Birth control is prescribed for just about everything, and whether you have scientific or moral objections to hormonal birth control, it's important to know that despite the push from the mainstream medical community, there are actually other options (and plenty of them) that help with everything from regulating cycles to avoiding or conceiving a baby.
Several years ago I developed some ovarian cysts, and my Ob/Gyn immediately recommended birth control to remedy the issue. I distinctly remember asking for alternatives, only to be laughed at and asked if I was religious. Although I do have some bones to pick with birth control, at the time I wasn’t sexually active and didn’t have any problems with hormonal birth control on moral grounds, and was simply seeking healthier and more natural options.
After literally being mocked by my doctor, he finally admitted that he could “try” giving me a bio-identical hormone to what my body should have been producing in larger quantities. The treatment time was the same as if I had started birth control, and there was minimal difference in the expected outcome of diminishing the cysts with birth control or the natural hormone. In the same three month time span as projected with birth control, the cysts shrank completely, and I was off any medications, having never experienced a remote side effect.
HBC neither fixes all the issues related to cycles that it claims to, nor is it the only effective method of avoiding pregnancy.
My personal experience only confirms what a plethora of research shows: that hormonal birth control neither fixes all the issues related to cycles that it claims to, nor is it the only effective method of avoiding pregnancy (and I’m not just talking about abstinence). There are a multitude of other alternatives to birth control that not only address the underlying issues, but are healthier, safer, and just as effective at treating your specific issue.
Cycles and Periods
Whenever the argument over hormonal birth control (HBC) is brought up, people often argue for the necessity of birth control to regulate cycles, particularly for those who have more grueling symptoms. I’m not saying that these symptoms aren’t often debilitating for the women who experience them and that birth control can help to alleviate them, but the problem is they are just that – symptoms. And the truth is, they aren’t symptoms from your period or anything else that birth control is going to remedy. These symptoms are often signs of bigger issues and hormonal imbalances; they're signs your body is sending you.
Quieting them with birth control isn’t going to remedy the real problem. Dr. Sara Gottfried, M.D. and author of The Hormone Cure, says that “if you are experiencing premenstrual or menstrual problems, your body is signaling that something is awry physiologically” and the likely cause is a hormonal imbalance. Dr. Gottfried’s various books detail the myriad of issues that are often mistreated using hormonal birth control, and her insight into other alternatives is well worth looking into. Additionally, Dr. Lara Briden, M.D., elaborates on this in her book The Period Repair Manual and details how to come off hormonal birth control, as well as the benefits of doing so.
These symptoms are often signs of bigger issues and hormonal imbalances; they're signs your body is sending you.
Nutrition obviously plays a part in our overall health and is especially important when it comes to healthy and properly regulated cycles. It's becoming more and more common to see healthier approaches to cycles and fertility, and companies like Food Period offer convenient “seed cycling” bites that are backed by extensive research that shows how consuming different seeds at various times during the month can make for easier periods. While these may not all be the exact options for you, it's important to educate yourself on the many successful alternatives to period problems besides birth control.
Other than the fact that symptoms of much deeper issues are often inappropriately treated with birth control, many young girls and women on birth control don’t understand their cycles because of the ways that birth control messes with their natural biology. Understanding your cycle and fertility has importance well beyond preparing for kids, and all women should be aware and in tune to the natural functions of their body to accurately assess when things do and don’t feel right. Many women have misconceptions when it comes to their fertility and don’t understand the basic differences in the phases of their cycle, let alone the intricacies of the times when they can and can’t conceive, or the more complex hormonal functions that affect how they feel on a day to day basis.
All women should be in tune to the natural functions of their body to know when things do and don’t feel right.
Every woman may not need to be fully aware of the difference in her morning and evening cortisol levels, but it's important to have a basic understanding of how your body functions at different points in the month. There are plenty of reliable trackers out there like Daysy and Ava that help pinpoint fertile windows and provide data regarding the other points in your cycle. Although some of these trackers can be expensive, they have been proven to be very helpful for women desiring to be more in tune with their bodies, and especially for those trying to avoid or achieve pregnancy through natural methods.
Natural Family Planning
Some of the more well-researched fertility trackers can come with a hefty price tag, but there are many methods of Natural Family Planning (NFP) that can achieve the same results without the high cost. Many people immediately assume that any natural forms of family planning involve the scientifically outdated rhythm method, but innovations in science and technology haven’t left NFP behind. The natural biological signs our bodies send us at different times of the month are proven to be effective means of achieving or avoiding pregnancy, and a variety of methods exist that allow for the tracking of fertility data.
The natural biological signs our bodies send us at different times of the month are proven to be effective means of achieving or avoiding pregnancy.
The users of the Creighton Method report a 99% success rate when avoiding pregnancy, and research cites how this method of family planning help couples avoid pregnancy through a deeper knowledge of an individual woman’s cycle. NaPro technology enables couples to delve even deeper into the underlying issues affecting fertility and provides a wealth of personalized information that's helpful for both understanding the cycle and for achieving or avoiding pregnancy. The Basal Method tracks fertility based on changes in temperature, and the Billings Method uses observations of mucus patterns to track cycles. All of these methods have options for classes with certified instructors so you don’t have to take this on all on your own, and the resources available can help any woman no matter what point she's at in life.
Closing Thoughts: Understand Yourself
Whether you are suffering from miserable cramps, struggling to get pregnant, or feel a conviction to avoid getting pregnant, the point is that there ARE options out there besides hormonal birth control. These options are empowering and enlightening because they teach you how your body should naturally function, rather than pretending the process is inherently flawed. These alternatives have the potential to provide answers and solutions to your most difficult hormonal problems that birth control can make worse or leave unaddressed.