Let’s Talk about Contraceptives

Contraceptives

When I was preparing for marriage at the age of 19, one of the things to check off the to-do list was birth control. Like many women, I simply scheduled an OB/GYN appointment, was given a prescription for birth control pills and went on my merry way. There was no talk about how the pills actually work or of the fact that I was taking artificial hormones that altered my cycle.

Fast forward 4 years. We had started making small lifestyle changes, including less processed food and moving towards being more health conscious regarding medicines and toiletries. The biggest change was the birth of our first child. After his birth, I wanted to live a healthy life and wanted my child to be healthy.

One of those healthy choices was deciding to breastfeed my son. Keeping up my milk supply was the reason I decided to forego any type of hormonal contraceptives after his birth. Around this time, I also decided that I never wanted to take hormonal contraceptives again.

I exclusively breastfed for 6 months which delayed ovulation and when my cycle did not return once we introduced solids, we were open to the thought of another baby so we continued to just rely on breastfeeding. At this point, I had read the book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, and started trying to observe signs of fertility. My attempt at observing fertility signs and lack of thorough knowledge of the contents of the book and the casual attitude we had towards relying simply on breastfeeding resulted in the conception of our second child when our first was 11 months old. (We say our Weston was neither planned or unplanned, his creation was simply God’s plan!)

Since our boys are only 20 months apart, once our second baby was born, I thoroughly researched different methods of birth control. There were no mainstream methods that I was comfortable with for my body, based on ethics and artificial hormones. The methods I kept coming back to were the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) and Natural Family Planning (NFP).

I ordered a copy of Taking Charge of Your Fertility (which educates about FAM) and started studying because this form of ‘birth control’ is what I was most comfortable with.

We’re just a few months in to fully practicing FAM but our confidence is growing and I feel empowered knowing where my body is in my cycle and knowing exactly when I ovulate and when my period will begin.

Interested in learning more about FAM/NFP? I’ll be posting more details on FAM and Suzette from Jambalaya will be sharing about NFP.

Note: This post is not shared as medical advice, it’s just a bit of my story and thoughts. If you have an interest in following these methods, you need to educate yourself on the matter. 

responses to “Let’s Talk about Contraceptives” 22

  1. I wish doctors took more time to prepare their patients for what happens in their body when they take the pill (or any other hormone for that matter). I think that if they did, many women would decide to go with another form of (natural) birth control. For me, I ended up int he hospital at the age of 24 with a minor stroke that left me with very limited use of my left arm for months.

  2. Thank you for posting on this subject. I quit taking the pill over a year ago, because I was starting to feel aweful and imbalanced. I think that doctors should have to go into details of all of the side effects of synthetic hormones, including the high rates of cancer. The pill (synthetic hormones) causes an imbalance of your body's natural hormones, and it's very dangerous when your body becomes imbalanced. Most women don't know how dangerous they really are. Thanks again!

    1. I know so many women have so many side effects from taking the pill. I agree that doctors should educate patients more than they do, so many women just take them because they were prescribed by a doctor they trust and they have no further knowledge on the risks.

  3. Hi there, Rachel. I read that book and have greatly appreciated the whole FAM thing. It is neat knowing exactly what your body is doing at any point in your cycle with that handy little basal thermometer.

  4. Funny you wrote this post now–I was just thinking about this. I've never really struggled with PMS but I feel like lately I have been very edgy and have a quick temper about a week before my period and I'm wondering if this is related to my bc pill. I'm not in a place where I WANT to be pregnant right now, but the world wouldn't end if I did. I'm just curious how much work is involved in paying attention to fertility signs, etc. I used Taking Charge Of Your Fertility when I was trying to get pregnant and it totally worked (got pregnant the first month!)

    1. For me, charting my temperature tells me where I am in my cycle. Then observing fertility signs (which doesn't take much time) gives me confidence because it backs up what my chart is telling me. I really don't think there is too much work. I studied Taking Charge of Your Fertility and learned the rules before starting to rely on this method. I really think it is simple and love knowing exactly where my body is in my cycle.

  5. Such a great post! After Asher was born, we started using Lady-Comp ( http://www.ladycompusa.com ) because I have Endometriosis and don't ovulate at the same time each month (and sometimes not at all), traditional natural family planning methods weren't working for us. We loved using Lady Comp and actually used it to "help" us get pregnant this time. Just another option that doesn't involve drugs

    1. This is really interesting but what about when you are nursing? I was told by our local hospital nurse that teaches the FPM that temping is the least accurate way to tell when you are ovulating. She said that you will not have a good temp reading if you are nursing (waking up at night) which we do until at least the age of two. Does it have otherways of telling? I do have VERY long cyles so the whole 28 days thing is a joke to me 🙂

      1. Observing cervical mucus is the most accurate sign while nursing. If you do have your cycle, charting may show you a pattern in your cycles. Since my cycle returned when Weston was 13 months, my cycle has been about 40 days. This knowledge has helped me even more with observing cervical mucus.

