Toni Weschler’s Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health is a monster. More than 500 pages long, the book covers everything related to the Fertility Awareness Method, including anatomy, the menstrual cycle, fertility signs, balancing your hormones, and pregnancy—and that’s just the start.
To start, let’s define the Fertility Awareness Method, better known as FAM, as Weschler explains it in her book: “Fertility Awareness is simply a means of understanding human reproduction. It’s based on the observation and charting of scientifically proven fertility signs that determine whether or not a woman is fertile on any given day.” This definition is provided in the first chapter, along with some clear facts. FAM is not the rhythm method, a method that, as Weschler explains, “falsely assumes that individual women have cycle lengths that, if not precisely 28 days, are reliably consistent over time. The result is that it is nothing more than flawed statistical prediction using a mathematical formula based on the average of past cycles to predict future fertility.” FAM differs on several levels. For one, FAM relies on three primary fertility signs: cervical fluid, waking temperature, and cervical position. Additionally, FAM follows the scientific fact that each woman ovulates at a different time, and has cycles of differing lengths.
While this information might seem overwhelming to those who aren’t familiar with FAM, Weschler relays the knowledge in a digestible way. The book is broken down into six parts, with two to six chapters in each part. Chapters answer the basics, like how reliable are various birth control methods? Why are women often led to believe they’re infertile? What is waking (basal) temperature and why should I track it?
Some chapters might feel redundant, including the Four FAM Rules—but for good reason, as Weschler reminds us. When used correctly, the rules are effective for preventing pregnancy; if any one part is unclear, however, the odds of a pregnancy occurring are raised.
Don’t let this deter you from reading the book, even if you know FAM is not a good fit for you personally. Part Three, “Being Proactive with Your Health,” is worth the read alone, thanks to explanations on anovulation and irregular cycles, issues that affect most women at one point in their lives. Further tips on balancing your hormones can provide relief no matter your form of birth control, as well.
While I read this book as my introduction into FAM as a method of birth control, there’s great information for women looking to achieve pregnancy, as well. A clear summary of tests and treatments that may be necessary for pregnancy is also explored, along with easy-to-understand tables. In general, the massive size of this book isn’t as intimidating once you flip through its pages: charts, pictures, and diagrams help to break down complex processes in a way that make fertility and reproduction comprehendible to the most basic beginner. Even examples of how to provide your own self-care, in addition to annual gynecological and primary care physician care, are exampled with detailed how-to breast exams and pap smears.
Most importantly for those who are looking to begin FAM, there are numerous example charts to demonstrate how exactly women should chart their cycles. Also included are examples of women who are infertile, pregnant, currently suffering with various disorders and diseases, and charting both correctly and incorrectly.
Thanks to Weschler’s friendly tone and relatable examples, Taking Charge of Your Fertility is a must-read for women—and, perhaps even more importantly, men—whether infertile, fertile, looking to avoid pregnancy, looking to achieve pregnancy, or anything in between.