Are you think about getting off birth control? As someone who took hormonal contraceptives in the past to reduce unwanted symptoms of my menstrual cycle, I now feel greater agency over my reproductive health by charting my cycle with a Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). After being trained by a certified FAM instructor (who also happened to be a medical professional) on how to read my body’s natural signs of fertility with precision every day, I now appreciate fertility awareness as an effective natural family planning method as well.
Since using FAM myself and learning more about how it contrasts with birth control drugs like the Pill, patch, ring, and hormonal IUD, I can think of ten good reasons to get off of birth control and make the switch to fertility awareness.
1. Rule out a reason for your mood swings and feel more yourself
Do you often feel like you’re in a fog or just not functioning at your optimal mental status? Many women say after getting off birth control that they feel greater mental clarity and improved mood. We know that research shows taking hormonal contraceptives can lead to depression and mood swings, but since young women are often prescribed birth control in teen years, it can be hard to distinguish the natural blues during a time of hormonal changes, from Pill-induced mental effects.
The good news is that often when women come off hormonal contraceptives, they feel more themselves. Just read some of the public comments on the recent FDA Citizen’s Petition for greater transparency of birth control side effects, and you’ll start to see this trend in women’s testimonies.
2. Learn more about your natural hormone levels
While doctors may give the impression that hormonal contraceptives will “regulate” your cycle and hormones to be more streamlined and predictable, they actually introduce synthetic hormones to your body and shut down your healthy cycle processes like ovulation and menstruation altogether. (Even if you have monthly bleeding, it is not actually the same thing as a real period, because you have not ovulated and therefore have no shedding of the uterine lining; this is why people knowledgeable in FAM call it a “fake period.”) Meanwhile, while receiving hormonal contraceptives, your body’s natural healthy hormones like progesterone become depleted, along with many nutrients. Plus, you miss out on the health benefits that naturally occur with ovulation.
If you or your doctor thought you had hormonal imbalance in your cycle before taking contraception, there’s a good chance you would benefit from getting off birth control and starting to chart your cycle with the guidance of a certified FAM instructor, or better yet a medical professional who understands FAM. He or she can help you see what your body’s signs reveal about your hormone levels in real-time, identify if you have a health condition that needs addressing, and then treat that condition directly.
3. Say goodbye to side effects like weight gain and migraines
Among other common birth control side effects are weight gain and headaches. Who needs these? Women have things hard enough in life; we don’t need to put up with these symptoms for some semblance of control over our reproductive health. Switching to a FAM like the Creighton Method, Billings Ovulation Method, Sympto-Thermal Method, or Marquette Method will equip you to manage your cycle health and family planning goals with zero side effects.
4. Predict when your period (and cycle-related symptoms) is coming
Most women would agree it’s a huge perk to be able to predict when you’re period is coming, which many women now enjoy thanks to period-tracking apps. But it’s worth remembering that simply charting your period on a calendar (which is how many of these predictive apps work) is not as precise as reading your body’s actual signs of ovulation and fertility after learning a FAM. Charting your cycle with a fertility awareness-based method will also prepare you for times in your cycle when you will know certain hormones are rising or falling and how that may play out in your feelings or energy levels.
5. Reduce fears of unplanned pregnancy by understanding when you’re fertile and when you’re not
While many women take birth control to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy, the most commonly prescribed oral contraceptive pills still have pretty high failure rates. For example, with typical use, 7 in 100 women will experience unplanned pregnancy during 12 months (an average of 13 cycles) on the Pill, which translates to many women when we consider how many women are taking birth control. Unfortunately, if you get pregnant on the Pill, you’re exposing your fetus to synthetic hormones that could cause birth defects. Many women feel blindsided by positive pregnancy tests, having been given a false sense of security in the drug’s ability to prevent pregnancy.
