From the November 2004 Idaho Observer:

Fertility Awareness for Conscious Conception

For women to be aware of their cycles of fertility and infertility is to empower them to confidently avoid unwanted pregnancies and bring into this world children that are not only wanted but insured a loving and nurturing home. "Planned Parenthood" is a huge business that brings into our culture abortion clinics and the proliferation of chemical and synthetic hormone based birth control methods. Our youth and young adults in our communities has inspired this month's column. Last month we reprinted an article posted on Dr. Joseph Mercola's website that gave enough detail into the harm to women's bodies caused by these pharmaceutical birth control methods. What it did not detail enough was the wide array of solutions.

by Ingri Cassel

When I first became sexually active, I began searching for natural birth control methods. Over the years I have accumulated a vast array of them-many of which are relatively unknown. It is this somewhat "unknown" fertility information that I want to share with our readers. But first it is important to discuss the importance of knowing the basic natural methods of family planning available.

Natural family planning contraceptive methods include those methods that do not require pharmaceutical medication or physical barrier devices such as condoms or the IUD. Since a woman is only fertile during a five-to-six day window of each menstrual cycle, using this method requires monitoring changes in your body so you can pinpoint ovulation and abstain five days prior as well as during the day of ovulation.

The three aspects to the successful use of the natural family planning method are: 1) Charting your Basal Body Temperature (BBT) - body at rest temperature, 2) observing and charting your cervical mucus, which changes noticeably during the monthly cycle and, 3) calculating the fertile times in your cycle (ovulation) with formulas from the rhythm method-which today involves daily charting of your monthly cycle, noting changes in your BBT and cervical mucus.

Monitoring basal

body temperature

During a woman's menstrual cycle the BBT rises and falls according to hormonal fluctuations. To determine the most likely time of ovulation and your unique six-day window of fertility, you must chart your BBT daily. Each morning before getting out of bed, you take your temperature with a specialized basal body thermometer. The body temperature increases sharply in most women immediately after ovulation. Most women ovulate between day 10 and 17 in their menstrual cycle with day one being the first day of their period and ovulation occurring two weeks later. Each woman's cycle is unique with variations in duration of cycles being anywhere from 19 to 60 days long. This is why it is important to use graph paper and chart daily changes in your basal temperature as well as time of menstruation and sexual activity.

Monitoring cervical mucus

The cyclical changes in your vaginal mucus discharge are controlled by the reproductive hormones.

In the beginning and end of your cycle, when the hormone estrogen is low, the mucus is scant, sticky and opaque. As the estrogen levels increase the closer you are to ovulation, the quantity of mucus also increases becoming thinner and milkier. As estrogen levels increase, your mucus becomes clearer and more watery. At the estrogen peak just prior to ovulation, it gets slick and you may be able to stretch an unbroken shimmering thread of it between your thumb and forefinger. This abundant fertile mucus is alkaline helping to protect sperm from the normally acid pH of the vagina while nourishing the sperm on their upward motility to the uterus.

After ovulation the hormone progesterone causes the mucus to change to an infertile type within a day or two. Progesterone inhibits the mucus-producing cells of the cervix and the mucus again becomes scant, thick, sticky and opaque white or cream colored.

This is considered one of the most reliable ways to predict fertility but involves daily sampling of your cervical mucus by hand while charting the type of mucus observed along with your BBT in order to become proficient.

This natural family planning method of charting BBT and cervical mucus is the first method you should master since it will give you the understanding of your body's unique fertility cycles. It takes perseverance and three to six months of charting to gain mastery. We highly recommend that you take a natural family planning class that details this method. If one is unavailable in your community, purchase a book on this method such as Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, or search for a similar book in a used bookstore.

Home monitoring systems

Several innovations in fertility awareness have recently hit the market. A variety of home test kits can now be purchased through your local drug store or on the internet, taking the tediousness out of daily charting for several months. Some test kits monitor reproductive hormones in the urine (e.g. Persona and Clear Plan). Other devices such as Lady Comp and BioSelf measure basal body temperature.

The best innovation I have seen is a device that employs a pocket-sized microscope for examining the various crystalline patterns of dried saliva since these patterns change according to hormone level and fertility.

