Question of the Week: Birth Control

by Gena on October 5, 2009

bc

Hey guys!

First of all, thank you for your feedback! Wow, I am so grateful to everyone who voiced a favorite recipe, and really touched to see how many of you have tried my little creations. (If you missed it, please scroll back to the comments of my last post to pipe in about your favorite Choosing Raw recipe). Looks like the cashew alfredo and zucchini marinara are slightly in the lead. Viva la veggie pasta.

Also, I’m so happy that the root vegetable medley looks pleasing! I really love the recipe (and the dressing) and hope you guys will give it a try.

I’m here with a question I’ve gotten from several readers, most recently Alejandra:

Hi Gena,

I recently came across your blog and was very interested in your approach to all things vegan and raw. You mention in that post that you are not on a contraceptive. I have been on mine for 12 years now. Never comfortable with taking hormones everyday but I was never offered any alternative that sounded less invasive and reliable enough.

I was wondering if you have found a contraception that doesn’t involve taking hormones or polluting the earth (condoms), I would be very interested.

Thanks for reading my email, I look forward to hearing back from you.

Alex

The truth of the matter, Alex, is that this is a question I have yet to come to terms with myself. I wish that there were a birth control method that was totally natural, totally reliable, and totally convenient. Alas, it’s just not so. We’re meant to reproduce, and trying to shut that biological imperative down is not likely to be an easy project. So women are left with a series of imperfect options instead. Many women have negative responses to the pill, and I was one of them the first time I took it. I’ve also never been comfortable with the idea of birth control, in spite of the fact that there is little solid clinical evidence to suggest that there is any downright harm attached. So I totally understand why it seems to make you uncomfortable, too.

In the end, I appreciate birth control as an option for couples who are in long-term, monogamous relationships. From a philosophical and political standpoint, too, I am deeply grateful for the pill: its advent was the single most decisive step in liberating women from what was once the tyranny of being susceptible to pregnancies. I’ll never feel entirely positive about it, but I think it’s a perfectly valid option for those of you who think it’s best for your situation in life at the moment.

I also support alternative options, including copper IUDs and condoms and diaphragms. Many women are pressured into taking the pill by boyfriends and by gynecologists, and that isn’t right: going on birth control is a big decision, and no one should be pressured into it, or told that it’s a no brainer.  The choice to take hormones is a personal one—as personal as any other choice you make about your reproductive health—and no one, not even your lover or life partner, should make you feel as though you have to do it.

Naturally, if you suffer from some sort of medical condition that necessitates the pill or other hormone treatment, or if you’re taking the pill to regulate your cycle, or if there’s any other reason why a trusted medical professional has recommended you take it, you should of course take that advice to heart.

I hate to leave a question of the week so ambiguously answered, Alex, but there it is. I really welcome my readers to chime in on this topic if you’re so inclined. I’m clearly no expert here, and so it would be great to hear some alternate perspectives. In the meantime, Alex, I hope you listen to your intuition and do what’s right for you—all the while knowing that whatever you choose, no one should fault you, and you shouldn’t fault yourself. Reproductive health is a minefield of imperfect solutions and scenarios, and all we can do is our very best to navigate options intelligently.

I’ll be back this week with a less somber topic. And on Thursday, I’ll be off to New Orleans for five days to visit my Chloe, which means three very awesome guest posts for you guys!

xo

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{ 126 comments… read them below or add one }

happyherbivore October 5, 2009 at 4:42 am

I am 28 years old, married for nearly 4 yrs and neither my husband nor I want kids. Maybe in 10 yrs, but that is extremely unlikely. I’ve also had precancerous cells in my uterus and cervix which were removed at the ripe age of 22. I also severely damaged my reproductive system at 19 — I was in a car accident that resulted in a damaged ovary and other complications. Still, after trips to more than 4 different gynecologists, where I practically begged to the point of tears, no one will give me an IUD. I have nothing against birth control – I am glad that it is an option for those who want it… I have been on it for 11 yrs and counting but I would prefer a hormone-free IUD and think its another fallacy of the medical community to deny it to me just because I am not with child.

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astrorainfall October 5, 2009 at 4:44 am

Though it was an ambivalent answer, Gena, I’m glad you took the time out to write your honest feelings about the pill. I have the same conflicts internally and I hate having to anxiously wait for my period to come, hence, I am on the pill with reservations. Perhaps I will add some maca to my diet to “balance” things out, even though it is a feeble attempt in the whole scary hormones scheme of things.

