“You’ll be pregnant within a year if you get off the pill, sweetheart. Every girl does it. You’ll be just fine.”
I walked out of that doctor’s office knowing that this could not be how I would live for the next 20 years of my life. I would rather be pregnant than feel like this, I thought to myself.
As a newly married 22-year-old, I had only been on the pill for a year. The pill that had once represented maturity and womanhood to me now gave me a sense of dread. For years, I had secretly envied the girls whose phone timers went off once a day to remind them to take their little pill. Now, the little packet on my nightstand represented my duty to keep my husband and I childless at the expense of (what truly felt like) my personality and well-being.
Every girl does it.
Brain fog, constant fatigue, weight gain, low libido, and an overall sense that I was not myself – how did so many women live like this?
Discovering Fertility Awareness
I sat in the parking lot that day and opened my Instagram to find a girl sharing how “natural birth control” had changed her life. Commenters tore her down, accusing her of promoting “her grandmother’s birth control,” and she responded gracefully but with real scientific studies to back up her claims.
This led me to read study after study about how women can only get pregnant a few days a month, how body temperatures change to reflect and confirm ovulation, and how luteinizing hormone tests point toward approaching ovulation. I discovered that there are apps that record your temperature data in order to determine which days to avoid unprotected sex and, as a result, avoid pregnancy.
This was more than counting days on a calendar – this was real, personalized science! I was shocked. If this was true, how come my doctor never told me about this option when I tearfully told her about my struggles on hormonal birth control?
Armed with my new information and an unexplained confidence in myself and my body, I marched my birth control pills to the trash. I got a basal body thermometer in the mail and started taking my daily resting temperature.
Together, my husband and I now bore the responsibility of preventing pregnancy and felt equally responsible for our decision.
Together, my husband and I now bore the responsibility of preventing pregnancy. We both learned the basics of natural pregnancy prevention with the fertility awareness method and felt equally responsible for our decision to avoid pregnancy for a few more years.
And, I was me again.
The Post-Pill Realities
While my pill symptoms were subsiding, my post-pill symptoms hit hard. Hair loss, painful hormonal acne, and debilitating cramps were my new crosses to bear. Having not had a real period in over a year, I had forgotten about the discomfort of painful periods and PMS.
Before birth control, Midol and “more coffee” were my go-to during the week before and the week of my period. Years of coaches encouraging me to push when I didn’t feel like it trained me that my body was weaker than my mind, and without anyone expressly saying it, that the premenstrual energy dip was something I needed to battle if I wanted to be strong and tough.
I even remember the strange pride I felt as a college student when I lost my period for six months due to overexercise – look how fit I must be!
But this time, something in me was changing. By tracking my cycle and my symptoms every day, I recognized that a healthy, regular cycle was important and reflected health in my body. A woman’s body without a period was an indicator of a stressful environment – an environment that the body deemed unfit to support a baby. While I did not want a baby today, I knew that I one day wanted to be pregnant and have children.
By tracking my cycle, not only did I begin to value my regular ovulation and period, but I also noticed very quickly that day 4 me, day 18 me, and day 25 me were three different women – none of whom were “weak.”
While day 18 me had glowing skin and wanted to crush long runs and flirt with my husband, day 25 me was tired, had more acne, and did not want to be touched. On the other hand, day 18 me was often more jumbled, energetic, and antsy, while day 25 me enjoyed being alone, eating delicious, warm meals, and feeling deeper emotions. These moods are not bad or evil – they are beautiful, complex, and feminine.
Embracing My Cycle
I was thrilled to learn that I was not the only woman experiencing these shifts. While men have only what is known as the “circadian rhythm,” or a 24-hour clock, women have both a circadian and an “infradian” rhythm. This rhythm is our monthly clock, and explains why women can experience such different moods, energy levels, and feelings depending on where they are in their cycle.
Women all over the world were harnessing these different strengths during their cyclical month in what is known as “cycle tracking.” Cycle tracking is the practice of eating, exercising, and scheduling activities in order to experience the most benefit based on where you are in your menstrual cycle.
The whole world is arranged to fit the male and female circadian window – scheduling work during typical waking hours and rest during sleeping hours – but very few societal norms allow for women to function according to our cyclical nature.
The areas of nutrition and exercise offer real opportunities for women to cater to their bodies’ unique hormonal fluctuations.
However, the areas of nutrition and exercise offer real opportunities for women to cater to their bodies’ unique hormonal fluctuation and support their monthly cycle. I started with small changes in the gym, including programming more intense workouts in the days before ovulation and then reducing intensity as menstruation approached.
I found that this allowed for more victories and, therefore, more consistency. I no longer felt like every workout had to be the hardest one yet, and instead pushed myself hardest when I knew I could, and still showed up with more grace for my body when I needed to.
Finally, after looking for natural ways to get rid of cramps, I began experimenting with herbal teas. I had heard that some teas helped with cramps, different teas helped with bloating, and other herbs supported ovulation.
In the same way that supporting my body all month with cyclical fitness helped make symptoms like low energy and irritability better, consuming different herbs during the four phases of my cycle supported my body’s current needs as well as prepared for future needs and symptoms.
Having always subscribed to Western medicine and painkillers prior to this, looking to herbs for pain relief was new to me. But it worked.
Raspberry leaf tea the week before my period prevented my period cramps before they started. Nettle leaf during ovulation made my future period lighter and kept me from bloating so much. Spearmint tea immediately after ovulation reduced my hormonal acne in my luteal phase. The list went on.
After a few months of buying boxes, cutting bags, and blending herbs myself, my husband asked me the lightbulb question: “Can’t you just buy these somewhere?”
I searched and searched, but the answer was no. As cycle tracking gained traction because of its real results, women were sharing about how their foods and workouts were supporting their bodies. Women raved about their tea for cramps or ovulation, but no product was curated and convenient for a woman who did not have time to research and put together her own cyclical teas.
But today, there is. Cycle Tea Co. hit the digital shelves on September 1, 2023, and now, hundreds of women are cycling herbs according to their infradian rhythm. Women are reporting a reduction of cramps, a decrease in hormonal acne, easier periods, and assistance in getting off hormonal birth control – with no side effects or strain on their bodies.
The Societal Shift Is Here To Stay
Recent social media trends are showcasing a new movement of women ditching their hormonal birth control and opting for natural birth control methods. Critics of this movement purport that it is nothing more than a “trend,” suggesting that women will end up unintentionally pregnant, unhappy with painful periods, and will return to their hormonal contraceptives as quickly as they left.
But these critics are wrong. This movement is not a fad or a trend, but rather, a reflection of a generation of women waking up to the truth about hormonal birth control, their bodies, and the power of living according to their menstrual cycle.
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