The natural fertility in a healthy woman. Part 2

We're on to breastfeeding: God's intended food for babies; and as I am about to discuss, God's intended way to heal a woman from the physical trauma of birth...

Since we're talking about the fertility of a healthy woman, I won't take the time to discuss all the wonderful benefits of breastfeeding for children, though it is not hard to find information on it. I will say, though, that supplemental formula is NOT the "next best thing."

The way breastfeeding works into a woman's fertility, and overall health, begins right at birth. The uterus, which has just spent the last 40 weeks growing from less that one pound to almost 20 pounds is all stretched out and has worked harder than any other muscle in a woman's body. Everything that was inside it is now gone and all you have left is a big empty worn out bag. Breastfeeding, if attended to immediately after birth will help a woman's uterus to work itself back into shape, and will also help eliminate the after-bleeding that can cause a woman to hemorrhage after birth.

It does this because nipple stimulation causes the hormonal release of natural oxytocins, the hormone responsible for uterine contractions. Some women who practice extended breastfeeding (up to two years and beyond) have been known to rely on their nursing toddlers to help augment a stalled labor instead of resorting to the synthetic version of oxytocin: Pitocin, the ob-gyn's drug of choice. Pitocin is also used regularly, even in women who've birthed naturally, to contract her uterus because doctor's take our babies away immediately after the birth to do all sorts of tests. But the natural nursing relationship of mother and baby is strong enough on its own to shrink down the uterus, work out the placenta, and close up the bleeding openings that the placenta leaves behind on the uterine wall.

Breastfeeding is so effective at shrinking a woman's uterus, in fact, that the "after pains" that came from nursing my newborn Olivia were so severe that I was in tears each nursing session for three days after her birth. She was an expert eater from the moment she was born, and my uterus shrank back to an immeasurable size before I left the hospital.

A less immediate benefit of nursing is the Amenorrhea, or lack of menstrual period, that it creates. A woman who is exclusively breastfeeding her baby will experience this Amenorrhea for the first 2 months to 2 years after birth. That does not mean that there won't be after-bleeding, or lochea, which is present after every vaginal birth for about 3 to 6 weeks, but once the lochea is finished there will be a break in the woman's "monthly" cycle.

HAVE NO FEAR! Caspar, I'm not about to go on and on about how we can rely on this to space our children, though it is very effective for that (so effective I was night-weaning Olivia in order to conceive our next dearly longed-for baby due this September).

But, as I mentioned in Part 1, the hormonal break that the uterus enjoys during pregnancy is continued during the nursing relationship as well. It has been studied that breastfeeding will in fact reduce your chances of breast cancer. And if that isn't good enough, it also reduces the risk of other reproductive cancers in woman as well.

I hope that this information has been interesting to learn, and that I might have shed some light on things that aren't generally known. There are even more things about a woman's natural fertility that I have found fascinating since I started studying it three years ago, but at this moment more pressing things are upon me and this post has sat as a draft long enough.

I'm going to go share popsicles with the 18 month old result of my healthy fertility since she has a 102 degree fever, and I don't want her to get dehydrated. :(

Thanks for reading.

Individualism and Society

Here are some wise words by Harold O. J. Brown, of the Howard Center for Family, Religion, & Society.

The whole article can be read here.

Where individualism reigns, society ceases to exist. Nowhere is this more evident in the beginning of this new century than in the transformation of sexual morality in Western "Christendom." One of the most fundamental imperatives for living beings is the perpetuation of the species, of the race. It is contrary to natural law to suggest that the woman, the bearer of the new generation, should be able to dispose of it at will without any restraint by her spouse or by her parents. The traditional covenants, marriage and family, mean nothing to the individualist. The elevation of abortion to a fundamental right through Roe v. Wade and a series of concurring Supreme Court decisions breaks totally with the biblical and natural principles of reproduction as a human duty.

