My Journey with Birth Control

Where shall we begin? Like many young women, I had heavy, painful periods and acne, which led to the not so well thought out recommendation of the birth control pill from my physician. I was told it would fix all of my symptoms, when in reality I was already taking the pill (I went to Planned Parenthood with my then boyfriend… sorry Mom!) and it wasn’t helping my symptoms at all. I was only taking the pill so I wouldn’t get pregnant, which thankfully worked.

While my physician was telling me all of the things that the pill would fix, she neglected to tell me the following:

  • You don’t actually get your period when you’re on the pill, you’re only bleeding because there’s a week when you aren’t putting hormones in your body.
  • You don’t ovulate, which is a HUGE problem. Learn more about the female cycle here. 
  • Taking the pill can reduce the size of your clitoris, making it even more difficult to achieve an orgasm. I’m pretty sure just tell women this would help them look for more options.
  • The pill lowers your hormones for life. When you take the pill your body has to cope with all of the extra hormones so it starts making more Steroid Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) to bind to the hormones. Unfortunately, your body continues to produce this even when you stop taking the pill and it can negatively impact hormone levels for the rest of your life.
  • The pill can create an imbalance in the bacteria (flora) in your gut. This can create an environment that allows harmful bacteria and yeast to grow. The health of our gut and balance of bacteria in our microbiome is essential for our hormonal balance, mood, and sleep. A healthy gut is also essential for getting rid of excess hormones and toxins in the body.
  • The pill causes nutrient deficiencies, which lead to many other unwanted symptoms such as headaches, anxiety/depression, decreased immune function, and more.

 

I took the pill for 7 years.

It felt like my only option at the time. I was sexually active at a young age, I didn’t want to tell my parents, and I didn’t want to get pregnant. So I went to Planned Parenthood and got my prescription. I wasn’t thinking about how it could potentially be impacting my body or my health. I thought it was normal. All of my friends were on the pill. I even talk to women now that are in their 40’s that take the pill because they don’t want to get pregnant, but also don’t want to get a hysterectomy.

The pill isn’t normal. It’s a prescription medication. It has serious side effects and should not be taken lightly.

 

As I got older and began studying nutrition and dietetics I started to rethink the pill. I found CrossFit, Paleo, and a much more natural approach to living that made me question if I should be putting hormones in my body. I began doing research on different types of birth control options and seriously thought I was going to lose my mind. Why was it so difficult to find a form of birth control that didn’t have hormones and wouldn’t cause inflammation in my body? I discovered the copper IUD (Paragard) and decided it was the lesser of evils.

 

Benefits of Copper IUD Over the Pill

  • You can actually ovulate and get a real period with the Copper IUD
  • You aren’t putting hormones in your body and reducing your natural hormones
  • You aren’t adding additional burden on your liver and gut with a prescription medication

 

I do want to mention that I do not regret taking the pill. It allowed me to avoid pregnancy, go to college, and now live a really amazing life. Birth control is really important for women. My goal is to educate on different types and how to support your body while taking it or getting off of it so you can feel good about whatever method you choose. 

 

Then I had the Copper IUD (Paragard) for 7 years.

Image of Copper IUD from: usa.daysy.me

It took some serious effort and consistency to convince my gynecologist to give me an IUD. She was very against it since I had not had children and she felt that it wouldn’t settle correctly or even fit inside my uterus. She urged me to continue with the pill, but I was confident in my decision about the IUD so she eventually agreed. Turns out the IUD did fit in my uterus and was inserted without any issues.

 

Once my IUD was inserted, I stopped taking the pill and was hoping to feel like a new person. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as knowledgeable about functional medicine at this point and did not support my body. I just went off the pill. No supportive supplements, no changes in my diet, nothing. I figured I would be fine. This caused some serious shifts in my mood, a lot of acne (like a lot, all over my cheeks, chin, forehead), and a major drop in my self confidence. I began to question if I should go back on, but I knew deep down it wasn’t right for me and I could get past it. So I rolled up my sleeves, began diving into the research, learned a TON about detox, gut health, hormones, and functional medicine and slowly started making changes.