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Jessica @ How Sweet It Is October 5, 2009 at 4:46 am

This is such a great post. I have never had any problems with the pill at all, but still am not a fan of taking it. Thanks.

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Lauren October 5, 2009 at 5:02 am

Such an interesting – and important – topic… thanks for posting about birth control pills, Gena! I have been on the pill for 10 years and am seriously considering going off. Neither my husband nor I are ready to conceive a baby quite yet, but the thought of pumping hormones into my body for a decade is starting to concern me. This is a conversation more women should probably be having!

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Shelby October 5, 2009 at 5:10 am

Gena thank you so much for this post. I have been wondering about birth control for a couple of months now. My mom wants me to go on the pill but I refuse to because of what it could do to my body. What about the little things they stick in your arm? My mom used to have one but I’m not sure if they would be hormone free.

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Kersten October 5, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Norplant (the arm thing) has hormones :(

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Holly J October 5, 2009 at 5:19 am

I think the birth control pill is the devil and REFUSE to go back on it. It totally messed with my moods for the year I was on it and I was bloated most of the time (with the exception of the actual days of my period). The spermicidal inserts are a decent alternative if your in a monogamous relationship. Also, if you’re not using a condemn or BC, not to be gross, but don’t let your partner “finish” inside of you. I’m sorry to be graphic, but I’m not sure how else to put it.

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Kristie Lynn October 5, 2009 at 7:02 am

That is not an effective way to prevent pregnancy – just so you know.

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michelle October 5, 2009 at 1:58 pm

i disagree, it IS a good way. my husband and i have been doing that for four years, some men have pre-ejaculation and so that might be a problem, but over all…its better than pills that wreaked havoc with my whole body. it isnt a suggested way because it could,, go wrong if the guy doesnt pull out in time. but if your guy knows his body and you trust him, then it does work.lol ill be looking forward to hate mail

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Lindsay October 6, 2009 at 6:06 am

I have been on the pill for 9 years, since I was 17 years old. I did try the depo shot for 3 months and gained 15 pounds. On the pill I feel safe, knowing myself and my husband are not ready for children. I could never rely on another method because I know the low protection %. I do not want my pregancy and the birth of our child to be a “suprise.” I believe in being well prepared and planning well in advance. That said I do not enjoy putting hormones in my body! I have researched other methods and have not found another method I would subject myself to. I have deceided once we are ready for a baby I plan on going off the pill for a year, we will use condoms, and then try to conceive. I want to make sure my body is free of the pill.
On a side note I almost had a IUD implanted, but have had 2 friends who have had unpleasant ( to say the least) reactions.

Thanks for posting this question. And good luck to all women trying to find their perfect birth control!

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Priscilla October 6, 2009 at 4:50 pm

I read about this really interesting study in the journal Contraception a few months ago from a NY Times article, “Withdrawal Method Finds Ally”:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/21/health/21cond.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=withdrawal%20method&st=cse

Apparently, everyone was always bashing the withdrawal method, so these researchers put it to the test. They found that the withdrawal method is nearly as effective as using condoms. For perfect use, there was a 4% chance of getting pregnant with the withdrawal method, and 2% for condoms. But that’s perfect use. For typical use, the effectiveness is not great for withdrawal (18% failure rate) or condoms (17% failure rate).

I quit using the pill b/c I stopped getting my period. It was rather unnerving. I went off the pill, and my period came back right away. I wasn’t too keen on using condoms b/c of the cost, the buzzkill factor, and the trash generated, so I was happy to discover this news about the withdrawal method. Now, I keep track of my cycle and monitor when I’m likely to be ovulating. I pretty much avoid having sex then and use the withdrawal method at other times. Maybe I am being naive, but so far so good.

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W. June 6, 2013 at 4:52 pm

When you are figuring in “typical use” you have to factor in the people who simply DO NOT pull out at all. Those people are skewing the numbers. There are plenty of men who have such good ejaculatory control that they pull out EVERY time. Perfect use is not that hard for some men on this method. For other men it’s a nightmare. In other cases the male isn’t trustworthy at all and doesn’t respect his partner. This method requires communication, trust, and a man who is both able to pull out in time and respects his partner enough to. There are PLENTY of men I would not trust to do this method with, but that doesn’t discount the ones who ARE trustworthy with it. To enhance effectiveness you can be aware of your fertility and avoid sex altogether on super fertile days like what you’re doing. You might read: “Taking CHarge of your Fertility” to learn more about what’s going on with your cycle at various times and I recommend the Lady Comp (google it, I don’t want to be accused of spamming or trying to sell something, I’m not. I bought one myself.)