"Be fruitful and multiply" is God's first command to human beings (Genesis 1:28). Homosexual behavior does not reproduce, and abortion negates reproduction that has already taken place. A society that not merely tolerates but extols and praises both - as our society does - has clearly repudiated the reality of nature as well as the teachings of religion. No animal species exchanges reproductive sexual behavior for sterility. Only homo sapiens are clever enough to see this as a "right" to be enjoyed and praised. Throughout the Western world, the rate of human reproduction is not sufficient to preserve the society. The individual has no duty to society, no more than to God. She or he is autonomous, a law unto self. Individualism taken to this extreme is solipsistic. When solipsistic man dies, he dies alone. There is no one to mourn him, for there will be no one to come after him.

When there is no common sense of the good, traditional virtues are mocked or banned, and traditional vices go from disapproval to tolerance to acceptance to dominance. Tradition becomes a disqualification, rather than a reason for approval. Tolerance of the old style is rejected as implying acceptance, not disapproval, as indeed it did. What it means today is approval, acceptance, and preferential treatment. Tolerance comes to mean approving that which in principle was intolerable. And as Jean-Paul Maisonneuve said, it becomes the worst kind of intolerance.[6] The tennis players are ruining the putting greens.

"Professing to be wise, they became fools," St. Paul wrote (Romans 1:22, NASB). In the final paragraph of The Crisis of Our Age, Pitirim Sorokin asks that the grace of understanding be vouchsafed to us, so that we may make the necessary decisions to escape the fiery dies irae and be able to continue man's divine creative mission on earth.


What is the Nature of "Natural Fertility?"

I am trying to understand the point Devona is making regarding the natural fertility of a healthy woman. To be honest, I enjoyed my Lenten blogging fast so much that I was tempted not to begin blogging again! ;-) My home blog, beggarsall, is closing in on its 50,000th visitor. That's overwhelming, and scary insofar as it is like a black hole that can suck in a lot of time - something I don't have a lot to spare, with 6 kids and lots of jobs and responsibilities at home, church, and school.

Anyway, Devona writes: "It [a healthy woman's natural fertility] very much relates to the topic of contraception inasmuch as the culture (as we have discussed before) treats fertility as an illness to be treated and controlled by medication. But if one understands the natural unmedicated workings of a healthy woman's cycle, by which I mean more than just her monthly cycle, we can learn a great deal about the great care God took when making us reproductive beings."

The first question I have is this: Is learning about God's creation of man and woman as reproductive beings the true extent of your purpose in expounding upon knowledge gleaned from NFP teachers? Are you sure you do not have any motive tucked in here (intentional or unintentional) of advocating NFP prior to making the case for its being God-pleasing? If not, why the statement: "I could go on and on in order to help explain this, but it is really best if you find a good source for NFP and learn from a trained professional."

I certainly agree that a knowledge of how God designed us as reproductive beings would be helpful. However, there is a huge difference between a general knowledge of human physiology and the charting of one's own personal fertility cycles - the former possibly being helpful in understanding God's creation, the latter being a matter of being able to use such personal knowledge to our own selfish purposes. We are by nature 100% sinful! If we are to fear, love, and trust God alone, are we not tempting ourselves by tracking our personal fertility on a daily basis?

Finally, I'd like to ask: Are you sure that the way our natural fertility works in this fallen world tells us what God's initial perfect plan was in the beginning? Creation was fatally damaged in the fall. Many excellent theologians theorize that pre-fall fertility was intended to be much higher than that which resulted post-fall - possibly not inhibited at all by days of the month or nursing, etc. Pain and tribulation were certainly increased. Is it not possible that studying the relative times of fertility and infertility will tell us more about our fallen world than about God's perfect creative plan?

Once again, I think the problem here is a matter of getting the cart before the horse. What do the cycles of the natural fertility of the so-called "healthy" woman really tell us about? I think they tell us about the perversion of God's creation by sin, death, and the Devil. The image of God is so damaged that we can only see a shadow of it in the current state of nature, as if we are looking in a shattered mirror.

