What the Tech?!

OCTOBER 28, 2022

From apps and wearables to smart thermometers, the cycle-monitoring market is saturated with devices. Before I share a story about one option, I want to acknowledge that how you choose to monitor your health, manage your fertility and invest your money is totally up to you. It’s my honest opinion that technology can enhance your life when you make an informed choice to use it.

I relied entirely on a fertility tracking device to avoid pregnancy (before I heard through the grapevine that you could practice fertility awareness method yourself!)

My story begins in 2016, when “femtech” (female technology) was becoming increasingly popular, based on research that dates back to the 1930s.

Every morning, my device told me if I was fertile or infertile based on an algorithm and basal body temperature readings. (If this is all new to you, then you need to know that you aren't fertile every day, and that you can know if you are or aren't by paying attention to your cervical mucus, cervical position, BBT, hormone tests and other signs.)

At first, it was like waking up to a dream come true. A hormone-free form of pregnancy prevention without side effects was a welcome relief after the pill and an IUD, both of which wreaked havoc on my body, mind and relationships. I actually thought the device was flying way under the radar and was surprised that no one I knew had heard of it. (This would soon change because I wouldn’t stop talking about it, and because the company’s digital marketing would skyrocket thanks to a lot of influential people who posed with the product, quite glamorously for having just woken up.)

After a year of satisfaction with the device, the novelty started to fade and questions arose. From the start, I’d been a little confused by my temperature readings, but I assumed they would magically make sense over time. When they didn’t, I started to wonder if something was wrong with me. My charts didn’t match the ones I saw online. Wasn’t the temperature profile supposed to be predictable?! I felt fraudulent for not understanding. I feared it had something to do with my diet or lifestyle, which saddened me because I was making all these "good" changes for my health like cutting back on meat and going to HIIT classes (note: I do not recommend either of these for cycling bodies.) I sensed that whatever the issue was, it was related to why the device wasn't giving me as many infertile “safe” days as I’d hoped for, which was sort of...the whole point.

I remember thinking that maybe natural birth control wasn’t for me after all, and I actually considered going back on the pill. I thought maybe if I just lowered my expectations and took some vitamins then I could deal with the pill’s side effects. And while I’m a big fan of our right to access the pill, it's not what I really wanted.

I wanted to know my body. I wasn’t taught the science of the ovarian cycle or the role of cervical mucus in fertility. I couldn’t tell you the functions of the cervix, or how progesterone promotes bodily harmony. I had never made a truly informed decision about birth control. A lack of education led to thinking quite narrowly and a bit dismally about the whole situation. I was embarrassed to be a married, 30-year-old who was out of touch with her reproductive body. I wanted to know why my charts didn't look like the perfect examples, and what more I had to do to be healthy. It would take me years to understand the deeply systemic issues at play, and for my whole perspective on health to change.

I’ve learned that cycles vary more than our apps and devices lead us to believe, and that a predictive or assumptive mindset is the biggest risk in practicing fertility awareness based methods for birth control or health monitoring. The only way to avoid predictions is to observe your own real-time signs of fertility.

In (almost) any case, I recommend learning FAM before leaning on tech. Even if you decide FAM isn’t for you, just understanding how your body works and knowing how to chart and interpret your signs of fertility might change how you approach using technology or making your next fertility-related decision.

When you come from a place of knowledge and power, then a device serves you and your needs, not the other way around.

For those keen on trying a device, we have some social proof of concept, and we can examine how a device works, clarify our expectations of it, and then do a B.R.A.I.N. analysis to determine if it might be a good fit. What are the benefits, risks and alternatives? How do you intuitively feel about it? What are the next steps?

If there’s a “flaw” in my story, it’s really not that I used a device to monitor my fertility; it's that I made an uninformed decision to use it. I was confused by the data given to me by the device because I didn't understand how my body worked, which led to concern and frustration. When I discovered that I could use any ole basal body thermometer and paper and pen to chart my fertility with even more accuracy, then I developed mis-aligned values with most femtech marketing strategies and the price we pay to outsource our fertility. It's sometimes unethical. However, I recognized that the device was a stepping stone that served me well in the long run because it led me to a community that broadened how I think about our world and our fertility. I never had an unplanned pregnancy using the device, and it worked well for me during a phase of my life when I needed the option. Essentially it did what it claimed to do.

Taking your fertility into your own hands can feel scary at first, and information overload is rampant right now. I guide people into getting started, and you can schedule a free consultation to chat anytime if you want to get on a clear path to feeling confident using FAM and choosing your (totally optional) technology along the way.

Own your data,

- Sara

This post is intended to support folks in deciding to use femtech for fertility-related issues. It is not medical advice.

[BACK] 10 Reasons To Try FAM For Birth Control
Fertility Awareness Educator Sara at Reverence Fertility

About the Author

Sara (she/her) is a Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioner and Fertility Awareness Educator serving clients virtually and locally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since 2016, Sara has used fertility awareness based methods to avoid pregnancy, optimize her fertility, time a pregnancy with her partner and navigate postpartum fertility.