As early as 1855, researchers began to document changes that occur each month in a woman’s body. During the next 75 years, clues to a woman’s fertility began to open doors to understanding how hormones work in her body. Scientists discovered that hormone levels are much more stable and predictable than they originally thought. They also discovered that when a woman experienced patterns that were not stable, observable symptoms that she noticed in everyday life could provide valuable clues as to what was wrong. In other words, a whole new world of hormone understanding opened up, paving the way for scientists to discover cures and treatments of problems that used to simply be thought to be “in her head.” (Source: http://www.fertilityfriend.com/Faqs/A-brief-history-of-fertility-charting.html)
Despite these observations by multitudes of scientists, the 1900s brought with it a renewed interest in controlling fertility and preventing pregnancy. Many methods of birth control were invented that covered up signs of fertility. The knowledge of how a woman’s hormones work wasn’t passed on to the general population until the last 30 years or less.
Yet in the beginning, God’s first words to mankind contained within them an excellent tool that men and women can use to determine the state of their overall health.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it…” (Genesis 1:27-28).
God gave them a blessing, the blessing of being fruitful and multiplying on the earth. Fertility is defined as “the property of producing abundantly and sustaining vigorous and luxuriant growth.” The ability to bear children has been seen as a blessing by both God-fearing and pagan cultures alike since the beginning of time. Note the attitude that is seen toward fertility in these Bible verses:
“Then it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments, and keep and do them, that YHVH your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers. And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flock, in the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples; there shall not be a male or female barren among you or among your livestock. And YHVH will take away from you all sickness, and will afflict you with none of the terrible diseases of Egypt which you have known, but will lay them on all those who hate you” (Deut. 7:12-15).
“Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of YHVH your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that YHVH your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of YHVH your God: Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out” (Deut. 28:1-6).
“Then YHVH your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers… YHVH your God will make you abound in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your land for good. For YHVH will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers” (Deut. 30:5, 9).
“Then out of them shall proceed thanksgiving
And the voice of those who make merry;
I will multiply them, and they shall not diminish;
I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small” (Jeremiah 30:19).
“As for Ephraim, their glory shall fly away like a bird—
No birth, no pregnancy, and no conception!
…Give them, YHVH—
What will You give?
Give them a miscarrying womb
And dry breasts!
All their wickedness is in Gilgal,
For there I hated them.
Because of the evil of their deeds
I will drive them from My house;
I will love them no more.
All their princes are rebellious.
Ephraim is stricken,
Their root is dried up;
They shall bear no fruit.
Yes, were they to bear children,
I would kill the darlings of their womb” (Hosea 9:11, 14-16).
For those who are willing to look, it isn’t hard to see what God’s original intention was. God intends to bless us by increasing us. Proverbs states, “In a multitude of people is a king’s honor, but in the lack of people is the downfall of a prince” (Proverbs 14:28).
Better than physical or economic blessings is the fact that many godly offspring bring blessing to God Himself by increasing the number of His ambassadors throughout the world. The Bible says that one of the primary reasons for a man to remain faithful to his wife is that “she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one… and why one? He seeks godly offspring” (Malachi 2:14-15).
Ephesians 5:31-32 compares Christ’s relationship to the Church with the relationship of a man to his wife. Yeshua said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2). Bearing fruit is considered the norm in God’s Word, whether the context is referring to a garden or a marriage. Bearing no fruit is always seen as a cause for concern.
Before we see how fertility can be an important marker of our overall health, let’s take a look at some of the dangers of purposely impairing our fertility.
All methods of birth control work by either preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus of a woman, by changing the hormones of a woman’s body to prevent her from being fertile, by preventing a man’s sperm from ever reaching an egg in a woman’s body, or by simply preventing the union of a man and woman during times of the month when she is fertile.
The Bible teaches in Genesis that men and women were made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). The Bible also teaches that the obvious “fruit” of the union of a man and woman is the creation of a new life, a new being that is also made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 4:1, 25). For this reason, God has taught us to have respect for human life. We understand that when a man and a woman become “one,” the amazing creative result is immediately also a human being who is made in the image and likeness of God.
However, our culture would prefer to simply redefine life. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published a statement in 1965 that defined life as beginning, not the moment that a man’s sperm unites with a woman’s egg (“fertilization”), but 8 to 10 days later, when that fertilized egg finally implants within the lining of its mother’s uterus. By changing this simple definition of when conception actually occurs, a wide possibility of birth control options opened up to women everywhere, without any further thought of moral or health implications.
Yet when we ignore God’s original design for His creation, we must suffer the consequences. The IUD is a popular method of birth control that works by preventing implantation, not true fertilization. In other words, it does not allow a new life to survive in the dangerous environment created by the IUD in the womb. Its common side effects include…
- Hormonal methods of birth control, including the popular birth control pill, are the most common of all forms of birth control, used by millions of women in the United States each year. Ideally, they are intended to prevent a woman from ever releasing an egg (“ovulation”) in the first place, yet they also work to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg by making the lining of the uterus inhospitable to the tiny life. These hormonal methods of birth control are fraught with danger because they try to fool the body into thinking it is not fertile. These side effects include abdominal pain, chest pain, headaches, eye pain, nausea, breast tenderness, weight gain, and increased risk of some types of cancer. (Source) In addition, we must consider whether an abortion is taking place monthly!