W. June 6, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Not to be contrary, but withdrawal is 96% effective when used correctly. This is according to PLANNED PARENTHOOD. It is almost never discussed as a method though because teenage boys can’t do it correctly. But any couple that is monogamous, with a male partner who is trustworthy, knows his own body, and knows when to pull out and will do it correctly every time it’s an extremely reliable method for a lot of people in that situation.

It’s a myth that there is “sperm in pre-ejaculate”. This is ONLY true if the man recently ejaculated (through sex or masturbation it doesn’t matter) and didn’t urinate and wash. The problem is that sometimes some sperm can end up caught in the urethra and then come out in pre-ejaculate, but sperm is not a feature OF pre-ejaculate. Pre-ejaculate comes from a different place of the male anatomy than ejaculate comes from.

The 4% failure rate with “perfect use” is most likely not so perfect use after all. That would be like saying abstinence is “almost 100%”. If sperm isn’t allowed near eggs, pregnancy does not happen.

Withdrawal works best if used with fertility awareness methods. Safest to use abstinence on unsafe days (since accidents can happen, but the likelihood depends on a guy… this method requires MAJOR partner trust), withdrawal on “probably safe but maybe not” days. And you can go freestyle on your totally safe safe days.

Sorry, this is a pet peeve topic of mine.

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KTBuns October 5, 2009 at 5:24 am

I’m glad this question was addressed, and even more glad that it was addressed by you, Gena. I recently went off the patch for 2 main reasons: Well, I’m gay and the my pocketbook was no longer accepting the excuse of “But my periods are so *regular*!” and I didn’t like knowing that my body’s natural state was being altered. That was in May. And I haven’t had my period since. I’m actually going to schedule an appt. with my doctor to investigate the issue (finally have health insurance – woo!). So, I want it to be known that there are valid health concerns surrounding hormonal B.C. outside of fluctuating weight. :/

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Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen) October 5, 2009 at 5:28 am

Hey Gena,

Great answer to this tough question. You have reminded me that I am long overdue in writing a post on the pill. There are huge risks with it in terms of the state of estrogen dominance it creates- a state that is implicated in sex-hormone related cancers like breast, ovarian, uterine, cervical etc. There is also the issue of infertility that can follow. Hormonal imbalance is also linked to polycystic ovarian syndrome, an incredibly common condition amount women in their 20′s and 30′s who usually don’t get diagnosed until they start trying to get pregnant.

There is a great computer device that costs about as much as two years on the pill but has a five year warranty and is essentially good for life, called The Lady Comp. This uses the temperature method. Additionally, the Justisse Method which uses body temperature, mucuous and cervical positioning to determine fertility and cycles. Essentially there are only, at the most, 6 days of the month that we are fertile, and some argue that it is actually only 3. There are natural birth control coaches and centres for personal coaching on this.

Personally, my health always comes first and the birth control simply does not support health or healing. It depletes the B vitamins- vital in nervous system function and energy production and causes major imbalance in gut flora which impacts immune function, blood sugar balance and regular pooping…

Condoms are definitely not fun but then again- unplanned pregnancies aren’t either. My advice to my clients is always to decide what works best for their lifestyle and present the options as honestly and as informed as I can.

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Lauren October 5, 2009 at 5:34 am

Great post! I was “forced” onto the pill when I was 17 because of a cyst on my ovary. At the time I was dating my hubby and I was slightly anorexic (meaning, if I ate any less then I was I would of been full blown!). I didn’t want to take it because I was so afraid of weight gain, but I did, and didn’t gain weight. I stayed on it for 6 years. I even took Seasonale and got 4 periods a year. When I went off of it (because I didn’t want to be on anything I didn’t HAVE too), I didn’t get my period for 6 months! And even after that it came and went as it pleased. Now everytime I am sick this happens. I am so happy to be working with my acupuncturist to regulate my hormones. I really feel the pill messed with them badly and I am still not right from it. So as you can see I am against it, for myself. I understand why someone would take it, but it’s just not right for me.

