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

natural family planning

photo courtesy of la-archdiocese.org

“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

The Pill Can Kill Your Sex Drive

birth control pills and your sex driveApproximately thirty percent of all women in the United States suffer from a diminished sex drive, and many studies link this to the use of hormonal birth control.  A woman’s libido is largely driven by the testosterone produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands.  When testosterone is released into the bloodstream, it either remains free or binds with a protein known as serum hormone binding globulin (SHBG).  The testosterone that binds with SHBG becomes inactive, and therefore does nothing to increase libido.  When you consider the fact that hormonal birth control raises the level of SHBG in your blood, the link becomes clear. 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.

Herbs to Enhance Fertility

herbs in increase fertilityHerbs can be used to support your body’s natural fertility in a variety of ways.  If you visit http://natural-fertility-info.com/fertility-herbs, you will find an extremely detailed and lengthy list of fertility issues and herbs that can be used to treat them.  Below is a primer which will allow you see the wide variety of possibilities when it comes to this type of treatment.**

Fertility Issue

One Herb Used to Treat It

What the Herb Does

Estrogen imbalance Flax seed The lignans and fiber in flax seed help remove excess estrogen from the body.
Immune system imbalance Ashwagandha root This root supports the endocrine system and overall immune response.
Low libido (women) Damiana dried leaves and stems This increases circulation to the female reproductive system and also increases sexual pleasure.
Low libido (men) Muira Puama bark and root This supports fertility and a healthy erection in men.
Ovarian cysts Tribulus aerial parts and fruit This has worked to normalize ovulation in infertile women with consistent use.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Vitex dried berries This herb works to balance the hormonal feedback loop in women with PCOS, promoting ovulation and regular menstrual cycles.
Poor egg health Castor oil When applied as a pack to the abdomen, castor oil stimulates the lymphatic system, and can increase circulation and promote the healing of tissues and organs beneath the skin.
Progesterone imbalance Maca root This root works to balance the body’s estrogen and progesterone in both men and women.
Sperm count Goji berry dried fruit This berry, which is high in antioxidants, helps protect sperm from overheating, increases hormone levels, and increases sperm quality and quantity.
Uterine fibroids Dong Quai root This root increases circulation of fresh, healthy blood, which aids in removing excess tissue growth, healing tissue damage, and limiting the formation of scar tissue and adhesions.

 

**Please keep in mind that while we want you to be healthier and happier, our blogs and suggestions shouldn’t supersede that of your doctor’s advice.  Please consult your physician prior to adding any herbs to your daily diet.

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

photo courtesy of womeninbalance.org

photo courtesy of womeninbalance.org

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.

 

Sources:

http://www.ehow.com/list_6859260_effects-estrogen-breastmilk.html

http://www.parents.com/parenting/relationships/postpartum-birth-control/postpartum-birth-control/

http://www.babycenter.com/0_birth-control-choices-after-you-have-a-baby_3755.bc

 

Things to Consider When Planning for a Child

photo courtesy of Feralchild.net

photo courtesy of Feralchild.net

If you are preparing for pregnancy, it is relatively easy to find information on taking care of your physical health in preparation.  If you are eating right, exercising regularly, taking prenatal vitamins, and have cut out alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine, it’s likely you think you are all set to start trying.  While your health is greatly important, there are other significant emotional and financial items to consider before you have a baby.

First, it is important to sit down with your partner to discuss some key issues regarding how you will raise your child.  These include:

  • Religious observances
  • Public education vs. private schools vs. homeschooling
  • Parents working vs. staying home and childcare issues related to those decisions
  • Comfort level with hiring babysitters
  • Your thoughts regarding the possibility of your child having special needs

Next, it is important to discuss finances.  Consider starting a slush fund right now that will help you pay for maternity clothes, doctor co-pays, nursery furniture, and other expenses you will have as you prepare for your newborn.  Now is also a good time to discuss college funds, taking out life insurance policies, and creating wills if you have not done so already.

Finally, have a plan for tackling stress.  Stress can unfortunately arise when couples feel it is taking too long to conceive.  It can also happen during pregnancy, when hormones are playing with your emotions.  Also, the closer you get to your due date, the more anxious you may find yourself regarding last minute preparations.  Take the time now to think about your favorite stress reliever.  It may be going to a yoga class, practicing deep breathing techniques, or simply sitting down with a cup of hot tea and a magazine.  No matter your method, remember to use it consistently when you need it.

 

Sources:

http://www.parents.com/getting-pregnant/pre-pregnancy-health/general/before-getting-pregnant/

http://www.babycentre.co.uk/a7171/how-to-get-your-life-ready-for-a-baby

 

Method Effectiveness vs. User Effectiveness

photo courtesy of Birdsandbees.org

photo courtesy of Birdsandbees.org

When discussing the effectiveness rates of various methods of birth control, you should be aware that there is a difference between the effectiveness of the method and the effectiveness of 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 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.

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

 

The number one reason for the difference between the user and method effectiveness rates is simply failure to follow the given instructions for the item.  For example:

  • Birth control pills should be taken at the exact same time every day.
  • Condoms should be stored in a cool, dry place at all times prior to use, and should never be used if they are past the expiration date.
  • Diaphragms and cervical caps must completely cover the cervix.
  • IUD users should conduct a monthly check to make sure the device is properly in place.

The takeaway is that whatever birth control method you choose for yourself, it is important to be as educated as possible about it for the best results.

Please keep in mind that our effective rating is 99.3% effective and best explained on our website.

 

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_birth_control_methods

http://ccli.org/nfp/effectiveness/methodvsuser.php

http://womenshealth.about.com/od/birthcontrol/a/contraceptive_failure.htm

The Emotional Repercussions of Infertility

200447888-001

photo courtesy of infertility.about.com and Paul Bradbury/Getty images

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.

 

Sources:

http://www.resolve.org/support/Managing-Infertility-Stress/emotional-aspects.html

http://infertility.about.com/od/copingwithinfertility/a/copestress.htm