- Barrier methods of birth control prevent a man’s sperm from ever reaching a woman’s egg in the first place. These include condoms and cervical caps. Although morally these are much more acceptable, they still show disregard for the blessing of fertility that God gave us. Most side effects are related to the “spermicides” that are often added to these products. Studies have also shown that if a father’s semen is not allowed to enter a mother’s body, to prepare it for a new life, her body may not recognize her fertilized baby later and may attack the child as a foreign object.
- “Natural Family Planning” (NFP) is a type of birth control that has gained great popularity in evangelical circles because it has no harmful side effects and is morally acceptable. However, for NFP to work as birth control, a couple is required to abstain from sexual relations (or use an alternate method of birth control) for extended periods of time each month – basically, any time that she might be fertile. However, believers must carefully check God’s Word to see if abstinence for the purpose of avoiding pregnancy is what God intended.
The Law of YHVH lists one time that abstinence was required, and that was during a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle or at any time when she was bleeding because of hormonal or other health disorders. Whenever a woman had “an issue of blood,” she was to remain unclean (and abstain from relations with her husband) for seven days (Leviticus 15:19-24; 18:19). Issues of blood that were unrelated to her monthly menstrual cycle required that she remain unclean for an additional seven days past the time when they stopped, mostly likely to prevent her from conceiving at a time when she was not healthy enough to carry a child (Leviticus 15:25-31). The amazing thing is that when abstinence during a woman’s period is practiced, a man’s fertility is increased and they come together again at the time of month when a woman is also most fertile. God’s ordinances were for the protection of the couple and also intended to increase the number of children that would be conceived by that healthy couple.
The New Testament lists only one additional reason for abstinence within marriage, and that is for prayer and fasting.
“…because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:2-5).
Sickness, fatigue, headaches, and irritability are all common reasons given why couples practice abstinence. Yet the Bible teaches that we are to “treat” sickness first by going to the Great Physician, with prayer and fasting and by asking Him to heal us.
“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:14-16). (See also Psalm 35:13, Matthew 17:15-21, Mark 9:20-29).
The Psalmist wrote:
“Behold, children are a heritage from YHVH,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them…” (Psalm 127:3-5).
Children are a heritage, a gift from God. The fruit of the womb is a reward from God, a sign of His blessing on our lives. We need to change our mindsets to see these blessings as a source of happiness and joy in our lives.
Heman was a prophet during King David’s lifetime (see 1 Chronicles 25:5). You may not have ever heard of him before, but God thought highly enough of his spiritual service that He rewarded him with fourteen sons and three daughters. If you had seventeen children, would you consider that a blessing?
Another man who served God during David’s reign was Obededom, a man who had eight sons “for God blessed him” (1 Chronicles 26:4-5).
God is the author of all life. As the giver of life, He knows what is best for us. He wants only to bless us and to give us abundant life (see John 10:10).
“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17).
“Did not He who made me in the womb make them?
Did not the same One fashion us in the womb?” (Job 31:15).
“As you do not know what is the way of the wind,
Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child,
So you do not know the works of God who makes everything” (Ecclesiastes 11:5).
“Here am I and the children whom YHVH has given me!…” (Isaiah 8:18a).
“Thus says YHVH, your Redeemer,
And He who formed you from the womb:
“I am the Lord, who makes all things…” (Isaiah 44:24a).
Many times we are afraid that bearing seventeen children, as Hemen’s wife did, would actually cost us our health. Throughout our online health classes, I’ve been discussing many other ways in which God designed His creation to sustain our health, and it is important that we remember all of God’s design for optimum health. However, it seems to me that we can trust God’s wise design for fertility and truly begin to see the ability to conceive children as a first sign of health.
We have often been taught, rather, that the more children we have, the more we are seriously risking our health and even our lives. We are advised to use medical knowledge “appropriately,” meaning to control our hormone levels and to prevent conception of a child at all costs. However, notice God’s opinion of knowledge when it goes against His design:
“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,’ says YHVH.
‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts'” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
“There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
“Trust in YHVH with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
“Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work
Among this people,
A marvelous work and a wonder;
For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden” (Isaiah 29:14).
“Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? …Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men… But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:20, 25, 27).
When a man and his wife understand fertility and how God designed their bodies, numerous health benefits result. First of all, they understand what “normal” is and are therefore prepared to notice when something departs from the norm.
