For our third installment of Thrive Birth Talk, we met with Franchesca Duval to talk about her Fertility Awareness workshop which she will be offering at Thrive. In this workshop, Franchesca helps women and partners bridge the gap between science and spirituality while teaching them how to avoid or achieve pregnancy through the Billings Method of ovulation tracking. We wanted to hear from Franchesca on her thoughts regarding the cultural and personal significance of tracking your own ovulation, plus a little bit about what folks can expect to gain from one of her workshops. We know that you’ll enjoy this interview! If you’d like to sign up for one of her classes you can email me directly for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy Birthing!~ Kelly Gray, Director of the Wisdom and Movement Center
Kelly: What exactly is Fertility Awareness and why are you drawn to teach it?
Franchesca: Fertility Awareness is the process of learning how your reproductive system works so you can read your own signs of fertility and avoid or achieve pregnancy. When a lot of folks think of Fertility Awareness the first thing that comes to mind is the rhythm method which is extremely flawed and a great way to get pregnant if you do not want to. The method of Fertility Awareness I teach is called the Billings Method, it is 99.8% effective in preventing pregnancy. The science behind the method is solid, it can be tailored to any womans cycle and the information is easy to understand.
While I was in college I saw a lot of women go on birth control for weight or acne regulation who were not sexually active, and those women were not fully educated as to what they were taking and how it would effect their physical, mental and spiritual health over the years. I became passionate about teaching this method because I recognize the need for another voice in the world letting women know that there are options other than chemical contraceptives available to them.
There is an interesting campaign by the makers of chemical birth control which says that it liberates women because it gives them reproductive choices. I challenge that campaign and say that the greatest liberation to women is allowing them to ovulate AND educating them on how to prevent pregnancy so their fertility is truly in their hands.
Kelly: A lot of women say to me, “I’m really fertile, that wouldn’t work for me” or “I want to be able to have sex all the time so I can’t practice that.” How do you respond to these types of concerns?
Franchesca: These are great common concerns that have easy solutions. First of all, every woman has a variable window of fertility each month. Some women may skip ovulation all together one month while another will have seven days of fertility in which she needs to avoid unprotected sex. No matter how fertile a woman is, she will only be fertile for one window each month (ovulation can only occur once each cycle) so there will always be time before and or after a womans fertile cycle for unprotected sex.
To the folks who say that they want to have sex all of the time I say go for it and do the best you can to protect yourself, if you feel the absolute need to connect with your partner while you are in your window of fertility then use a condom and know that if the condom breaks there is a high likelihood that you will get pregnant. If you are uncomfortable with using condoms than expand your sexual play, there are many ways to have sex without going all the way to intercourse and most of my couples find that a woman’s fertile time is a great opportunity to get creative and try new things so their love life stays fresh and fun! We gain a great deal of empowerment when we know we are fertile and make choices accordingly as opposed to shooting in the dark and trusting our fertility to a device or chemical outside of ourselves.
Kelly: From a very young age, many women who are sexually active or are considering becoming sexually active are signed up for medicated birth control and given little to no education about how their cycles work. Do you think it’s important to break away from this model of healthcare, and if so, why?
Franchesca: I absolutely believe it is important to break away from this model of medicating our girls early. Chemical birth control plays with our endocrine system, specifically our pituitary and pineal glands which a lot of spiritual traditions believe are our gateways to God and our highest selves. I get a lot of students who say that while they were on birth control they were depressed or felt directionless, as if they were missing a large part of themselves. No one talks about birth control’s role in these emotions and a lot of girls get put on anti-depressants needlessly. Most chemical birth control prevents pregnancy by suppressing ovulation each month which leads to young girls having a flatline in their emotions and power. When we ovulate we are at the peak of our focus, alertness and attractiveness, women who are ovulating will knock any presentation out of the park because they are at the height of their personal power for the month. Young girls who are on chemical contraceptives are robbed of the opportunity to step into that place of power and do not find it until much later in life when they go off of the pills to try and conceive.
I believe that every woman deserves the chance to be taught how her body REALLY works so she can make the decision to go on birth control or have an IUD with confidence that it is the right decision for her and not just because it is what is available.
Kelly: How can partners benefit from Fertility Awareness and what do they need to know about it?
Franchesca: This method creates a level playing field of responsibility with contraception where both partners can make the decisions about the best days to have unprotected sex. Gone will be the days of the woman being 100% responsible with her pills or the man being 100% responsible with the condoms. The couple get to deepen their communication and talk it over together with a clear picture of what is going on with the womans fertility and not fumble around in the dark, guessing when the fertile window actually is.
Men are not doing the day to day sensing and observing that the women will do but they can chart for their ladies. Having the man ask each night what the most fertile sign of the day was is a great way to have him involved so he can help make the decision about unprotected sex. There are great apps for the iPhone, even websites that allow women to track their cycles so a man can check remotely to see if she is entering her infertile time and know to come home with some flowers and sweet moves to put her in the mood!
Kelly: Now the fun question. Really, better sex for the woman and the man? Do tell!
Franchesca: Most couples who are trying to avoid pregnancy have a low level of anxiety around sex because they know that every time they unite there is a chance of pregnancy occurring. Men in particular suffer from not being able to be fully present in the act because they are focusing on pulling out or the condom breaking. When a woman has mastered the Billings Method she will know with complete confidence that she is infertile and when her and her man can have reckless abandon in their lovemaking. The man is able to be fully present with his lady when he knows there is no chance of pregnancy, allowing for a deeper connection in intimacy which every woman craves. The juiciness is put back into the relationship and every month the couple gets to get excited for unprotected sex in the infertile time while exploring other options during the fertile time.