Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hormonal Birth Control

I am often times asked what I am doing in regards to preventing pregnancy, and over the years the answer has changed many times. Erin recently wrote about her own choices, and in doing so, motivated me to write about what I am doing.

I was on "the pill" for a long time, but when we wanted to get pregnant, I went off it. We were pregnant in the second month. Nice, eh?

After The Boy came, I went to the doctor for my six week check and before I could say anything else, he wanted to talk about pregnancy prevention. I was a bit taken aback, but his answer was "What? You want your babies back to back?" I told him "No thank you." Sometimes the straight forward nature of the Germans works in ones favor.  I started taking the "mini-pill" because it was compatible with breastfeeding for most women. (For some women, it can decrease supply.)

When Kevin left in 2007 to go play, I decided to stop taking any hormonal methods. I figured for three months during the summer, I could either start up again or we could use condoms. Well, I tried going back on the mini-pill, but it impacted my supply this time, so I stopped. Condoms it was, only the decision was not that simple.

Honestly, religion did not weigh in directly. The reasons are long, and I won't write about them here, but my primary reasons are related to my health and the long-term issues related to messing with ones hormonal balance.

Right around the time I was trying to decide what to do, I had several friends in adulthood have fairly significant health issues as a result of taking "the pill" and a wide variety of pills. It was not just one variety causing the problem.

While I was weighing the benefits and risks of birth control methods, I was also working hard to reduce the chemical load in our family-- primarily by increasing our consumption of organic foods while decreasing artificial chemicals and pollutants.

I am sure you can see where this is going.

Our family was working to be more natural in all aspects of life, which for us (me) included eliminating unnecessary medications. For us, that included chemical birth control methods. I did have the added benefit of nursing delaying the return of ovulation, but once that was gone, we turned to condoms.

I am not particularly fond of condoms though, because you must send them to the landfill. This brings me to where we are today... well, will be once Kevin returns.

This past month, I began charting my fertility using my basal (resting) temperature and other fertility signs. My purpose was not entirely for family planning. I first wanted to start because I was tired of trying to figure out my post-partum cycles! I have not been really regular since my period returned, and I wanted to understand better what was going on with my body. My secondary purpose was (is) to figure out when I am fertile to aid in preventing pregnancy.

I realize that it will take a bit to use this method as birth control-- at least until my cycles are more regular in my opinion-- but I am happy to gain the increased understanding in what is happening with my body in the mean time.

And when I am fertile... we'll still use condoms. :)


KaritaG said...

Ugh, so timely that you posted this...you know how I feel about hormones...so I was doing the rhythm thing too...however, the concept of "accidentally" getting pregnant while married is significantly easier to swallow than the possibility of getting pregnant while NOT married...decisions, decisions.

Maria said...

I would have linked to your story, but the blog is el-priveto... I'd say-- chart your basal temp for a while and see if your cycle is consistent. That's going to be the big determiner as to if we end up using it long term, IMO.

Anonymous said...

(i happened on your blog from a friend and really enjoyed it.)

my two cents - as a feminist, i am actually against chemical birth control (i.e. the pill) because of just what you're saying: it suppresses the natural cycles of a woman in a way that i believe is unhealthy. preventing ovulation for (possible) years at a time while pumping our bodies full of hormones is quite unhealthy, and i believe we are just now seeing the effects of long-term oral contraceptive use by the poor feminists from the 1960s and 1970s who (in my opinion) were guinea pigs. also, not everyone's body will bounce back into fertility after using the pill.

we need a better solution than pumping our bodies full of chemicals and suppressing our cycles. i believe THAT would be a truer form of feminism. we should not have to reject what is natural (although bothersome) to us - fertility and menstruation. we should be able to control our births without hurting ourselves at the same time.

i hope all feminists out there will make sure that we take control of the total package of our health. in my opinion, hormonal birth control has somewhat made the feminists movement take a step back (or at least, er, sideways) because of its possible negative side effects that are not often talked about. in fact, i find myself in the minority of feminists i know by taking the position that the pill is harmful. maybe green feminists are catching on sooner.

if it's a green solution (i.e. not a latex condom), then hey! all the better!!

sorry this is so long,

Maria said...

