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  • Why I Quit Hormonal Birth Control

    Click to listen to this article here:

    Update: This is a repost of a previously published article. It’s now been over three years since I went off hormonal birth control.

    Why I Quit Hormonal Birth Control | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    Over two years have passed since I opened my last packet of pills and quit hormonal birth control.

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    In this post, I’m going to share why I quit hormonal birth control, what happened afterward, and what I use instead.

    But before I dive in, I need to heavily preface this post:

    This post isn’t meant to be a sociopolitical or religious conversation. It’s not a medical conversation either. I’m not a doctor – I didn’t stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night – nor am I a medical professional of any kind. I’m not trying to make a statement about feminism or women’s rights, and I’m not trying to tell you what to do with your own reproductive health. But I believe in informed consent and your right to know all your options.

    With that in mind…

    If you told me a few years ago that I’d be blogging about my birth control, I probably would’ve squirmed a little bit in my seat. Fact is, in the side conversations I’ve had with friends or the email exchanges I’ve had with other women since I quit hormonal birth control, something’s become apparent:

    It’s just not something that a lot of people are talking about, and women are curious to learn more.

    The choice to quit hormonal birth control is a very personal one. I was at the place in my life where it made sense to seriously start questioning what I was doing and whether it was good for my health or not. As a 35-year old married woman in a stable and committed relationship, that was my reality, so I began asking around.

    But let’s go back a ways first.

    Let’s Just Say I Bloomed Early

    Gag. I hate that term.

    At 10 years old, my body went from chubby pre-teen to menstruating young woman overnight. My mom gave me a book about periods – probably because she noticed I wasn’t flat-chested anymore – and I read that a period would feel like a “low, itchy sensation.”

    Well, when I was graced with menarche, it felt achy, not itchy. (Note to self: Get better at skimming.)

    Not that being the first to get your period and braces is bad enough for a 5th grader, but every month I got sick. Really sick.

    I hate to be graphic, but when I got my period, I’d spend the first 24 to 48 hours vomiting until bile came up. Going to school wasn’t an option, so I’d stay home and writhe in bed. After a while, mom realized this wasn’t normal, and so around age 11 – I think…my memory is a bit fuzzy – I got my first pelvic exam. Hooray!

    The concern was that my cousin was dealing with a severe case of endometriosis and perhaps I had it, too. “Not to worry,” the lady doctor said, “you don’t have it. It’s just raging hormones, and you’ll outgrow it.” To be fair, I’m paraphrasing, but that was it. You’ll grow out of it.

    Well, I really didn’t. And I always had a feeling something wasn’t right.

    I remember calling mom to come pick me up from school once because my period started. I’d popped some Advil (knowing it wouldn’t do anything), and willed for her to get to me as fast as possible. We lived a half hour away, and I could feel myself going downhill. As she drove up, I hurled into the trash can in front of the school doors. I was 16.

    At age 19, a college sophomore, I went on birth control pills.

    Hormonal Birth Control “Worked”

    Yep, hormonal birth control worked as promised.

    I wasn’t getting as sick. I avoided pregnancy. I took my little blue pills each day like my doctor told me, and my period was very predictable.

    So what was the problem?

    At first, nothing.

    (I did have a short break from hormonal birth control after my divorce. When I was off them, I felt so much better, but I went back on them soon after.)

    But then, at age 33, my gyno diagnosed me with endometriosis after doing a tissue biopsy. FFS.

    As far as I know, my endo is mostly confined to my cervical area (the location of the biopsy), but I’ve never had a exploratory laparoscopy. While some women reading this might be horrified that my fertility status could be affected by my endo, I’m not stressing about it because I’m not planning to have children.

    All those years, I knew something was wrong with me, and I was right. To say that I felt vindicated and confused all at the same time would have been accurate. But I was starting to pay more attention to my health – I went paleo two years prior to the diagnosis – and putting things in my body that were working better for me.

    Around the same time, my birth control prescription had to be changed, and the hormones increased. I started to feel like crap, and the side effects began to pile up. Moodiness, weight gain, low energy. Despite feeling pretty good for the previous couple years, I knew this decline was due to the change in my pills.

    In the summer of 2014, a full two years after my endo was discovered, I decided enough was enough.

    Why I Quit Hormonal Birth Control | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    Considering My Options

    I started considering what other options I really had because I wanted to quit hormonal birth control altogether.

