Want to Go Green? Rethink the Pill


Do you think twice about buying non-organic meat from animals injected with hormones? I do. We even raise and slaughter our own chickens to be sure of what we’re consuming. Concerns about the hormones in non-organic meat are widespread. But do we have the same concerns about the effects of the hormones inside the tiny Pill many women take each day for years?

What Are We Ingesting?

I was recently baffled to learn that one oral contraceptive contains the hormonal equivalent of eating 3,431 lbs of hormone-injected beef. Every day! We often treat birth control pills as having no negative effects on our bodies, but this is simply not the case. When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer 4 years ago, one of the first questions her doctors asked her was how many years she had taken oral contraception. Scary! It makes me so glad that my days on the Pill are history! Not to mention all the horrible emotional mood swings, headaches, and nausea I battled when I was on even the lowest dose of birth control. It made life miserable.  And if that wasn’t enough, I also just recently learned that the Pill can kill off the good bacteria in your gut, causing all sorts of problems for women.

A Green Alternative

What if I told you there was an alternative? An alternative that empowers women to learn about their bodies. An alternative that doesn’t involve treating women’s fertility like a disease that needs to be “treated” with a prescription. And what if that alternative didn’t lower a woman’s sex drive like oral contraception does and was as effective at avoiding pregnancy than the Pill and can be more effective at achieving a pregnancy than in vitro? Welcome to Natural Family Planning!

Natural Family Planning: Not the Rhythm Method!

Natural Family Planning is often dismissed because it’s confused with the ineffective and antiquated “rhythm method” which was based on estimating ovulation in a 28 day cycle. Do you know many women with perfectly regular 28 day cycles? I certainly don’t! You can imagine the problems in effectiveness with that method! But modern NFP is different. Technology and fertility awareness have made huge strides and modern methods (of which there are many) treat each woman as unique, teaching her to interpret her individual cycles.

There are multiple methods of NFP, including Creighton Method, Billings Ovulation Method, Sympto-Thermal Method, and Marquette Method, but most teach couples how to chart and identify fertility signs such as changes in waking temperature, cervical mucus, and cervical position to distinguish when a woman might be fertile. This enables a couple to decide whether to postpone pregnancy by abstaining from sex on those days or try to achieve a pregnancy by pinpointing their most fertile days. Although many women choose NFP for religious reasons, many are opting to practice NFP primarily to protect their health. Years before I converted to Catholicism and had moral concerns about oral contraception, I ditched the Pill due to the toll it was taking on my body.

The Benefits

There are many benefits to NFP (in addition to avoiding a pharmaceutical prescription when you’re body isn’t sick!) including the empowerment women experience when they gain knowledge about their bodies. When I first starting looking into NFP, I read Toni Weschler’s Taking Charge of Your Fertility which teaches the “fertility awareness method” or FAM. I was shocked and embarrassed that I had formerly understood so little about my own body and fertility cycles! It’s my body! Shouldn’t I know how it works?

By getting acquainted with her fertility, a woman can pinpoint health issues that might contribute to anything from painful periods to infertility. One of my best friends points to NFP as enabling her to discover the source of her reproductive health problems (endometriosis which caused debilitatingly painful menstruation and infertility), seek treatment, and conceive her precious babies.

NFP is also incredibly affordable (no monthly costs for a prescription!), eco-friendly, natural, and engenders good communication for the couples who practice it.

Interested in learning more? Look into the Creighton Method, Billings Ovulation Method, Sympto-Thermal Method, or Marquette Method for further resources! Or, check out Women Speak on NFP, a series about women sharing their experiences practicing Natural Family Planning.

 


About the Author

Haley is a Catholic wife and mama of three little ones, ballet teacher, and lover of all things Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh, and Wendell Berry. Find her at Carrots for Michaelmas where she writes about urban homesteading, motherhood, literature, faith, homeschooling, and her undying love for bacon.