This "saliva testing" device was invented and initially marketed by Karen and Ed Porrazzo as a Personal Fertility and Reproductive Health System they coined PFT 1-2-3 for short. Anxious to get such a kit, I was forced to buy my PFT 1-2-3 kit seven years ago from Canada for over $100 since our own FDA blocked marketing of this product in the U.S. claiming it was an unapproved medical device.

Thankfully you can now purchase a similar product, the Ovu-Tech magnifying lens, for around $30 from your local drugstore. This is an invaluable, reusable tool that can be used for a lifetime and is the size of a tube of lipstick. This simple tool takes the guesswork out of determining precisely when you are fertile and when you are ovulating.

Many couples have used this device to maximize their chances of conception.


There are many studies that have been conducted determining success and failure rates of various natural contraceptive methods. Frankly, it is difficult to determine precise success rates since people are as different biochemically as they are in their personalities. The reliability of a particular contraceptive method is influenced by each woman's own level of reliability and responsibility. Women who become pregnant while using a natural contraceptive method with due diligence may have wanted to have a baby subconsciously and their subconscious desire may have influenced a change in their ovulation cycle. Also, women are born nurturers and have an innate desire to conceive and nurture a baby. This innate desire does not necessarily "go away" after having their first child.

Some women have told me that abstaining from intercourse for those six days is difficult since this is the time when they are most sexually aroused. This is where knowing a few other methods can come into play.

Vitamin C and rutin

Prior to his passing, Dr. Bronner's liquid castile soap bottle labels used to describe the vitamin C method of contraception. The theory is that sperm cannot survive in an excessively acidic environment. He did not specify the amount of vitamin C to use so I decided to experiment. I put four grams of powdered vitamin C in about a third cup of melted cocoa butter. As it cooled, I formed them into suppositories and put them in the refrigerator. When I first put one in my vagina, I could feel it burning as it melted. I had to immediately perform a douche on myself and have not attempted this method since!

According to Susun Weed in her classic book, "Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year," the bioflavinoid rutin, taken internally, can prevent conception. She advises that one should take a 500 mg. tablet daily for several days preceding and following ovulation, or take it after fertilizing intercourse and continue daily intake until the menstrual flow begins.

Wild carrot seed

In this same book, Susun Weed describes the use of wild carrot seed as an "Implantation Preventer":

"One teaspoon of Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota) is taken daily, starting at the time of ovulation or immediately after unprotected intercourse during the fertile time, and continued for up to one week to prevent pregnancy. Women in Ragasthan, India use cultivated carrot seed in the same way. Researchers there have found that ingestion of carrot seed by mice prevents the implantation of their fertilized eggs. The seeds are oily and strong tasting but not bitter or unpleasant."

Wild carrot seeds are not commercially available but are easily obtained in many parts of the world growing in fields and byways "for the taking". You can also gather your own carrot seed from carrots grown in your garden from non-hybrid seeds.

Wild yam root

Midwife Willa Shafer put out a short article in booklet form in 1986 entitled "Wild Yam: Birth Control Without Fear." She claims to have successfully tested this method since July, 1981, on 75 women with 98 percent efficacy. She recommends the daily intake of three capsules in the morning and three capsules in the evening for at least two months prior to relying on Wild Yam as your sole means of contraception. To validate the effectiveness of wild yam root, I personally have known many women who have ingested powdered wild yam root and have been successful in avoiding pregnancy without any adverse side effects.

Mental birth control

Although this is the method I prefer, this is certainly not for everyone. It takes an awareness of how our thoughts, both conscious and subconscious, effect both conception and contraception. I only recommend that a woman try this method after she has had at least one child and she is clear about the power her mind and thoughts have on all her bodily functions.

Women have also used the power of their minds to "reverse" an unwanted pregnancy. Although it is important for both male and female partners to be involved in this method, I used mental birth control successfully when my partner at the time was diligent about wanting us to conceive. Although there are other books that have been written on this subject since, I learned this technique from a 59-page booklet "Mental Birth Control" by Drs. Mildred Jackson and Terri Teague, published in 1978.

This article was meant to be an overview of the many alternatives to chemical forms of birth control and surgical abortion.

Next month we will discuss herbs for correcting hormonal imbalances in both men and women and how both men and women need to prepare their bodies for conception through detoxification and the use of specific herbs and nutrients.

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