The 8th of March is an anniversary and an opportunity to fight against violence and injustice, and to protest against the discrimination that is still as widespread as it is insidious.
I spent fifteen years fighting “against”: first against social inequality, then against corruption, the mafia, pollution. A few years ago, I decided to change strategy, and go “towards”, listen and welcome, instead of fighting. Certainly, the two things are the sides of the same coin, but they imply significant changes both inside and outside of us.
Body literacy as an instrument of awareness
The decisive step towards life is first of all to meet ourselves. “Know thyself” they used to say in Delphi (which means uterus, by the way), and that’s where I started from: from my body. Just as foreign languages enrich our interpretation of the world, so body literacy has enriched and deepened my experience of reality and my toolbox.
Body Literacy can be defined as the awareness acquired through observation and charting of physiological parameters of fertility as well as other body parameters and energy qualities (physical, intellectual, emotional, sexual), and the ability to respond based on the information acquired.
The English term was coined by Laura Wershler, who recounts (the translation is ours):
The concept came to my mind after reading a novel that illustrated the negative impact of illiteracy on levels of self-esteem and self-confidence. Not being able to read deprives us of the opportunity to participate in the exchange of ideas (…). It struck me how Western women are penalized by another type of illiteracy – they are not taught to “read” and interpret the signals of their bodies. On the contrary, they are taught not to trust their bodies and to accept various artificial means to “manage” them.
Fertility Awareness Methods, known as FAM, involve the observation of two fundamental parameters: cervical mucus, and basal body temperature. These parameters indicate a woman’s fertile days. Which are a maximum six in a month. You got that right, only six. There are several FAMs, and they have been approved by the World Health Organization for several decades. Some FAMs are called symptothermal methods. What is the difference between FAM and the old, unreliable Ogino-Knauss or rhythm/calendar method? Science. While the old methods offered 75% safety, the symptothermal method guarantees 99.6% reliability, more than the pill or condom, and even more than female sterilization (!). Those who want 100% safety must refrain from practicing the noble art of sex, I am afraid.
FAMs should be studied with a qualified professional, and it takes at least three cycles to become indipendent. In Italy they are still little known and diffused: you can refer to the website of the CICRNF (Italian Confederation of Centres for Natural Fertility Regulation) and the INER (Institute for Sexuality and Fertility Education).
In Germany, on the other hand, they are better known, and the most renowned was developed by NFP Arbeitsgruppe Malteser and is called Sensiplan. After using it for four years under the gynaecologist’s advice, I graduated as a teacher in 2018 and now I teach it.
There are few phone applications that are based on the symptothermal method and integrate it with the most diverse parameters. I am a big fan of writing, being a therapeutic activity in itself, but the apps are fine, as long as they are really based on FAM and not on the Ogino-Knauss/method of rhythm. The apps based on FAM are currently very few, less than 10 out of more than 400,000. If you are using an app, chances are it is not based on FAM. Anyway, you should study with a certified professional before you use an app based on FAM.
The four main benefits of Body Literacy
1. You can use the cycle as vital sign
Did you know that the menstrual cycle has been proclaimed the fifth vital sign by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists? No? Well, it’s recent, December 2015. What’s a vital sign? It is a measure of bodily functions that serves to assess a person’s general physical health and gives indications of possible illness or disorders. The menstrual cycle falls into this category: any discomfort or irregularity in the cycle can be useful for early detection of possible health problems, not necessarily related to fertility. Charting the cycle with FAM, integrating it with other parameters in addition to those mentioned above, can be useful to diagnose thyroid imbalances, polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, progesterone and estrogen imbalances and so on. Some women have been able to detect early stages of cervical cancer through cervical mucus abnormalities.
Using the cycle as a vital signalso means restoring its original and noble function, which has a terrific effect on our self-esteem and confidence.
2. You can reduce or eliminate medications
Given the great reliability of FAM, they make the use of hormonal contraceptives superfluous. They are the only drugs to be administered to healthy individuals and were included on the World Health Organization’s list of carcinogens in 1999. If you are interested, you can download the information flyer we have created for you!
The cycle is never the cause of disorders or pathologies, but the innate mechanism that reveals pre-existing problems.
Moreover, one can learn to recognize – and resolve at the root – the underlying causes of those annoying cramps and pain, which, until yesterday, we had mistakenly attributed to the cycle. The cycle is never the cause of disorders or pathologies, but it is the innate mechanism that allows us to detect pre-existing problems and imbalances. It is the canary in the coal mine!
3. You can finally figure out what the hell is going on with you
Knowledge and awareness help to understand. Understanding leads to acceptance. Acceptance is the prerequisite for change, for transforming what is polluting our efforts. Charting the cycle, month after month, underlying reasons emerge, recurrences and symptoms that previously seemed irrational, unjustified and, above all, unpredictable.
The cycle is like low tide: the retreating water shows what is underneath; whether they are wrecks or starfish depends on how much care and attention we have dedicated to our body and our needs – Anna Buzzoni
Moreover, it can be a valid help to validate one’s emotions and unheard needs (here Robyn Stein Deluca‘s TED video on PMS is terrific).
The cycle, and especially the premenstrual phase, are like the low tide: the withdrawing water shows what is underneath: whether they are wrecks or beautiful seashells depends on how much care and attention we have dedicated to our body and our deep needs in the weeks and months before.
4. You can improve fertility 360 degrees
Whether you are trying to conceive a child or a project, knowing how to read and write your body language gives you exceptional tools. More than half of couples who are trying to have a baby don’t know when to practice the noble art of sex, thus wasting those famous six days. What a pity! Moreover, as we said in point 1, it helps you to understand the state of health of your reproductive system, and with the help of competent professionals, you can consider a billion things to get it back on track, from nutrition to lifestyle, therapeutic massages and physical exercise, without resorting to assisted fertilization, which often bears a heavy toll from a physical and psychological point of view.
Fertility, however, is not determined by whether or not you have a child, at least here at Studio Medulla. It is a constant relationship with ourselves, which lasts a lifetime, and is potentially inexhaustible and self-healing, as long as we nourish it, care for it, protect it.
As we said in point 3, charting the cycle teaches you, among other things, when it is your left hemisphere that is stimulated, rather than your right hemisphere – surfing these waves makes you advance more gracefully in life. Do we have a job interview? It would be important to know when the body and the mind are primed for. Do we have to think about an ambiguous question? Do you know that there is a part of the cycle “tuned” specifically for this? No!? Well you could darling.
To make a simple example, would we go running 10 km after eating? Not at all! That’s what we’re talking about, common sense, knowledge and awareness. Not rocket science.
Of course, no woman is an island, and our actions are mediated by the world around us. But each individual is also a co-creator of the reality around him or her, not least because our response to external events changes them. The key lies in the way we decide to respond to what happens to us, and we will know how to move more in harmony with the ups and downs of life.
Body Literacy helps us in this, gives us the “keys” to become more authentic and to respond harmoniously to life’s ups and downs, trusting our bodies and knowing how to interpret our feelings, and turning obstacles into dignity, strength and awareness.
It is the greatest and, in my humble opinion, most urgent gift that each of us must give to ourselves.
Happy anniversary friends, let’s go for it!