Blog turned soap box




Below is a discussion on hormonal versus non-hormonal birth control, from my personal experience.  This might imply that I am a human being, complete with reproductive organs and sexual needs.  If you want to continue ignoring this fact, please do not read on.

Alright, I got some spoutin’ to do.  Some great news and bad news.

First, the bad news: birth control sucks!  We all knew that, right?  In case you didn’t, “BIRTH CONTROL SUCKKKKKSSSSSS.”

No one ever told me that.  I didn’t find out until I tried birth control, the hormonal kind.  I ate those pills for about a month and it was one of the worst months of my life.  I cried everyday, usually several times a day.  I didn’t understand why I was so sad all the time.  Sometimes I would start crying at work.  Sure, I happened to be going through a shitty breakup with my lame boyfriend at the same time, but this was really intense.  It took me several weeks to realize it was the effects of the pill exaggerating my emotions.  Once I started taking the pill, I lost all ability to reason.  No more logic, all emotion.

I finally connected the dots and stopped taking the pill.  I began asking my girlfriends about their experiences with birth control.  Many of them had similar stories.  But I still couldn’t understand how I went 22 years without anyone mentioning the horrifying effects of birth control to me.  I had received reproductive education in a public school in a progressive state.  No mention.  I had mostly female friends in college.  No mention (to be fair, about 80% of my female friends from college are gay).  Still, no one told me!

And if no one told me, maybe no has told you.  The effects of hormonal birth control are frightening.  They change a person.  Sure, many people experience no side effects.  But many do.  And many women begin taking BC when they are in their teens, and have no idea how much the added hormones might alter their state of mind.  They are kids.  They don’t understand.  A friend told me that she started taking BC as a teenager and didn’t stop until she was 24.  When she stopped taking it, she suddenly “felt like herself.”

Imagine living 7 or 8 years of your life in an altered state of mind.  You were so young when it started, a mixed-up bag of post-pubescent hormones, that you never knew the birth control was making you even CRAZIER!

When I was around 14 or 15 I got really bad acne.  My mom took me to the doctor to get some medicine for it.  The first thing the doctor offered me was birth control.  The thought of taking birth control freaked me out, so I said no.  I thank my lucky stars for being so afraid of sex at that age that I didn’t want to take a pill that was associated with it.  I dodged a bullet there, but others are not so lucky.

If a BC pill doesn’t work for you, a doctor will likely tell you to try another one.  “There are so many different brands out there!  Surely you will find one that works for you.”

Uh…what?  You want me to treat my body like the rabbit or monkey that you tested these pills on?  Just keep screwing my life up for weeks at a time till I find the “right one”?  How is this the standard approach to birth control?

Due to the lack of any committed long-term relationship in my life, I’ve been able to avoid the BC thing for the last couple years.  But I still think about it a lot.

It really bothers me that BC is labeled as a women’s issue.  Why aren’t pharmaceutical companies making BC for men?  Why isn’t there more demand for it?  Why are women’s bodies being treated like hormonal dumpsters?  Why is the responsibility of preventing pregnancy forced on women and not men?

Well, there are male birth control methods out there.  Some methods sound great –  hormone free, easy, reversible.  Lucky bastards.  Check out this method.

But for me, I want to know that I am protected.  Why does the most widely accepted form of birth control turn a woman into a teary-eyed zombie?  Why are hormones the first, and seemingly only, option?

Sure there is the copper IUD, but get real.  Those can make your cramps ten times worse!  No thanks.  Other non-hormonal forms of birth control are demonized for their low prevention rates, like diaphragms and cervical caps.  What about sponges?  When I think of those, I instantly think of Elaine from Seinfeld.  Sure, if Elaine says sponges are great, then maybe they are.  But at the current price, it’ll cost you about ten bucks every time you want to get laid.  And for most guys I’ve met, that price aint worth the ride.

I remember the birth control talk in high school health class.  At the bottom of the long list of BC methods was “the calendar method.”  This method was marketed as the don’t-use-this-method method.  The calendar method is pretty flimsy.  Thats because it assumes that every women’s cycle is the same number of days, and that all women ovulate on the same day.  Not true, don’t use it.

So what’s left?  Well, it took getting a smartphone to figure it out.

After getting my smartphone about a month ago, I found this app*.

[*app = application. Think of a computer or smartphone as a house, and the applications are the same as the nifty appliances you put in the house.  An app is like a fridge or a radio or a microwave or a washing machine.  They make your life a little easier and/or more enjoyable.]

This app is called OvuView.  It helps a woman track her menstrual cycle.  It can be used simply to predict her next period or to predict days when she is fertile and infertile.  Many woman use it to get pregnant or….

NOT get pregnant!  Thats what birth control does!  You take it so you don’t get pregnant!  Now there’s an app for that!

But there was always an app for that…. its called Natural Family Planning (NFP), or sometimes Fertility Awareness (FA).  NFP was originally developed by the Catholic Church so that couples could plan their pregnancies without the use of synthetic birth control.  NFP and FA involves learning about your own cycle and ovulation so that you can predict the fertile and infertile parts of the cycle.  This boils down to predicting the day of ovulation.  Because sperm can survive up to 5 days, and an egg can survive 3 days, a woman is fertile for approximately five days before ovulation and three days after.

There are many different methods for predicting ovulation.  The two most simple – basal body temperature (BBT) and mucus – can be used together for optimal predictions.  This is often called the Sympto-thermal method.  It can be 99% effective when used correctly.

