Fifth Vital Sign | Reproductive Health

First, let me say thank you to those of you who've been patiently waiting for this post for over a month. This post has taken me so long to write because it is one that is close to me personally for various reasons. My investment in empowering other girls and women through education comes from a place of feeling  under-educated and powerless as I went through multiple hormonal birth control options with unacceptable side effects. The journey to where I'm at today, a place of health and happiness, was a long and lonely one. Facilitating this conversation within our communities and support networks is my way of creating an environment where women don't have to go through this alone. 

On the last Sunday of Winter '16 I held my first event through Tapestry. Actually, because there was so much interest, Downey Dog physically hosted the event in their beautiful, open space. 

I'll rewind a bit. I was participating in a hormonal harmony event online when a comment caught my eye. The comment was by a Miss Emily Moonbeam, a birth & birth control doula, who talked about the Fifth Vital Sign and the journey that she and her friend Kelsey, a labor & delivery nurse, would be taking this Spring to spread free info on women's reproductive health and informed consent. I messaged them with a small hope that they would squeeze Radford into their journey...and they did!

The mission of the Fifth Vital Sign is to provide un-biased information. The vision is that each woman is fully informed on the biology of menstrual cycle so that she can be active in making decisions regarding birth control, menstrual products, family planning, labor plans, and beyond.

The options that hormonal birth control have offered women are incredible, but the risks need to be understood by each woman who chooses to use this medication. For many women, hormonal birth control is not the answer, and so the Fifth Vital Sign is breaking out of that old mold to include the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). 

This method encourages daily tracking of your basal body temperature and cervical mucus. Understanding your menstrual cycle and the nuances of temperature and cervical mucous changes can tell you a lot about your body. By using this method you can plan to become pregnant or avoid pregnancy. Even if you are not sexually active, getting to know your cycle can guide you through hormonal changes, imbalances, and more. 

Teaching this method to young girls entering menarche is a good foundation to have even before their first gynecological appointment and before any sexual activity. Informed consent is important for healthcare professionals and lovers alike. 

The Daysy is a super sweet piece of tech that can be used with FAM to give you a little more piece of mind. It tracks your basal body temp and learns your cycle so that it can simply show a red light for fertile days and green light for infertile days. 

Learning the potential risks of menstrual products is just as important as learning the risks of your birth control. Emily and Kelsey went into the dangers of tampons, including the fact that tampons change the pH of the vagina, and gave some great examples of alternative ways of dealing with menstruation, such as the keepergladrags, and thinx. (they also mentioned icon!) 

My hope is for this event to be spark of a lasting conversation. Find people that you can connect with and strengthen your understanding. Please contact me if you have questions or want to delve deeper but don't know where to turn. Talk to your kids (it's empowering for partners and boys to understand the menstrual cycle as well!). 

As a closing note, Emily and Kelsey's car was broken into during the night. They've been traveling the US giving these amazing and FREE informational classes. If you missed out on the opportunity to financially fund this project the first time, or would like to say thank you, hop over to their gofundme page to donate so that they may replenish their teaching materials and continue with their mission.

 

"There were many things in my youth that I'm not proud of...they were loose threads...untidy parts of myself that I wanted to remove. But when I pulled on one of those threads...I unraveled the tapestry of my life." -Captain Jean-Luc Picard