The connection between your dental health + your hormones

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Dentist: You’ve got elevated levels of harmful bacteria in your mouth.

Me: Really? How is that possible? I’ve never had dental problems in my life, not even a cavity.

Dentist: Well, you do now.

Oh dear.

This conversation happened last year October after many months of dealing with what I thought were minor dental issues. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a year-long journey into the land of holistic dentistry and the discovery that dental health is connected to hormonal health. In fact, women are more susceptible to oral health problems than men because of our unique hormonal makeup.

Important to know:

According to this study and this study, the increase in progesterone in the second half of your menstrual cycle can lead to swollen, bleeding gums and canker sores. This also applies to women who are pregnant (high levels of progesterone) and women who take certain progesterone-only birth control pills. Additionally, some women experience these symptoms at ovulation time as well due to increases in estrogen. This is why it is so important for women to be on top of their dental care.

Me!

 

 

 

 

<— This picture is just to let you know that the story ends well! 

 

 

 

 

As I said, the first thing the dentist found was this elevated level of harmful bacteria in my mouth. This indicated to him that my immune system wasn’t fighting off this bacteria and they were growing out of control. (Gross, I know). This was causing severe gum disease – my gums were receding at an alarming rate along with jaw bone loss – apparently when your gums recede your bone goes with it. Not cool…once they’re gone, they’re gone for good. So if you’ve got great gums now, make sure you take fabulous care of them girlfriend.

I also had pretty deep pockets – basically my gums were pulling away from my teeth – a wonderful breeding ground for more bacteria. And these pockets would only continue to get worse if I didn’t do something about it asap. “Something” meaning a very expensive series of treatments.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the dentist also noticed a cavity – eeek, up until that point I’d been rather proud of my cavity-free mouth and now with all these dental issues I was just like everybody else! Haha, I kid.

The treatment involved numerous visits to the dentist where they would perform super deep cleaning, ozone therapy and laser treatments on my gums. Pretty rad that we can use ozone and lasers to fix gum problems these days huh? Of course it also involved lots of homework for me!

Here’s the exact dental protocol that I used to address my bacterial problem and heal my cavity – a super cool side effect of taking extra good care of my teeth! :-)

1. I bought one of those fancy electric toothbrushes.

The Phillips Sonicare Platinum toothbrush (and the ProResults Compact Brushes) were somewhat life changing. I know, who says stuff like that right? Someone who is now deeply in touch with her tooth health. One of the symptoms of harmful bacteria residing in your mouth is plaque and I couldn’t keep the stuff at bay before this toothbrush came into my life. I’d have plaque buildup within a day or two of visiting a dentist – yeah, bad!

2. I also bought a dental irrigator aka a water flosser.

Pre-dental irrigator I flossed (with dental floss) daily but my holistic dentist doesn’t believe in flossing unless something is really stuck in your teeth. He says that oral irrigation is a far more effective method for removing debris from your gums and in between your teeth. I bought the Waterpik Ultra Water Flosser and never looked back. I use warm water and a splash of hydrogen peroxide every night after brushing. Amazingness!

3. I changed my toothpaste (I wasn’t using Crest or anything so don’t freak out lol).

The dentist recommended I switch from my current toothpaste to Weleda Natural Salt Toothpaste because it’s the “best”. I didn’t get much more of an explanation but I really loved using it. I’ve also experimented with plain old baking soda which works just as well as the $8 tubes of fancy toothpaste. I also became obsessed with Living Libations dental health products. They cost a small fortune but I had good results using the Healthy Gum Drops, the Ozone Gel and the Neem Enamelizer. I wish I could have afforded to continue with their products but I was spending way too much on them!

4. I began rinsing my mouth with salt water.

This is supposed to strengthen your gums. I don’t do it every single day but about 2-3 times a week. I simply add a teaspoon of sea salt to warm water and swish it around for 2-3 minutes. Easy peasy.

5. I was given an oral probiotic by the dentist.

The product was Evora Pro Oral Probiotic Mints and it’s only available through dentists, however you can purchase their consumer product here. I’m not sure how effective this product was but I used it faithfully for the first eight months of my treatment, then I ran out and didn’t get anymore. There are a couple of studies on their website that corroborate what they claim the product does and my dentist seemed to really believe in them so I’m sure they work when combined with everything else.

