Today, I’m going to tell you why I ditched birth control and how to prevent pregnancy without it.
First of all, I believe that every woman should be fully informed of ALL her options before making a decision concerning what type of birth control she wishes to use.
And I don’t just mean fully informed of all your birth control options. No. I mean fully informed about your body, too! To help you understand more about your cycle and your fertility, I HIGHLY recommend the book “Taking Charge Of Your Fertility” by Toni Weschler, MPH (buy here). This is the book that changed my life.
“Taking Charge Of Your Fertility” is extremely informative, easy to read, and full of resources. The book looks large, but that’s because it’s full of resources, charts, and extra information you can look up on an as-needed basis. I also really appreciated that it was well-written and easy to read. My only regret is that I didn’t read it sooner.
Modern Birth Control
The current model of birth control is based off the faulty assumption that women can get pregnant at any given time. The reality is that in a given cycle, there is only a 25% chance we could achieve a pregnancy. Conversely, men are fertile 100% of the time, but they are not the ones targeted for birth control.
This is why I am huge believer in fertility awareness and body literacy. Women should be informed about themselves, their health, their cycles, their fertility, their femininity!
I have personally used the pill, condoms, the LadyComp, the copper IUD, and fertility awareness for birth control.
When I married my first husband at 19, everyone I talked to recommended I get on the Pill so that I wouldn’t get pregnant while still in college. I took the Pill for 9 months, and then I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I constantly felt sick, moody, or bloated. My cervical fluid was strange, and I couldn’t get past the fact that long term side effects included blood clots and permanent blindness! The history of the Pill is even more foreboding. Just check out this excerpt from an article in New York Magazine:
The whole point of the Pill from the beginning has been population control. Even though America was consuming more than 50 percent of the world’s resources in the late fifties (with 6 percent of the world’s population), eugenicist fears of the developing world’s excessive procreation ran rampant during the Cold War. According to Andrea Tone’s fascinating history of contraception in America, Devices and Desires, Cold War–era birth-control proponents used the terms ‘family planning,’ ‘birth control,’ and ‘population control’ interchangeably. Women’s rights weren’t the primary impetus to approve the Pill, but they were part of the package, too, of course. “The Pill symbolized the redemption of science,” writes Tone, “showing it capable of developing a technology to stabilize a world order that it simultaneously threatened to destroy.”
After getting off the Pill, I used condoms for a few months, but, as everyone knows, condoms greatly decrease sensitivity and pleasure for both parties.
Still, if you must use condoms, I recommend the thinnest on the market: Beyond Seven Crown (buy here).
The next thing I tried was the LadyComp, which is an ovulation tracker/computer that records your temperature and uses red, yellow, and green lights to tell you if you’re fertile or not. (Green means “GO! Have sex.” Red means “STOP! Use protection!”)
There are rave reviews about the amazingness of the LadyComp, but I personally did not find it helpful as a sole method of birth control, and here’s why:
- It does not allow for other factors, like caffeine or lack of sleep.
- The Ladycomp gives you quite a large window to take your temperature, which means it could vary greatly. It does not record the time you take it.
- The LadyComp will sometimes show you a green light before ovulation. The problem with this is if you have unprotected sex 5 days before you ovulate, there it still a chance you could get pregnant.
- It makes you lazy because you’re relying on the computer instead of being informed about your cycle.
- It’s less accurate than the Fertility Awareness Method.
- It costs $485 to buy, unlike the Fertility Awareness Method, which is free except for the cost of the book and a thermometer.
- Compared to the Fertility Awareness Method, the LadyComp allows for LESS unprotected sex per cycle because it has a higher margin of error.
- Because there are so many “Red days” where you have to use protection, a barrier method is needed most of the time anyway.
Copper IUD (Intrauterine Device)
When I got fed up with the LadyComp/condom combination, the next thing I tried was the copper IUD, which is inserted into the uterus through the cervix.
It is effective for up to ten years, is a non-hormonal form of birth control, and allows you to have sex without using a barrier at any point in your cycle.
What I wasn’t told before getting the IUD was that:
- It keeps the cervix in a constant state of inflammation.
- It can create copper toxicity in your body.
I also experienced:
- Periods that were heavy and lasted 8-10 days.
- Severe cramping during menstruation.
- Non-stop spotting on every day of my cycle.
- Pain during intercourse.
Well, lo and behold, my uterus expelled the IUD after 6 months! I had it reinserted, and I expelled it again after 3 months. My body knew what was best, I suppose!!
The copper IUD is also very expensive, and not all insurances cover it. I would not recommend it after my experience.
Fertility Awareness Method
(i.e. how to prevent pregnancy without hormones, pills, or invasive procedures)
FIRST OF ALL, the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM or FA) is NOT the same as the Rhythm Method. Fertility Awareness uses temperature readings, charting, cervical fluid observation, and cervical position to determine when ovulation has occurred. The Rhythm Method relies on counting days on the calendar—not bodily signs—to predict ovulation.
Anyway, after my body rejected the IUD (twice), I had no choice but to inform myself. I decided to take the plunge and buy “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” book for a grand total of $20. (I was seriously smacking myself for not doing this YEARS earlier.)
Learning to read your fertility signs for effective pregnancy prevention is one of the easiest things I’ve ever learned. All it requires is that you record both your temperature AND the time each morning when you awake. Taking your temperature each morning quickly becomes routine and is no extra work. And by charting, you can easily see when ovulation has passed and it is safe to have unprotected sex.
I like that unlike the LadyComp, charting your temperatures on paper allows you to visually see when you’ve ovulated. (Oh, BONUS, there is now a smartphone app!) By charting, you can also predict your period a few days in advance. After you chart for a while, you may get to the point where you can predict when you’ll start by the hour. It’s really neat!
Also, unlike the LadyComp, you can write down extenuating factors, like caffeine consumption, exercise, lack of sleep or interrupted sleep—all things that can affect your temperature.
By charting, you get a more accurate reading, so you can have unprotected sex more of the time.
And, if you ARE trying to get pregnant, if you’re charting, you can know as soon as 18 days after ovulation if you’re pregnant just by reading your temperatures!
To clarify, fertility awareness is where you identify the parts of the cycle you are in, when you are most fertile, and learn to (A) avoid sex during the few days you could get pregnant or (B) know when to use condoms or (C) know when you don’t have to use protection at all.
It’s as simple as taking your temperatures and writing them down. You just need to have the book to understand how to interpret them, which you can buy here.
The Fertility Awareness Method has been proven as effective as the Pill if used correctly. I have personally been using it for over a year with excellent results: no baby! (***UPDATE: I’ve been charting for 59 cycles as of Jan 2017 and still, and still NO BABY! That’s almost 5 years folks!)
Taking my temperature every morning has become routine. You can also get your partner involved by having them put the thermometer in your mouth if you don’t hear the alarm. Some couples have found that both partners taking an active role has made them closer.
I WOULD RECOMMEND CHARTING FOR AT LEAST 3-4 MONTHS BEFORE USING IT AS BIRTH CONTROL. Just so you know what you’re doing and if you’re reading the signs right. In the meantime, barrier methods can be used.
I have found amazing freedom and peace by knowing what my body is doing and reading the signs my body is giving me. I also feel very empowered knowing that I can prevent or achieve pregnancy when the time comes.