Options for Family Planning, Fertility, Birth Control
If you've been following along my journey, you'll know that I've been on and off birth control pills over the years. I was put on them mostly because of acne, period cramps and other shenanigans. As you can imagine, it didn't actually help any of those issues long term (read about how I fixed my awful period!)
I like to think of the birth control pill as a dangerous bandaid you put over an infected cut. Even though the bandaid may hide the nasty cut for a while, deep down the cut is getting worse and not better.
The pill is a great invention, but has serious limitations (and nasty side effects! we'll talk about that later though).
Note: this is not medical advice, I merely want to share my experience and some research I've done over the years about the hormonal birth control pill!
This blog post has a few parts: my story, chemical birth control alternatives, and the dangers of the pill/iud/vasectomies/etc
1. My story (skip to 2. if you're not interested! I'll keep it short)
Around 15 I was put on the pill for period cramps. It did not help enough. Then around 18 my doctor realized that the pill I was on was being recalled because of serious side effects (how awful is it that I was on it for years?).
Around 20 I was put on an acne medication (I will not mention it by name because it is too despicable for me to even talk about). With this medication I had to be on the pill again. I stayed on the pill until our first year of marriage (which was a few years later).
When we got married I started reading about the side effects and long term issues associated with the hormonal birth control pill. This knowledge really frightened me and forced me off of it. I was looking for some alternatives... that's when I found Daysy! I used Daysy for 2 years, until I knew enough about my cycle and fertility window and now use intuitive knowledge + fertility tracking apps.
2. Birth Control Pill Alternatives
Daysy is one of a few family planning options that is almost 99% effective when used properly. In some ways it's even safer than the birth control pill, condoms, pull out method etc. You can get Daysy through my link for $15 less!
How does it work?
Here's a simple explanation from Daysy's website:
- A precise temperature sensor that gets the most accurate data reading
- A unique, intelligent algorithm based on a database of 5 million menstrual cycles
- An intuitively designed tracker that eliminates the potential for user error
Every morning I took my temperature before getting up, waited for the colors to show up and knew if I was fertile or not. It was incredibly helpful as I got off the pill, and was the first time I knew ANYTHING about my menstrual cycle, fertility, ovulation, etc. How incredible is it that I was not taught that you're only fertile 3-5 days a month? Now I know! And I can't wait to teach our future kids about that.
You can also use the Daysy app to see where you're at in your cycle.
Why I loved Daysy:
- Completely safe, non-invasive, easy to use
- Was 100% accurate for us
- Is very intuitive, learns from your cycle
- You'll be in a community (there's a Daysy Facebook page!)
- A very very very good way to get off the pill, because you'll learn so much about yourself!
What initially scared me:
- What if it didn't work?
- The price was a little steep (NOTE: you can now get Daysy through some insurances!!! This is truly awesome!)
Why we pulled the trigger:
- We knew enough about the pill to be uncomfortable with the side effects and long term issues
- I wanted to have at least 2 years without the pill before we got pregnant
- I wanted to truly heal from within, and figure out why I had such bad menstrual cramps + acne
b. Tracking your cycle
This is what we're currently using. About 2 years into using Daysy I started to get better at knowing what part of my cycle I was in. I noticed I didn't need Daysy as much as I initially needed. I knew when I was ovulating, I knew when my period was near, etc. It was a great feeling. To confirm all of these things I was starting to intuitively know, I use a few apps:
The Flo App:
- I was able to get the paid app because they had it for sale one day (like $15 instead of the usual $50). I LOVE this app. I love the community, the predictions, the intuitive nature of it when you're consistent about adding your symptoms, etc.
- The community is awesome: you'll find lots of women that are trying to get pregnant, currently pregnant or avoiding pregnancy. There's really something for every one!
- You can add when you had sex so that you can potentially track when you got pregnant down the line
With the app you'll easily know when you're fertile or not. You can use condoms when you're fertile if you don't want to get pregnant! You can also check your discharge to confirm where you're at in your cycle.
The Stardust App:
- This app is pretty fun! I wanted to be able to tell how my menstrual cycle and my ovulation was tracking with the position of the moon. It's been REALLY interesting. You may know that there are many wives tales about the moon and women's health, but you'll be interested to know that some actual research has been done on this subject.
One study states that there was no real correlation between menstruation and lunar phases:
"We assessed with cross-approximate entropy menstruation onset versus moon phases in 74 women with 980 menstrual cycles over a calendar year. In defiance of traditional beliefs and contrary to what some researchers have argued with short-term research work, in this long-term study we did not find any synchrony of lunar phases with the menstrual cycle." PMID: 23889481
While another noticed that more women menstruate around the New Moon than other lunar positions (PMID: 3716780)
In older wives tales, it was said that women who ovulate during the Full Moon were more fertile (imagine being in a cave, light coming in... you'd most likely get busy if you couldn't sleep!). Now, obviously our goal should be to have healthy menstrual cycles, little to no cramping, and normal bleeding (not too heavy, not too light), every 28 days. If you're very far from this "normal" you may want to take steps to get your cycle to be less difficult. This will be a lovely sign that you are getting healthier and balanced! Not to worry, there are many great sources for us to learn from!
I don't really pay attention to the part of the app about what kind of Witch you are lol. That's not something I play around with. But I do love knowing more about the moon's cycles and my period.
c. Fertility Awareness
I will be honest, I don't know enough about this to speak of it. I have a close friend that has used it successfully and without any surprises. Most of these options do take time and education, but I would encourage you to know your body better than any doctor could. YOU ARE YOUR BEST ADVOCATE!