6. I finally started oil pulling.

I did this a number of years ago but didn’t stay consistent with it, likely because I was not facing $1000′s in dental bills and a receding gum line back then! Anyways, I got serious about it and began oil pulling with sesame seed oil for 15-20 minutes in the morning and evening. Whoa, I gotta say I really didn’t believe the hype but I started oil pulling between my second and third dentist visits and on my third visit my cavity no longer needed filling. Wooo!! For those who don’t know….oil pulling is an ancient Indian cleansing practice in which you swish 1-3 teaspoons of oil (coconut, sesame or olive) around in your mouth for 20 minutes a day. Check out Wellness Mama for more details on how to do it. I tried all three and love the sesame seed oil the best.

7. I got serious about my MTHFR gene mutation.

I discovered I am homozygous for 677T in early 2013 and didn’t do much about it - read my blog post about this if you’re totally confused by what I mean! :-) Having an MTHFR mutation can cause a lot of issues for people, especially women of childbearing age. A mutated MTHFR gene means that your body doesn’t detoxify efficiently, which leads to a taxed immune system and the decreased ability to get rid of harmful pathogens and toxins (think heavy metals, excess hormones, chemicals etc). My theory is this applies to any kind of bad bacteria, including the ones in my mouth. I talked with the dentist and he confirmed that the MTHFR gene has come up in his research and this could be part of the problem. Unfortunately I haven’t found any conclusive evidence online but it makes a lot of sense.

Women with this gene mutation have a higher risk of infertility, multiple miscarriages, hormonal imbalances, PMS, anxiety and depression amongst others. This can be attributed to a number of things but I’d say the main cause is the fact that your liver just doesn’t function as well when you’ve got this mutation. See my post on liver function here and how it connects to your hormones.

If you experience any of the above issues, I highly recommend getting tested so you can take steps to mitigate any negative effects the mutation is having on your health.  I take a double dose of Thorne Research Basic B Complex every day as part of my MTHFR-battling protocol and do my best to help my body detoxify every chance I get – more detoxification ideas in the MTHFR post I mentioned above.

8. I upped my vitamin and mineral intake in a big way.

Vitamins and minerals are essential to healthy teeth and gums so I figured I may as well try out a little dental health protocol on myself and see what happens. In addition to adding in more of my fave sea vegetables like Kombu and Wakame, I also included these supplements:

I began this process last year October and a year later I’m excited by my success. There has been a lot of trial and error but I think I’ve finally got this beast under control. The bacteria is back at normal levels and my teeth have never felt better.

I just want to reiterate that your mouth is the gateway to the rest of your body and as a result your dental health is connected to your overall health in numerous ways. Inflammation in your gums is the same as inflammation in any part of your body and it needs to be addressed as part of a whole health healing protocol. Numerous studies show the correlation between gum disease and these conditions:

  • Diabetes – do you know that diabetes sufferers have a higher likelihood of gum disease
  • Heart disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis -
  • Lung conditions
  • Cognitive issues like memory loss
  • Babies born prematurely and at low birth weight – some evidence suggests gum disease triggers preterm deliveries and low birth weight (women who are of child-bearing age, I’m looking at you!)

I wish I had done all of this 5 years ago but there is no point dwelling on that. Thankfully I caught all of this before I needed to have teeth extracted and hopefully this post helps you if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms I was experiencing. If you’ve got healthy teeth and gums, please don’t take them for granted. Take good care of them and yourself. xoxo

Do you have a dental health protocol? Have you healed a cavity?  If so I’d love to know everything in the comments or in our Know Your Flow Facebook group! :-)

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22763599

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15088879

American Academy of Periodontology.

American Dental Association: “Healthy mouth, healthy body.”

National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition.  

American Academy of Periodontology: “Gum Disease and Diabetes.”

Noble, J. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, May 5, 2009, online.

 

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How do you handle adversity?

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“Mercury is in retrograde. That has to be it babe!”

My boyfriend looked at me and rolled his eyes.

We were in the midst of the most frustrating situation ever and I was convinced that that damn Mercury had something to do with it.

It all began three weeks ago when H’s work visa renewal application was suddenly denied and he was given two days to leave the country. What?! After three and a half years of living and working here he was just denied with scarcely an explanation.

This wouldn’t have been so terrible but we’d just come back to Montenegro 3 days before from an absolutely insane trip to five different countries and three weddings. All we could think about was laying on the couch for a week and getting some grounding.

We decided to head to Italy so he could meet with a business partner and well, it’s Italy so we figured we’d try and make the best of a raw deal. We rented a car and headed up the Croatian coast (beautiful, highly recommend as a vacay by the way) and a couple hours into the drive our car started cutting out. Oy. Yup the engine pretty much died three different times, on a very busy highway. We finally got to Trieste and made our way to the Airbnb place we’d rented and learned that the car had some kind of faulty computer chip. At least that was an easy fix but luck was clearly not on our side that weekend.

