Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Natural Birth Control
Once I started really understanding the impact that chemicals have on our bodies and lives I began looking everywhere for ways to simplify and eliminate unnecessary toxins. One thing I was still doing was popping a daily hormonal birth control pill and it wasn't something I was entirely comfortable with, but where to go from there?
Enter: the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM).
FAM is a form of Natural Family Planning which relies on your body's natural cues to determine fertile periods. This method can be utilized to prevent or achieve pregnancy.
I first started using FAM over 2 years ago for the purpose of trying to conceive. It took 10 cycles for me to get pregnant (I was charting for 7 of them) and during that time FAM gave me insight into my body that I wouldn't have otherwise had. I also knew the exact date of conception, which is good because it can prevent worries or early inductions associated with the faulty conception calculations of a health care provider.
I recently began practicing FAM again, but this time for purposes of avoiding pregnancy.
Prior to trying to conceive our first baby I was on birth control pills. I was on them for quite a long time and I'm convinced that our (relatively short) delay in conception was due to the amount of time it took my body to begin properly regulating itself after cessation of hormonal birth control.
After Jack was born, I went back on birth control pills because I had a newborn and another baby wasn't even slightly on my radar. Because of a number of factors, birth control pills seemed the best option at the time.
Nearly a year later, which brings us up to current day, I'm ready to take back control of my body.
Well, I'm lucky in that I have never had any overtly negative reactions to hormonal birth control methods unlike a lot of other ladies. However, I don't love the idea of taking a medication which controls a process which my body should be doing on it's own. The effectiveness of hormonal birth control lies in stopping your reproductive system from proper functioning in order to prevent pregnancy. It changes the way your body functions all month in order to block conception in the 12-24 hour window during which a woman is actually fertile.
Not to mention, there are some scary potential side effects associated with hormonal birth control such as headaches, nausea and vomiting, change in sex drive, weight gain, stroke, liver damage, depression, blood clots, heart attack, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and allergic reaction. It can also mask symptoms of problems such as thyroid disorders or polysystic ovarian syndrome. No thank you, I say!
When practiced properly FAM is just as effective as hormonal birth control in preventing pregnancy. However, "just as effective" is kind of a loaded statement because this method of family planning takes a lot of personal responsibility and dedication and more effort than remembering to take a pill. If FAM fails it's most likely going to be caused by human error, not a problem with the method itself.
How do you practice FAM?
Take your temperature every morning before doing anything else. Every morning I take my temperature orally using a basal body thermometer (BBT). I use a digital version and it looks just like a regular digital fever thermometer, but it's different in that it's ultra sensitive and designed to precisely record your body's resting temperature.
When I was practicing FAM Before Baby I would just take my temp when my alarm went off in the morning before work. Since Jack is often my alarm clock now, my waking time can vary a bit day to day and it's important that you take your temperature at the same time every day so Mark wakes me up when his alarm goes off and tells me that it's time to take my temperature.
Throughout a woman's cycle her basal body temperatures fluctuate depending on the level and type of hormones present at any given time. Your BBT will indicate ovulation as well as impending menstruation.
Chart your temperatures. There are a few ways to do this. There are paper and pencil versions, paid online software, or several free online options. Personally, I like to use FertilityFriend. It is definitely designed for purposes of trying to conceive, but you can still use it to avoid pregnancy if you just ignore all of their pregnancy advice :)
Observe and record cervical fluid. A quick check throughout the day and note it on your chart. Like BBT a woman's cervical fluid changes throughout her cycle and indicates impending ovulation and menstruation.
Some women also like to observe and record changes in cervical position, but I've never done this myself.
So that's my crash course on the FAM. If you're interested in learning more about it I highly recommend reading Toni Weschler's Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I think this should be required reading for every woman regardless of desire to get pregnant or your method of birth control. I really can't recommend it highly enough!
I want women to know that there are options that exist other than hormonal birth control and barrier methods. FAM is not the right choice for everyone, but it is an option worth considering.
Have you ever utilized FAM or any other form of natural family planning to prevent or achieve pregnancy? What was your experience? Or, is FAM something you would like to try?