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Tracey R October 5, 2009 at 1:26 pm

i read your reply to gena’s blog. i have struggled with significant “irregularity” due long distance running. i am on the pill “to protect my bones” and i have not gotten any good answers from multiple gyn doctors. i did have an acupuncture consultation last monday… wondered how that is working for you?
thanks,
:) tracey

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Lauren October 5, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Hi Tracey! I actually was talking to Gena about this earlier. Yes, I find acupuncture to be helpful with my hormones (as far as I know). I am going to have my hormone levels checked at my OBGYN, but my skin was really messed up for awhile and since acupuncture it has cleared along with some other hormone related issues. My acupuncturist specializes in “women issues” so she was concerned when I told her some of my issues. I have also been on and off of steroids for crohn’s and that has also messed with my levels.

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Emily October 5, 2009 at 5:41 am

When I first established my truly natural lifestyle, I decided to go off the pill because I was uncomfortable with altering my hormones. I am in a monogamous relationship and I highly recommend the diaphragm. While it’s not quite as convenient as the pill, I find it to be the most convenient, hormone-free birth control method.

Emily from Healthy Eating, Naturally

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Daria @ Daria Can Cook October 5, 2009 at 5:43 am

Great post! I find it rather horrifying that copper IUDs aren’t more readily available in the States – it’s one of the most popular forms of birth control in many other countries (said my gynecologist, who willingly discussed this option with me). Not to mention that they’re reversible; it’s not like one asks to be sterilized when one asks for an IUD. Biological imperative or no, it is not every woman’s life goal to have children!

There are also “mini-pills,” which contain progesterone but not estrogen. Yes, it’s still a hormone, but the risk of strokes and blood clots is lessened with these types of pills.

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Kathy February 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm

I used a copper IUD for years, as it is almost 100% effective in preventing pregnancy, yet does not affect your later fertility or your current natural hormones/health. But it’s only for those in monogamous relationships, as it can increase the incidence of complications from STDs.

I took 5 years off from an IUD, during which time I had three kids, and now am back using one. More women should look into them.

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Olga October 5, 2009 at 5:44 am

What an interesting topic Gena! It’s a scary thought. When I was in high school, most of my friends were on the pill, even though they weren’t sexually active. They wanted to prevent “mood swings” or lessen their acne problem. I found this really disturbing…Why mess with your natural hormone system if you’re not even using the pill for the purposes that it is intended for?

When I went on a pill, I asked for the lowest hormone dose possible. But some of my friends use Seasonique (the one where you have only four periods a year!!!) and that scares the hell out of me. If that’s not messing with nature, I don’t know what is. There are also people who switch pills pretty frequently.

I would defend the pill from a medical standpoint in some occasions. For women who have endometriosis, it is really helpful. But I go crazy when it’s advertised for things other than birth control (like Yaz was before the FDA asked them to come out with a correction ad).

Great post and interesting responses too!

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Kristen October 7, 2009 at 5:13 am

I agree, those Yaz ads were ridiculous! SO misleading…

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Lisa March 28, 2010 at 8:20 am

Olga, I know this is an old topic, but the period that you have while you’re on the pill is an artificial period anyway. In fact, when the birth control pill was first invented, they recognized that there was no need for women to have a period while taking it. However, they wanted to keep the monthly period so that women would feel comfortable taking it. That’s why it is perfectly “safe” to have no periods while on the pill (just skip the period week) or have 4 a year – or whatever. Either way, it’s not a “real” period.

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Cindy October 5, 2009 at 5:45 am

Here’s an alternative you may find useful: http://www.redtentsisters.com/eco-contraception.html
My partner and I have been trying the Justisse Method for several months and it seems to be working out for us so far (with a few ups and downs when we didn’t stick to the plan!). Whilst it does take a commitment to learn about how your reproductive system works and to recording your findings each day, it is worth it if you really are concerned about taking the pill or environmental effects of condoms, packaging, etc. Note: this is not the ‘rhythm’ method.
I recommend looking into this method of fertility management for a number of reasons: increased knowledge of how your reproductive system works creating a deeper connection with your body, reducing the input of synthetics/toxins into your body, reduces packaging/condom waste and if you involve your partner there’s an opportunity for the relationship to grow on another level.
I found a Justisse practitioner in Toronto and maybe a search online will find one near you. Alternatively, you could contact the above link if you have queries. The women at Red Tent Sisters are ever so helpful and kind. Good luck with your searches everyone.

