Let’s talk contraception, shall we? By the end of their reproductive years, more than 80% of US women will have used oral contraceptives at least once in their life, for an average of about 5 years. EIGHTY PERCENT OF US! FIVE YEARS! That is a lot of birth control pills!
Birth Control: The Pinnacle of Reproductive Freedom?
Obviously, there is cause to celebrate the increasing availability (and improved safety) of contraception around the world. It’s no secret that the birth control pill has revolutionized the lives of like, a bazillion women in the last 50 years, not in the least by providing a sense of control over our own bodies and the freedom to make our own decisions in terms of family planning.
But, as with everything, that’s not the WHOLE story.
Unfortunately, this “freedom” hasn’t come without a cost. The health risks and side effects associated with long term hormonal birth control usage are not trivial, and I have yet to meet a single woman who has taken birth control without experiencing any side effects at all. (Read: 5 Things You Should Know About Hormonal Birth Control!) Do you really want to roll that dice?
In fact, women tell me ALL the time about how much pain and trouble their hormonal birth control is causing them—but they are so terrified of coming off that they just continue to endure the discomfort. It’s nuts! But I get it, because I’ve been there.
A little bit of background…
When I first went on the pill at 19, I was convinced I’d hit the jackpot. A magic cure for my super painful, heavy and irregular periods? Sign me up!
Turns out, what I’d really found was the perfect camouflage for my symptoms. In four short years, I became riddled with joint pain, had the worst case of chronic yeast and urinary tract infections, I’d forgotten what sex was, my hair was falling out, and my digestion was an utter disaster.
Yeah…not ideal. And not sexy.at.all.
As much as I hated to admit to myself, my “cure-all” didn’t give me the control over my body I thought it would—and I wanted out. But at the time, there were no fancy cell phones or period tracking apps available, so I had to track my cycles with a regular ol’ wall calendar. Oh, how far we’ve come!
Despite what some doctors will have you believe, HORMONAL BIRTH CONTROL IS NOT A CURE-ALL FOR YOUR PERIOD SYMPTOMS. And in most cases, it’s making your symptoms worse.
Thankfully, we now have more and better tools to track our fertility, and with all of the awesome resources out there, getting to know your own body—in all of its ebbs and flows—is easier than ever. This is what I call becoming “period literate.”
What is the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)?
FAM is a method of birth control that does not use any drugs or devices, but utilizes a symptothermal approach to predict the fertile days of your cycle. Which basically means you’ll be paying attention to the following three things each month:
- Your cervical fluid and how it changes throughout the month.
- Your basal body temperature or your temperature upon awakening.
- Your cervical position, determined by palpating the cervix with two fingers.
Not everyone tracks ALL three changes throughout the month (cervical position can be tough to feel around for), but the more you know, the higher the level of effectiveness! Cervical position is optional and isn’t necessary to practice FAM effectively.
Period Literacy: How It Changed My Life
Okay, you might be thinking right now that it’s so much less time consuming to pop a pill every day than it is to learn this stuff. But I promise, the learning curve is WORTH IT. Using FAM has seriously changed my relationship with my body, given me an immense amount of data to work with concerning my hormone health, and it’s allowed me to prevent pregnancy effectively —without the terrifying risks or frustrating side effects of the pill. And It can do the SAME for you!
Want to know more? Here are some simple steps you can take ASAP:
- Check out this blog post on the Fertility Awareness Method to get a more in-depth introduction.
- Get your hands on the books Taking Charge of Your Fertility, Toni Weschler’s definitive guide to natural contraception, and The Fifth Vital Sign by Lisa Hendrickson.
- Also see My Top 3 Fertility Trackers for effortless tracking.
Are you ready to go pedal-to-the-metal in taking charge of your own fertility? Join my Birth Control Protocol, the ultimate solution to ditching your hormonal contraceptives and regaining actual control of your hormones.
Lastly, a quick (but extremely important) disclaimer—you’ve got to actually learn this method before using it as your sole method of birth control. The resources above are a good start to understanding FAM, but I always recommend working with a Fertility Awareness practitioner to fully learn this birth control method.