    To me, it was a natural evolution. I’d already been working on nourishing my body, getting stronger, sleeping better, and using fewer “chemical” products at home and on my body. Z and I were married, and I felt terrible despite the few different prescriptions I’d been switched to.

    I’d also changed doctors – my old gyn wouldn’t allow an IUD because I was still “of reproductive age” even though he knew I didn’t want children – and the new one was willing to do a copper IUD. (Yes, I was fully aware of the risks.)

    In fact, I felt really excited at the prospect of finally being off hormones (as pumped as a woman can be at the thought of having a little T-shaped piece of metal shoved up her hoo-ha)!

    Well, despite the doctor proclaiming my uterus “measured perfectly” and going through with it, I was absolutely crushed when I went back for a checkup the following month and it had dislodged.

    She asked me if I wanted to come back in another four weeks and try again. When I said no, she wrote me another prescription for birth control pills. I walked out, tore the slip up, and went on a mission to find a better way.

    I decided to quit hormonal birth control because I was tired of the side effects, I knew there had to other ways to manage my fertility that worked with my lifestyle, and the risk factors weren’t worth it anymore.

    Frankly, I was also really pissed at mainstream medicine for becoming a pill-and-hormone pushing machine, unwilling to help women manage underlying lifestyle factors.

    Creeping Around Other Women’s Social Media

    Turns out, my research was short-lived. I remembered reading something Liz Wolfe posted about how to quit hormonal birth control, so I did what any normal human would do: I creeped her Facebook page for more info. (Liz and I are actually friends, so it’s not as weird as it sounds.)

    When I found her Facebook post about it, I bit the bullet and asked.

    Yep, that’s a screenshot of the actual message I sent her.

    Liz was a great sport and filled me in. I’m so grateful for her because this still seems like something women don’t really talk about. Add to it the fact that many doctors – though not all – prescribe hormonal birth control as the contraception default, and it’s no wonder women are confused.

    Side story: I now have yet another gyn. When I first met her, we had the following conversation:

    Doctor P: What are you using for birth control?

    Me: I track and chart my basal body temperature plus other signs of ovulation.

    Doctor P: Isn’t that a lot of work?

    Me: No. (Looking puzzled.) I lie in bed for a minute every morning and take my temperature.

    Doctor P: Do you know you could still get pregnant?

    Me: As you can with any other form of birth control. I follow the rules for avoiding pregnancy. I don’t want to take hormonal birth control.

    Doctor P: Have you considered Mirena? (Mirena is a type of IUD with “low dose” hormones.)

    Me: Mirena still has hormones. (No thanks.)

    Doctor P.: (changed the subject)

    As much as I liked Doctor P, I absolutely loathed being treated like a dum-dum who didn’t know anything about my own fertility. (Edit: Dr. P. has since retired.)

    And it galls me that women the world over are 1) being presented no other options besides barrier methods or hormones and 2) that hormonal birth control is being used to treat the symptoms of other bigger health issues. More about that later.

    Enter: Fertility Awareness Method

    On that fateful July day two years ago, Liz told me aboutFertility Awareness Method (FAM), and it’s changed my life and health for the better. I’ve been off hormonal birth control since then with great success.

    What is FAM?

    In a nutshell, with FAM, a woman tracks and charts her basal body temperature (BBT) – recorded with a special thermometer – as well as other signs like cervical fluid, cervical position, ovulation pain, PMS symptoms, etc. With this data, a woman can closely pinpoint ovulation. There are some basic rules about when to abstain from sex or use a back-up barrier method (if you don’t want to get pregnant) or when to have sex (if you do want to get pregnant).

    Note: FAM is not the same as assuming that women ovulate on Day 14 of their menstrual cycle.

    While 14 days is an average, it’s not absolute. It may not apply to you during every cycle even if you do tend to ovulate at 14 days.

    Here are some of my own personal stats (I know, we’re getting REAL friendly here):

    Why I Quit Hormonal Birth Control | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    As you can see, data from nearly 40 tracked cycles show that I’ve ovulated anywhere from day 9 to day 20 while the “average” is day 15.

    And here’s what a sample monthly chart looks like:

    Why I Quit Hormonal Birth Control | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    Case in point, once I got tattooed on Day 12 of my cycle. Because of the physical stress, I actually ovulated 4 days later than “normal.” Had I assumed “everyone ovulates at 14 days” and had sex without a barrier, I could’ve gotten pregnant. Luckily I have tracked fertility signs for two+ straight years and knew that my ovulation was delayed.