Comments

  1. I love seeing posts like this! I actually have a post written up for next week about the negative side effects of the pill and am planning to follow it up with a post about natural family planning. I just got off the pill and started charting this spring and I really wish I had known about all of this sooner. It’s amazing how many people want to be healthy and eco-friendly, but don’t think twice about going on the pill. They just don’t realize there is another (effective!) option!

  2. I have never heard of charting before, but now I definitely want to research it further. I have gotten skeptical of the pill ever since I went on vacation a couple months ago. I forgot my pills at home so I couldn’t take them for about 5 days and I noticed a HUGE difference in my sex drive and the way my body felt overall. I never noticed before because I have been on the pill almost non stop for about 4 years. Thank you for the post!

    • I noticed a difference right away when I stopped taking them, too! It’s like I woke up without nausea, headaches, mood swings, and with a sex drive again, haha. Definitely look into it, Keshia!

    • I would really recommend looking into charting. I was amazed, shocked, and then really really angry when I realized how little I knew about my own body, my own fertility, and what I was doing to myself by taking hormones. I didn’t have many side effects on the Pill- a lower sex drive, but I wasn’t married, so I had no idea what “normal” for me even was! Now I’m so much more in-touch with my body… it’s amazing. Simply amazing.

  3. Great post! I was on the Pill for many years before I realized what it was doing to my body and switched to NFP. I just recently found out about what it does to your gut flora!! Follow up question: is there any way to practice NFP while breastfeeding? Condoms aren’t really working for us…

    • Great question, Emily. As far as I know, all of the main NFP methods have instructions for breastfeeding NFP protocol. I didn’t learn NFP before I was post-partum, which makes it more challenging to get the hang of and since we haven’t been avoiding pregnancy, we’ve just been practicing ecological breastfeeding which is kind of like super charged on-demand breastfeeding as a natural child spacing technique, but it doesn’t have the effectiveness of avoiding pregnancy like NFP does. Because my last pregnancy was so difficult, we may try to space the next child out by a few more months so I can get super healthy and hopefully avoid the debilitating morning sickness I had last time, so I just ordered a Clear Blue fertility monitor and am going to give the Marquette post-partum/breastfeeding method a shot. Here’s a link to get you started: http://nfp.marquette.edu/sc_return_fertil_after_birth.php and there’s tons of other information on their site. But Creighton, Billings, etc. all have breastfeeding protocol and a certified instructor could point you in the right direction!

  4. I had the same reaction to the pill … why put something non-medically necessary in my body and take on that risk? It may be safe for the majority of women, but what if I’m not the majority? I also used it briefly in college for non-contraceptive reasons and it made me nauseous and grumpy. There are some limitations to NFP – especially avoiding intercourse during fertile times is super annoying – but if you’re not avoiding condoms for religious reasons, you can use condoms when you’re fertile. I’d like to see this option promoted more. Young women seem to be taught that it’s the pill or condoms, when NFP (especially conservative methods like Standard Days) are reliable if you have a regular cycle and are motivated to pay attention to it.

    • Just remember when you use a condom during the fertile phase the effectiveness of the condom reduces significantly. I don’t have the source right now but what I read states that the condom is about 84% effective for the cycle. Interesting since 3/4 of the cycle is already infertile! Once you limit the usage during the fertile phase it reduces the condom to about 64%. I wouldn’t want anyone to say that NFP didn’t work when in fact it was the condom that was ineffective. After 30+ years using NFP I can say that abstinence was not a bad thing…not always easy at the moment but it sure made us appreciate each other for who we are to each other besides sexual partners. My husband and I would struggle; sometimes at the same time and some times at different times and we had to learn how to help each other through. I think it has helped us have a stronger marriage. We will be married 39 years tomorrow and NFP had definately contributed to the fact that we are still “young and in love”.

