I was rummaging through my room at my parents’ house when I found an empty pack of birth control. (I’m unsure why I still had it but Kaphas are hoarders after all!) It reminded me of my reproductive journey that I feel so inclined to share with you all today.
Growing up a dancer, I was always in tune with my body. I could tell when I was getting sick. I easily identified the differences in my headaches whether it was hormonal, sugar related, or from staring at a screen for too long. I knew when I was ovulating- I could even indicate which ovary it was coming from. (For those who don’t know, women have two ovaries- right and left. They alternate every month to release an egg into the adjacent Fallopian tube waiting to be fertilized or shed with the uterine lining upon menstruation.) I could feel it all. I even recall the instance in which I got pregnant when I was 17. Due to circumstances and MY RIGHT TO CHOOSE, I opted for abortion. Following the procedure, the doctor asked no questions and sent me home with three months supply of Ortho Tri Cyclen Lo, a birth control brand in which I took for several years to follow. This started my journey with the pill.
Birth control did wonders for my skin, increased my breast size, reduced my painful ovarian cyst experiences (mainly because the follicle never releases an egg while you’re on it), and made me feel safe when having sex with a partner knowing my chances of getting pregnant were incredibly slim, if not impossible. The side effects I didn’t quite love were the excessive weight gain, extreme mood swings, thinning hair and hair fall, and irregular periods. Don’t get me wrong, my periods came once a month in the beginning and proceeded as normal but as the years went by, my period became shorter and lighter, essentially this light brown color that eventually disappeared into no period at all for a few months at a time. Due to these different side effects, I tried switching birth control pill brands to see if I would notice if one brand was better than the other but they all left me feeling exactly the same.
I don’t for a second regret being on the pill. I just wish I had thought about the duration I decided to stay on it and I wish I had known what I know now. It prevented me from having another unwanted pregnancy and it made me feel powerful in knowing that I’m responsible for my reproductive system, but there are side effects I still face as I try to prepare my body for future pregnancies.
When I no longer had a partner, I told my gynecologist that I planned on stopping my pill. She told me it was a silly idea to do that. “What happens when you get a new partner?” She asked. I responded, “condoms.” She shook her head and told me it was a dangerous game I was playing. She wasn’t the only doctor who told me that. When I moved to NYC, I found a new gynecologist soon after I stopped taking the pill. Quite frankly, she SUCKED. She had the worst bedside manner. When I told her I stopped taking the pill, she laughed in my face, called me stupid and told me the method I was using, which I will share with you below, was unreliable and that I would end up back in her office a month later with a positive pregnancy test. She also scoffed at my vegetarian diet and proceeded to tell me that people like me are the reason the planet is falling apart. Uhm…??? Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. As you can see, it still gets me heated when I think of that wretched person, who as my doctor should have made me feel comfortable as her patient. (That was the first and last time I saw her.) If I hadn’t been so educated on the matter, I might have listened to her.
Well, it’s been two years since that appointment and your girl is NOT preggers. Before I tell you what contraceptive method I currently use, I would like to remind you that this is MY journey. It is specific to me. What works for me may not work for you.
This is my disclaimer statement for any of you readers waiting to jump down my throat about why YOU have to take birth control pills:
That is your journey. This is mine.
And for anyone looking to get pregnant, you have to stop taking the birth control pill first before you try to get pregnant, unless you’re like 1% of the population that gets pregnant while still on the pill. But all jokes aside, there are other means of contraceptives that are non-hormonal and non-invasive.
The method I started using was simply tracking my cycle and using condoms. Yes, condoms were reintroduced with my boyfriend of 5+ years. We quite like it just being us two in the apartment, no need for a little one just yet! However, we are preparing my body for a safe place to house our future children for 9 months at a time. For the first three months, I took my temperature in bed first thing in the morning and recorded it on a calendar. When women ovulate, their temperature increases. It’s best to measure it first thing in the morning because our bodies are still and rested giving us validity and a baseline. Aside from marking my temperature everyday, I also recorded when I would bleed, for how long, and the quality of my period. I would record any other experiences like tender breasts, fatigue, mood swings, acne, and mittelschmerz (the terminology for the twinging pain one experiences during ovulation.) Two other things I recorded were the location of my cervix (whether it was descended or not) and the quality of my cervical fluid. I knew I was ovulating when my cervical fluid resembled and felt like the whites of a raw egg- clear, slippery, and sticky to a degree. After months of tracking, my cycle was moving simultaneously with the moon. I would ovulate on the full moon and bleed on the new.
The following were indications I was ovulating:
- My temperature would increase slightly
- My cervical fluid would resemble that of the white of a raw egg
- My sex drive would increase significantly
- When and only when I could feel it, my cervix would ascend higher into the birth canal than usual
What does this information tell me? It tells me the best time to have sex to avoid pregnancy (when I’m not ovulating) and the best time to have sex to get pregnant (while I’m ovulating.) Everything is about timing when it comes to pregnancy. Since, I use this as a means of contraception, I am very careful about when and how I have sex.
When I have sex:
- All the time! Not everyday, but I have sex at any and all points of my cycle
How I have sex- no, not what positions, silly:
- With condoms!
- The only time we don’t use a condom is for a very small window of time and that is during the middle of my period, not including the first two days. This only happens 1-2x’s before we go back to wearing condoms again because there is truly only a 6 day period where women can get pregnant but we like to be as safe as we can while still enjoying the perks we had prior to getting off the pill.
When I was 17, I didn’t have the slightest idea how to track my cycle even though I was aware of the sensation my pelvis and breasts felt as I ovulated and got my period. I remember my mom talking about something called “rhythm.” The way she explained it was that there was a short period of time you could have sex without getting pregnant. However, I didn’t know exactly when that was and therefore ended up facing one of the most challenging obstacles in my life. I’m grateful for my experiences, education, and self awareness. It’s taught me what I needed to know about myself, my cycle, and reproductive health. This article isn’t to sway you in the direction of leaving the pill behind. This article is to bring awareness to how little we truly know about ourselves. And when it comes time to start our families, we don’t really know where to begin. If you’d like to talk more about tracking your cycle and understanding how to do it safely, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in learning more about fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum, set up a free discovery call with me today or join my closed Sow to Seed Fertility Facebook group. Don’t wait to get a handle on your fertility. Unfortunately, time is not always on women’s side when it comes to that. Learn more about yourself. I would be happy to be your guide.
Much Love to You All,
P.S. I didn’t mention much of this in the article above but my period is still slightly off two years after stopping the pill. My body is still regulating itself after years of ingesting xenoestrogens and other synthetic hormones found in birth control. Keep in mind that you can get pregnant even if you don’t bleed or even days after you stop taking the pill.