Rather than looking at nature, we should be looking at God's Word in an attempt to discern God's will.

What think you?




The natural fertility in a healthy woman. Part 1

I thought I'd post this, since I have found that many women, even those who are in their fertile years, do not know. Most men don't, though that doesn't surprise me as much.

It very much relates to the topic of contraception inasmuch as the culture (as we have discussed before) treats fertility as an illness to be treated and controlled by medication. But if one understands the natural unmedicated workings of a healthy woman's cycle, by which I mean more than just her monthly cycle, we can learn a great deal about the great care God took when making us reproductive beings.

You will find a TON of contradictory information about these matters. But if you consider the affiliation of the source you will find that the majority of pro-life and non-contraceptive organizations will provide you with the same, or at least very similar information. I learned most of this from my Natural Family Planning(NFP) teacher, Dr. Sears, and the La Leche League International.

First off, as has been discussed in the past, a woman is only fertile for a short period of her monthly cycle. It ranges from 5 to 9 days, depending on the exact time of her ovulation and the quality of her cervical fluid (I could go on and on in order to help explain this, but it is really best if you find a good source for NFP and learn from a trained professional). The fertile period is near the middle of her monthly cycle. The cycle begins on the first day of menstruation. Ovulation does not always occur on the same day after her first day of her cycle, but the same number of days always pass between ovulation until the beginning of her next cycle. This is called a luteal phase. Mine is 15 days. I tend to think that this is pretty cool, but that's just me. ;-)

The statistics that I have been given from my NFP teacher were that a couple not avoiding or attempting to conceive, but having natural relations would conceive on average within 6 months if both partners are healthy. And a couple which is able to observe and follow their fertile patterns when trying to conceive, can after as little as one month, but often after 4 if they are both healthy. If there are fertility problems but the woman is still ovulating, a couple who can determine their fertility can conceive within 8 months on average. Of course, that last stat can vary a lot depending on how often a less fertile woman ovulates.

Let's continue now onto the next phase of a woman's fertility: pregnancy. We all know that women carry their children on average 40 weeks, but it is really more like 41 weeks for first time mothers. This varies depending on your race and health conditions, but is pretty static over all.

Pregnancy benefits the woman's over all health by giving her ovaries a rest. The monthly surges of hormones are relieved and replaced by a steady increase of the hormone progesterone, which I like to call "the happy-hormone" because it really makes you feel good, you know that thing they call the "pregnancy glow"? In fact there have been a few studies which link post-partum depression and the length of pregnancy since progesterone levels peak right at the end of pregnancy and then drop to nearly zero after birth. Theoretically, if a woman has not been pregnant for the 40 to 41 weeks her level of progesterone will not reach that peak and will therefore be lower over all and the after birth change will not be as drastic.

The other benefit of pregnancy is the lowered risk of cancers in her fertile system, such as breast and ovarian cancer. Pregnancy gives your body a rest from the back and forth high levels of estrogen, which is a cancer causing hormone in too high of levels. That's pretty cool, too, if you ask me.

Once a woman has given birth we begin the next phase of her fertility. And it's not "trying not to get pregnant too soon." God has made a natural way to space our children, and lucky for us it has sooooooo many other benefits for mom and baby that you'd be silly not to give it a try.

This is, of course, breastfeeding which I will discuss in my next post. I think I've already given everyone enough to chew on for one day. :)


Touchstone: News and Views

First the News: Eric brought to my attention that this blog has been sited by the editor of Touchstone Magazine - David Mills. He comments on 'Lutherans & Contraception' in the Touchstone Blog 'Mere Comments'... It is an encouraging boost in what has been a slow time for this blog.

As for Views: In David Mills' blog post he also sites an essay by Juli Loesch Wiley entitled 'The Well-Connected Mother'. It is a good read and reveals a level of meditation on marriage, motherhood and the Lord that moves beyond the all too often chronic refrain within our own spheres of 'the freedom of the Christian'.