It may be hard for a man to know exactly what it’s like for a woman to be disconnected from her natural cycle when she’s on the pill. The only comparison I can think of would be how I have felt being on certain medical drugs that affected my mental alertness, and came with side effects such as low libido, nausea, weight gain, etc…But I can imagine and empathize based on countless reports I read.
One thing I hear over and over from women who get off the pill and learn fertility awareness methods (FAM) is the sense of empowerment they gain from the change.
Here is Katy Bicknell, the co-founder of Kindara: “[Charting] has given me such a feeling of calm, confidence. I really own my life now because I have control over when or if I have children.”
Natural Cycles, the app we discussed recently, write on their website that their mission is to “empower every woman worldwide with knowledge about her body, menstrual cycle and fertility.”
Women who get off the pill also acknowledge a major change in that regard. Holly Grigg-Spall’s book Sweetening the Pill is rich in testimonies from such women:
“The emotional changes I felt when I came off the pill were huge, I would go so far as to say life changing. That is how I would describe the experience of coming off the pill – an awakening.”
“I knew who I was on the pill and I didn’t know whom I’d be if I came off. . . . My pre-pill years were a long time ago. I had started on it before I even had an idea of who I might be; back when I was still physically and mentally coming into form as a young woman.”
“I took the pill for 20 years. When I came off it, I realized I was a completely different person to who I’d thought.”
How the pill disconnects women from themselves
Here is how hormonal contraception works in a woman’s body in a way that can affect the connection to her true self:
- Significantly changes her normal hormonal levels with artificial hormones
- Tricks the woman’s body to think it’s pregnant (which is when such high levels of estrogen and progesterone would occur)
- Prevents ovulation
- Alters the natural cervical fluid production
- Alters the normal cyclical growth of the inner lining of the uterus (which in turns affects a woman’s periods)
- Changes the production of pheromones (as a result, a woman may be attracted to the “wrong guy”: a man who has a less compatible genetic type[i])
And these are only a few of the general effects. It doesn’t include the multiple side-effects from these drugs, which will vary depending on the woman.
How FAMs reconnect women to themselves
Fertility Awareness is primarily that: it gives women the knowledge of their body and the way their fertility works and this knowledge is empowering to them:
- They understand what periods are, their meaning and role in the fertility process
- They discover the cervical fluid, its healthy functions (and they can differentiate it from an infection)
- By knowing when they ovulate, they can predict when their periods are coming since the time between ovulation and the next period is fairly constant
- They understand when they can or can’t get pregnant if they have intercourse
- They can identify possible dysfunctions or health issue from a change in their cycle
- They understand better the different hormone levels and how the fluctuation will affect their mood and energy at different times of the cycle.
Natural Womanhood exists not just to warn women about the negative effects or risks of contraceptives, or to provide information on an effective method of family planning. Part of our mission is to inform women so that they can reconnect with their natural body and be empowered.
We hear much about body-mind-soul connection, self-care, mindfulness. Isn’t the connection to an integral function of the woman’s body, her cycle and her natural fertility, a critical piece of that puzzle? Food for thought.
When this article refers to fertility awareness methods (FAM), or natural family planning (NFP), we are referring to Fertility Awareness-Based Methods, evidence-based methods of cycle charting which can be used as effective forms of natural birth control when learned by a certified instructor.