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Melissa October 5, 2009 at 5:47 am

Yeah, for me the yeast infection thing was a dealbreaker, but I would note that there are lots of different forms of the pill and if you really want to take it, it’s worth working with an OBGYN who knows his/her stuff to find the right one.

I did OK on Nuvaring, for example…a little scary though because I realized that if birth control could be absorbed through that skin, I better be careful about the tampons I use.

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Ashley Lauren October 5, 2009 at 6:07 am

Thanks for addressing this topic. I agree 100% with your analysis of the alternatives!

I’ve been on birth control for 5 years, and for the past couple months I’ve been debating about going off of it and using the natural rhythms method. I’m Type A enough that I could likely be successful with it, but it’s hard taking the leap to leave, what’s been for me, a sure thing.

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Twins-pure2raw October 5, 2009 at 6:16 am

Great post. I agree with you that it is a personal choice and you have to see if it works for you. And you already know that I just recently went off of it – mentally much pleased with my decisions. Though I think my body is still getting used to not have those hormones pumped into me.

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Ashley October 5, 2009 at 6:33 am

I love reading your thoughts on the pill Gena. Like you I was on the pill for many years and agree that “it lessened my cramps and afforded me piece of mind within my monogamous relationship”. In my latest go at the pill I felt mentally unstable more days out of the month than not. I also believe that it attributed to my ongoing issues with candida.

After getting my Crohn’s under control, I finally decided to come off the pill after getting to the end of my pack one month. I met with a counsellor and started to practice the Justisse method, which as Meghan said uses body temperature, mucuous and cervical positioning to determine fertility and cycles. You can read more about it at http://www.justisse.ca I also highly recommend the book “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” for all women, whether or not they want to get pregnant. It’s an amazing resource.

It has been 4 months and I feel amazing. I love tracking my cycles and I feel more connected to my body than ever before. Our body gives us the signals that we’re fertile (or not) but it’s really up for us to be open to them and recognize what they are.

It’s incredibly frustrating as a woman to see the “options” that are available for birth control. I agree that we all need to do what is right for us in order to achieve the outcome we’re looking for. Going off the pill was one of the best decisions I ever made and I love to know that there are others out there who are doing the same.

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Tammy October 5, 2009 at 6:38 am

To be honest, I am not married or having sex, so it is not relevant at this point for me. I have wondered what I will do, if and when I get married and this is an issue. My family has hereditary issues with poor circulation and I am most concerned with the risk of blood clots/ stroke. I don’t like the idea of taking hormones, but the anxiety of waiting for my “monthly friend” would not be fun! Thanks for your perspective!

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Tyler October 5, 2009 at 6:49 am

i had no idea that an IUD can be hard to get! i actually have a friend who has one (unmarried and 22 years old). now i’m curious to ask her if she encountered any resistance from gynecologists!

i have had friends who experience significant mood swings on the pill, but i’ve luckily never had any side effects. since not having babies is very important to me right now, i haven’t considered not taking my pills as an option. i think it makes since for me to stay on them now, but you are right that women should give thought to this decision. very interesting post!

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jane October 5, 2009 at 6:51 am

i got my copper iud at planned parenthood and they didn’t flinch or hesitate. they went over all of the possible side effects, explained to me how it works and all of that good stuff, but there was no judgment or trouble. i don’t even think they asked me if i was married, just if i was in a monogamous relationship and warned me about STDs etc. i recommend it to anyone who is uninsured or who has a bitchy gyno.

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Amanda October 18, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Not only does it save women from the yeast infection side effects, but it’s also cost effective. I’m with you.

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Kristie Lynn October 5, 2009 at 6:55 am

I guess my case is kind of not “usual”. I had to ask my doctor for an appointment for a gynecology exam because at age 20 I still hadn’t had one (and had never been asked to set one up). Even once I got the exam, I had to be the one to bring up birth control, and was made to feel really uncomfortable about asking for a prescription for it. But I did, and took the cheapest generic version (Ortho Tri-Cyclin) for about a year (then I lost my health insurance and the prescription ran out). I had nothing but good (or at least not negative) results from it – a regular period for the first time in my life, and no decrease in sex drive/weird mood swings/weight gain. When I went off of it, I had no problems either with change in mood AND my period stayed regular (give or take a day, which is way better than it was pre-pill). I’m nothing but a fan, and hope that my new insurance card comes in soon so I can schedule an appointment to get a new prescription.

