“If we are teaching kids anything about sex, shouldn’t we start with real knowledge about their bodies? Not information about products they should buy to manage their bodies, but the real goods on their bodies: what ovulation is and when it happens, the process of conception, … what periods are. … More information is definitely better than less here.” – Anna Migeon, Co-Founder, Natural Womanhood
We all want genuine empowerment for our girls. So let’s start with the basics.
Knowledge is power, so the saying goes – and it’s true, especially for young women who know how their bodies work. This body literacy generates confidence as they navigate the ebb and flow of their monthly changes – and even more importantly, it leads to informed choices for their health, and later, for their reproductive goals.
Physical and emotional wellbeing, anatomy and biology, and essential cycle knowledge are all part of the teenFEMM program for girls ages 12-16. This isn’t a sex ed class. It’s all about fertility awareness and cultivating a deep appreciation for the gift of femininity. And that’s empowerment at its best.
For more about teenFEMM:
But, you may be wondering, isn’t fertility awareness overkill for young girls? Do they really need to know that stuff? I believe the answer is an unequivocal yes.
The story of my own puberty is the why behind my passion for fertility awareness.
I started my period when I was 11. I remember being devastated – it’s messy, painful, and embarrassing. I hated it. My cycles were unpredictable and my emotions were a roller coaster that I could barely survive. And then in my teens, I began to have terrible acne and feel depressed. My parents took me to several doctors, none of whom ever thought to test my hormones for imbalances.
My cycles didn’t ever fall into the “normal” category, and by the time I was a college freshman, I was bleeding every 10 days, for at least a week at a time, and was experiencing many other painful symptoms. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what to do about it.
You see, I had never really learned about my fertility. I knew that my cycle was “supposed” to be about a month long, and that I should probably not be bleeding so much … but what should a normal period look like? And ovulation? Why did that matter if I wasn’t planning on having kids until much later?
No one had ever taught me the signs of a healthy cycle, and I had no idea how far away from that my body really was. As the stress of finals weighed on me at the end of my first semester, my health sharply declined and I was completely miserable. On Christmas break, I went to my gynecologist, who diagnosed me with PCOS and promptly put me on the Pill. He also very nonchalantly told me that I’d need to use IVF if I ever wanted to conceive.
There was no mention of hormones. No explanation of periods or cycles. No reference point for what I should be experiencing each month versus what my reality was. And no warning of the vast array of side effects that using hormonal contraception could bring me. I left his office in tears, feeling broken and hopeless.
But I didn’t stay that way long. I quickly became dissatisfied with the way the Pill made me feel – and my mom had done her research and knew that hormonal contraceptives carried a lot of risk. So, with her help, I decided to look for an alternative. And I found an OB/Gyn who introduced me to the gold mine of fertility awareness.
I ditched the Pill and began to work towards a better understanding of my body, which eventually brought me to where I am today – mom to 5 children (conceived without IVF!), PCOS reversed, and solid cycle knowledge that allows me to quickly see when when my hormones are amiss.
This is a happy ending to my sad story, but you can imagine how often I think “if I had only known.” My body and my heart still bear the scars of my poor cycle health. Fertility awareness would have spared me so much pain and distress, and empowered me to advocate for myself with my doctors.
I have three daughters, and although they’re still very young, I get a thrill when I think of teaching them body literacy and fertility awareness. I can’t wait to be the one to show them how wonderfully made they are – their biology, anatomy, fertility, mind, and emotions are not to be feared, but to be understood and embraced!
And I don’t just want this for my girls – I want it for your girls, too! Let’s help our daughters to meet their changing bodies with confidence and grace.