Best Book You’ve Never Heard of on…Fertility?!

Taking Charge of Your Fertility

It was pure chance that led me to discover Taking Charge of Your Fertility.  It had to be.  Nobody talks about this stuff.

I’d been on the pill a year when I happened to read Elizabeth Wirth’s review of Toni Weschler’s Taking Charge of Your Fertility in a favorite (sadly defunct) publication.  I was miserable on the pill–I was hormonal, wacky and ironically had morning sickness all the time.  My husband and I were not ready for kids.  I’d discussed other birth control options with my doctor, but nothing sounded palatable.

I didn’t want to get pregnant, and I didn’t want to mess with my body in the ways that available birth control required.  Everybody, so it seemed, went on the pill.  But the pill made me sick.  I felt stuck.

So when I stumbled across the review I immediately bought the book.  I felt like I’d joined the club–somehow being the owner and occupant of a woman’s body for twentysomething years hadn’t provided me with the clear knowledge of how my body worked.  Instead I found it within this little-known book I had chanced to come across, a book that also answered my birth control conundrum.

But my feelings of gratitude and relief shortly gave way to regret that I hadn’t found this goldmine sooner.  I felt cheated–in our sex-saturated culture, where no topic is taboo, how had I lived my whole life without knowing this essential information about my body?

Every woman needs this information–but nobody talks about it. We don’t discuss these intimate issues with our friends, and most of us don’t get this in-depth information from our doctors.  TCOYF stands in this void.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

1.  How your body works

Women know all about feminine hygiene and menstruation, but Weschler passionately believes women need to understand their bodies, because “sexuality, fertility, childbirth, and menopause are all facets of being female.”

Weschler’s method treats a woman’s body as healthy–it views her fertility as a natural thing and not as a problem needing treatment.  TCOYF teaches you to understand how your body works so you can work with it, instead of fighting your own natural fertility.

Weschler believes that “the self-knowledge available from Fertility Awareness is a valuable resource for all kinds of personal decision-making.  Perhaps most important, it encourages women to value and trust knowledge provided by their own bodies.”

2.  Effective, natural birth control

Once you understand how your body works, you can use that information to prevent pregnancy.  A woman is only fertile–and therefore only able to conceive a child–several days per month, and Weschler teaches you to track your fertility by charting.  She teaches two variations of natural birth control:  Natural Family Planning (NFP), in which a couple abstains during the window where conception is possible, and the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), in which users may choose to use a barrier method during the fertile phase.

The full method includes charting waking temperature, changes in cervical fluid, and cervical position.  (Checking cervical position isn’t necessary, but Weschler recommends it as a cross-check.)  TCOYF contains charting templates and a detailed explanation of the method.  Weschler’s website is also an excellent resource.

3.  How to maximize the odds for pregnancy achievement

Many couples who are not experiencing true infertility have a difficult time conceiving, but Weschler believes that many women are misled to believe they’re infertile when in fact their timing is off.  (She doesn’t have much faith in ovulation predictor kits.)  TCOYF teaches you to chart your fertility signs (as explained above) so that you can time things right in order to optimize your chance of conception.

A woman’s fertility charts contain loads of valuable information if she does decide to seek medical help for infertility.  She will have a better idea of what the specific problem is.  (Is she even ovulating?  Is she conceiving–and quickly miscarrying?  Is male infertility the issue?)  She can go to her doctor armed with personalized information about her body, which can speed treatment and help her avoid unnecessary tests and procedures.

I’ve recommended this book to numerous friends who are attempting to conceive, and several credit Weschler for their successful pregnancies.  But even if you don’t immediately get pregnant, knowing what’s going on with your body can give you a real sense of control and lighten the emotional burden.

4.  Tools for dealing with practical matters beyond fertility

There is more to a woman’s gynecological health than fertility, and Weschler details how to keep your body healthy.  She discusses what issues require medical attention–and which ones probably don’t.

I appreciated the section on premenstrual syndrome–PMS can make a woman feel out of control, but understanding what’s going on with your body can prepare you to cope.  I’m willing to bet countless other women feel the same way about her chapter on menopause.

Knowledge is power

Every woman should possess this knowledge about her body, but since nobody wants to talk about it, I highly recommend Taking Charge of Your Fertility, 10th Anniversary Edition: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health for all adult women.

I’d like to feature more books that most women have never heard of…but that all women should read!  Post your recommendation to comments. Thanks!

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  1. I once remarked to a friend that such a book needed to be written. Glad to know its finally here! Before we married, my husband and I took NFP classes at a local Catholic church. We were the only “Protestants” present. The information we gathered has been very good to us for ten years.

  2. Hannah says:

    Sounds like great info. I have daughters and would like to be able to pass along a clearer knowledge of being a woman than I remember getting. It shouldn’t be taboo to Moms and daughters, for sure. Knowing more about our bodies can only be a help…I’m all for it.

