If you are currently using hormonal birth control because of painful periods, PCOS, or some other reason, making the switch to a Fertility Awareness-Based Method (FABM) can seem incredibly intimidating despite the research-backed benefits. After all, it may mean having to face, at least for a time, a return of painful periods and other symptoms that you’ve had some relief from while you’ve been taking hormonal birth control. Knowing that it may feel like an uphill battle in the beginning, you might even find yourself wondering if you are mentally up for the challenge of making the switch. The good news is that many women have successfully made the switch and have been happy with their choice.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to help you prepare to make the switch from hormonal birth control to FABMs in order to ensure the smoothest transition possible so that you make a successful and empowering switch.
Make a Plan
One of the most helpful actions you can take to increase your chances of a successful transition to a Fertility Awareness-Based Method is to take the time to make a plan before you start making any changes. As tempted as you might be to dive right into making the switch, exercising some patience and creating a plan of attack not only empowers you to take charge but also helps you prepare for any potential difficulties involved, such as painful periods. Having a plan with how to cope with any discomfort will make a significant difference mindset-wise during the whole process. Some of the suggestions below could be part of your transition plan.
Select an Ideal Time
Choosing when to start transitioning from hormonal birth control to FABMs is important, especially if you are concerned about any discomfort or pain. For example, choosing to start the process in the middle of the holiday season or during a busy season of work or home life may not be an ideal time. If you are already stressed, incorporating new lifestyle changes that come with FABMs as well as any exercise, nutrition, or other changes you make to help manage your symptoms may feel too overwhelming. So consider choosing a time of year that is relatively low-stress and less demanding. For example, a teacher may want to start the process during her summer break, while an accountant may want to avoid tax season.
Make it a Team Effort
It’s also important to remember that you don’t have to go through this alone! Studies show that reaching out to friends can help reduce the effects of stress for women. Sometimes, just knowing you have people in your corner cheering you on can give you the mental boost you need when you’re struggling with pain. So build your own personal support system.
Consider adding three different types of people to your support network—your FABM instructor, qualified health professionals, and friends. Your FABM or natural family planning (NFP) instructor is the best resource to reach out to any time you have questions, and they also may be able to connect you with a community of other FABM and NFP users in your area. In addition, choosing to work with a professional such as a NaProTechnology or FEMM medical professional can help you address your health concerns. Someone who is trained in NaPro or FEMM can help you create a health plan specific to your body and its needs as you make the switch to a FABM—including anticipating the return of certain painful period symptoms. Lastly, lean on supportive friends (and family!) when you need a pep talk, a ride to your doctor’s appointment, or just someone to vent to. Having a support network of professionals and supportive friends will be your dream team during this time.
Know What to Expect
One of the advantages to creating a plan before starting to make the switch to a FABM is that you can consult with professionals to help you figure out what to expect symptom-wise (as much as possible). When you know what symptoms you might experience when you stop taking your hormonal birth control and start charting, you can work with your FABM or NFP educator and/or your NaPro or FEMM medical professional to specifically identify ways to cope with these symptoms. Post-Birth Control Syndrome is the term used to describe the symptoms you might experience while your body transitions off the Pill and hormones start shifting. These symptoms can include acne, migraines, cramps, and changes in your mood. When you take the time to find out what to expect, you’re more likely to feel mentally prepared to cope with those symptoms than if they seemed to appear out of the blue. Embrace the Boy Scout motto and “be prepared.”
Consider Lifestyle Changes
Part of your transition plan should also address any lifestyle changes that you plan to make, especially those regarding nutrition and exercise. Sometimes, making changes in your diet can have a positive effect on your hormones and reproductive cycle in general. In addition, it may also help to reduce the severity of your symptoms. Starting (or tailoring) your exercise routine can also help with your mood and other symptoms you may experience as you transition off of hormonal birth control.
While the path to fertility awareness can be intimidating for some, just remember: You got this! And, your body will thank you.