Part 2: Birth Control Pills VS Natural Alternatives

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In part 1 of this post, I discuss my experience using birth control pills for several years, the health problems related to using hormonal birth control, and my decision to find a natural alternative.

After deciding to quit birth control pills, my body did not react so kindly to the transition. The biggest change I noticed was an outbreak in acne. I had tiny pimples covering my forehead and larger pimples around my cheekbones/temples that left some ice pick scarring and hyperpigmentation. It was devastating. I can recall many moments staring into the mirror with tears in my eyes. It was so incredibly frustrating!

I wish I could say there was a quick fix to my acne, but my hormones needed a chance to regain balance. With a healthier diet, natural skincare products, and time (it took nearly two years), my acne was finally at bay (except for the occasional pimple before my period).

I’m pleased to say that I never went back on hormonal birth control, and I started to look into natural methods of birth control. There are a few types of natural birth control I tried:

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Paragard

Most intrauterine devices (IUD) work by using synthetic hormones. However, there is an IUD made from copper called Paragard. The IUD is inserted into the uterus by your gynecologist, taking just a few minutes in the office. The copper acts as a spermicide, killing sperm and blocking sperm from traveling to the egg. The copper also thins the lining of the uterus, making it less likely for an egg to implant.

Pros:

  • It is effective immediately after insertion, and can last ten years before it needs to be replaced.
  • It can be removed at anytime by your doctor and there is no need to wait until hormones have been balanced before pregnancy can occur.
  • It is 99% effective.
  • Depending on insurance coverage and how long a woman plans to use Paragard, it can be cheaper than birth controls pills or condoms – and sometimes even free!

Cons:

  • The insertion of Paragard can be painful.
  • It can cause heavier periods.
  • It can cause more painful periods.
  • Too much copper in the body can deplete zinc, so a zinc deficiency may occur.
  • It does not protect against STD’s.

Many women respond to the Pargard wonderfully. Unfortunately, I was only able to use the Paragard for eight months.

The actual insertion of Paragard was only a brief, sharp pain. The most uncomfortable part was the intense cramping right after the insertion. It felt as though my body was trying to expel the IUD. My cramps were so intense that my legs were shaking. The only way I was able to get up and walk out of the office was by pressing a hot rice-pack on my lower back. The cramps continued to be intense for a couple of days before lessening.

My periods became heavier with much more cramping. I was even experiencing intense cramps when I didn’t have my period. The best way to describe my pain was mind-numbing. There were times when I couldn’t speak or think of anything other than the pain. It finally got to the point where I realized my uterus was not going to tolerate this IUD, and I had it removed. And I immediately felt better!

lady comp

Lady-Comp

The Lady-Comp is a fertility computer made my a company in Germany. It has become more and more well-known among women who are seeking hormone-free birth control options. It works by tracking your Basil Body Temperature (BBT). every day to detect the hormone progesterone to detect fertility. It also compares your cycle with hundreds of thousands of other women’s cycles.

Your basil body temperature is your temperature right after you wake up – before you stretch, drink water, use the bathroom, speak – etc. The Lady-Comp has a thermometer attached to it that you use to take your temperature orally each morning right when you wake up.

After ovulation occurs, progesterone rises in the body, causing a slight increase in body temperature. Progesterone stays high until the day you get your period – progesterone drops, and so does your body temperature.

The Lady-Comp tracks the rise and fall of temperature and detects when you are fertile/ovulating. It will give a red light on days that you are fertile (indicating no intercourse unless you have a backup plan for birth control or want to get pregnant), a yellow light (it is still learning your cycle), or a green light (you are in the clear!).

Pros:

  • It is 99.3% effective immediately.
  • It is completely natural.
  • It lasts at least seven years.
  • It is easy to use.
  • It is rechargeable.

Cons:

  • It takes time for the Lady-Comp to learn your unique cycle, so it will give a lot of red and yellow lights in the beginning.
  • It requires daily maintenance, although only a couple of minutes to take your temperature.
  • Some substances or situations could effect your temperature. For example, drinking alcohol the night before will increase body temperature. Having irregular sleep patterns could interfere as well (however, the Lady Comp maintains its effectiveness by giving red or yellow lights if it detects your temperature seems to be off and out of place). Therefore, as long as you abide by the red and yellow lights and avoid intercourse, it will still be 99.3% effective.
  • It does not protect against STD’s.

