Cycles of wonder
Among her many powers, a woman’s fertility is sovereign. It may comprise just a fleeting and transient episode of her life between childhood and late adulthood, however, the fertile years are a signal to the world -as well as to herself- that she is healthy, balanced and a good candidate for nurturing the next generation.
Now, it is important to clarify what is meant by the “fertile years.” Indeed, these are the years during which a woman will have periods of fertility, and will be able to deliver offspring. However, within each unique cycle are only a handful of “fertile days,” with an average maximum of 6 in every month. This means that in any given “fertile” year, a woman will actually be in a state of fertility for just 72 days at most. Now, during these few and sacred days, a number of signals will appear, to indicate that she is ready to deliver offspring – her estrogen and progesterone levels will rise, making her skin glow, her breasts plump, her waist taught, her eyes bright, her temperature warm, her energy high, her libido increased, her focus sharp, and her moods light. She will even release her own fragrance through the production of pheromones, which is an alluring scent to those around her, though she may not be aware of it herself. All of these features are detectable by the opposite sex, who are hard-wired to recognize them, on both a conscious and sub-conscious level. So, in her own special way, the fertile woman becomes somewhat of a siren, attracting those around her with enhanced features and faculties. It is an enjoyable and precious time, and one to be celebrated.
The fertile days are particularly special for those women in tune with their regular, natural cycles – for these women, they are often so familiar with their bodies’ rhythms that they can detect ovulation through feelings alone. I myself have become familiar with facial signals throughout the month, where symmetry is emphasized in subtle ways during the fertile days, and de-emphasized as the fertile window ends – thus by simply looking in the mirror each morning, the phase of the current cycle is clear. It took a long time to build such familiarity and to learn to read the signals, but every woman is capable of it, and every woman has her own way of going about it.
I mentioned already that the fertile years are just one period of a woman’s life. They are preceded by the pre-pubescent childhood, during which a woman’s body is in a state of rapid development, and has no concern for signalling to others. They are succeeded by the post-menopausal adulthood, during which a woman’s body is in a state of ageing and slowing, and again, has no concern for signalling to others. Considering these phases together then, along with the fact that the “fertile” years are themselves outweighed by non-ovulation days, one finds that a woman actually spends a great deal of her life infertile. Should she ever become pregnant, she will have even fewer fertile days, since every pregnancy will require at least 9 months of fetal development.
For these reasons, I want to encourage every woman reading this to embrace her natural cycle – to experience it, to learn it, to become familiar with it and to understand it while it’s still around. Women who do so will not only learn about their fertility and physical signalling, but also about how to thrive in all areas of life. For instance, women who become infertile through PCOS and decide to try natural remedies often learn to recognize their bodies’ response to food intake, and are able to reverse their conditions by following dietary principles which facilitate healthy cycles, benefiting their whole bodies in the long run. Women who become infertile through stress and decide to try natural remedies often learn to recognize their bodies’ response to activities that raise cortisol and adrenaline during the different phases of the cycle – for instance, I know that if I perform intense cardio exercise during my luteal phase, I will significantly raise those two hormones, decreasing my chances of fertility, whereas if I perform the same exact activity during my follicular and ovulation phases, those two hormones will only slightly rise, and will actually be at lower baseline values than before, increasing my chances of fertility.
Now, the reason that I have written this article is to encourage women to do something positive. However, in order to achieve this, I need to highlight something negative: contraception. It comes in many forms, from injections, to tablets, to implants and more, but always with one objective – to make a woman infertile for as long as she engages in sexual intercourse, so that offspring cannot be created. This is done by giving the woman a dosage of hormones large enough to ensure that she cannot conceive (therefore a larger dosage than anything she would ever produce naturally), usually by mimicking a state of warped pregnancy, so that the woman’s body fails to kick itself into ovulation, or by tailoring specific hormones to be so out of sync with others that fertilization is no longer possible. Now, I could go into all of the physiological affects of synthetic contraceptive hormones which are scientifically proven but rarely admitted, however this would be a project in itself. Instead, I will list those which concern me the most:
- Synthetic contraceptive hormones introduce high dosages of circulating hormones into the bloodstream so that pregnancy is prevented – this means that pharmaceutical companies need to ensure that the hormonal surplus is so high that such ‘prevention’ is close to ‘impossibility’. As a result, the woman’s liver will need to become responsible for handling the surplus, which means that a great deal of the woman’s energy expenditure will be spent on getting the surplus hormones out of the bloodstream, as opposed to metabolizing her food intake and eliminating other substances that may be harming her (which is what the liver is supposed to be doing all the time).