Two days later we headed out to Trento where H was going to do business and I was gonna hole up in our hotel room to get massive amounts of work done. By Friday he was all finished and we drove to Venice for the day (see pic below). That was a true highlight as Venice is one of those surreal magical places that feels almost like a Universal Studios theme park.

Then we drove a little south to Verona (home of Romeo and Juliet) to check it out for a few days. By then I was in a panic about my business and not being able to get enough done – a somewhat constant worry of mine, which was only heightened by all the traveling in September. I know every woman can relate to this, business owner or not. It creates such a feeling of overwhelm and anxiety in me that I feel like I might suffocate sometimes! I found it hard to have any fun with this huge weight sitting on me.

A couple days later, we drove south to Tuscany to spend one night there before heading down to Bari on the southeast coast to catch a ferry back to Montenegro. And that’s when the shit really hit the fan.

We pull into Bari and go to get the ferry tickets. At this point we’re planning to get H back into Montenegro on a provision in the law that states anyone can come in for up to 7 days without a visa if they are allowed into the EU, the UK or the US. Easy right? Well, not when Mercury is in Retrograde apparently!

We got our tickets and to my awe and delight, I saw a sign for an Eataly restaurant. Eataly is like a warehouse of the most delicious Italian food in existence. And this one just happened to be in a random port town in the south of Italy.

The ferry guy warned us that they steal everything here so we parked the car just outside the restaurant where there were a lot of people milling about. Unfortunately H left his satchel in which he had his laptop and iPad in the car and we came back to a broken window and a stolen satchel. You know when your intution is telling you to do something, practically screaming it at you and you don’t listen? Yeah that was me – knew he should have taken his bag but didn’t make him do it.

Defeated, we headed over to the ferry terminal to board the ferry. We were sure the night couldn’t get any worse. Then everyone begins poring over H’s passport because they are convinced he needs a visa. We explained everything and showed them proof of their own laws backing up our claim. And no dice. In the end, he had to get off the ferry and I had to travel back to Montenegro alone because we had to return the cursed rental car!

It’s now been just over a week since all that drama went down and H is still stuck in Italy because every visa avenue they’ve explored has come up short. And I’m here alone packing up our apartment so we can leave – we were going to be leaving Montenegro permanently at the end of October anyways – but this has seriously thrown a wrench in our well-laid plans.

The hits keep coming in waves too – his phone wasn’t working properly, then the internet suddenly stopped working at the place he was staying in Italy so he had to find new accommodation, blah blah blah – and it feels like it’s never going to end.

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I recognize that problems will present themselves to us throughout our existence. I’m definitely no stranger to adversity but I’ve had to dig real deeeep to find some sense of calm and surrender in this insane process. I’m also trying to find the lessons and the silver linings. I’m not gonna lie though, it’s been a massive test in every way. My friend Malissa said my life is like a Liam Neeson movie. LOL I’m inclined to agree.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, H is not stuck in Italy forever! We’re just in a holding pattern right now while the apartment gets packed up and he decides whether to go meet with his investors. And of course I decided to spay and neuter the cats in the neighborhood who have adopted us and their stitches can’t come out for another couple of days. My good deed for the week. :-)

Right now here’s what I am doing to get through:

1. I’ve accepted that adversity is inevitable. I’ve always liked the line “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” However, I’m human which means I’m not necessarily handling any of this in the most stellar way. I’ve had my share of meltdowns and freakouts but I keep reminding myself that this will pass.

2. Perspective. A good friend and I chatted a couple days ago and she told me about a friend who had lost her boyfriend of 9 years to cancer last week. Three days before he died she discovered that for years he’d been having affairs with women he found on craigslist. Such an unbelievably heartbreaking story and suddenly, perspective. While our little immigration drama is quite miserable, we’re both still alive and here for each other.

3. Talking to all my friends! A lot! I simply do not know what I would do without the women in my life. Sisterhood and a support system is the key to getting you through when the going gets tough.

4. Taking care of myself. Luckily Montenegro is a super cheap country to be stuck in. One-hour massages cost 15euros and the infra-red sauna is only 8euros a pop! Movie tickets are 3.50 and gelato is 80 cents! Haha. Life ain’t that bad!