  3. Maria D. says:

    I love TCOYF! We found it to be a very effective means of preventing pregnancy for almost two years while we finished up school… and the very month we decided to try for a baby, we got pregnant. 🙂 The information gained from years of charting also helped us avoid a pregnancy scare when my midwife couldn’t find the heartbeat at 12 weeks– I knew from charting that I ovulate much later than the average woman, so the baby was really only eleven weeks old. We chose not to get the extra tests and ultrasounds, and sure enough, when we later went in for the twenty-week ultrasound, I had the baby’s age correct down to the day. 😛 Thanks for bringing this book to the spotlight– I think every woman needs to read this!

  4. TMichelle says:

    I bought this book years ago and have given several copies away. I plan to buy one for my daughter (but I think there is a companion one for tweens now) because these are things I wish I knew once I hit puberty.

  5. I love this book. Years ago I took a class with G on NFP. I had stumbled upon NFP while reading a book about natural living and nutrition. I was interested in getting the hormones out of my system. I love that it helped me to achieve pregnancy when I wanted to and to abstain when a pregnancy would be ill advised. Over the 14 years we ( I say we – because it takes two) have practiced NFP I have had 3 children. I have achieved this with careful adherence to the rules and using ecological breastfeeding to space my children. It is a great system with the only side effect being the gift of a child.

  6. Jessica @ Acting Adult says:

    I have read that this book is a really great read for any woman, ready to conceive or not. I have it on my list and am excited to read it. Thanks for the review!

  7. Lucky says:

    This book was helpful to me when we first started trying for my first child…because it let me know that something was wrong.

    Another book I recently discovered was Nursing Mother Working Mother by Gayle Pryor. Wow, I wish I had read this before I had my first kid.

  8. Wow, what a great resource! We use “natural” birth control but didn’t know the actual terms for it. I started a new link up for sharing healthy ideas, suggestions, recipes, going “green” tips, etc. and I thought you might want to join me today, Wednesday! (Healthy 2day Wednesdays) You can share this post! Have a great week!

  9. Emily says:

    I love this book. I recommend it whenever we do pre-marital counseling. I have loaned it out so many times, I have lost count. We have followed these principles for the past 10 years.

  10. I LOVE THIS BOOK! I found it before I got married and have used it our entire marriage (6 years) for both pregnancy avoidance and to conceive our sweet little girl. I’m so glad you’re getting the word out on this book. I wish I had heard of it when I hit puberty. It makes so much sense out of our bodies.

  11. Brynna says:

    I have never actually read TCOYF but I have been tracking my cycles for almost 8 years now and cannot believe how much I did NOT understand my body prior to starting. I am SO glad I have learned to read my body’s signals and understand what it’s doing, I believe it’s been a HUGE benefit to my health!!

  12. Nicol says:

    This book sounds so enlightening which we as women need concerning how our bodies work (knowledge! My husband and I used natural family planning for the ten years in which we were having children. Also, I used the techiques to have the two GIRLS that I wanted (We already had two boys). Of course, I give credit to God for the blessings but I also believe in the science behind the theories…I wish I could remember the name of the book that I had read. Women~ Educate yourself! No one knows your body like you do!

  13. Dianna says:

    Two thumbs way way up!! I love TCOYF, and think it’s a book EVERY woman should read. Then, I might not have to cringe when I see 14yr old girls on the Pill to ‘regulate their periods’. I’ve learned so much from this book, whether I’m trying to avoid pregnancy, acheive pregnancy, or learn more about my cycle.

    Here’s another must read: Shaunti Feldman’s What Men Want.

    • Brynna says:

      Is “What Men Want” similar to her “For Women Only”/”For Men Only” books? Because I LOVED those and learned so much valuable information about my hubby AND myself. Stuff that I felt like I already knew, but the way she worded it just finally got it through my head. 😉

  14. Great book! There is so much in there that I never knew and wish that more women did know. How clueless we are about our own bodies!

    For us, we needed another option besides the pill due to moral objections. Here is a link to a post I did about it if you are interested:

    The pill is just kind of taken without thinking these days, people just assume that because their doctors offer it, it is the best option. But there are many different reasons why it might not be the “best” option for women.

    Thanks for posting this review!

  15. I just discovered your blog this week so am catching up on recent posts. I’d forgotten about this book but I agree; it’s one of the best women’s health books ever. I bought it when I was struggling with infertility, and was amazed that despite despite middle school sex ed, frank conversations from my mother, and having read Our Bodies Ourselves, this is the first time I learned about and understood how our hormonal cycles really work. As other commenters mentioned, I wish I’d known this information about my body long before I was considering making a family. I passed my copy of the book along, but plan to get it again for my daughters. (This book did not help me get pregnant, however. My infertility was age-related and required much medical science.)

