The “secret” society all women deserve to discover

Taking Charge of Your Fertility, Toni Weschler. 31 Days of Cult Classics | Modern Mrs Darcy

31 days of cult classics | Modern Mrs Darcy

I never set out to find this book. But I stumbled upon a mention in my favorite (now-defunct) journal and knew I’d discovered something good.

I ordered a copy immediately and fell down the rabbit hole into a world where women actually understood how their bodies worked, and how to use that information.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility, Toni Weschler. 31 Days of Cult Classics | Modern Mrs Darcy

As I flipped through the pages of Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health, I felt like I’d joined a secret society. Somehow being the owner and occupant of a woman’s body for twentysomething years hadn’t provided me with the clear knowledge I found here.

Despite strong sales since it’s 1995 publication, it’s a sleeper hit. This is a book your friend tells you about over coffee, or that you discover in a fertility web forum–it’s not one you’ll see laying out on the bookstore table.

And that’s a shame, because every woman should know about the basic principles in this book–whether she want to use its methods for effective, natural birth control, to optimize her chance of conception, or just to understand her body better. Weschler thoroughly describes the hows and whys of fertility charting to help her readers with all three goals.

This is not a once-and-done read; it’s a book you’ll refer to again and again. My copy has been parked on my shelf for a decade and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

I don’t like to use the word “should” when talking about books, but I’ll make an exception here: if you’re a woman, go on and add Taking Charge of Your Fertility to your to-read list.

Have you read Taking Charge of Your Fertility? Do you think it deserves “must-read” status? 

*****     *****     *****

This is the eleventh post in a series, 31 Days of Cult Classics. You can click here to see a list of all the posts, updated everyday in the month of October.



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  1. Kim says:

    I’ve not read this book but I did read Marilyn Shannon’s Fertility, Cycles, and Nutrition ( as well as the art of NFP ) years ago. Her book was heavily promoted in Catholic circles and I ended up buying 10 copies and giving them, loaning them out. Women of all walks seemed to be relieved to find out how their bodies actually worked. I remember being sort of outraged that this wasn’t the focus of my health education as a teen. I’m looking forward to checking this out to have another source to recommend.

  2. JD says:

    I am so glad to see your mention of this wonderful book! As a woman who has read this book twice through in the first three years since its purchase, I completely agree with your position that it will be one you refer to again and again. I can also vouch for its efficacy – the principles in this book are what enabled me to understand my somewhat unusual system to the point that my husband and I are expecting our first child together!

    It is insightful and empowering to finally understand how my body functions, and this book is what has allowed me that pleasure. Thank you for spreading the word about this book; it truly is one that more women should consider giving a read.

  3. Carrie says:

    YES! It is a must read. Sadly, I spent the first 25 years of my life (or so) denying the reality of hormones and how they affect behavior. I thought it was insulting to women to acknowledge this. Then it occurred to me that men are also affected by their hormones…it’s just that their hormone cycle occurs in 24 hours instead of 28 days. That changed my thinking and now I totally embrace the ups and downs. I subscribe to a daily Hormone Horoscope newsletter and it is truly fascinating how spot-on it is. Understanding how my cycle affects my feelings helps me take them LESS seriously. I don’t really fall out of love with my husband after I ovulate. I’ll like him again in a day, and I’ll REALLY like him when my estrogen and testosterone levels pick back up again. 🙂

  4. Brianna says:

    I LOVE this book! Once I recommended it and someone said they weren’t interested in “taking charge” of their fertility and I was like…WHAT?? why not?? If not for this book I wouldn’t be pregnant!

  5. Yes, I think it’s a must read for women. It does such a fabulous job of taking what could be some confusing topics and making them all really clear and understandable. One of the other fertility books I read right before discovering this did not.

  6. Ashley says:

    As a young bride I spent a miserable nine months on the pill because no one ever told me there were other options. I stumbled across this book in the local library and have been recommending it to friends ever since! I bought my own copy, and now as the mother of three girls plan for it to be required reading before they move out of our home and into adulthood. 🙂 All that to say YES, it definitely deserves must-read status for women.

  7. Sarah R says:

    I haven’t read this particular book, but I have read another one- and I feel the same way about it. These should be required reading when girls are in puberty- it could have saved me a lot of angst! I’ll definitely be putting this on my to-read list!

  8. Jessica says:

    I am a big, big advocate for this book and for the Fertility Awareness Method / Natural Family Planning. As a Catholic, I see that a lot of times people get hit with the theology (no artificial birth control) first and assume whatever science is associated with it must be faulty. I think if you start with something like this book, that lays out the biology of the female reproductive system, then it’s easier to see it as a feasible method of family planning (which it is — 4 years and counting of avoiding pregnancy for us!), and then you may or may not be open to seeing how Catholic theology fits with what your body is already designed to do.

  9. Cynthia says:

    This is a fantastic book. Using it was not only super effective, but helped me show my doctor exactly what I thought was “different” about my cycle.

    Too many doctors think they know it all, and frankly, they don’t. Smart ones listen. If yours doesn’t, it’s time to get a new doctor.

  10. Love this book! When I was 21 and newly married, a mom friend shared it with me. Then, I jokingly called it the “oh crap I might be pregnant” book–because I referenced it whenever I thought I might be. A few years later, when I felt more ready for babies, I found it completely fascinating and super helpful.
    I did, however, come to learn that I can never completely “take charge” of my fertility. I can be aware of my body, but two oddly-timed conceptions have taught me that I’m not ultimately in control.

  11. Lesley says:

    Yes! Love that you profiled this book. I loved this read- used it to understand my cycle before attempting to get pregnant. I’ll never give it away- keep it in my nightstand next to my thermometer and charts. 😉

  12. Amy says:

    I agree! I found this book at the library following a miscarriage. I still had a long path, but the information gave me the knowledge I needed. A true gem!

  13. Mandie says:

    i bought the ebook version about a month or two before I ended up getting pregnant- without reading it. I’m sure I’ll refer to it post-baby, though, often.

  14. jessica says:

    Anne, I’m so excited to see this one as a cult classic. It really does fit the bill as a sleeper hit!

    I LOVE this book. Before, I considered myself an informed feminist from the Sassy magazine days and felt like I knew my body. Then, I discovered this book. And I discovered I knew almost nothing about my body + cycles.

    I think this should be required reading in high school. Knowledge is power. It’s not about taking charge in an aggressive way, but learning to track (+decode) our hormonal surges, swings and fertility signs. We don’t have to just guess what’s happening each month or get caught off guard by mood swings every time.

    Two other books I love in this same vein:
    *The Garden of Fertility by Katie Singer. (This one is somewhat new to me, but I really like it. There’s even a whole chapter about charting while breastfeeding!)
    *WomenCode by Alisa Vitti (Not about charting, but more in depth about how to heal hormonal / cycle / fertility issues in a natural way – with food and lifestyle changes.)

  15. Esther says:

    I adore this book! We used it when trying to get pregnant. Once I had a better understanding of how everything worked, we had success (twice)! I have often referred to it and will make sure that one day in the future my daughter also lows about it. This book is an invaluable resource for any, and every, woman!

  16. Sandra says:

    I learned about this book when in seminary and recommended it to so many women back when I was a student. I’ve passed my copy on to new brides now that I’m a pastor’s wife. Important topic for us to understand and share!

  17. I have this book, and it has been so helpful! I’ve been doing natural birth control for 9 years with 100% success, taking one night to conceive my daughter (on purpose), and two cycles to conceive my son (and I knew that first cycle as soon as I ovulated that we’d missed the window, so there was no agonizing 2-week wait). I’ve lent it out to friends a few times over the years.

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