I’d love to hear what you do when caught in an untenable situation. How do you handle it and most importantly what does it cultivate in you?  

COMMENT

Body Building Your Vagina

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This post was written by my friend Barbara Loomis LMT, RES, aka “Alignment Monkey” and goddess of all things related to pelvic health. 

This is my email response to a question about using vaginal weights for a prolapse.

As a  Restorative Exercise Specialist, my approach when working with pelvic floor weakness is to bring the body into alignment (through Restorative Exercise™ and natural movement).  When you  move naturally throughout the day, the pelvic floor responds to the loads placed on it.  You don’t need to “spot treat” the pelvic floor. Strengthening should happen naturally.  If your pelvic floor isn’t responding appropriately then perhaps it’s because you’re not allowing it to function as a whole with the rest of your body.

When you focus on the pelvic floor through vaginal weights or Kegels, you isolate only one piece of a complex system.  By spot treating the pelvic floor, you leave out other very important players in pelvic floor health which are the respiratory diaphragm, multifidus, transverse abdominis, gluteus maximus, lateral rotators of the hips and the feet (yes the feet!). What you may end up with when you spot treat with vaginal weights or several hundred Kegels a day is a hypertonic pelvic floor.  Short muscles don’t equal strong muscles. Muscles need to be at the correct length (not too short and not too long) for optimal force generation.

Another thing to think about is that if you are sitting or standing with a posteriorly tilted pelvis or have a counter-nutated sacrum you’re not allowing the uterosacral ligaments (USL) to do their job. When the pelvis is in neutral the uterus is suspended by the USL.  Ligaments need proper direction of load to stimulate the correct balance of collagen production. One of the main supporting ligaments of the uterus is the uterosacral ligament, and if the USLs aren’t loaded correctly because you are sitting on your tailbone (post tilted pelvis) the  ligaments loose their strength and resiliency.  How can the USL suspend the uterus if the uterus is sitting on the USL? It can’t! So it makes sense  with a prolapsed uterus to support from above instead of just focusing on walling organs in with a tight pelvic floor.

The body is beautifully designed to hold in our organs without artificial weight training, we have prolapses because we aren’t using our bodies the way they’re designed to be used. By honoring the biomechanical design of your body and using it the way nature intended-minimizing sitting and avoid wearing positive heeled shoes (read about what high heels do to your uterus here), moving in alignment and changing our societal beliefs about how women should sit and walk (tailbone tucked, feet close together-you know, “like a lady”). Otherwise, we aren’t getting to the root of the problem.  We are not broken, we just have to stop getting in our own way.

As far as helping women identify their pelvic floor, I use stance to do so, not weights. When you breathe naturally (expanding the ribcage in a circumference with ribcage aligned over neutral pelvis) the pelvic floor elastically loads and your body responds by building the strength needed for YOUR particular body mass not an arbitrary weight.

Biomechanist Katy Bowman sums it up so well, “The pelvic floor is under constant load, you shouldn’t have to train it.  If it’s not responding its positionally not able to do so.  Positionally meaning, it’s position to the ground or it’s sarcomere position.”

Want to learn more:

Alignment Snacks, All Fo’ the Pelvic Flo’, Walk This Way, Stand This Way, and Frankie Says: Relax The Psoas,Leg Goes Forward, Leg Goes Back.  These 30 minute classes help to release the muscles that are keeping your pelvis from being in neutral and help strengthen the muscles that will support your pelvic floor.

It’s always best to have someone trained in Restorative Exercise™ look at your alignment objectively, and give you guidance.  To find a Restorative Exercise™ Specialist in your area click here.  If you can’t find one in your area, I offer SKYPE appointments- click here.  I also see clients at my Portland, Oregon office.

Watch Katy Bowman demystify the pelvic floor here:

- See the original post at: http://alignmentmonkey.nurturance.net/2012/body-building-your-vagina

COMMENT

The school that changed everything for me {how I became a health coach}

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Over the years I’ve gotten many emails from women asking me how I got my business started.

I’d been google doctoring myself and my friends for years and knew I needed to get serious with a more formal eduction. I’d learned about the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in 2008 quite serendipitously through my chiropractor’s wife who was flying from Florida (where I lived at the time) to NYC each month for live classes so she could become a certified health coach. That’s how good it was! :-) I did a little research and knew immediately that this was the school for me. #gutfeelings peeps!