    In the past, I’ve also ovulated “late” after a very long international flight and while I was sick with food poisoning.

     

    How FAM Works

    Like all other forms of birth control, there are detailed and specific rules for doing FAM. I used the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler as a primer.

    Why I Quit Hormonal Birth Control | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    Every morning when I wake up – before getting out of bed – I lie there and take my temperature orally with a special basal body temperature thermometer. This takes a minute or so. (If a doctor tells you this is harder than taking a pill every day, gee, you might rethink your choice of providers. I did.)

    Then, I log my temperature with a fertility tracking app. I use Fertility Friend because it’s the one I found years ago. There are other apps without all the pink and purple flowers if you like your fertility tracking without the stereotypically girly motifs.

    Edit: As of August 2017 I’m waiting to test Daysy so stay tuned for an update on that.

    Edit: Daysy is pretty awesome, and I think it would be especially useful for women who are just getting started with a FAM-style approach. It really simplifies the process. Click here to learn more about Daysy.

    I also log other signs like cervical fluid changes, breast tenderness, when I exercise or travel, etc.

    If you’re sitting here thinking you could never do it because that’s “gross,” I’ve gotta say this: Having knowledge about how your body works is not gross.

    It’s empowering, and it’s your right. For too long, women have been prescribed hormonal birth control that allows us to be completely oblivious to what is happening in our bodies. Periods aren’t talked about. Or when they do, they’re often joked about or seen as taboo.

    • Have you ever completely freaked out because your period was late? I have. Tracking actually gives you the power to know if / when a late period could really be a pregnancy.
    • Have you ever panicked because you had vaginal discharge? I have. Turns out, discharge around ovulation is normal. (“Egg white” cervical mucus actually helps sperm get to the egg.) Tracking can help you know if that’s normal for the time of month or if you could have an infection.
    • Have you ever felt a sharp pain in your side around the middle of your cycle and thought you could be having an appendix problem? I have. That could actually be ovulation pain.

    My point is that so many women are disconnected from what is normal in their bodies and what’s not. To me, FAM is a tool that allows me to be more in sync with what is happening from month to month.

    Edit: I wrote about this on Instagram recently: FAM also helps me know when to adjust my training. The response was crazy! So many women didn’t know that hormonal fluctuations could make their strength levels fluctuate. (More on that in a coming post.)

    ⚠PERIODS & TRAINING ⚠ Ladies, we need to chat. Did you know that where you’re at in your menstrual cycle can seriously affect your training? It’s NOT all in your head. . In the first week of your cycle, estrogen starts to rise. You may notice a decrease in cravings (especially carbs) / appetite and you may feel very strong in the gym. Now’s the time to go after PRs, heavy training volume, high-intensity, etc. Immediately prior to ovulation (approx day 14 though this varies!!), estrogen peaks. You’re likely to feel very strong in this first half of your cycle and a little extra randy (wink). . After ovulation, estrogen drops and progesterone rises. You’re likely to retain more water and crave carbs. As this luteal phase continues, progesterone also drops off which initiates your period. ❗In the few days before your period, IT’S NOT UNCOMMON to feel like your normal working sets are way harder and that you’ve got little gas in the tank. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling a little “off!!” . I bring this up because I used to think something was wrong with me. But once I started tracking my cycle very closely (I measure my basal body temp and a couple other signs), I realized that how I felt in the gym matched up really well with my cycle. Of course, every woman is different and some have more difficult cycles than others. . But I want to empower you to know that if you have leeway in your training plan, going a little easier the week before your period is okay. Saving the heavier stuff for before ovulation and the lighter stuff, metcons, etc for later may work better for you. If you’re a coach this may help you understand your female lifters better. . And with all that in mind I’m super glad this is a deload week 😉 Worked up to 3 sets of 5 strict press at 75% today. See the rest of my training in my IG Stories. . And for more info about healthy periods, follow these ladies: @drjolenebrighten and @larabriden #TheMoreYouKnow #NormalizePeriodTalk #StrengthTraining #WomensHealth

    A post shared by Steph Gaudreau (@stupideasypaleo) on

    [bctt tweet=”So many women are disconnected from what’s normal in their bodies and what’s not.” username=”stupideasypaleo”]

    FAM isn’t perfect. If you don’t follow the rules, you could get pregnant. (I’ve seen estimates of 0.6% failure rates if followed exactly.)