But when women know how to chart fertile signs such as cervical fluid, they become empowered to know exactly when in their cycle they can get pregnant and when they cannot. A number of fertility awareness-based methods are scientifically proven to have typical effectiveness rates higher than the Pill when it comes to preventing pregnancy (according to the CDC, the typical failure rate of the oral contraceptive pill is 7%, while some FABM are as low as 2%). While many other hormonal contraceptives blind women to what’s happening in their bodies with a “set it and forget it” element, FAM removes the mysterious grey area of how and when someone can get pregnant during her cycle. This in turn can reduce a woman’s fears of an unplanned pregnancy. This is because FAM use equips a woman to be more actively aware of what’s happening in her body at every point in her cycle.
6. Share the responsibility of family planning with your partner
For those who are in a sexually active relationship, hormonal contraceptives put the burden of pregnancy prevention only on the woman, which is why many call fertility awareness a more egalitarian way to view family planning. Fertility awareness methods equip the couple to learn together what times of a woman’s cycle she is fertile so they can decide each month if this is a month they’d like to conceive a child and choose when to have intercourse accordingly.
Considering the shared responsibility for family planning, it’s not surprising to learn that couples who practice natural family planning methods have better communication and relationship satisfaction.
7. Find out now if you have infertility issues so you can work toward treating them / plan ahead
As referenced above, charting your cycle equips you to determine if you have a hormone imbalance. Charting also helps you identify if you have a condition that can cause infertility, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, or progesterone deficiency. These conditions can be treated with the help of a FAM-practicing doctor such as those trained in NaproTechnology or at FEMM clinics nationwide.
Unfortunately, when women are prescribed the Pill or other hormonal contraceptives for these irregularities, it covers up symptoms of larger health problems like PCOS or endometriosis which can worsen over time and lead to infertility when the woman later gets off birth control and wants to get pregnant. Just another reason your body will thank you if you get off birth control and switch to FAM today.
8. Optimize your fitness and health routine
Women with lifestyles that require particularly routinized health goals also often find fertility awareness methods the most precise ways for them to optimize their performance. As the U.S. Women’s Soccer team has found, for athletes, factoring in your hormone levels during different times of the month can mean the difference between whether today is a day to push yourself harder in exercise or to rest. For women with Type 1 diabetes, knowing your biological markers of fertility throughout your cycle can equip you to make more precise insulin treatments.
No matter a woman’s health goals, fertility awareness charting provides more information about her body, which always translates to more informed decisions.
9. Reduce your risk of serious health complications
Many people don’t think about health risks when accepting a doctor’s birth control prescription, in great part because many doctors don’t mention them. But, as the currently ongoing FDA Petition on hormonal contraceptives reveals in the comments posted by the public, many women suffer grave health complications related to taking these drugs.
Sometimes birth control side effects are life-threatening. In September 2018, twenty-year-old Alexandra Davis died suddenly of blood clots in her lungs that doctors’ visits did not identify as birth-control related until it was too late. A systematic review of literature has since revealed as many as 300-400 women die each year of birth control-related health complications.
Research on hormonal contraceptives have shown links with blood clots and stroke; mental health issues such as depression and dramatically increased suicide risk, even psychosis; autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and Lupus; gallbladder disease; breast cancer; clitoral shrinkage and low libido, blindness and vision problems; progesterone deficiency and miscarriage. In addition, long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as the IUD and implant have been known to cause dizziness and severe pain, copper toxicity in the case of the copper IUD, as well as misplaced devices in the body that can lead to further complications.
What’s tragic in all the women’s testimonies I’ve heard is that they felt blindsided by an irreversible health condition their physician didn’t tell them about. No one ever sees these things coming, or they would have gotten off the drugs first to safeguard themselves. Take preventative measures today by getting off whatever method of birth control you’re on, and switch to a FAM!
10. Feel more in tune with your body!
Even if you have never experienced a birth control side effect in your life, you can still benefit from the switch to fertility awareness-based methods of charting. This is because simply learning a FAM automatically increases your knowledge of your body’s natural and healthy reproductive processes, and this knowledge makes you a more active participant in your fertility management and womanhood. FAM removes the mystery from many painful symptoms we thought were inescapable and frustrating parts of being female.
With the greater self-understanding that fertility awareness brings to each user, the benefits of FAM are as numerous as there are women.
Several additional links were added to this article on May 9th, 2023.
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