Fast forward to 2009 – I literally packed up and moved from Florida to NYC so I could go to IIN’s last live class that would begin in early 2010. Honestly, words can’t really describe what went down during my time at IIN. Transformation, magic, life-long friendships, seeing leaders in health speak live on stage, becoming certified as a health coach. I also experienced a lot of hardship as I navigated through my divorce and tried to blaze a new path in my career. There is no doubt that this school rocked my world and changed my life big time though!

As a result my life is now virtually unrecognizable to what it was just four years ago. Sometimes I need to pinch myself to believe it. IIN was the spring board for my health coaching career. It gave me a broad understanding of coaching, nutrition and health that I just didn’t have before.

Anyways, the point of telling you all this is IIN is currently enrolling for it’s last class of the year and if you’re in the place I was four years ago – deeply desiring a positive change in your career and your LIFE – then you must explore this opportunity. Like, you literally have to trust the universe and make the leap.

In 2010 I had no idea what the hell I was gonna do – I could barely afford to live in NYC, my marriage was falling apart, my TV production gigs were crazy and exhausting and I knew I needed a change but I was straight up terrified. It didn’t matter though…this was the huge leap of faith that I needed to take in order to get to the other side.

If you’re relating to what I’m saying sista then this opportunity could be for you. I’ve got TWO $1000 scholarships available to anyone who wants to enroll in IIN’s last class of the year. Enrollment closes on Monday October 20th so you need to act quick. If you’re worried about cash they’ve got amazing payment plans available. 

Here’s how you get started:

  1. Click here to check out a free sample class from IIN.
  2. Give them a call and chat with one of their on-staff coaches who can tell you all about the program. Tell them I referred you so you can get the huge $1000 discount. Their number is (844) 315.8547. It’s a free call in the US.

Some of the amazing things you’ll get upon enrolling:

A world-class curriculum in holistic health, coaching skills, business training, an amazing supportive community, a convenient on-the-go Learning Center, free live conferences every year, your own complimentary website and business cards, and so much more. It is a life-changing experience that’s truly priceless.

If you want to ask me about my experience then just email me at support@nicolejardim.com and I’ll personally respond to all your q’s. 

COMMENT

Birth Control Options 101

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The Wild World of Birth Control Options

You know that feeling you get when you’re trying to choose a paint color at Home Depot? Yeah that feeling of sheer bewilderment as you stare at the 437 different shades of yellow. Most of them would probably work in your bedroom but they also each have their own unique, yet subtle qualities so it becomes impossible to choose. AND, when you finally get over that hurdle, you then have to choose the brand of paint along with whether you want eggshell, semi-gloss or flat.

Decisions! Decisions! I liken this paint-choosing process to the task of trying to navigate the vast array of birth control options, methods and brands and how to determine which one (if any) is for you. A daunting mission to say the least!

Unfortunately, in most cases your doctor will make this important decision for you. BUT there is a lot you SHOULD know about what will happen once birth control and your body become acquainted – much more than what that little tri-fold birth control brochure will tell you.

And who are we kidding? That brochure usually ends up at the bottom of your purse and eventually in the garbage (unread) anyways right?

So, why is it that we aren’t more inquiring about what we’re putting into our bodies and how it will affect us? The answer to that is complicated but it starts with the fact that we are not taught, at any age, to be curious about our bodily functions, much less how to decipher what’s going on “down there.”

But that’s why I’m here! :-)

Back when I started taking the pill, I sure wish I had known all that I know now, particularly about side effects. I’m positive I would’ve made a much more informed and educated decision, which would have saved me years of health issues.

Consider this post a little Birth Control 101 for you. While it’s not necessary to get a Masters Degree in this subject it is important to educate yourself. It is your body after all!

Birth Control Options 101

Non-Hormone options

1. Natural Family Planning (NFP) or Fertility Awareness-Based Methods – the best!

Approx Cost: Cheap – the cost of a basal thermometer and the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility and maybe some additional education if you want it.

How it works:

No drugs, no devices, and inexpensive. What more could you want right?

There are a number of fertility awareness-based methods but I recommend using the sympto-thermal method which is most effective. This method includes measuring basal body temperature, observing cervical fluid patterns and cervical position throughout the month. The one I use is the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) developed by Toni Weschler. Additionally, I recommend the Billings Method which is very similar to the Fertility Awareness Method.

Natural Family Planning is by far the healthiest of all the birth control options because it allows you to be in control of your own body. All it requires is a basal thermometer, a period tracking app or paper chart to record your cycle information and some guidance on how to start. Some women also get formal training from a specialist but that’s not necessary.

Once you get started then you’re the boss of you which is hugely empowering.