  5. Even though I was raised Catholic, when my husband and I got engaged I had never heard any of the religious reasons against contraception. But when I heard a doctor give a talk about how damaging the pill was to a woman’s body, I realized that there was no way I could take hormonal contraception. Since then, I have learned to really appreciate the Church’s teaching on contraception. But at first, the decision to use nfp was really about natural living for me. In my first nfp class, we were pretty evenly split: Catholics and hippies!

  6. Haley, actually it’s your nfp series that really got me to rethink about contraceptions. I hate pills. I started to use one after having my first baby because my mental state was terrible. I talked to doctors, then friends and you know what one of them told me? She thought pills were awesome because she didn’t get her period and felt good with it. That was enough for me to hate pills. Imagine not having period for years; it’s wrong and wrecking for woman’s body.
    There are other options though, but not much better…
    In Europe nfp method is almost unknown and everyone will consider you mad or ignorant for that, which is very sad. I used to think so too before realising the harm of those pills from hell.

    Thanks for posts like this, Haley.

    • Thanks for sharing that, Sophie! I’m curious now about how NFP is perceived in different parts of the world!

  7. Great post Haley! I couldn’t have said it better!

  8. Love this Haley. Thanks for speaking and sharing this with us all. My husband and I made the switch, and shortly after, I found your series on NFP on your blog and it has been such a blessing to read and hear everyone’s stories about how positive it has been. We couldn’t agree more! It has brought us closer together as a couple, and I am feeling 100 times better than when I was on the pill!

  9. I’m definitely a fan of FAM and have read the book recently while trying go conceive our second child. Its crazy what we don’t know about our bodies. But I actually felt better on low dose birth control pills…I don’t want to be on them for a variety of reasons anymore. But now sometimes the whole month is uncomfortable. I was just thinking that my body had changed after having our son but now after talking to the doctor Endometriosis came up.. and one of the treatments for that besides surgery is horomone treatment…sometimes you just can’t win!

  10. I love this post, and I couldn’t agree more! I tried to express similar thoughts on a forum recently and got a lot of flack for coming across as judgmental. Upon rereading, there were a couple points I could have worded differently, but Haley expresses it perfectly. Thanks, Haley!

  11. Great article! I’m in my 40’s and still using NFP. It’s not without it’s challenges, but definitely better than the alternatives. Thanks for writing this!

  12. Thank you for a wonderful witness!
    I teach NFP long distance with the Creighton Model FertilityCare system and the Naprotechnology women’s health that gets to the root of the “problem” you might have.
    Have a friend who found colon cancer by charting her fertility signs..( something was abnormal and she’s doing great now), and another who had 20 years dealing with depression, and found a low progesterone component, which when treated through cooperative charting and OB/GYN help…has virtually disappeared.
    We’re rejoicing over here ! Our bodies know! gaithersburgfertilitycare.org

  13. I’ve used FAM but decided to try out the Marquette method. Just wanted to share that I was shopping for the ClearBlue Easy Fertility Monitor online tonight and I found it 40% off on CVS.com. Thought I’d share for other ladies new to the method!

  14. Hi! I’m going to buck the trend and say I LOVE the way I feel on the pill. I typically have no cramps, reallly short periods, and weigh 20 lbs less when I’m on the pill. I do have qualms about taking synthetic hormones year after year though. Does anyone have any insights to a method to smooth out the hormonal “rough edges” I experience when I’m not on the pill, or as to possible causes for hormonal imbalance? I’d love to be alternately pregnant/breastfeeding for the rest of my reproductive years, as that is when I’ve felt my best, but my husband isn’t on board with that idea. LOL.

  15. absolutely loved TCOYF. helped me realize i wasn’t ovulating and we were able to get pregnant once we figured that out!

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  1. […] Do you think twice about buying non-organic meat from animals injected with hormones? I do. We even raise and slaughter our own chickens to be sure of what we’re consuming. Concerns about the hormones in non-organic meat are widespread. But do we have the same concerns about the effects of the hormones inside the tiny Pill many women take each day for years?…Read the rest here. […]

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