Holistic Birth Control Methods
The go-to birth control methods often recommended to women are not always the most supportive of our health & well-being. Drugstore condoms contain many toxic chemicals and plastics that can disrupt hormones & throw off pH balance. IUDs (copper or hormonal) have a host of reported dangers and side effects, ranging from pain & infections to miscarriages & infertility. Hormonal birth control methods - including the birth control pill, the patch, implants, injectables & vaginal rings - are incredibly popular for their effectiveness and convenience, but they have the worst track record of all when it comes to women’s health.
The pill and other hormonal birth control methods disrupt our natural hormonal balance & remove our connection to our cycles, preventing us from truly understanding what’s going on in our bodies. One of the most common results of long-term use of hormonal birth control is estrogen dominance. This can result in mood swings, depression, headaches, irregular menstrual periods, skin issues, bloating, decreased sex drive & more. Other effects include frequent yeast infections, candida, and nutrient deficiencies, especially in vitamins B2, B6 & magnesium.
When our hormones are in balance, we feel more balanced. Our moods are stable, our sleep is deep, our immune system is strong, and our energy is steady. Aside from being balanced, it’s also important to be aware that hormones don’t only include the sex hormones like estrogen & progesterone. Other hormones such as epinephrine (adrenaline), insulin, cortisol, and thyroid hormones also play an important role in our overall health. Our body systems are delicate, and when any one of these hormones is thrown off, the rest follow, causing a cascade of reactions resulting in conditions and disorders.
The first step to balancing hormonal levels is to stop taking the pill or any other form of hormonal contraceptive. Fortunately, there are healthier alternatives that are just as effective. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of the options available today:
Tracking your cycle with an app is helpful, just remember that you will always know your body best (over any app!) so if you think that you are ovulating or may be fertile, chances are that are.
When used properly, condoms are 98% effective. They’re incredibly affordable, accessible, easy to use, and are the only option on this list that have the added benefit of preventing STIs. Conventional options are usually full of toxins, chemicals, and even carcinogens that can harm your health & upset your natural hormone balance. However, there are now increasing varieties of vegan & non-chemical condoms on the market that are non-toxic and more sustainable, too. Some good options include Glyde, b condoms, L. Condoms, Sir Richard’s, and Sustain Natural.
Basal body temperature charting
Basal body temperature (BBT) changes are a good indication of fluctuating hormone levels throughout the month, and can indicate when ovulation is occurring. Anyone can do this at home as an easy and inexpensive option to track fertility and prevent (or plan) pregnancy. You’ll need an oral thermometer (a specific basal body temperature thermometer is best), and you can either track your recordings on charting paper or download one of the many apps available for the purpose (some great options include Natural Cycles, MonthlyInfo, OvuView, and Kindara).
To track your BBT, you’ll have to be consistent with tracking and to take your temperature at the same time every day. Immediately upon waking (before getting out of bed), stick a thermometer under your tongue. Usually, around day 14 of your cycle, your waking temperature will increase and remain elevated. Charting your temperatures makes it easy to see a shift, and you’ll be able to see exactly when you’ve ovulated. As a general rule of thumb, wait 3 days after the first initial spike. This means the first 8 days of your cycle are generally safe, as are the last 12-14 or so. For the rest of the time, use other precautions.
The apps mentioned above make it easy to analyze the changes, and inform you of your most fertile days, when to take precaution, and when you’re not fertile. Devices such as the Daysy Fertility Calculator and Lady-Comp - fertility monitors with built-in tracking & data evaluation - can also make this method easier to follow.
The longer you do this type of charting, the more accurate and useful the results will be. It’s a great tool to understand your cycle, libido, and hormonal changes - and all it requires is a thermometer and diligence. It’s an empowering method as it really allows you to get in touch with your body & cycle, and to take control of your fertility.
For best results, BBT tracking can be combined with testing for other markers of ovulation, including cervical mucus and position testing (see below). The Justisse method, in fact, is a standardized birth control method that employs tracking of these three items: body temperature, cervical mucus/fluid, and cervical position.
Cervical mucus testing
Cervical mucus, or fluid, is designed to provide a happy home for sperm so they can make their way to the egg for fertilization. Cervical fluid changes throughout the cycle, and acts as a good indicator of your fertility & fluctuating hormone levels. Right after our periods, the cervical fluid is dryer and more sparse. Before ovulation, it’s more abundant, slippery, and stretchy, like egg white. After ovulation, the cervical fluid becomes thicker and more opaque, and actually serves to block sperm.
Cervical position monitoring
Did you know that the cervix moves? Around menstruation, the cervix will be firm, low, closed, and drier. Around ovulation, the cervix becomes soft, high, open, and wet. Tracking changes in the position of your cervix can be highly effective for tracking fertility.
The FemCap is a reusable, non-hormonal, latex-free contraceptive device that’s designed to cover the cervix to prevent sperm from entering. It’s over 92% effective in the prevention of pregnancy.
Like the FemCap, diaphragms are silicon or rubber cups that are inserted inside of the vagina to cover the cervix, blocking sperm from reaching the uterus. For best results, they require the use of a spermicide (see info below on ContraGel), which can be applied at the same time as the diaphragm before intercourse. Diaphragms can be inserted several hours beforehand and can stay inside the vagina for up to 24 hours. They should not be removed until at least 6 hours after intercourse. Diaphragm are inexpensive and fairly easy to use, although they do require a physician for fitting. Effectiveness ranges from 84-94%, depending on the accuracy of use.
As an alternative to spermicides (which are full of chemicals), ContraGel is a gel used alongside a barrier method. It changes the vaginal pH, creating an unwelcoming environment for sperm to survive in, and also traps sperm which prevents them from reaching an egg to fertilize. These two actions make it a very effective option for preventing pregnancy when used with condoms, FemCaps, or diaphragms. ContraGel has non-toxic ingredients and won’t irritate the reproductive organs.
Natural birth control methods will protect your health while allowing you to safely & effectively manage your fertility. Ditch the hormonal contraceptives and embrace the natural alternatives available.