Effectiveness:

According to Planned Parenthood, of 100 couples who use the sympto-thermal method correctly for one year, 0.4 (fewer than one) will have a pregnancy. That is just as effective as all of the hormonal birth control methods! Here’s another study for you too [1].

Dat’s wassup! :)  

What else you should know:

Most common question: “Isn’t this just the rhythm method?”

The answer is a resounding no. The rhythm method and/or calendar method is not an effective form of birth control and is based entirely on a woman ovulating on day 14 and getting her period on day 28. The sympto-thermal method is effective because you are measuring your own fertility signs and symptoms and determining the exact days you are fertile. Once you’ve done that you can either avoid sex or use a barrier and/or the withdrawal method. 

Added bonus - this method can indicate other issues as well – taking your basal temp can help detect an under-active thyroid, it can tell you whether you are or are not ovulating and if your luteal phase is too short. Charting your cervical fluid can help detect changes that may occur due to an infection, an STD and cervical dysplasia. You can then go straight to your doctor with your findings long before the condition progresses.

2. Withdrawal Method

Approx Cost: Free

How it works:

Commonly known as the “pull-out method” or “pull & pray” (haha), this method is simply the penis being withdrawn from the vagina before ejaculation occurs.

Effectiveness:

This method is surprisingly effective! I know, shocking right? In fact when used correctly it is 96% effective! If used incorrectly it is only 78% effective though. In order to do the withdrawal method properly, the man must pull out before ejaculation and if you decide to go for round two, he must urinate before doing so to get any remaining sperm out of his urethra.

What else you should know:

There have been a number of studies [2] done on whether pre-ejaculate contains live sperm and the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that pre-ejaculate secretions do not contain live sperm.

Hormonal Options

 1. Combined Hormonal Birth Control Pill

Birth control pills

Approx Cost: $15 – $100 per month depending on health coverage and where you live.

How it works:

By far the most common birth control option, the pill releases the hormones estrogen and progestin, which prevent ovulation.

Effectiveness:

  • The combined pill is 99.7% effective if taken each day as directed.
  • It is only 91% effective if not taken as directed – pills are skipped, etc.

Please note: there is evidence [3] that suggests the pill is not as effective for women who weigh more than 70kg/154lbs and/or have a BMI of 25 and above.

What else you should know:

Unfortunately, the pill comes with a host of undesirable side effects that include, gut/digestive problems, Amenorrhea (no periods), lack of ovulation, mild to severe acne, thyroid dysfunction, mild to severe mood disorders, disruptive food cravings, low to non-existent sex drive, lack of vaginal lubrication, painful sex, thinning of the vaginal tissue and weight gain or inability to lose weight, just to name a few.

Read about clitoral shrinkage here and other things you should know about hormonal birth control here and here.

While there may not be conclusive scientific studies proving all of these side effects, the thousands of women who’ve contacted me in the last four years about their symptoms are proof that the pill can be very harmful. So, proceed with caution.

2. Progestin-Only Pill (Mini-Pill)

Approx Cost: $15 – $100 per month depending on health coverage and where you live

How it works:

This pill is different than the regular pill in that it only releases progestin in the form of norethindrone or norgestrel, (synthetic forms of progesterone). It’s commonly prescribed to women who are very sensitive to estrogen in traditional pills and breastfeeding women because progestin doesn’t suppress milk production. It might also be given to women who are a little older, women who have had breast cancer or other health conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease or history of blood clots.

Effectiveness:

If taken perfectly, that is at the exact same time every day, it is 99.7% effective. If it is not taken at the exact same time every day, then it is only 91% effective. [4]

What else you should know:

The most common side effect is breakthrough bleeding, spotting and irregular menstrual cycles. See above for other side effects that might occur.

3. Birth Control Patch – Ortho Evra

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Approx Cost: $0-$80 a month depending on insurance coverage and where you live.

How it works:

The patch was basically created for women who have trouble remembering their daily pill. It is worn on the skin (usually on the arm) and is changed only once per week for three weeks and then the fourth week is patch-free. It also releases estrogen and progestin like the birth control pill.

Effectiveness:

It’s similar to the birth control pill in that it is 99.7% effective with perfect use and 91% effective if not used correctly. As in, you forget to put the patch on after your patch-free week or the patch comes loose and falls off.

What else you should know:

I said it all in the birth control pill section above! :-)

4. Vaginal Ring – NuvaRing

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Approx Cost: $0 – $80 per ring/month depending on insurance coverage and where you live.