    But I’d rather deal with that risk compared to the shitty things that hormonal birth control does to a woman’s body and how terrible it was making me feel.

    After I Quit Hormonal Birth Control

    Within two months after I quit hormonal birth control, I had normal cycles. Maybe I’m lucky? Maybe I had worked hard on improving my foundation of health prior to quitting and it paid off? I like to think it was more the latter. Everyone is different, and I acknowledge that 1) not every woman is an ideal candidate for FAM and 2) there are other non-hormonal methods besides FAM (ex: copper IUD, condoms, etc) that work well for other women.

    But I have to make this plea:

    If you’re dealing with hormonal issues (PCOS, endometriosis, acne, irregular periods, amenorrhea, female athlete triad, etc.), hormonal birth control is often a band-aid that covers up the problem instead of heals it.

    The pill and other hormonal birth control methods have so many downsides that women have come to, frankly, put up with because it’s often presented as our only viable option.

    I used to think I needed hormonal birth control to make my skin better or make my periods less painful. Turns out, that was not true. I may get a pimple here or there, especially around my period, but my skin is great thanks to a nourishing, anti-inflammatory diet, good sleep, the right amount of exercise, and reducing my stress.

    I do take Advil on the first day of my period, but I don’t vomit anymore. My endometriosis pain is very manageable. Yes, there was a transition period where I had a little more acne, for example, but that wasn’t enough to make me run back to the pill.

    Note: Endometriosis is now gaining recognition as an inflammatory disease. That means that factors that ramp up inflammation in the body (ex: certain foods like gluten, dairy, and sugar; poor gut health; environmental toxins; and more) can make endometriosis worse. When I consider my family health history, especially my maternal line, I see several autoimmune / inflammatory diseases present: rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, gout, and endo to name a few. People may think paleo is a fad, but for me it’s meant a significant reduction in the amount of inflammatory foods I consume.

    Please learn more before you just stop cold turkey.

    Click here for a quick primer about how to quit hormonal birth control.

    For guidance about healing from post-birth control syndrome, learn more about Dr. Jolene Brighten’s 5-week program.

    I highly recommend the following resources:

    Not only are both women personal friends of mine, but their depth of knowledge and their passion for helping others improve their health is palpable. Go check out their work. There are far more downsides to hormonal birth control than what I listed here, especially when used to manage other hormonal / health problems. (Get Dr. Briden’s book to learn more.)

    In the two years since I quit hormonal birth control, not only have I amassed a lot of data about my menstrual cycle, but I also feel like I’m far more in tune with my body than I’ve ever been.

    For example:

    • I know which day I’m going to get my period because my temperature drops back down.
    • I know that the week before I get my period is not the ideal time to lift really heavy (more about that in an upcoming post), and if I’m having an “off” day around my period, it’s normal.
    • It’s been far easier to build and maintain muscle mass now that I quit hormonal birth control.

    Every woman’s transition of hormonal birth control is different, and my story might not reflect yours. However, staying on hormonal birth control just because coming off it was uncertain stopped jiving with me.

    In Conclusion

    Quitting hormonal birth control is one of the best things I’ve done for my health, but it may not be for everyone. Flashing back to age 19, FAM (fertility awareness method) probably wouldn’t have been the best choice. FAM does not help prevent STIs.

    FAM has pros and cons, like every method of pregnancy prevention, but for me the benefits far outweighed the downsides.

    Talk to your doctor and educate yourself so you know what your choices are. Your self-advocacy can make all the difference. Be informed.

    Hormonal birth control methods, though often used to “treat” other problems, are not cures. They are synthetic analogues to your body’s natural hormones and are not without risk. Repairing your hormonal imbalances can be achieved through work with a cooperating practitioner and lifestyle changes.

    Sometimes, traditional methods must be used when more natural treatments don’t work. It’s not a failing on your part, and it’s not necessarily wrong, but you should at least be aware of natural treatments before being pressured into surgery or other interventions. My goal here was to share my own story of finding another way.

    We covered a lot of ground in this post, and I said a lot of adult words like vaginal, sex, and discharge that might make you squirm, but you stuck with it to the end.

