At age 15, I sneakily booked an appointment at the local sexual health clinic. I was fed up with having spots and all my friends told me that if I took the pill, I’d look like a supermodel or something. So I told my mum I was going to my friend’s house and took the bus to the clinic. Note, in the UK (for now) you can get contraception free of charge and at these health clinics it is completely confidential (YAY us!). After an hour of pretending I was sexually active (you have to go to a doctor if it’s for your skin, and mine had already refused), the nurse handed me the sacred packet of pills. “Take one a day for three weeks, then have a week off.” I stuffed them in my bag and headed out towards my new life of ‘perfect’ skin.
Headaches, mood swings & more
Fast forward a couple of years and I’m getting migraines. The doctor says I have to switch my contraception to the one where you take it nonstop because my current one could be the cause of the migraines. I don’t like the idea but I dislike headaches more. It works and my headaches stop, but the idea of never having a period is too much for me to handle. A friend tells me about the patch. It’s basically a sticker that you put anywhere on your body ( I chose my butt cause it was more discrete) and change it every week. After three weeks you take a break for a week. I somehow managed to convince my doctor that this wouldn’t cause the headaches to return, he believed me and wrote me a prescription for three-months.
I used the patch for about two blissfully ignorant years. I liked it because I didn’t have to think about taking a pill every single night and it felt kinda of less invasive (even though it was doing the exact same thing). It was also handy having a physical reminder of whether I was using my contraception or not, which my boyfriend liked—it also made him more a part of the contraceptive processes because he would remind me to change my patch or comment if I didn’t have it on.
I had mood swings, sure, but they’re normal right? And I’d often get feelings of complete emotional numbness, but isn’t that normal too? After I became a lot more attuned to my inner workings I realized this wasn’t normal. I felt out of control. I was altering my normal hormone balance and I didn’t feel like I was actually myself. It felt like something else was controlling how I reacted to situations and how I felt about myself and life. I didn’t want to alter my bodily workings as part of my contraception anymore, so I took to the internet to find holistic methods.
Natural contraception that allows me to understand my body
Enter Natural Cycles. This is a natural contraception method that involves measuring your basal temperature every morning at the same time (you can vary up to 2 hours). You use the provided thermometer and enter the values into the app you have on your phone. It calculates for a second and then tells you whether you are fertile or not for that specific day and whether you can have unprotected sex (red is no green is gooooo!). The app is FDA approved and CE marked, meaning they’ve deemed it accurate enough to be a legitimate form of contraception (just like the pill, implant and coil).
I love this form of contraception because I don’t have to alter my body in any way: in fact, it helps me to become more in tune with my body. I’ve learned about how my basal temperature and menstrual cycle interact with each other, I can easily keep track of when my last period was and the app gives you suggestions about when your next one will be. I also like how the app gives you reminders to check your breasts for lumps because otherwise, I would never do it, and this is such an important part of female self-care.
The main limitation of this method is when you have red days you have to use condoms during sex or you could very well get pregnant. So if you’re not down to do that, or you don’t want to wait for green days then maybe this method isn’t for you.
Secondly, it can take a bit of getting used to. You have to remember each morning (before you get out of bed or even sit up) to take your temperature. And if you’ve slept for 2 hours longer or less than you usually do then the reading will not be accurate, nor if you’re ill or you went out drinking the night before.
If you have irregular periods (like I do) you could find that the number of green days you have is far less than someone who has a regular period. This is because the app plays safe rather than sorry and your irregular periods can make it harder to accurately tell when you’re going to get your period.
Finally, you have to pay for this form of contraception (it’s around £50 a year) which makes it more expensive than the other free options we can get from our doctors. But I think it’s a small price to pay for more control of your body.
Is a natural method of contraception for me?
If you’re fed up of using hormone-based contraception, you want to take control of your own body and learn about your menstrual cycle works, you’re not bothered about having to abstain from sex/use condoms on red days and you have a regular sleep schedule this could be the answer you’re looking for! You don’t have to be a saint at putting data in every day—the app suggests a minimum of 5 days a week meaning you can enjoy your weekends without worrying about your contraception.
I’ve loved using natural cycles and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to using regular contraception again.
Also by Louise: My Solo Trip To Tulum Taught Me To Embrace Fear—Here’s How
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Photo: Louise Baker; Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition on Unsplash