EDIT: MAKE SURE YOU READ THIS POST AFTER YOU READ THE FOLLOWING.
WARNING TO FAMILY MEMBERS, ESPECIALLY THE MALES, ESPECIALLY THE BROTHERS:
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.
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.
EDIT: MUCH OF THE ABOVE IS MISINFORMED, IGNORANT ME SPEAKING OUT OF MY ASS. PLEASE GO READ THIS POST NOW.