    I hope this post about why I quit hormonal birth control empowers you to consider your best options and make the best possible choice for your health.

    Use the share buttons on the left to share this post and help continue the conversation!

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    36 thoughts on “Why I Quit Hormonal Birth Control

    1. Loving this post! I quit using hormonal birth control years ago. Originally I started using them to help control migraines. Now I’ve learned that they were related to food intolerances and I almost never get a migraine any more. I have a very irregular cycle and had a lot of difficulty tracking my temp and other symptoms during a period of my life where I was under tremendous stress, working 80hrs per week and had an erratic sleep schedule due to a job. I switched to monitoring my cycle using a fertility monitor and love the ease of it. I keep a chart on y dresser and my husband appreciates that he can easily read it and knows where I am in my cycle and if we can or can’t have sex.

      1. Thank you Kre! I really appreciate you sharing your story and the journey you’ve gone on. Much appreciated!

    2. do you find that building muscle and cardiovascular endurance is easier off of the pill? my body composition changes dramatically within weeks of going on or off the pill. wondering about how common this reaction is and the science behind it.

      1. The pill suppresses testosterone in women. Testosterone is necessary for building muscle! Many of my female clients who have been strength training and are on the pill often report that they have difficulty putting on muscle, and it’s likely for that reason.

    3. Thank you so much for sharing! I never thought about how our cycles affected our workouts but now I can pay attention. I had a hysterectomy 10 years ago due to undiagnosed PCOS. 100lb weightloss and switching over to a Paleo way of eating and I finally know my cycle again. If I could go back, I would’ve done things differently but no periods is nice too!

      1. Hi Shayla…Thank you so much for sharing, and I’m really glad you’re getting more acquainted with your body. While periods can be inconvenient, they are, as Dr Briden puts it, our 5th vital sign…something that gives us precious feedback about our health status if we do still have our ovaries/uterus.

    4. Hey Steph. Thank you for being so open about sharing your personal thoughts and experiences about hormonal birth control. After being on the pill for more than 10 years, I noticed in the latter half of 2012 that my cycle wasn’t normal. Even though I was eating clean (I had just discovered Paleo and was doing my first Whole30), my period was coming every 2 weeks while I was on the pill! My gyn agreed that it wasn’t normal, and asked me to consider other options. One that was presented to me was a procedure called Essure (a non surgical procedure where soft, flexible inserts are placed into your fallopian tubes that takes less than 10 minutes). After taking time to consider the option and having several conversations with my husband (because once the procedure is performed, it’s non-reversible), I decided to go ahead with it. At the time of the procedure, I was only 34 and essentially closing off the period of my life where I would be able to have children. Even though I have 2 happy, healthy boys and love the dynamic that is my family, it was a very stressful time for me.

      About 3 months after having the procedure, I went off the pill (you have to wait until placement is confirmed via ultrasound 3 months later before stopping the pill) and then didn’t have my period for 8 months. While that was awesome at the time (my gyn said my body was likely just working to adjust to the fact that it was no longer taking synthetic hormones every day), I put on a significant amount of weight. The weight gain wasn’t necessarily due to the procedure itself, but because of the stress of knowing that I would no longer be able to have children. I found out 16 months after the procedure that all of the issues (weight gain, anxiety, depression, mood swings, trouble sleeping, elevated blood markers) that began post-procedure were due to a thyroid crash. Bringing everything to today more than 3 years after my thyroid diagnosis, everything seems to have stabilized and my period is coming pretty regularly. The nausea, cramping, and severe constipation that would come month after month for years due to my cycle are no longer there. I love the fact that I don’t have to take medication anymore to control something that is so natural on it’s own. Life has been so much better without it.

      Thank you again for sharing with us what is obviously a topic many are uncomfortable discussing. I look forward to this topics continuing to come up. 🙂

      1. Thanks so much for bravely sharing your experiences Amy. I know it’ll help someone out there who’s going through the process.

    5. What an awesome article! I’ve been tracking my cycle for over 20 years and have two (planned) children. I’ve always disliked the idea of using drugs to regulate my body. It wasn’t “broken” and didn’t need “fixing” and I resented the medical community treating fertility like a disease. Knowing how your body works is so very empowering, just like you said. You’ve written this very well and I plan to print it off and make my 17 year old daughter read it as she will almost certainly be faced with these same questions and issues in the near future.

