considering the potential for harmful side effects to the patient’s body due to the introduction of artificial hormones.  The risks of taking hormonal birth control include liver and gallbladder disease, migraines, hypertension, depression, and more.  Thankfully, clear skin can be achieved without the use of birth control pills.  Read on to learn some simple strategies for obtaining the beautiful skin you desire.

First, there are several foods which can have an impact on your skin health.  For example, Brazil nuts, which are rich in selenium, increase skin elasticity, and walnuts, which are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, lower skin inflammation and decrease breakouts.  Macadamia nuts contain oils and fatty acids with skin repairing properties.  Foods such as watermelon, which are rich in lycopene, reduce redness and damage caused by the sun.  Red grape skins contain a strong antioxidant known as resveratrol, which fights wrinkles, lines, and sagging caused by other environmental irritants.  On the other hand, dairy products should be avoided, as they contain cow hormones that stimulate your oil glands.

Next, make sure things that are touching your face on a regular basis are kept clean.  Makeup brushes used to apply loose powder should be washed every two to three weeks, and brushes which apply foundation should be washed once per week in a mixture of lukewarm water and gentle facial cleanser.  Additionally, you should wipe down the front of your cell phone with an antibacterial wipe a few times each day.  This will keep unwanted dirt and bacteria away from your pores.

Finally, it bears repeating that one of the most important things you can do for your skin is to wear sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection every day year-round.  This can greatly reduce your risk of a broad range of skin ailments, from wrinkles to cancer.




How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

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According to Prevention Magazine, regardless of if they have children or not, women tend to get less sleep than men overall, due to fluctuating estrogen.  During both menstruation and menopause, levels of estrogen, which helps promote sleep, are lower in the body.  Furthermore, symptoms associated with lowered estrogen, including headaches, cramps, and hot flashes, all do their part to interrupt a good night’s sleep.  Prevention offers several suggestions for combatting this issue.

  • While it may sound simple, researchers say the most important thing you can do to improve your sleep is to go to bed and wake up at the same times every day, including weekends. This puts your body’s internal clock on a routine, which will result in better rest.  If you are having a difficult time accomplishing this, try keeping a sleep diary in which you record these times to hold yourself accountable.
  • Quitting smoking can dramatically improve how well you are sleeping at night.  Researchers say smokers are 4 times more likely to not feel rested after a night’s sleep than non-smokers.  This is likely due to the amount of the stimulant nicotine in their bodies.
  • Keep in mind that when you exercise, your body temperature will stay elevated for approximately 4 hours.  Since this is not conducive to sleep, you should plan your gym visits accordingly.
  • Pay attention to the beverages you drink.  First, caffeinated beverages are a stimulant and can keep you awake at night, so they should be avoided after 2 p.m. each day.  Next, because your body actually wakes up as it finishes metabolizing alcohol, you should stop drinking alcoholic beverages at least two hours before your bedtime.  Instead, pour yourself a glass of warm milk, as research has shown it can aid in inducing sleep.

If you do wake up in the middle of the night, doctors recommend that as long as you are comfortable, you should stay in bed and perform deep breathing exercises to help you relax and fall back to sleep.

Herbal Remedies for Joint Pain and Inflammation

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While we all feel some aches and pains as we get older, chronic pain can really take a toll on our quality of life.  According to Harvard Health Publications, individuals who suffer from chronic pain have three times the average risk of developing mood and/or anxiety disorders, and the resulting changes in disposition and behavior can lead to isolation as well as drug dependence.  While over the counter pain medicine is always an option, persistent use can have unwanted gastrointestinal side effects, such as stomach bleeding and ulcers.  If you are seeking an alternative, there are several herbal remedies you may wish to try.

  • Found in fresh pineapple, bromelain is an enzyme which is unique in that it is absorbed directly into the body rather than breaking down in the digestive tract.  You can maximize your pain relief by juicing the hard stem of the pineapple with aloe, ginger, and turmeric, and drinking it on an empty stomach.  Bromelain is also available in pill form.
  • Devil’s claw is a root containing iridoid glycosides, which are assumed to be the reason it eases the pain of osteoarthritis.  It can be made into tea, but it is available in pill and ointment form as well.
  • Turmeric is a bright orange root similar in external appearance to ginger.  In the United States, it is most frequently found as a dried and ground spice, but it is also available in capsule form and as a tea.  In a recent study, researchers in Bangkok, Thailand found turmeric eased arthritis pain as effectively as ibuprofen.
  • The bark of the white willow tree contains salicin, which is similar to aspirin, and it is very effective for headaches and back pain.  It can be taken as a tincture, through tea, or in capsule form.

If you are interested in trying any of these herbal remedies to ease your pain, please speak with your doctor first to make sure they are an appropriate treatment option for you.



Oils that are good for Your Skin

oils that are good for your skin

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Teenagers suffering from acne are often taught that oil is the enemy of healthy skin.  As a result, the habit of using only skin care products that are labeled oil free often carries into adulthood.  However, there is absolutely no reason to do so, as use of the right natural oils can actually improve your skin’s ability to heal, refine your skin’s texture, and even reduce the signs of aging.  Below is a quick primer on oils which are wonderful for your skin.

  • Acai oil is rich in antioxidants, which are critical for protecting the skin against free radicals and cell oxidization.
  • Argan oil, when used regularly, can reduce the signs of aging.  It simultaneously moisturizes the skin and gives it a tighter appearance.
  • Black cumin seed oil contains antioxidants and fatty acids. Therefore, its anti-inflammatory properties make it an excellent treatment for acne, dermatitis, and eczema.
  • Both black current oil and peppermint oil have anti-inflammatory properties which reduce skin redness.
  • Carrot seed oil contains beta-carotene, vitamin A, and emollients, all of which help stabilize cell turnover and soothe irritated skin.
  • Both chamomile oil and tea tree oil have antiseptic properties which help combat acne and fight infection.
  • Coconut oil reduces bacteria on the skin.
  • Flaxseed oil has essential fatty acids which soften skin.
  • Grape seed oil contains vitamin C, which helps to regulate oil production in the skin.
  • Olive oil contains vitamins A and E, which help the skin repair itself.
  • Rosehip seed oil helps reduce scarring with vitamin A and essential fatty acids.  It also restores moisture to skin which has been damaged by dry air or a windy environment.

To achieve positive results, these oils must be used in the proper ratios.  Therefore, before adding them to your skincare routine, it is advisable to speak with a dermatologist.