Spotlight: Toni Weschler
Author of the books: Taking Charge of Your Fertility and Cycle Savvy (The Smart Teen’s Guide to the Mysteries of Her Body)
How did you first become interested in reproductive health?
I spent my college years dealing with the physical ramifications, side effects and hassles of traditional birth control. In addition, I kept thinking that I was having monthly vaginal infections. It wasn’t until I happened upon a class on the Fertility Awareness Method when I was 27 years old that I realized that what I had perceived as recurring infections was, in fact, absolutely normal, healthy cervical fluid that my body produces every cycle when I am about to release an egg.
That class changed my life, even though I felt it arrived 10 years too late. It taught me how to observe my fertility signs for a scientifically-validated form of natural birth control. I vowed then and there that I would change other women’s live with this fundamental and empowering information that all women have a right to know. . .whether they want to avoid pregnancy, get pregnant, or simply take control of their gynecological health. So I got my masters in public health at UCLA, and the rest is history.
What made you decide to write your book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility?
For years, I taught seminars in Seattle on the Fertility Awareness Method. Inevitably, women would tell me that they were incredibly excited about all that they learned, but so many also mentioned that their excitement evolved into anger when they realized that this information should have been routinely taught in high school, or at a minimum, discussed by their OB/GYNs.
At a certain point, I could no longer ignore the hundreds of women who implored me to write a book to make this vital information available to more women than just the lucky few in Seattle who happened to attend my seminars!
What is the best feedback you’ve ever received?
Scores of women talk about the light bulb moment they experienced numerous times while beginning to chart their cycles. Confusing signs that at one time left them perplexed became edifying and welcome signs that only clarified what was happening in their bodies.
These are some of the themes that appear over and over throughout the thousands of letters from my readers as well as Internet postings about Taking Charge of Your Fertility:
Changed my life
Worth its weight in gold
Read it cover to cover
Couldn’t put it down
Read the whole book in one night
Wish I had learned this fifteen years ago
Should be on every woman’s bookshelf
Should be taught in every high school
Best book I’ve ever read on women’s health
I’ve given this book to every woman I know
If I ever have a daughter . . .
I learned more from your book than from my doctor
I was initially excited, then angry that I was never taught this sooner
Tell us about your partnership with Ovusoft.com (the site and the software).
When Taking Charge was first released in 1995, I started receiving scores of calls from computer programmers who thought it would be fantastic to develop fertility software to accompany the book. But I vehemently resisted, because I felt that the beauty of women charting their cycles was that it didn’t require anything other than a thermometer, pencil and paper. Otherwise, all of their fertility signs were literally at their fingertips.
Also, I felt that it would be hypocritical of me to stress the simplicity of the method throughout the book if I then offered the option of using a computer to chart cycles! The turning point for me came when women editors at the website iVillage, where I wrote a monthly column, also suggested software. Of course, once again I said no, but they challenged me to reconsider because, as they said, “you stress choice throughout your book: choice on which signs you observe, choice on whether or not you abstain during your fertile phase for birth control, and choice of what barrier you choose if you do have sex during the fertile phase, to name just a few.” They felt that the choice of whether to use software or a pencil and paper should also be left to the woman. How could I argue with that logic? And thus, the relationship with Ovusoft was born.
Are you surprised by how vibrant the community is on www.ovusoft .com? What do you think makes it work?
I’m not the least bit surprised, because once women learn about the benefits of the Fertility Awareness Method for charting their cycles, they want to shout it from the rooftops and share it with every woman they meet. I think the reason the online community works so well is that there are a myriad of different types of charts women experience, and there’s nothing more comforting than being able to compare their experiences with other women. For example, some women have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), or recurring miscarriages, or hypothyroidism, or any number of conditions that would normally be confusing or even isolating if they weren’t able to share their charts with others who actually get it.
What made you decide to write your second book, Cycle Savvy (The Smart Teen’s Guide to the Mysteries of Her Body)?
The most common reaction I heard from my readers of TCOYF is: “Why were we not taught this incredible information as teenagers? It would have saved me endless years of panic, confusion, and low self-esteem.”
Quite frankly, though, I vowed that I would never write another book again after the incredibly arduous task of writing TCOYF. But after 10 years of letter upon letter imploring me to write a book for teens, I felt that I couldn’t ignore the beseeching any longer.
Clearly, I didn’t write the teen book for girls to take control of their fertility. God knows we don’t want them doing that at their age! But what I do want is for girls to grow up with a clear understanding of how their cycles work, since they affect every facet of their female being, from their self-esteem to their informed choices when they get older. And never again do I want a teenage girl growing up thinking that she’s dirty and in need of being scrubbed from the inside out. I want her to grow up with a sense of pride at how amazing her body truly is.
What are you long-term goals? Any big projects coming up?
To get Fertility Awareness taught routinely in all high school girls, with Cycle Savvy being the text of choice.
Who do you admire in the women’s health community at large?
Like probably every woman on the planet over a certain age, I was raised on Our Bodies, Ourselves, which back then was absolutely groundbreaking. And, of course, Christiane Northrup is phenomenal. I’m still trying to figure out where she stashes the extra hours in the day to do everything she does.
What areas of fertility research have you most excited right now?
The ability to freeze younger women’s eggs for fertilization when they are older and in a better place to become mothers.
What is your favorite health-related book?
Womancare, by Lynda Madaras and Jane Patterson. Interestingly enough, it’s no longer in print, but that book was written in a way that I really appreciated when I first became interested in women’s health.
Why do you feel this information is so vital for all women to know and share?
It is probably the most practical way that a woman can tell on a day to day basis what is going on in her body. Not only can she use it for the obvious benefits of either natural birth control or pregnancy achievement, but it can tell her when she should expect her period, as well as help her detect numerous other facts, including:
• potential vaginal infections vs. healthy cervical fluid
• troublesome breast lumps vs. normal fibrocystic breasts
• accurate due dates (in women with irregular cycles)
It empowers women with knowledge that they can use throughout the many phases of their reproductive lives, from teen years to menopause and all the years in between. In addition, virtually all women discover that it increases their self esteem and sense of control in other facets of their life, because it’s so enlightening.
Who inspires you?
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