One of the strategies I have found most useful in caring for my health is charting my cycle. I have been charting my cycle—using one method or another—for 6 years. Pure curiosity is what initially drew me to this health strategy. I was struck that my body reveals so much to me if I pay attention to it. Over the years I have enjoyed numerous benefits, including greater awareness of the natural flux of hormones, the ability to better anticipate the start of my period, being able to determine phases of fertility & infertility and overall feeling way more in touch with what’s going on with my reproductive health. One of my client’s said it best:
“FEMM is a great tool to detect symptoms or changes in my body that may otherwise be invisible. It allows me to be more in tune with my body, down to the minute details.”
A doctor introduced me to FEMM (Fertility Education & Medical Management) in the winter of 2016 and I quickly became interested in discovering what made this program unique. A few months later I was on a plane to Minneapolis to begin the certification process to become a FEMM teacher. What is it about this health program that inspired me to fly halfway across the country? Why was I so eager to be trained as a resource for other women?
The 7 Reasons Why:
FEMM is built on science.
FEMM is based on an ever-growing body of research about how the female body and ovulatory cycle function. Numerous peer-reviewed studies have contributed to FEMM’s formation and ongoing development. When people hear “chart” and “cycle” in the same sentence, they often assume you are referring to the “Rhythm Method.” This is a method of Family Planning developed in the 1920’s and 30’s that was ineffective at avoiding pregnancy for most women who didn’t have 28-day cycles. FEMM is not the Rhythm Method. Like other modern fertility awareness methods, FEMM is based on well-founded scientific research about the female body and ovulatory cycle. And while the Rhythm Method assumed uniformity in its guidelines, FEMM emphasizes that while there are certain healthy parameters, a woman’s cycle is unique, and she can understand her individual patterns to observe health. One of my clients described it this way:
“It’s important to know how a woman’s reproductive system is unique to them and how and why it affects their daily life.”
FEMM is focused on health.
FEMM sees the menstrual cycle as an indicator of a woman’s overall health. The phases of the cycle are taught and explained not just in terms of how they relate to fertility, but how they reveal signs of health and point to areas of concern that warrant further investigation. Therefore FEMM is relevant to women of all ages—especially from just before puberty through menopause.
FEMM is user-friendly.
FEMM’s materials are bright, youthful and easy to interpret, making the material more easily digestible for people with various degrees of health literacy. I like that you can print your own chart from wherever you have printer access (school, library, home, wherever). Pick up a pack of pencils from the dollar store and you’ve got the supplies you need to chart. I also appreciate that FEMM offers a free app for both iPhone and Android. This makes charting accessible wherever you go.
FEMM looks for the roots.
FEMM seeks to find and treat the root cause of many gynecological issues. Rather than simply manage symptoms, FEMM’s medical protocols diagnose and treat the origin of a problem. Personal chart data can be an integral tool in getting to the bottom of an issue with one’s reproductive health. So by charting, I am making valuable contributions to my health knowledge and management.
FEMM is restorative.
FEMM’s medical protocols, developed by the Reproductive Health Research Institute, are designed to restore the reproductive system and body to health. The innovative protocols address conditions arising from hormonal issues including polycystic ovaries, endometriosis, irregular bleeding, acne, menopausal disorders, depression, thyroid problems and infertility. FEMM-trained medical providers tailor their treatment and support to your body’s unique condition and needs.One of my clients shared her experience:
“FEMM shed light on some of the most puzzling and frustrating aspects of my health that I had never been able to fully grasp or come to terms with. It helped me to release guilt and frustration with my health while giving me a new appreciation, not only for my body, but for my whole self.”
FEMM is international.
FEMM has an international network of certified teachers and medical providers, meaning that if I move elsewhere, I’ll have access to support, even if it’s primarily online. FEMM’s app is available in Spanish and there are teachers who speak several languages, including Spanish, Polish and Dutch, among others. Furthermore, this means that there is a community of women stretching around the globe that use FEMM to take control of their healthcare and fertility. Charting with FEMM means I get to be a part of that.
FEMM encourages me to be engaged.
Charting with FEMM helps me be more actively engaged in my own healthcare. Knowing what signs to look for helps me confirm that all is well with my cycle. Conversely, it alerts me when something may be off so I can seek medical support. Charting also helps me better anticipate the start of my period. If I ovulate later than usual in a given cycle, I know to expect my period to come later. This relieves the stress that can accompany a “late” period. Further, charting helps me to avoid or maximize chances for pregnancy (not at the same time, of course) and assess if my hormones are reaching healthy levels.
Charting helps me see my health as primarily my responsibility. It informs the decisions I make with respect to my physical and reproductive health, and it provides me with the data to seek outside support when needed.
Disclaimer: Elise is a certified FEMM teacher and charts for personal use. She is not writing as an endorsed representative of FEMM, but rather as someone who has benefitted from a FEMM education, currently charts with FEMM and teaches FEMM classes to other women.
If you’re interested in learning firsthand what there is to love about FEMM, give us a call at 734-994-8863, or email us at [email protected]. We believe that all women should have access to empowering healthcare, so our FEMM program is completely free. You can take the three sessions one-on-one or with friends. It’s up to you! ArborWoman currently offers the fertility education component of FEMM; if medical concerns arise, we refer out to FEMM-trained physicians.