    6. CAN I GET AN AMEN! The pill WRECKED my body, I didn’t have a cycle for 5 years post taking it. Now I’ve been able to get it back and will never go back on it. I love knowing how where I’m at in my cycle changes my workouts and being able to adjust accordingly. Did you know you even burn fuel differently? You naturally burn 30% more fat in the second half of your cycle, more carbs in the first. It’s crazy and wonderful thanks for helping share the message!

      1. Hi Kelli….thanks so much for sharing your experience. I think it’s really critical that women speak up about the ramifications. Definitely a difference in which fuel the body processes first…the one thing is that you’ve got it backward. We default to more fat burning during the first half (the follicular phase) vs the second half post-ovulation (the luteal phase). This article from Met Effect is awesome at explaining: http://www.metaboliceffect.com/female-phase-training-training-with-the-menstrual-cycle/

    7. Wow. Thank you so much for opening up this conversation. I have felt so alone in this. No one talks about it! . I have been dealing with horrible PMS since I was 35. I am now 42. I have never been on the pill because I didn’t want that crap in my body. My husband I have used condoms, but in these last 7 years my severe PMS has affected my relationships due to irritability, brain fog, sleeplessness, and many more symptoms. My gyn has suggested the pill. I even went to a hormone specialist who suggested the pill. I put off taking the pill a whole month after it was prescribed because I was so scared of the risks and side effects! But after being extremely rude to a colleague, due to the irrationality in my own brain, I knew I had to do something. I decided to try the pill and have been on it now for a month and it has definitely helped with the bad PMS. But I still don’t want to be on it, but there just doesn’t seem to be any other options! I feel I am mostly healthy. I workout and eat healthy but if there is something besides the pill, I want to know about it! This is also something we can teach to the younger generations!

      1. Thank you for sharing your story, Erika!! You are definitely not alone. I highly recommend Dr. Briden’s book: http://amzn.to/2vQKca3 for sussing out PMS symptoms using a natural approach (diet, lifestyle and targeted supplements). You don’t have to suffer <3 and it's possible to make changes to your PMS severity without the pill.

    8. Would love to hear your update on daisy for tracking temperature. Would like to make the switch but nervous without having everything in place and not sure daisy is worth the investment.

    9. This is so similar to my story! I also have endo… I’m almost 47… I tried to come off my bcp’s… I bled and bled and bled!!! It was a freakin nightmare! I would bleed through an ULTRA tampon and a pad within an hour! I couldn’t go anywhere! I ruined clothes… had to sit on towels! OOF! I reluctantly went back on bcp’s and had to increase my dose. 🙁
      I suck at self discipline…I am consistently inconsistent. I cannot see myself checking my temp every morning. 😛
      I’ve just started looking into a paleo diet… I feel I can make this change despite my inconsistent tendencies. 🙂

      Anyhoo…. I’m super glad I came across you and this post!

      Much love…
      Michele

      1. Hi Michele…I hear you and I know how frustrating it can be to have such bad bleeding. Have you poked around on Dr. Briden’s or Dr. Brighten’s websites? (Links in the article above.) I’m pretty sure Dr. Briden has a post on heavy bleeding and coming off the bcp.

        I sleep with the thermometer next to my bed…it’s been an even easier habit to maintain than taking a pill ever was. I bet you could do it!

    10. I am so glad I finally read this! I quit hormonal birth control about 6 years ago. At the time, I was in a committed relationship with the man I thought I would marry. We discussed it and agreed that we would use a backup method when I thought I was ovulating and “worst case” scenario, we’d just have a baby if we got pregnant. We both wanted to be parents anyway. But I assumed that since my periods are like clockwork, so is my ovulation, so we were either very lucky or one of us wasn’t as fertile as we would have liked (gulp?). I say “lucky” as the relationship didn’t work out. A year later, I am starting to date and to be honest, I am keeping it pretty casual… I am still not on hormonal birth control. I am upfront about this with new partners. We use protection to be safe. But how would I approach the subject of FAM, with a new partner? “Yeah I am not on Birth Control, but it’s all good, I know my body” likely won’t fly with most guys… will it?

      1. Hi Rebecca…that’s a good question. Do you chart with your FAM? Maybe explaining how it works with a quick primer would take away some of the confusion. I dunno I guess I wonder if the guy is worth dating (for the long run) if he throws a fuss about FAM, right?