How it works:

This device is worn inside the vagina and releases estrogen and progestin, the same hormones as the pill and patch. Each month you put it in for three weeks then take it out for one week to get your period. After your period, you put a new one in and so on.

Effectiveness:

The vaginal ring is 99.7% effective when used correctly – worn for three weeks, taken out for one week. If not used correctly the success rate drops to 91%. You might forget to put it in after your period, it can slip out of your vagina and you have to get it back in within 3 hours and you must have it in for 3 weeks in a row. Oh dear.

What else you should know:

Some women report vaginal irritation and other similar side effects that women experience on the pill and with the patch. It may cause increased vaginal discharge, vaginal irritation, or infection as well. Ugh.

5. Birth Control ShotDepo-Provera

Approx Cost: $20 per month or around $50 to $60 per 3-month injection

How it works:

The shot is similar to the mini-pill in that it only releases progestin in the form of depot medroxyprogesterone acetate or DMPA but unlike the mini-pill, you only have to get the shot once every 3 months. It’s mechanism essentially tricks the body into thinking it’s pregnant so an egg can’t be released.

Effectiveness:

This method is 99.8% effective if used correctly, meaning that you get the shot every 10-14 weeks. If you get it two or more weeks late, the effectiveness drops to 94%.

What else you should know:

While a shot once every three months might seem like a dream option, the Depo-Provera has a slew of side effects like significant weight gain, irregular bleeding, heavy and more frequent periods, continuous light bleeding, headaches, nausea and lower sex drive, just to name a few. As if that’s not bad enough, once you’ve taken the shot and you’re experiencing side effects, they aren’t gonna go away until the hormones leave your body in 12-16 weeks. Obviously this is not ideal.

6. Implant Implanon or Nexplanon

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Approx Cost: $0 – $800 every three years, depending on insurance coverage and where you live. The cost for removal is $0-$300.

How it works:

Known as a Long Acting Reversible Contraceptive (LARC), the implant is a matchstick-sized rod that’s injected under the skin of the upper arm. The implant releases progestin in the form of etonogestrel (the same progestin contained in the vaginal ring) and is effective for up to 3 years

Effectiveness:

The implant is considered the most effective form of birth control next to abstinence with only 0.05% of women getting pregnant.

What else you should know:

Warning, I’m gonna have a mini rant here:

I take issue with the fact that instead of being taught how our bodies work, we we are now instead being “immunized” against our own fertility.

While this might seem like an ideal option for many women, especially teens, I urge you to think about the long-term consequences of any hormonal birth control on your physical and emotional health. There are many and hindsight is 20/20.

Additionally, if you experience side effects with the implant, you have to see a doctor and fork over a lot of cash to have it removed. See the Combined Pill section for all the side effects you might experience. The most common one I’ve seen and read about with the implant is continuous bleeding and significant changes in mood, especially depression.

Also, look at these shocking injection site images! And check out this site for user reviews and this site too – many of them are pretty awful :-(

7. IUD (Intrauterine Device) ParaGard (Copper IUD) or Mirena (Hormonal IUD) 

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Approx Cost: $0 to $1000 for IUD and insertion, depending on insurance coverage and where you live.

How it works:

An IUD is a small T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus. There are 2 options for IUDs. The copper IUD (ParaGard) releases copper which is toxic to live sperm and the Mirena releases progestin to prevent ovulation. The Paragard is effective for up to 12 years and the Mirena is effective for 5 years.

Effectiveness:

The Paragard is 99.2% effective and the Mirena is 99.8% effective.

What else you should know:

While this is a long lasting option, it is expensive and there can be quite a few side effects both while you have it in and after it is removed. Women have described tremendously long and painful periods along with very heavy bleeding when using the IUD. On the other hand, many women don’t experience side effects at all. Additionally, there is the chance that the IUD can fall out and can migrate and tear uterine tissue. If this happens it may need to be surgically removed. Interestingly, IUD’s have one of the highest satisfaction and continuation rates among patients.

Barrier Methods 

1. Male condom

Approx Cost: $1 each and sometimes they are available for free. I recommend L Condoms, because they don’t use glycerin or parabens and they distribute condoms in high-risk areas to people who can’t afford them. Also, Sir Richards is good for people who have latex allergies and Glyde for vegan condoms. 

How it works:

A thin sheath made of latex, polyurethane, animal membrane, silicone or other material that is placed over the penis right before intercourse. You were paying attention in sex ed class right? J

Effectiveness:

When used correctly, condoms only have a 2% failure rate but that drops significantly to 18% if used incorrectly. This could include putting it on or removing it incorrectly. 