  6. I use FAM as well. We took a class on it together, so both of us are in on it – together, i.e. it's not just me tracking, but dp helps. It's actually brought us closer together. We have no children, and have been using FAM for 3 years. People are always shocked, and most people say "that actually works?!" Why, yes, yes it does. I also find a lot more freeing. It doesn't involve buying anything (except a book, and classes if one wants), can be done anywhere and allows me to know my body intimately. I don't need a pharmaceutical company to give me control over my own reproductive system. I can do it myself! Which is awesome.

    1. I definitely agree that having an involved husband/partner is important for success – he needs to understand exactly what is going on and how it a woman's body works!

  7. This is something I really want to learn more about – I even talked to a nurse about it but still am so lost! I read the book too!! I just dont get how to know when you are going to get that first 'egg' after nursing… After my first it took a year and a half to get a cycle and the next month we were pregnant! My mom caught the 'first egg' with hers and I just am so lost…. The nurse said you can not temp correctly while nursing since you are getting up at night (we co sleep so they still do nurse at night, though I am hardly fully awake enought to realize it!). If anyone has any adivice because we have another one on the way and I would like to make sure we take a natural way to prevent but am pretty sure I will get lucky and catch that first egg 😛

    1. Honestly, I would take a class. I know it might seem silly. But, reading a book about the fertility symptoms and actually having a real live expert to question makes a huge difference. In a class, they get VERY detailed. You can ask anything, describe anything, ask for a private session to determine what's happening, etc. Everyone brings in their charts, and it's kind of fun. If you're geeky, lol. Plus, in the class, there is always a good variety of people – childless, with children, postpartum, etc. It's pretty awesome, and I know it helped us tremendously. I don't think we'd have been brave enough to do it with just the book. I found a class through my health clinic. The Catholic Church also offers classes, but their method is slightly different (i.e., only abstinence, no barriers ever ever ever) and there is no option for a private session.

      1. I agree that taking a class would be the best way to educate yourself. Thanks for sharing your class experience and the confidence that it gave you in using FAM!

    2. Nursing does complicate things a bit. I wasn't as knowledgable while nursing my first and we too caught the 'first egg' when he was 11 months and now have Weston! (Of course it wasn't really an unplanned pregnancy because we were open to the thought of another and weren't seriously following any FAM rules).

      After Weston was born, I did not want to get pregnant! Having 2 in 20 months was physically draining for my body and 2 babies is hard work. I just was not ready to have another one – and now that Weston is almost 19 months I'm still not quite ready! Anyways, it was very important to me to not get pregnant so I studied and followed all of the rules – including using condoms to prevent pregnancy when I didn't have my cycle back. I did not take my temperature during anovulation – I just paid attention to cervical mucus. This careful observation is what told me that I was ovulating and sure enough it was confirmed when my cycle started back 2 weeks later.

      I would say while nursing, if you're wanting to avoid pregnancy, using a back up method (like condoms) is important. Sure it may be inconvenient and not the most ideal form but it's worth it for a few months to avoid pregnancy and hormonal birth control.

  8. Your story is very similar to ours. We used the pill in the beginning of our marriage, but then became informed and I went off, and became pregnant with our first 2 months later. After our 1st was born, we didn't prevent, I relied on nursing and we conceived on my 3rd cycle post partum (10.5 months after giving birth). Our girls are 18 months apart, and we didn't want more so soon since our oldest has some delays. I looked into NFP and FAM, and we decided we wanted absolute support and confidence so we took an online class through Northwest Family Services. They sent us a book and we went through the sessions together. That was so important!! It would be hard to otherwise get your spouse to read the book like you would, so the sessions and "tests" REALLY helped make sure we were both on board. We practice the Sympto-Thermal method of NFP since we do not personally believe in FAM. The instructor support has been INVALUABLE, it's basically lifetime support and I truly believe our success to date is a result of that.

    I started charting (both temperature and mucus) at 3 months PP bc I had some signs fertility might return sooner than I thought. It's been well over a yr now, and we not only knew for certain when I ovulated BEFORE my period came, but we have been able to correctly identify ovulation every time since then, even while intensive breastfeeding. The night wakings actually did not affect my temperature that much, probably bc they were so consistent in the timings. My baby only started sleeping through the night at 14 months. I also still nurse 3x a day and she is 19 months. The only difficulty in charting for me is that my luteal phase is shorter while nursing.

    I personally would not use a "backup" method during fertile times, because your effectiveness rate goes from 99% down to whatever the effectiveness rate is for that method (condoms are only 80%). The period of abstinence draws you closer as a couple and increases your confidence in the method. Prior to that first period, there are certain rules you can follow without having to resort to condoms and still have a very very high effectiveness rate, again this is where a good instructor comes into play. My body "geared up" for the first ovulation for nearly 3 months, and by observing and following the rules it was very obvious when it happened.

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