(Written for the Guiding Star Project)
Spring is in full swing here in the Midwest. I can hardly believe it's already April 22nd, Earth Day! First established in 1970, Earth Day was designed to promote awareness of environmental issues and to celebrate our precious natural resources. It is a day that reminds us of the importance of conservation, personal responsibility, and practicing sustainability. These are rather grand ideas, but it’s surprisingly easy to put some of these concepts into daily practice. Let’s look at the definition of that last word:
1. The ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed.
2. In environmental science. The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.
Usually when we think of the word ‘sustainability,’ we think about recycling, reducing waste, and making more eco-friendly purchases. But have you ever considered whether your birth control is sustainable?
Most sexually active adults have pondered the issue of family planning at one point or another. Even those who are not sexually active sometimes turn to medications intended for pregnancy prevention for entirely different reasons. In modern Western culture, birth control is firmly mainstream. If you are using some form of birth control or are considering doing so, you may not have thought about the possible personal or ecological impact. I’d like to talk about some basic categories of sustainability in which to frame a discussion of family planning, as well as to share about the benefits of using a fertility awareness based method (FABM), also known as Natural Family Planning (NFP), instead of a less environmentally friendly choice
Though it might seem odd to think about the environment while making family planning decisions, perhaps it’s something worth considering. Did you know that the artificial estrogens found in birth control pills don’t break down easily and can find their way into the water system? For example, there have been studies in recent years regarding estrogenic compounds polluting our drinking water, harming our wildlife, and even feminizing fish. While birth control is only one of many causes of water contamination, it’s one that’s easily avoided. Then of course, there is all the packaging associated with condoms and pills. A fertility awareness based method of family planning involves no chemicals, produces no waste, and has no negative impact on the environment.
If you decide to prevent or postpone pregnancy in some way, there is almost always some kind of financial cost. If you don’t have good health insurance, a monthly prescription of birth control pills or procedures/devices such as IUDs and implants can be pricey. Other forms of contraception such as spermicides and condoms are a regular expense that need continual replenishment. The costs can really add up.
Learning a fertility awareness based method of family planning usually has a cost too, but it’s more of an investment. Because FABMs are knowledge based, there are no ongoing costs of supplies, devices, or medications. After the initial expense of the class/book/workshop that teaches you how to use it, you won’t have to pay to prevent pregnancy. The skill is yours to keep for a lifetime, no matter what.
One of my favorite things about using fertility awareness based methods of family planning is that they are completely personally sustainable. This is a term I kind of made up, so let me explain what I mean! I know I can continue to use any FABM indefinitely for a number of reasons. First, there are absolutely no physical risks or side effects. It’s not going to make me sick, moody, or put me at risk for things like cancer and blood clots. Second, as a knowledge based method, it’s mine to use forever whether or not I have access to medical care or drug stores. I don’t need a prescription and I don’t need to buy anything, so I can use it no matter where life takes me. Another deeply important factor is that I know it does nothing to harm new life as it develops and grows. I can have complete peace of mind. FABMs are also quite versatile because they can be used to effectively avoid pregnancy, achieve pregnancy, space out pregnancies, or just to get information about my health.
There are many factors to weigh when choosing a family planning method. This spring, do the earth (and yourself!) a favor and consider a safe and sustainable fertility awareness based method.