kill pill: part eight – the gatekeepers
I have reached a new level in this game of Killing Pill.
Before me are the gatekeepers who guard the unopened door; the unread chapter; the entrance to another realm of understanding and embodiment.
They are moonlit, glowing women, who go by the name of The Fifth Vital Sign (or Kelsey Knight and Emily Varnam). They are based in the US and dedicate seemingly limitless time and energy to educating women – for free – about the Fertility Awareness Method aka ‘FAM’. Let it be known that this is not “the rhythm method”, which I mistakenly called it in my first article because, well, I hadn’t reached this gate yet.
I was but a rookie in this ruthless Game of Hormones.
The Fifth Vital Sign offer workshops, t-shirts (my reproductive organs are on their way!), guidance for any woman coming off the pill and a faster reply to an email than anyone you’ll ever come across who is 12 hours behind you.
I asked them a few questions about FAM and what they do. Here are their answers:
WHAT DO YOU OFFER THROUGH THE FIFTH VITAL SIGN?
5VS: We offer free health classes! Each class focuses on menstrual cycle awareness and charting, hormonal and non-hormonal birth control, menstrual cycle hygiene products, breast awareness, lifestyle and diet choices to optimize hormonal health, and how to discuss options with a healthcare provider.
Right now, we are on a three-month road trip across the continental US, sharing this information in 63 locations along the way. It is our mission to use education as preventative care, encouraging individuals to make informed choices about their health. We hope that by better understanding our menstrual cycles, we will feel more safe, secure, connected to and alive in our bodies.
WHAT IS FAM?
5VS: The Fertility Awareness Method is a way to map the different phases of your menstrual cycle based upon your fertile signs: basal body temperature (which is your body’s resting temperature), cervical fluid, and cervical positioning. It allows individuals to know when they are fertile and infertile, but, more than that, it is an amazing personal journey in which you can discover more about yourself than any doctor could tell you. It can also be used to pinpoint specific imbalances in the body, which can then be worked through to achieve optimum reproductive health. In short: it is a way to get to know your fifth vital sign, aka Your Menstrual Cycle.
WHAT ARE THE DAILY REQUIREMENTS OF SOMEONE FOLLOWING FAM?
5VS: It is required that you take your basal body temperature at the same time every day after at least five hours of sleep and before doing anything else. This is logged along with the nature of your cervical fluid and the cervix’s positioning – either on a paper chart or in an app.
IS FAM AN EFFECTIVE MODE OF CONTRACEPTION?
FAM is a mode of contraception that can be 99.3% effective when used correctly. It requires some learning and that you have a fairly regular cycle. However, if you do not have a regular cycle, FAM can be the first step in learning how to help your body have a regular cycle.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER BENEFITS OF FAM?
5VS: It has been reported that users experience a higher level of intimacy and satisfaction with their sex life. It has zero side effects because it does not require the use of a medication. It is very cheap to implement – all you need is a paper or app chart and a basal body temperature thermometer. It also increases body literacy.
HOW HAS FAM HELPED YOU PERSONALLY?
EMILY: FAM has helped me to work with painful menstrual cramps. Before I started to practice it 3 years ago I had no idea how to start making my cycle more manageable and it was really holding me back. Since, I have been able to pinpoint hormonal imbalances that were due to my diet and lack of sleep and I’ve work with them. Because of FAM I have switched to a menstrual cup also.
FAM helps me stay aware of patterns and see the cause and effect. I now have a Daysy thermometer, which is super easy to use. I still check my cervical mucus and positioning, too. I have also developed – and now successfully practice – the idea of a Birth Control Doula: someone who helps women in making the transition from one form of birth control to another (safer) option. We’ve also developed a workshop for birth control doula trainings, too! So please reach out to me/us if you are interested in either of these services.
KELSEY: Until three weeks ago I was working night shifts as a nurse and my sleeping schedule was wonky and unreliable, so I wasn’t practicing symptothermal FAM (basal body temps and cervical mucus and cervical positioning). I was still tracking my period and staying aware of my cervical mucus and positioning everyday, and I started to experience week-long yeast infections a few days after my period for six months in a row.
My knowledge of my normal cervical mucus helped me to realise I was having an infection (plus, I was f*$%#$!@ itchy and uncomfortable!). Twice I went to my healthcare provider, who handed me Diflucan, which treated the current infection but left me worrying about the next. I knew the timing of my yeast infections was indicative of the underlying cause, which was dietary. This then led me to the correct and long-term treatment. I thank body awareness for that!
Now that I’m sleeping more regularly and at night, I’m looking forward to practicing FAM to the fullest!
I found two definitions of “gatekeeper”, the latter of which applies best to this week’s adventures:
1) An attendant employed to control who goes through a gate.
2) An orange and brown butterfly with small eyespots on the wings, frequenting hedgerows and woods.
I’ve entered some very wise woods, guided by two women who seem to have all-seeing eyes adorning their rather fearless wings. I wonder where they’ll lead me. To learn more, visit www.5thvitalsign.com, and reach out to Emily & Kelsey via email: firstname.lastname@example.org and twitter/instagram @thefifthvitalsign.
Disclaimer: Consult your local sexual and reproductive health clinic or GP before going hormonal contraceptive free. The views espoused in this article are that of the author and not Lip Magazine.