Welcome to the party Ellie. I think you and I probably ascribe to similar feminist thought, but there are other sub-cultures of feminism that would disagree. I once wrote a paper on why environmental issues are really women's issues for my Feminist Jurisprudence class, and I see more and more just how on point I was. Maybe I need to do some more writing... LOL! :) I hope you come by again!

Rebecca said...

I agree with you, Maria, and it's nice to read Ellie's comments, too. We chose to use NFP - Natural Family Planning. Specifically, we follow the Creighton Model. I always stress to people that NFP is NOT the rhythm method. The rhythm method involves guessing when you ovulate based on past cycles. It's risky, as KaritaG points out, because it's based on what your body has done in the past as opposed to what it is doing currently. As we all know, cycles can and do vary from month to month, and fertile windows are broad. Sperm can live in your body for up to three days, so you can imagine why the rhythm method is risky.

NFP is a charting method based on monitoring cervica mucus (external only). We were taught that when used correctly, it is as effective as the pill. For over sx years now, it has worked perfectly for us. We've never conceived when we didn't want to. When we did want to conceive, we did so in the first month we tried - both times. NFP does not involve monitoring your temperature, but I'm sure it wouldn't do any harm to include temperature monitoring with the mucus monitoring.

What I also like about NFP is that in addition to reproduction, it can help identify other potential hormonal imbalances in your body. It's a great wellness tool.

Anyway, if you haven't checked it out, do so. We use our local office for education and materials: http://www.tcnfp.org/creightonmodel.php They provide the following link for a national resource: http://www.galaxymall.com/health/fcca/

ANHD said...

Great post, Maria! I too stopped using the pill because pumping my body with chemicals just seemed unhealthy and unnatural. After the baby, I'm looking at using cycle beads, which is a form of natural family planning. Let me know how the basal temp method works for you!

Maria said...

I've been using the site Fertility Friend (http://www.fertilityfriend.com/), which is really to help people GET pregnant, IMO, but they also email you lessons on charting temperature and cervical mucus. I have found the lessons especially helpful in learning how temperature and mucus both indicate fertility in a healthy woman. It's really interesting to me, and I am by no means an expert. I am going to be doing more reading and research, and really until I am certain my cycles are back to "normal," I am not sure I'd be completely comfortable using this method alone.

More on the chemical burden to come... :)

Tasha said...

Hi Maria.

I, too, am taking advantage of NFP. I was actually able to predict ovulation before my cycle returned, after night-weaning from breastfeeding. I was rather impressed.

I took birth control for about 8 years, before becoming pregnant. Once pregnant with my son, I began rethinking most of my ways, and soon began living a more natural lifestyle. I tend to view health care and wellness from a holistic standpoint, and the birth control pill no longer fits in.

I also agree with Ellie, in that it is probably not wise to alter our natural cycles. The female fertility cycles are quite simple to predict, once one knows what they are looking for. I feel very enlightened to now know what my body is going through and why I feel certain ways during different times. Personally, I never learned anything about the changes that would occur during my cycles, and only in the past 6 months have I realized how uninformed I was. My (former) doctor (OB/GYN) even suggested that monitoring CM was irrelevant. I'm baffled as to why this has been kept such a secret??

Thanks for the post...it's always nice to encounter like-minded folks (especially in such a mainstream area!).

Best of luck to you!

Maria said...

Wow! This is great! I felt like I was standing on an island alone... or with very few people... and now I know more people who are going au natural that I can ask questions of and feel a little less freakish! :)

blaze said...

I've been charting my cycle since two months after I got married. Another benefit is the communication you have with your partner. He knows where are in the cycle and doesn't feel rejected when we choose to not have sex due to the possibility of being fertile. I took pills for ten years prior to marriage and felt like I treating something that was supposed to be natural. Great post!

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