- This decrease in liver function then begins to hinder glycemic control (since the liver is largely responsible for carbohydrate and lipid metabolism), which causes the pancreas to release higher amounts of insulin into the bloodstream so as to keep the glucose level down. The woman then develops high circulating insulin or hyperinsulinemia, which will prevent her from being able to metabolise and break down fat, and will increase her appetite as her cells begin to crave the glucose that is not being delivered efficiently enough at the cellular level. In this metabolically deranged state, the woman will often only notice food cravings and weight gain, which is bad enough, but in most cases she will have no knowledge of the internal turmoil, nor will her doctor (in general) acknowledge it, if he or she even knows about biochemistry. Instead, her complaints will be brushed off, or she’ll be told to diet, or switch contraception in the hope that things will somehow be different.
- As the liver becomes less and less efficient and the blood glucose levels begin to rise beyond the capabilities of the pancreas, the woman develops inflammation, and stands a very good chance of developing fatty liver, high cholesterol and triglycerides, metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes and diabetes, among many other derangements of metabolism. She is also likely to have less thyroid function due to her straining metabolic demands.
- As the body becomes less able to excrete and eliminate unwanted substances, the woman becomes vulnerable to funguses, viruses, bacterial dysbiosis, urinary tract infections, kidney infections, and many other disorders due to poor elimination. On top of that, the build up of estrogen in her body will begin to put her at risk for cancers, with breast cancer being the most likely.
- The woman will also undergo mental changes whether she likes them or not, as the synthetic versions of estrogen and progesterone alter brain substances such as serotonin and dopamine, and, depending on the woman’s natural brain constitution, could cause the woman to develop depression, anxiety/panic, apathy, aggression, bipolar, paranoia, among many other mental disorders. Add to this the metabolic chaos that is taking place inside of her, and her moods will only de-stabilize further.
- Since the woman is not fertile whilst on synthetic contraception, she will also lose all of the signalling features that I mentioned at the beginning of this article, from the pheromones released through her skin to attract the opposite sex, to the rise in libido as she ovulates.
- The pill was introduced in 1960 – that’s 56 years ago. Therefore, there are no lifelong testimonies for it. As in literally none. Zero. Therefore, by taking hormonal contraception, you are, by definition, a trial patient.
Now, points 1-5 are very important to me, so much so that it pains me to see so many women suffering them today without even realizing it, or want to put up with the horrific consequences because they feel a duty towards their partner, or they don’t know how else to go about things. But point 6 is also very troubling. For women who choose these methods of contraception, what they are actually choosing is a life of infertility: a period of infertile pre-pubescent childhood, followed by a period of infertile sexual relationships, followed by pregnancies, followed by further periods of infertile sexual relationships, before menopause takes over, and the woman is infertile until the end of her days. According to the national statistics, at any one time, 1 in 3 women are currently doing this to themselves. They are choosing to be permanently infertile, let alone damaging their bodies in the long run.
What should women do who are alarmed by this? There is one option often advised by doctors and clinicians alike, which is a non-hormonal IUD. This is a piece of copper that is shaped like the letter ‘T’ and is inserted into the woman’s uterus. Now, this is problematic for 3 reasons:
- Copper is a natural spermicide. This means that it poisons the sperm when they come into contact with it, and causes the cells to die. Now, this doesn’t directly mean that the other cells in the uterus are being poisoned, but it doesn’t rule it out, either.