Watch this video on Lady-Comp:

My experience using the Lady-Comp has been really life-changing! It feels liberating to know I can manage my birth control by simply understanding my body. The Lady-Comp makes it really easy! There is also something very feminine about knowing when I’m fertile. Learning to track my hormone cycles has helped me detect other types of symptoms I experience such as breast tenderness, irritability, or even when I tend to be in a really good mood! I have been using the Lady-Comp for over a year, and don’t see any reason to discontinue.

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Kindara

Kindara is an app for your computer or phone or computer that helps you track your fertility to either get pregnant or avoid pregnancy. You enter in your data daily: BBT, cervical fluid, menstruation, and intercourse. This app can be used to make the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) of birth control a little easier to track.

When using FAM, you track your hormonal cycle through tracking BBT to detect levels of progesterone (what the Lady-Comp does), as well as the presence and consistency of cervical fluid to track estrogen levels.

Your cycle begins on the first day of your period. The first part of your cycle is referred to as the Follicular phase. This is when estrogen is dominant. Estrogen increases once menstruation begins and peaks at ovulation. Ovulation marks the end of the Follicular phase. The next phase is referred to as the Luteal phase of your cycle. This is when progesterone is dominant. Progesterone remains dominant until the day you get your period. Then your cycle starts over again.

Cervical fluid coincides with estrogen. Cervical fluid is the white discharge you get as ovulation approaches. It ranges in consistency from thick and sticky to runny and watery (kind of gross to talk about, I know). The thinner the discharge, the more fertile you are. Sperm travels through cervical fluid, helping to reach the egg.

As mentioned earlier, your BBT coincides with progesterone. When you see a spike in temperature, you will know that you are entering the Luteal phase of your cycle, and ovulation has occurred the previous day. When you see a dip in temperature, you can expect to get your period on that day, and you are now in the Follicular phase of your cycle once again.

When you take into consideration that sperm can survive for up to five days, and ovulation lasts for two days, you can identify that you are fertile for about seven days. Most women will also add on another couple of days after ovulation just in case you ovulate twice (twins anyone?). Therefore, most women are fertile for about nine days. You can avoid intercourse for those nine days or use a barrier form of birth control instead.

By tracking basal BBT, cervical fluid, and menstruation, you can identify which days you are able to get pregnant, thus avoiding intercourse on those days and maintaining effective birth control. Kindara takes all of the data you entered and puts it into a monthly calendar as well as line graph to provide an easy to follow visual.

Kindara is also now launching a thermometer called Wink that you can use to take your basal body temperature, and the thermometer will automatically sync with the app.

Pros:

  • Kindara offers a comprehensive, user-friendly method to the Fertility Awareness Method.
  • When used correctly, the FAM is 99.6% effective.
  • Can predict which days you are likely to be fertile as well as menstruate based on your previous cycles.
  • Affordable
  • Phone app makes tracking convenient and discreet.
  • Graph of your data is easy to understand.

Cons

  • Requires daily tracking.
  • Will need some basic understanding of FAM before using (there is a learning curve).
  • FAM does not protect against STD’s.

I have been using Kindara in conjunction with Lady-Comp for nearly a year, and absolutely love it! Kindara is what truly helped me learn my hormonal cycle and better understand why the Lady-Comp may have given me a red light versus a green light. My favorite aspect is the graph visual – it really helped me see what was going on with my body.

I have not tried Wink, but I am considering ordering it since it is much smaller, travel-friendly, discreet, cheaper, and overall seems more convenient compared to the Lady-Comp. However, it will not give lights indicating your fertility – you need to make those determinations based on your tracking.

Here is a video about Wink by Kindara:

 

To be completely honest, the Fertility Awareness Method is much easier than it seems. Once you learn the information on how fertility works on the body, and track your temperature and cervical fluid, it just becomes part of your daily routine – much like remembering to take a pill everyday – only FAM has given me a feeling of empowerment and understanding over my own body. I’m surprised I haven’t heard of more women using this method!

 

Have you tried any of these forms of natural birth control? I would love to hear your stories!

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