Let’s talk contraceptives. The positives, the negatives I don’t think women talk about them enough and I don’t think we realise how much they affect our everyday lives. Recently I decided to part ways with the pill and try out Natural Cycles. I was unhappy with the side-effects from taking the pill and was keen to find a more natural approach to contraception.
I first started taking the contraceptive pill, Microgynon to be exact, when I was sixteen years old. I suffered from horrific period pains (and dress sense). Every month I checked into the school’s San and lay with my legs against the wall for a couple of hours and waited for the Ibuprofen to kick in.
The contraceptive pill definitely helped when it came to period pain. I took it consecutively for three or so months at a time, so I didn’t have to worry about the monthly hassle of a period. Over the years I switched to some sort of variation – Yasmin, Celeste – whatever the NHS was happy to prescribe that month. On some of the pills I noticed significant mood swings. On some spotting. On some ‘healthy’ weight gain. Despite these side-effects I decided it was easier to stay on the pill. Then I started to get anxiety and panic attacks which my GP thought could be related to the pill. Then came the migraines – and because there is a link between strokes/migraines/combi-pills – I was put on a Progesterone only pill.
After talking to friends and doing some research, I decided that I wanted to step away from the daily pill. It just wasn’t working with my lifestyle and I felt uncomfortable taking something daily that could affect my health negatively. I know it works for many women, that’s fantastic, but it didn’t work for me. There are, of course, other alternatives like the coil and implant, but I just wanted a clean break from any additional hormones (and painful instruments) entering my body.
I’m in relationship and not looking to have any children any time soon, so consistency and routine is key. I tried to keep a regular diary of dates and made sure I was cautious when I could be fertile, but discovering Natural Cycles made life a lot easier. Natural Cycles uses an algorithm to accurately detect and predict ovulation and fertility. It’s the only app to be certified as a method of contraception in Europe. You still have to be religious with your data. Ensure that you are measuring correctly by using a two decimal basal thermometer, as soon as you wake up and just before you drag yourself out of bed. Tap ‘Skip today’ or ‘Deviating temp’ in the add data view when you feel sick, hungover or have slept 2 hours more or less than usual as this can affect the results.
The habit of measuring your temperature requires some discipline but becomes second nature fairly quickly. I keep it by my bedside table, next to a glass of water and my vitamins, so I reach over first thing. It measures your temperature against your data with 93% accuracy. Make sure you take necessary precautions when you need to. If you’re planning on having multiple partners, make sure you’re wearing a condom to protect you from STIs as this nifty device won’t cover your back for that. Same goes if you’re taking the pill, obviously.
After two months of going natural, my anxiety has improved. I’ve also noticed my water retention has vastly improved. When period pains are not so fabulous, I take a couple of painkillers and get the hot water bottle ready. They seem to have got better with age, however.
If, and when, I’m looking to have mini-mes running around – right now, a terrifying thought – it can also be an effective way of trying to get pregnant. It’s your body and you need to do what’s right for you. When making a decision that affects your health/life always consult a doctor for advice.