I've been on hormonal birth control since high school. It wasn't until recently that I realized I've been treating my body the exact same way I did in high school -- yikes!
To be 27 and still following the same routine from when I was 16 gave me literal chills. I know my hormones change regularly, so have I just been ignoring my body with a drug I don't even entirely understand each day?
I booked an appointment with my gynecologist to talk about new birth control options. I told my doctor that I was interested in non-hormonal birth control and she told me about different forms like the copper IUD, condoms, and the sponge, which I already knew about for years. There had to be more hormone-free birth control alternatives!
Frustrated, I went to my girlfriends for advice. Two out of three of them are on the pill, but one friend told me she uses Natural Cycles, the first FDA-cleared, non-hormonal birth control app that monitors your fertility with nothing but a thermometer and an app.
I was shocked. She was in a long-time committed relationship. How had she not had any pregnancy scares?
I dug into Natural Cycles and couldn't believe half of what I read (most of it things I wish they taught me in high school)! I learned there are only 6 days of your cycle you can get pregnant, which is due to sperm being able to survive for 5 days in the female reproductive system. You can identify these days (your "fertile window") by tracking body temperature. That's because during ovulation, your temperature rises due to hormonal changes. Why was I just learning this?
Natural Cycles tracks these changes for you and provides your unique daily fertility status. It's 98% effective with perfect use, 93% effective with typical use, and works from day 1 of use. Their website also calls out other methods' effectiveness rates, so I was able to see a range of birth control options for women and how they work to decide what's best for me.
It felt like there were so many moving parts to the app's tracking and I was nervous I couldn't stay on top of taking my temperature! I told myself to calm down and really think about it - I've been taking a pill on a regular schedule anyway! It's not that different.
I read that even if I did forget to take my temperature every now and then, the effectiveness doesn't decrease. I'd just wind up with a few more red days, meaning I shouldn't have unprotected sex - I can deal with that!
Eventually, I stopped taking my hormonal birth control, ordered the thermometer, downloaded the app, and got started.
Since I was previously on hormonal birth control for years and knew it would take some time for my body to get back to its natural cycle, I started tracking immediately!
The app was so informative, told me exactly what to expect the first month coming off birth control, and I steered clear of unprotected sex for the time being.
Taking my temperature every morning was surprisingly easy. I placed my thermometer on top of my phone on the nightstand every night, and as soon as my alarm went off in the morning, I grabbed it, rolled back into bed, and took it before I even got up. It was like I gave myself an extra reason to snooze a little longer, and I liked knowing exactly where I was in my cycle.
Once I felt like my body and the app were really connected, I started to depend on the red and green days to tell me if it was safe to have sex without condoms or not. It was a little nerve-wracking having unprotected sex for the first time with Natural Cycles, but I trusted the algorithm behind the app and the years of research that had gone into it. I knew that I had been doing everything I needed to make sure I was good to go on my green day.
I was absolutely blown away within three months by how different my body felt coming off hormonal birth control. I lost a few pounds, felt less randomly moody (my friends say thank you), and felt more in touch with my body knowing synthetic hormones weren't dictating my cycle. Finally I had found an effective birth control without the side effects!
I was able to start taking the time to listen to other healthy things I needed, like exercise, more nutritious food, plus taking my temperature in the morning helped me get into an awesome a.m. routine.
Choosing Natural Cycles was the kindest thing I ever did for my body. I feel more in control knowing I have all the answers I need regarding my fertility within myself -- I just need to listen.