        1. That isn’t a terribly fair assessment. “Yeah I am not on Birth Control, but it’s all good, I know my body” should not fly with any partner that is worth having. If he is intelligent then he understands just how much he has to lose if things don’t work out and he has gotten you pregnant. He probably won’t have unprotected sex with you until its to the point of ““worst case” scenario, we’d just have a baby if we got pregnant.” Even after he understands the logic of FAM the risk/reward just isn’t in a guys favor. Now a lot of guys don’t care/aren’t that intelligent. And we also have a lot of single mothers without fathers in the picture. And a lot of STDs. That being said I really appreciate you taking the time to write about your experience with going natural, it has really helped my wife and I with the logistics of the decision to leave hormonal BC behind.

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          1. Matthew, I have to admit, your comment leaves me feeling confused. Your experience is certainly your own, but from a health perspective, a woman shouldn’t be forced or pressured into taking HBC just because a guy isn’t going to trust her about having unprotected sex. When you do FAM, you can have sex without a barrier method at different points in the cycle. This argument is sadly the one that keeps women feeling pressured to be on hormones. Men can take a different, more active role in understanding a woman’s cycle with her if they choose. Many simply don’t want to be bothered. But that’s not an excuse I can keep abiding. And if there isn’t trust between partners, is the relationship really healthy in the first place?

            You said, “The risk/reward isn’t in a guys favor.” Good. It’s about time women start considering their own long-term health instead of just making sex easy and convenient for men.

            There are SO many reasons why women (or men) end up being single parents. Some choose to be. Some aren’t the result of unprotected sex. STDs are the result of unprotected sex, not failing to be on hormonal birth control. Use a condom. End of story. The woman doesn’t need HBC if the man is using condoms.

            I’m glad this article sparked a conversation between you and your wife.

            1. Apologies, apparently my comment wasn’t very clear. I would never advocate for a woman to be pressured into taking HBC so that a guy could have unprotected sex, but along the same lines I don’t think it’s fair to say a guy isn’t good relationship material because he doesn’t want to be pressured into having unprotected sex with a woman who isn’t on it. I think a guy who chooses to use protection regardless until the relationship has reached the point of being okay with becoming parents should be appreciated. He is using the right head so to speak. Now if he were telling her to get on HBC so he could ditch the condoms… well that should be a non starter and ditched quickly and decisively.

              As for my wife, I went and got clipped so that she didn’t have to take HBC. It was her choice to stay on it while I was in school, as she didn’t like using barriers or the “pull out” method. Now that I’m done, I wouldn’t be happy about pregnancy but it wouldn’t be devastating financially either. So we have been researching exit strategies, which has been the point for 6 years now, and your blog about the process has been most helpful thank you.

              And I would rather men AND women consider each others well-being when it comes to relationships, sexual or otherwise. It would have probably been better to have worded my statement as the risk/reward isn’t in either the woman’s or man’s favor. Mea Culpa.

              Ha and just so we’re clear, women have *never made it easy and convenient for men to have sex, but some of us have done well despite it lol. Thank you for the conversation.

          2. Matthew, I can appreciate your point here and I think it is great to have a dialogue about what men are experiencing as well. But here’s the deal, a woman shouldn’t have to subject herself to the numerous side effects (some of which cause death) that are associated with the pill and other hormones to appease a male partner. True, the burden of pregnancy falls on us ladies, but that doesn’t mean the only conclusion is hormonal suppression of a woman’s hormones. And these hormones do nothing to protect agains STI’s (formerly known as STD’s).

            Let me drop a little knowledge here to help you understand how FAM apps are badass and beat the pill. Us gals are leveraging tech to monitor our cycles and in Europe, Natural Cycles (a FAM app developed by a physicist) is approved as a contraceptive. Why? Because it’s 99% percent effective when used correctly. Now when used PERFECTLY the pill is about 99% effective. But the reality is that the typical use of the pill, that is how us ladies actually take the pill, is only about 91% effective. Um, yeah, if I was a dude I’d slow my roll on thinking I can’t get a gal pregnant just because she says she’s taking the pill. And this is pretty shocking given that you can only get pregnant about 6 days out of the month, these hormones come with a ton of side effects, and it’s only about 91% effective. Typical use of FAM beats the typical pill use in efficacy. And in my clinical experience as a doc, women are highly invested in doing FAM right. Plus, they get to enjoy a healthy libido unlike when they are on the pill.

