An Alternative to Hormonal Birth Control
When I was sixteen I told my mother I was thinking about having sex. That moment could have gone a number of ways but the response I got was not one I was expecting. A single tear ran down her cheek and as she wiped it away she picked up our house phone and called my doctor. The next day I was put on hormonal birth control. I didn’t complain in fact, I felt empowered.
My pill became apart of my morning ritual, sitting next to my bed. Every morning, CLICK, POP, (nausea)SWALLOW. At twenty-two I was tired of the nausea so I traded in my pills for a hormonal IUD. No more nausea and no more period. I was overjoyed, my ‘womanly cure’ was gone. When twenty-six came around I had been using synthetic hormones for ten years and hadn’t experienced a period for four of those years. I was twenty pounds heavier than I would have liked and I what I used to call even tempered turned out to be emotionally numbed.
I am not here to shame anyone who uses hormonal birth control. In fact, I am glad that I was taking it through my teens and early 20’s. Honestly, I don’t think I would have been responsible enough to remember to use condoms 100% of the time because of the pubescent hormones driving my body in my youth. I would even go as far to say I avoided a lot of stupid emotional decisions because of my hormonal birth control. However, eventually, I grew up and the synthetic hormones were cutting me off from fully experiencing the joys of life.
Here are some of the most common side effects of hormonal birth control:
headaches and migraine
changes to eyesight for those using contact lenses
One day I was talking to a friend of mine about how I had been feeling disconnected from my emotions and she asked me if I was taking birth control. This lead to a brief conversation about synthetic hormones, mood and a better way to avoid pregnancy.
Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is a 99% effective form of birth control.
It uses the observance of the bodies natural cycle to prevent pregnancy. There are 4 parts to your cycle you will need to be familiar with in order to practice FAM.
Menstruation - during this time a female sheds the lining of the uterus.
Follicular Phase - this phase is characterized by the slow build up of estrogen. It usually lasts 13-18 days. During the follicular phase basal body temperature(BBT) remains low.
Ovulation - once estrogen reaches it’s peak level, the ovaries release an egg. You will see a spike in BBT when she ovulates.
Luteal Phase - this phase is characterized by its high progesterone levels. Once an egg is released progesterone is produced by the corpus luteum, a temporary hormone secreting structure found in the ovary. During this phase the BBT remains high. If pregnancy occurs the fetus will begin to produce progesterone. If the egg is not fertilized the corpus luteum will stop producing progesterone triggering mensuration.
How does this relate to Fertility Awareness Method and preventing pregnancy?
Did you know that there are only 6 days a month that sex can lead to pregnancy? It’s true! Pregnancy occurs when a male’s sperm cell fertilizes (joins) a female ovum or egg. After ovulation an egg can only be fertilized for the next 12-24 hours, after that it dies.
Wait, if the egg is only good for 12-24 hours, why can sex lead to pregnancy 6 days of the month? Sperm can live in fertile cervical fluid for up to 5 days. Cervical fluid is produced by specialized cells in the cervix, you have probably seen it on your underwear or felt it when wiping after using the bathroom. Fertile cervical fluid is characterized by its wet and sticky nature. So, if your body is producing fertile cervical fluid before you ovulate you can get pregnant 5 days before ovulation.
How do I know when I will ovulate? While you can’t predict when you will ovulate, you can determine your ‘fertile window.’ This will tell you when you can have unprotected sex and when you need to abstain or use a barrier method like condoms.
To find your fertile window you can chart your cycle using your bodies basal temperature, observe your cervical fluid and cervical position. I use Kindara, an app on my phone that makes it super easy. Here are some more resources to help you get started on your FAM journey 💓
Thank you for reading!
Sending you so much love and gratitude.