Mar 032010
Authors: Ryan Sheine

*This article has been corrected since the publishing date.

Since the fifth grade, senior sociology major Meredith Dickinson has committed herself to understanding sexual health.

Dickinson spoke Wednesday as part of CSU’s Women’s Program and Studies weekly “Women at Noon” program, which addresses women’s issues ranging from sexual health to domestic violence.

She addressed 15 women of various ages and sexual backgrounds as an advocate of a carefully developed version of the antiquated “rhythm method” of contraception, which relies on an intimate understanding of a woman’s menstrual cycle to avoid pregnancy.

Proposed in Toni Weschler’s book, “Taking Charge of Your Fertility,” the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) makes use of modern technology and medical knowledge to perfect the age-old system.

Dickinson was inspired by Weschler’s book to adopt the system, which she said gives her control over her body instead of forcing her to rely on doctors. She claimed to have used the method effectively while involved in a sexually active, monogamous relationship.

While the FAM does not rely on medical professionals to prevent pregnancy, it does require serious dedication on the part of those who choose to use the method.

Women using the FAM must keep a daily chart of their waking body temperatures and the quality of their vaginal secretions to determine their place in their monthly cycles.

High temperatures on 14 to 16 consecutive days indicate menstruation is about to start, Dickinson said. Eighteen consecutive high temperatures indicate pregnancy.

Cervical fluids are charted because they differ in quality throughout the menstrual cycle.

Women are most likely to avoid pregnancy during the several “dry days” after menstruation, when vaginal secretions are at a low.

“If you’re really fertile it will be like a slip and slide,” Dickinson said.

Joy Childress, an administrative assistant at the CSU police department, is an avid supporter of the FAM.

“I think it’s empowering to take your own fertility into your own hands and not rely on a doctor,” Childress said.

Childress used the FAM for birth control, but used the details of the FAM to plan out the best time to get pregnant.

Deb Morris, director of health promotion at CSU’s Hartshorn center, agreed that the method was effective, but only for committed monogamous couples.

“That form of contraception takes the woman knowing her cycle, committing to periods of abstinence,” she said.

“That isn’t always the best form of contraception for (college students).”

Staff writer Ryan Sheine can be reached at

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