            I would argue that if a man is intelligent then he understands that asking his partner to load up on hormones that cause nutrient depletions, can trigger autoimmune disease, disrupt your microbiome, is associated with depression and a myriad of other side effects isn’t the best decision. And if he truly is in tune with what goes down in a woman’s body, then he gets that she’s got a 6 (maybe 8 day max) window of getting pregnant. Why would you ask your partner to subject herself to such side effects and suppress her own natural hormones every day when she can not get pregnant every day?

            I love seeing men get into this conversation and I want to commend you for supporting your wife and inquiring. Birth control is very individualized and we need to be having these discussions with “what is best for this woman” in mind. Too often are broad generalizations and assumptions made that every form of birth control works for any woman. Nope, us gals are complicated and that is my favorite part of my job.

            I’m a leading expert in Post-Birth Control Syndrome and the long term side effects and consequences associated with hormonal birth control. I want to share with you a few resources that I think will help you get educated and support your wife further. Again, I love seeing men supporting their wives and coming into these conversations.

            Non-Hormonal Birth Control Options:
            https://drbrighten.com/non-hormonal-birth-control-alternatives/
            – There are studies cited in here so you can research the science of these methods for yourself.

            Birth Control Side Effects:
            https://drbrighten.com/birth-control-what-your-doctor-didnt-tell-you/

            Birth Control Side Effects When Coming Off:
            https://drbrighten.com/stopping-birth-control-side-effects/

              1. It’s all a conversation that a lot more of us should be having. Thank you for writing this piece and sharing your story. When women hear what is possible they believe in their ability to heal and that is some seriously powerful medicine right there! Love your work!

                1. I very much agree, though I would say people in general learn to believe in that ability when they learn what is possible. And people like You and Steph and Robb are definitely on the front lines. Thank you all.

            1. Hey Dr. Brighten! Apologies I think there was a bit of misunderstanding in our communications, probably significantly on my part. If you reference my response to Steph I try to rectify that by clarifying what I was referring to. I am happy for the miscommunication for the simple fact that it did spur further conversation, and a list of excellent links. Thank you.

              My personal opinion is that a woman should do what she thinks is best for her, and a man should do what is best for him, and not try and force each others decisions on each other. If she wants to go FAM and he wants to use condoms to be safe, I don’t think either should judge the other poorly.

              After seeing the effects that HBC had on my wife I’m not a fan of it at all. Then again I’m not a fan of putting anything in my body that screws with its natural processes. So I went and had a vasectomy as I (we) don’t want children, and told my wife she could drop the HBC whenever she chose. However while I was in school I told her I wouldn’t be finishing in her (sorry that sounds a bit crude) and drunk sex would always involve a condom (just in case) if she were off it. Not in a coercive way, just in a factual conversation kind of way. She chose to remain on it, despite my sincere admonitions that I had no problem being responsible for my end of prevention. But I won’t tell a girl she has to get off HBC either. (particularly not my wife, I’d probably get shot)

              And I really do like the FAM method after having read about it, but just like the pill, not every woman is going to use it correctly, which is not a slight, just an observation of human nature, which equals increased risk. Once again not an excuse for anyone to pressure a girl into HBC, but also not a reason to judge a man for using barriers.

              As for a woman only being fertile for 6 days, 8 days max, thats fine, but you also have to consider the fact that sperm can remain viable for up to 5 day, 6 days max inside a woman. So now you have whats called stacking tolerance. So you have potentially 14 days of the month that can result in pregnancy with unprotected sex. Albeit you have a diminishing chance the further out you go, you still have an increased chance.

              All this was only to say that a guy who still wants to use barrier methods of BC while a woman uses FAM shouldn’t be thought of as not worth dating, just as a woman who wants whats best for her health shouldn’t be thought of as not worth dating. Or pressured into HBC.

              Anyway I hope that was as clear as mud ;p in me trying to clarify my position, and I want to thank you again for the information you have provided me.

              Sincerely,
              Matthew Lomas

    11. Thanks for sharing this, I have been researching about FAM and plan to discontinue my hormonal birth control because of years of uncontrolled hypertension and my primary concern of depression. I have taken the pill for so long and had depression for so long I am hopeful that this will help me as I make other healthy lifestyle changes as well.

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