“Basal body temperature” just means your base temperature.  Its best to take this temperature at the same time every day, after at least 4 hours of rest.  Take it in the morning before you get out of bed.  BBT is important, because a woman’s BBT will spike by 0.4-0.9 degrees on the day of ovulation and stay that high until the end of the cycle.

Mucus is another way to predict ovulation… but I’ll save you the gory details.  Look it up if you’re really interested.

All you have to do is track the symptoms and OvuView will predict your fertile/infertile days.  If you have not entered enough data into OvuView, it will give you very conservative estimates of fertile days.  Once you have about 6 months worth of data, OvuView will give more realistic estimates of fertile days.  Now all you gotta do is keep tracking your symptoms and use protection on those 8 or 9 fertile days in your cycle.

Needless to say, having sex on infertile days will not protect you from STDs.  You should be in a monogamous and honest relationship to use this method without barrier protection.

Even if you don’t have a smartphone, you can still track these symptoms and figure out your own ovulation cycle.  See Planned Parenthood’s page on FA.  Or this interesting paper.

Make sure you do your research before starting this method, or any method of birth control.  Its important to know which NFP methods are out there, which are best for you, how to track symptoms and calculate your cycle.

Anyways, the entire point of this rant is to say how relieved I am to find a non-hormonal form of birth control.  Its easy to use, reliable, and cheap!  Its very unfortunate that the ineffective calendar method was the only type of NFP presented to me in high school or college.  I’m so glad that I stumbled onto to OvuView and the legitimate, effective NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING.

Spread the word!

PS.  I’m also learning that diaphragms are effective and can be a great hormone-free barrier method.


7 thoughts on “Blog turned soap box

  1. Hey Sox- Somehow just discovered your blog tonight. I loved reading your tales backwards across the country! Thanks.

    Yanno, all of the issues you bring up related to BC were essentially the same issues we were wrangling with in 1976: the woman-focused “problem”, the hormonal emphasis, the small window to be horny with NFP. And couples these days have the concern of STDs, which we should have, but didn’t know better…. Maybe it’s like a lot of things: the fact is that birth control is countering nature and because of that there just aren’t good choices.

    After getting depressed on the pill and nervous and pained with an IUD, I chose to use diaphragms and was very happy – and only conceived the 2 kids I planned. (Even happier now that menopause has cancelled the need for such BC nuisances! )

    Ain’t no man worth his salt – even for a fling – if he’s not willing to take part in the birth control “adventure”. Women need to expect it.

    Love to you –
    Barb in Duluth

  2. Thanks for sharing your perspective barb! after reading your comment last night, I had a dream that you were on a bike ride, and me and sophie rode for miles trying to catch up with you. we finally found you at the end of your ride… in a muddy grass field filled with geese, geese babies, and tons of goose poop. it was very weird, but great to see you.

  3. The conclusion I have drawn from my “involvement” with BC is that it is simply an industry, and like any other industry, it is driven by profit margins and not by ethical or moral concern. I’ve been casually reading up on male alternatives lately and it sounds like work has been ongoing to provide a hormonal solution. The technical obstacle is that controlling millions of sperms is much more difficult than controlling a single monthly egg. Clinical trials report ~20% of men experience adverse side effects. While it may be the same in women (i don’t know the figures), I think it is easier for pharma to push BC on women because ultimately, they are ones responsible for any “mistakes” and are thus leveraged into taking BC.

    I am really optimistic about the RIGUS/Vasagel procedure. Hopefully this non-hormonal male based (and inexpensive!) option is able find support and ultimately be a viable BC option. That is definitely a clinical trial I would sign up for.

  4. I am in total agreement with you…I have had the WORST experiences with the pill and the NuvaRing…they wreak havoc on me physically and psychologically/emotionally. I’ve had the Mirena IUD in for a month now…supposedly the “low-dosage” hormones reduce side effects…yeah right. The insertion alone was the most pain I have ever experienced in my life, and I was barely able to function for days afterwards due to the cramps. I have had numerous totally depressed panic/crying attacks since I started it, the absolute worst cramps of my life, and I’ve had my period every day since I got it put in 4 weeks ago. (To be fair, I have friends that did not have these problems and love it).
    I just bought a book, “Taking Control of Your Fertility,” and I think I might try out the NFP method. I had never even heard of it until doing research online for non-hormonal bc options. I feel like every doctor I’ve had pushes hormonal methods so hard and when I tell them about the problems I have, they just try to put me on a different pill or ring or whatever, and don’t talk about non-hormonal methods. I also think there should be far more research put into male birth control–they have successfully done it in India, why can’t they do it in the US?

    See you soon! I could rant on about this subject for hours, just ask Blair, but I can tell you in person in a few short days!

    • Holy cow Delia! I thought long and hard about Mirena too… some people say that the hormones are in low doses and localized in the uterus, so it doesn’t affect your mood. Not the case! IUD’s always sound so lovely… but then I hear the horror stories. Good luck with the NFP! From what I can tell, its rates are as good as any hormonal BC, when used correctly. See you in a few days!!!

      • You have really helped women to see anouther side to bc. These are bad signs. I can’t believe these doctors can live with themselves knowing that these are there side effects.

  5. This relates couples, men in particular . While watching a show on t.v. This couple choose to save the mans sperm and then have a vasectomy. I thought this was a loving thing to do for each other. The women doesn’t have to take pills, or use foreign objects inside her body.

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