  16. Josee says:

    The Billings Ovulation Method has just published a new edition of their book this month. It is another great book for learning about natural fertility regulation. Their website is also great:

  17. 'Becca says:

    This is such an important book and topic! I think Fertility Awareness should be taught to both sexes in every school in about 8th grade. I’ve taken the Pill, and it is a mind-altering drug! It also has serious environmental effects as most of the hormones leave the user’s body in urine and get into the water supply.

    The one idea of FAM that I disagree with is using a barrier method during the fertile phase. I have no moral objection to barrier methods, and they do decrease the odds of conception, but using them this way actually decreases the effectiveness of both FAM and the barrier: The failure rates of barriers (approximately 15 couples out of 100 conceive in 1 year of using the method) are based on using them throughout the cycle, but of course all the failures occur at fertile times, so if you use them only at fertile times the odds of *the barrier* failing are higher than that, and therefore your odds of conceiving must be about as high. Furthermore, FAM is less effective if you have intercourse when fertile. I think the best way to go is to have other types of sexual activity at fertile times.

    I have to disagree that “Women know all about feminine hygiene and menstruation.” It seems to me that all most women know is that menstruation happens for some reason related to not being pregnant, and when it does, they should use some sort of product marketed for that purpose, and maybe they’ve tried a few different products before they found one they liked well enough to keep buying it. I’ve never understood it, but even women on the Pill often act surprised by their periods and don’t have supplies on hand. Most women have not heard of reusable menstrual cups, which in my opinion are by far the most convenient, thrifty, comfortable, and enviro-friendly option.

    I think one of the best books most people have never heard of is The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff. I wrote a review of it and many other favorite books. (I know you’ve already seen it, Mrs. Darcy, because you posted a comment there!)

  18. Melinda says:

    I was recommended this book when my husband and I were experiencing infertility and it is brilliant. Unfortunately it didn’t help with our fertility – we’re one of those rare couples with true infertility – however it certainly helped as we went through treatment after treatment and investigation after investigation.

    It’s a brilliant book and I’ve now started referring my teenage daughter to it, so she can learn about how her body works.

  19. Eliz. K says:

    I am so glad to see this. I tried three different BC pills over about a year, each having different issues. (I had morning sickness on one of them, during a long road trip. ugh.)

    We had talked about NFP before getting married, but I didn’t really understand how my body worked, so I wanted to try the pill. My body is quite regular, and I don’t even need to chart things, as I know exactly where I am in the month. (BC messed this up entirely. I never knew what to expect– sometimes twice a month, sometimes sick…) AND, it’s been a year and a quarter without extra hormones, and no pregnancy yet.

    The few people who know that we aren’t using typical BC tease us regularly, checking in to see if we’re expecting… It’s so hard to explain this to my friends. They don’t believe me that our bodies work like this. I should look into that book! Thank you for sharing!

    • I have that one too! I got it when my mom retired from being a La Leche League leader (she let me go through her LLL books and pick out the ones I wanted before she sold them). I used it to start tracking my fertility 6 months before I got married, so I’d have a good idea of what I was doing before I NEEDED to know what I was doing (my now-husband and I are Catholic and wanted to use NFP). I’ve been tracking for two years now, and I can honestly say that I recommend the practice to EVERY woman, not just those trying to avoid or achieve pregnancy. Tracking my fertility has afforded me a greater understanding (and thereby more complete ownership) of my body. I see how everything is connected, and it’s a lot easier to work with things like PMS or low energy when I know what’s causing them.

  20. Amanda says:

    I stumbled over this book years ago in the library, when I had just finished high school and was attending college away from my parents’ home. I read this one and The Garden of Fertility by Anne Singer (I think?) almost back to back and began implementing the strategies immediately. I am so grateful to this book for the information; I tried the pill and the shot before finding these books, and both gave me horrible mood swings, and the shot gave me a panic attack when it dried up my period. The doctor administering the shot never told me it would do that! It just didn’t seem healthy to me, so I went seeking another way. The only time it has been difficult for me to follow the precepts has been while nursing, but before I get my period back. That is when knowing my cervical position came in the most handy. My husband has been totally supportive of my using this birth control. He may dislike having to delay our intimacy on occasion, but he witnessed what the shot did to me while we were dating, so he vastly prefers this method too! Thank you for getting the word out about this wonderful resource!

  21. Lisa says:

    I found this book years ago and the information in it continues to be useful. It has definitely helped me normalize things about my body that would have otherwise concerned me. I wish all women could read it, even if they use hormonal because birth control, because it is so enlightening. When I saw just the title of this post, I knew this would be the book you were referring to. Thanks for drawing attention to it!

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