For a man, it is normal for him to desire to be “one” (see Genesis 2:24 and 4:1) with his wife every 24-48 hours. It is normal for him to have steady hormones and a brightly burning passion and care for his wife. It is normal for him to desire to protect and provide for his wife and children as a result of the loving process of becoming one. Any departure from these norms should cause him to try to find out what is wrong, whether it be in his health or in any part of their relationship.
For a woman, it is normal for her hormone levels to fluctuate over a 28-30 day period that closely approximates the cycles of the moon. More than twelve hormones have been identified as playing a role in this cycle, but four hormones especially play a key role.
The first half of the cycle is called the “follicular phase.” I can easily remember this because “follicular” starts with F, for the “first” phase. This phase gets its name from one of the hormones that is working very hard: follicle stimulating hormone, commonly known as FSH. Its purpose is to prepare one of a woman’s ovaries (they generally alternate months) to release an egg from its follicle. If FSH is not functioning properly, she cannot ovulate. FSH works quietly, without any noticeable symptoms for the woman, but if she encounters stress or sickness during the first two weeks of her cycle, FSH will halt any release of a new egg. It seems that God has designed her body to only be fertile when she has the physical strength to sustain a new life.
Another hormone that plays a major role in the follicular phase is B-estradiol, which is in the estrogen class of hormones. The purpose of this estrogen is to build up a healthy supply of cervical mucous. This cervical mucous was first studied in the late 1800s, and it was noticed that the most fertile type of mucous had the consistency of egg whites. When a man and his wife become one sexually, a man’s sperm “rides” on this slippery mucous and can reach the woman’s egg more successfully. If a woman notices any cervical discharge that is white, creamy, or even clear, approaching the consistency of egg whites, she will then know that she is about to release an egg and is very fertile indeed.
It is also interesting to note that the key hormones of this first, follicular phase increase a woman’s desire for her husband, making their union more pleasurable and making the conception of a baby more likely.
It is also very amazing that women who sleep in darkness except for light from the moon will most likely ovulate during the full moon. The reason for this is that melatonin, the hormone we discussed previously that is released by the pineal gland, will be slightly suppressed from the light given by a full moon. This suppression of melatonin increases her follicular-phase hormone levels and raises her chances of fertility.
A woman can simply take note of the quantity of any cervical mucous she experiences, plus the depth of desire she feels toward her husband, during the first part of her cycle to determine if her body is preparing to ovulate. If she lacks sexual desire, if she is not producing ample cervical mucous of an egg-white quality, or if her days are filled with extraordinary or prolonged stress, she should be concerned about the health of her body as a whole.
In the meantime, the estrogens a woman is producing are also working on the endometrial lining of her uterus, thickening it to a depth of 3-4 millimeters and turning it into a warm and inviting place for a new life to implant.
Luteinizing hormone (LH) has been quietly working in the background as well, and after an egg is released from a follicle in a woman’s ovary, LH orchestrates the production of an amazing formation of cells known as the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum begins to secrete large amounts of a fourth hormone, progesterone.
Progesterone has been called the “pro-gestation” hormone, or the hormone that promotes life. One of progesterone’s jobs is to increase a woman’s body temperature so that any new baby will be kept warm inside her womb. Within hours of the release of an egg from her ovary, progesterone’s affect on her body temperature can be noticed, even if she does not conceive. Many women check their body temperature each morning, before they rise from bed or in any other way cause their temperature to elevate artificially. They simply reach over to their bedside tables, pop a thermometer into their mouths, and quietly doze while it records their temperature. The morning after ovulation, progesterone will have caused a temperature elevation of at least four-tenths of a degree above what it averaged during the follicular phase.
Progesterone will remain active, continuing to keep her body warmer, for a very consistent period of 12-16 days in a non-pregnant woman. If a woman tracks her morning body temperature (also known as a basal body temperature) consistently, during each day of her menstrual cycle, she will be able to easily see if she is producing adequate amounts of progesterone to sustain a new life. If she happens to notice a cycle in which her temperatures remain elevated for an extended number of days, usually longer than 18, she will also know that she is pregnant.
By observing symptoms, emotions, and signs such as body temperature, a man and woman can know what a normal body does and can be alerted at the first sign of any deviation from normal. By being aware of the cycles of the moon, she can see if her body is following the “times and seasons” ordained by God at creation (see Genesis 1:14-19). She can educate herself as to which hormones are involved in her monthly cycle and what the signs of proper levels of those hormones are. She can be aware of cervical mucous and of her body temperature to be sure her hormone levels are adequate to conceive a child. Finally, she can carefully keep charts and diaries so that if anything departs from “normal,” she will have a record that will help her healthcare providers know what is wrong.
David wrote, “Oh, taste and see that YHVH is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 34:8). God’s design for our bodies is wiser than our understanding, and his blessing is always for our good. We can trust Him and His plan, knowing that it will bring us only delight.
P.S. For a more detailed explanation of your fertility signals, hormones, and methods to increase your chances of conceiving, you should study the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control and Pregnancy Achievement, by Toni Weschler.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture in this blog post taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.