- Copper is toxic in excess, and can lead to physical and mental disorders including Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia. As the implanted IUD will inevitably release copper into the bloodstream for 24 hours a day, the risk of such excess increases.
- The main way that the copper IUD actually works, which many women don’t know, is that it causes inflammation in virtue of being a foreign object. Any woman who has a copper IUD implanted will therefore have her uterus respond by thickening and contracting so as to deal with the invasion by a foreign body, in an attempt to get it out – the increase in cervical mucus due to this prevents fertilization, and the inflammation itself harbors an infertile environment in the uterus. This is what causes the heavier periods, increased cramps and sometimes even rejections of the IUD. As time progresses and the body continues its attempts to reject the foreign body, the woman’s immune system will become activated as though fighting infection, which will greatly hinder her ability to repair from genuine diseases, will raise her stress hormones, and will put her at risk for autoimmune disorders.
- As the IUD has been passed directly through the cervix, the woman becomes vulnerable to multiple infections, and anything that enters her vaginal cavity stands the chance of travelling into her uterus, potentially harming any future offspring that develop there.
So it seems that there is no ‘perfect’ option for women. Of course, when you think about it, this makes sense, as the body is designed to reproduce, so any act to counter reproduction will have to be a pretty heavy-duty enterprise. However, the lack of ‘perfect’ options can be distressing for a lot of women – I myself used to despair, foolishly thinking that going from a tablet to an injection would somehow change something for the better, even though the chemical effects would be exactly the same (though I will say that the injection is marginally worse, since it secretes a ‘superdose’ into the body at once). I have also had the copper IUD, though luckily for me my body rejected it twice, and I gave up trying it again long before I became a researcher. Of course, these methods have their benefits, otherwise they wouldn’t be so popular – the synthetic estrogen and progesterone can mimic the real thing, so breast size might increase, for instance, or acne might disappear. But for many women, the risks aren’t worth these temporarily positive side effects.
But is back-to-nature as gloomy as it sounds? What were people doing before 1960? How did women not constantly get pregnant in the thousands of years prior to that? There are a few answers, but if you really want to learn more, I suggest that you read books like Taking Charge Of Your Fertility, for instance, where you can learn about the history of women in becoming familiar with their own cycles, and teach yourself how to interpret what I call ‘signalling.’ You will then stand a good chance of recognizing the few days of the month during which you are fertile, and will be able to take precautions at those times in whichever way you please, however, for the rest of the month, you will not have to stock your bloodstream up with hormones and chemicals, and you will not be creating a metabolic chaos, nor endangering your mental health. For those wanting a more hi-tech option there are things like the LadyComp, which I highly recommend. For one thing, you won’t be masking symptoms of serious issues – for instance, if you mask acne with contraception, you won’t know why your body is desperately trying to excrete substances through your skin. If you mask your figure with contraception, you won’t know why your breasts are failing to develop to their full potential. If you mask PCOS with contraception, you won’t know the cause of your insulin resistance, and will actually raise your insulin levels even higher. The list goes on, but the point is simple: hormonal contraception is a remedy for nothing.
Women. You are strong, you are powerful, and you are alive. You want to thrive, and you deserve to. Learn about your body, get to know it, and I promise you it will be the start of a beautiful relationship with yourself that you didn’t even know was possible. Every woman has a right to her own fertility, and I want to encourage the exercising of that right, before the “fertile years” become a thing of the past, and the “infertile years” become the norm. Please don’t ever feel less of a woman for not giving into the pressures of contraception, because “everybody’s using it,” or because your partner won’t respect you for quitting it. Please don’t write off or ignore your depression or anxiety, or any other side effect, for the sake of someone else’s happiness. Please don’t jeopardize the health of your entire body for sex. You are worth more than that. Anyone who loves you will respect that. In fact, show this article to your partner, and see if they’d choose hormonal contraception if they were in your shoes. Lastly, enjoy your fertile years, ladies – they’re numbered!
By Emma Langley