What else you should know:

They’re really not that bad, especially if you’re tracking your cycle and know your fertile days. You’ll only have to use condoms for 5-7 days of the month in that case. Check out this video on how to use condoms the right way if you don’t know.

2. Diaphragm

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Approx Cost: $15 – $50, and the spermicidal jellies, foams, or creams that you need to use with it range from $7 – $18 per tube

How it works:

A diaphragm is a silicone dome that you place over the cervix before sex. It works by physically blocking sperm from entering the uterus combined with spermicide that kills the sperm.

Effectiveness:

The diaphragm is not super effective. If used correctly, it prevents pregnancy 94% of the time but if used incorrectly that drops to 88%. It makes sense to combine it with a condom or the withdrawal method to increase effectiveness.

What else you should know:

While the diaphragm is inexpensive and has no adverse effects on your health (YAY), it can be difficult to insert, can move around during sex, can’t be used during your period and has to be put in right before the fun begins which is kind of a mood killer.

3. Cervical Cap – FemCap

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Approx Cost: $89 for a FemCap kit

How it works:

The Femcap cervical cap is basically the diaphragm’s little sister. It is smaller and slips into place over the cervix and it also needs to be used with spermicide. Unlike the diaphragm, it comes in 3 sizes.

Effectiveness:

It is even less effective than the diaphragm, with only an 86% effective rate for women who have not had children and 71% for those who have.

What else you should know:

I’ve never used it and have not spoken to anyone who has, so can’t comment so much on user experience. I recommend  you check out femcap.com for everything you need to know about how the FemCap works.

4. Birth Control Sponge Today Sponge

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Approx Cost: $0 – $15 for a pack of 3 sponges depending on where you live and insurance coverage.

How it works:

Sold as the Today Sponge, this birth control option is made of plastic foam and contains spermicide. Like the diaphragm, it is inserted into the vagina before sex and blocks the cervix from sperm while the spermicide kills the sperm. It’s sold at pharmacies and is intended for one-time use only.

Effectiveness:

Women who have never given birth and use the sponge as directed have a 91% effective rate, while women who don’t use it as directed have an 88% efficacy. It drops significantly for women who have given birth: 80% for those who use it correctly and 76% for those who don’t.

What else you should know:

There is an increased risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (maybe because of the plastic) and yeast infections if left in for longer than 24 hours. Some women report vaginal irritation from the spermicide. Check out: http://www.todaysponge.com/ for more deets.

Summary

Okay that’s it folks! Exhausting isn’t it? By providing this information I am not trying to overwhelm you, although the myriad options are most certainly staggering. Instead I want to invite you to get to know your body and figure out what is best for you to be at your optimum health and happiness.

Also, I know that my recommendations are somewhat biased but I cannot in good conscience recommend hormonal birth control because I just know too much! When you put synthetic hormones into your body you become another guinea pig for the pharmaceutical industry AND they win in the end with huge profits – $20 billion worldwide to be exact! With that said, you’ve gotta make the right decision for you and I respect every woman’s individual health choices. #girlpower

PS. I didn’t cover the female condom but you can learn about it here. I also didn’t mention Emergency Contraception/Morning-After pill because it is not a long-term contraceptive option. You can learn all about emergency contraception here.

Let me know in the comments what you use, how it has worked, side effects if any. Or maybe you agree/disagree with my viewpoints. I always enjoy the diverse comments I get on birth control posts like these :-)

IF YOU WANT ANSWERS TO YOUR MOST PERTINENT QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR HEALTH, HEAD OVER TO MY KNOW YOUR FLOW FACEBOOK GROUP. WE’LL HELP YOU AND SUPPORT YOU AS BEST WE CAN. 

References

1. http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/content/22/5/1310.full

2. 93. Zuckerman Z, Weiss DB, Orvieto R. Does pre-ejaculatory penile secretion originating from Cowper’s gland contain sperm? J Assist Reprod Genet. 2003;20:157-9.

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0014812/

4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21477680

http://www.arhp.org/publications-and-resources/quick-reference-guide-for-clinicians/choosing

http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-info/birth-control/fertility awareness#sthash.LyPnx8YX.dpuf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21477680

http://www.thebillingsovulationmethod.org/what-is-the-billings-ovulation-method%E2%84%A2.html

http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-info/birth-control

Image credits: Todaysponge.com, Femcap.com, Healthwise.org, Orthoevra.com

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