The first thing I switched was my skincare because my acne was definitely the worst part of this whole transition. I found oil cleansing, activated charcoal, and Manuka honey. All of which completely changed my skin and started my non toxic life. (Click here to learn more about non toxic skincare & beauty).I was already eating Paleo at this point, but I began learning more about what foods actually support detox in the body and experimented with tons of different supplements. I spent most of my evenings in google scholar and Pubmed researching natural detoxification and what the body requires (I read A LOT and am a total nerd that loves geeking out about science).

I learned that there were ways to support my body when transitioning off the pill (or even while on it) and kicked myself for not finding this information sooner. I could have avoided a lot of the hardship I went through, which is why I’m so passionate about educating other women on this topic. To learn more about these types of topics, I highly recommend joining my free support group. I dive deep and do weekly videos!

So how was the IUD going? Well, it did it’s job. For 7 years I dealt with extremely heavy periods (I would go through 2 tampons in one hours some days), really bad cramping, and an overall inflammation that was building in my body. But here’s the deal, the heavy bleeding and bad cramping was really only for 2 days each month. For me, this was worth it to avoid pregnancy and not have to take the pill. Not everyone feels this way and I do have a pretty high pain tolerance (I have a tattoo on my chest… like right on my sternum.. ouch).

 

Things I Wish I knew About the Copper IUD

  • You should take a Zinc supplement to help avoid heavy metal imbalances
  • It causes systemic inflammation in the body
  • The Fertility Awareness Method works and is easier to take action on than I thought

My Transition to Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)

After having my Copper IUD in for  7 years, dealing with extremely painful periods, and a creeping depression that seemed to get worse and worse, I decided to explore the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). I had originally planned to get the Copper IUD and learn how to apply this method, then get the IUD taken out, but I had some issues figuring out my cycle when I stopped taking the pill. I didn’t get my period right away and my cycle lengths were all over the place, which makes it difficult to know when you are ovulating (essential for preventing pregnancy).  This is actually normal when you first get off the pill. Some women don’t have a period again for up to a year. I was trying to take my temperature with a thermometer every morning, but then when I went to write it down I would forget.

How does FAM work?

When using FAM, you are tracking where you are in your cycle in order to know when you are ovulating. You can only get pregnant during ovulation (and the days leading up because of cervical fluid), which is when we release an egg that can potentially be fertilized by sperm. Here’s a separate post about getting in tune with your cycle and what goes down because a lot of women don’t know. I didn’t become aware of all of this until my early twenties when I discovered FAM, and it’s been really eye opening to understand what’s going on inside my body throughout my cycle. When using FAM you take your basal body temperature each morning, which just means you take your temperature first thing before getting out of bed. 

Why is taking your temperature important? Your temperature does a very slight increase during ovulation. This is how you track ovulation. It can be a pain in the ass if you’re tracking this on your own, but now there are thermometers with apps that make FAM way easier and much more accessible.

I currently use a Daysy, but there’s another option called Natural Cycles that is much cheaper and the app looks better (I haven’t used it, but my younger sister does). I also think the Daysy has a lot of improvements that need to be made. Overall, it does a great job and I feel confident using it, but I don’t love the app or the fact that I constantly have to sync the thermometer to my phone. Plus it’s expensive.  I got my Daysy over a year ago and was not aware of any other apps at the time. I’m sure as the movement toward natural birth control grows more and more products will come out. I feel confident recommending other of these options as of right now,

There are also a couple other signs you can track during your cycle such as your cervical fluid and texture of your cervix, but temperature is most important.

A Quick Comparison

If you’re worried about other birth control methods not being effective as the pill, see the statistics below.

When taken/done correctly…

Birth Control Pill: 99.9% effective for avoiding pregnancy

Copper IUD: 99.4% effective for avoiding pregnancy

Daysy: 99.3% effective for avoiding pregnancy

 

Again, I do not regret taking the pill or getting the Copper IUD. They did the job I needed them to do, but now I’m in a place where I’m prioritizing getting more in tune with my body. The FAM method was a natural fit and I’m really happy I’m successfully using it as my method of birth control now.

Do you have post birth control syndrome or are you thinking of getting off hormonal birth control? Consider my Post Birth Control Detox Program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If this post interested you and you want more information like this, I highly recommend joining my private support group. We dive deeper into topics like these, I do weekly videos, and it’s a truly motivating environment to live a better life. I would love to have you!

 

 

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