Of course there are many other options, but I don't know about them enough, nor do I think they're all safe for our bodies.
3. The many risks of the birth control pill
For our bodies:
- The United States federal courts classified the birth control as “unavoidably unsafe".
- An increased risk of breast cancer
- An increased risk of cervical cancer
- Increases risk of deep vein thrombosis
- Increases risk of blood clots
- According to the Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmaco-therapeutics, some versions of the Pill increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis up to eight-fold (1)
- Makes women completely unaware of their cycle, body, etc. Makes women complacent about their health! We must take charge of the most wonderful thing our bodies do: create life!
And a more extensive list of side effects from this website:
- Heart attacks
- Sudden total or partial blindness
- Pulmonary embolisms
- Early unintended abortion
- High blood pressure
- Dizziness and fainting
- Abdominal discomfort, bloating, and pain
- Gall bladder problems, including gallstones
- Inflammation of the pancreas
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fluid accumulation
- Long-term hormonal regulation problems
- Ectopic pregnancies
- Insulin sensitivity
- Elevated potassium levels
- Migraines or severe headaches
- Depression and mood swings
- Breast pain and swelling
- Changes in menstruation patterns, e.g., PMS and dysmenorrhea
- Hair loss
- Loss of libido
- Significant weight gain
- Fatal blood clots
Somewhat depressing, I know.
For the environment according to Human Life International:
"Much of the female hormonal content in these birth control methods is excreted via urine and ends up in rivers and lakes. Scientists are finding ever-greater numbers of “intersex” animals in aquatic environments that could lead to a collapse in fish and other populations, followed by a collapse in the populations of animals dependent upon them.
In 2004, The Washington Post reported that 79% of the male smallmouth bass in the Potomac River are growing eggs.10 In certain places, said the Post, “100% of the male fish had some female characteristics.”
A later Washington Post article described how scientists said the cause “is probably some pollutant created by humans — perhaps a farm chemical, or treated sewage, which can contain human hormones or residue from birth-control pills.”
The later Post article reported that scientists think the problem is caused by a mixture of hormone and hormone-mimicking pollutants and have found negative effects on female fish as well.11 Iain Murray, author of The Really Inconvenient Truths, wrote on National Review Online, “By any standard typically used by environmentalists, the pill is a pollutant. It does the same thing, just worse, as other chemicals they call pollution.”
4. The many risks of other common birth control methods
IUD: You'll notice I'm generally weary of anything chemical/interventional when there are better alternatives out there. The copper IUD is widely used and trusted today. I will just offer some information you may not have if you're currently using it:
- Risks of perforation, infection, expulsion (ending in an unexpected pregnancy). Note that these side effects are rare, and can be lower if you get the IUD placed by someone experienced.
- Unpredictable periods: again, I don't know enough about the medical side but I am uncomfortable with anything that changes my cycle. I want my body to be working in the most natural way possible, ESPECIALLY the years before we conceive. I believe our bodies were made beautifully and with good reason, which leads me to believe that our cycle is very important and central to our health.
- An increased risk of breast cancer according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that looked at 1.8 million women ages 15 to 49 years and found that hormonal contraceptives, including IUDs, were associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Studies have shown young women who use hormonal contraceptives, including the IUD, have three times the risk of suicide compared to women who have never used hormonal birth control. Read more here
- Higher iron load in the blood - not ideal. Iron is something I'm learning more about, but from what I've read you don't want to mess with iron. It's already ridiculously high in the standard American Diet.
Other forms of birth control:
Please visit this amazing page by Dr Jolene Brighten to read about other forms of birth control and their potential issues. Here is what she covers:
- The Birth Control Pill
- Progestin-Only Pill (Mini-pill)
- Birth Control Implant (Implanon & Nexplanon)
- Birth Control Shot (Injection) Depo-Provera
- IUD (Intrauterine Device)
- Birth Control Patch
- Birth Control Vaginal Ring (NuvaRing)
- Female condom
- Sterilization (e.g. by tubal ligation)
- Fertility Awareness Method
- Femtech (Natural Cycles, Daysy)
- Essure (the coil)
5. The risks of vasectomies
Again, I am not a medical professional. But I have read quite a bit about the risks of vasectomies and the incredibly difficult issued men have had to suffer through after their operations. Some of these risks I have gathered from personal acquaintances or people I've talked with on social media.
Here are some complaints they've had:
- Increased moodiness
- Lowered sexual drive/low libido
- Some people have concluded that because the sperm is released because of increased pressure and it goes into the bloodstream. They've thought that their bodies responded to this sperm as a "stranger" in the blood and attacked it, triggering autoimmune issues. This should make you want to do more research - the sperm needs to go somewhere!
- Some men regret it and sense that they've lost part of their manhood. I will note that I believe anything that changes your body so drastically should certainly affect your mentally. Some men have also complained of weaker/lower output. (lots of testimonies here).
- Some men have experienced erectile dysfunction
- I believe that strong men and strong sexual desires is a sign of a healthy body. When you change any thing about men/women hormonally or physically I believe you're going to miss some important signs about your health.
Your doctor will most likely only discuss the pros of a vasectomy. I just want to make sure you know of certain cons and experiences men have had.
Side note: it is my personal conviction that we should do whatever we can to increase men's testosterone, help them be more manly and strong. I also think we should do whatever we can to help women be more feminine, in tune with their body and cycle. I believe in a stunningly strong male and female distinction to make society more beautiful and powerful.
My dream for all of us is that we have lots of sex, we know our bodies and we have menstrual cycles that bring us life, not pain. I hope we all have healthy pregnancies (the best creative project you can undertake with the person you love) and healthy babies.