However, I have had a friend that got all the more negative effects from it. She started getting UTIs and yeast infections whereas before she had never had any, and even got physically sick the first few months she took it. She went on it because her period wouldn’t stop when she would get really stressed – I think she was on week 4 of it when she went to see her doctor? Anyway, now she is off of it and is much happier, although she also was violently sick once she stopped taking it. So there’s a horror story to counteract mine… although one difference was that she was on a pill that allowed her to only have her period 3 times a year, whereas I still had mine every month. Just something I’ve thought about :)

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Nita October 5, 2009 at 7:06 am

I like this post and the comments made, finally some girl talk! I refuse to take the pill. I tried it for about 3 months and it made my hormones go all wacky. After I cried after my sister said I stink (which is normal fun banter that we have), I said no more.

I think that we should turn to indigenous people when we think of pregnancy prevention or healing. http://www.rain-tree.com/vassourinha.htm. We got this herb for my sister who is suffering from PCOS and other reproductive issues, and who wants to regulate her reproductive system so she can get pregnant. I hope this information helps someone who may be struggling with the same thing. I always try to remember that pills (any sort of medicine really) have a reason why they are on the market- to make someone money first and foremost. Plants aren’t talked about much in the US because they can’t be patented and make someone money. Thank goodness we now have the power to do the research ourselves if we really want to.

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Nathalie Lussier October 5, 2009 at 7:12 am

I’ve written about my personal story with taking the pill. I’m not a fan, and I’ve had deep conversations about the pill with my hydrocolon therapist. Honestly, I think that the less we “toy” with our body and our hormone levels, the better.

If I could do it over again, I would not have taken the pill. Interestingly enough, it was my boyfriend’s mother who told me to stop taking the pill. Not because she wants grandchildren. Because she cares about my health, and being from China she believes in following nature’s course.

Just my 2 cents. :)

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Lindsey @ Sound Eats October 5, 2009 at 7:22 am

Great post – I also wrote a post on Birth Control relatively recently, and there were lots of interesting comments with women sharing different types of BC they use, along with their experiences on them.

http://www.soundeats.com/?p=732

Just a note on the copper IUD – I think the reason most doctors are hesitant to insert Paragard (the copper IUD) in women who have not yet had children is because there are a few more risks to it, as well as the pain factor – it is much more difficult to insert and experience for a woman who has not yet had children (so I’m told anyway). I still think that if a woman has been versed in the side effects and is aware of the pain that will come along, she has the right to choose if she still wants it or not.

Also – on weight gain. I understand you don’t want comments just complaining, “I went on the pill and gained weight,” but I do think it is an issue. For me, it freaks me out that I’m healthy (eat balanced, vegan meals, incorporate many types of workouts 5-6 times a week) yet my weight is excelling at a crazy rate due to this tiny little pill I am putting in my body. I think weight gain with birth control should be looked at as more than a surface “cosmetic” problem. It’s a reflection on something going on inside our bodies, and anything that causes drastic changes on the outside, imagine what’s going on inside? Just my point of view.

As for me and my personal story with birth control…most can be found in the link above. I am a young married woman (we don’t want kids for YEARS though) and I have actually just gone of the pill and plan on using backup methods until I meet with my doctor to discuss more options.

Thanks for the post.

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Andri July 22, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Lindsey -

I really agree wtih your point of view regarding weight gain and how it is really an indicator of what is going on inside of our bodies. I really want to go off the pill but I am not comfortable with not having that peace of mind that I won’t get pregnant! Do you know what the side effects of the copper IUD are? I’ve heard some rap that indicates they actually cause an abortion inside of the body vs. preventing an actual fetus to form.

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Mel October 5, 2009 at 7:25 am

I also use the “Taking charge of your Fertility” method. There is a whole support board of women who happily use this method and it really helped me get started. http://www.tcoyf.com I can’t believe I didn’t know about this sooner. I’ve been off nasty bcps and using TCOYF for 6 months and i couldn’t be happier. The first few months are a learning experience, but now its a piece of cake. I could go on and on….but I won’t. Have a good one!

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Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) October 5, 2009 at 7:47 am

OMG GREAT POST!!!!!!!!

I could write a book on this Gena. You and your readers seem to be about 4-7 yrs younger than I. I am 33. So many may not be ready to try to start having a baby. Just wait til you hit those coffee clutches were 30 yr old women talk with each other about how for the last 15 yrs of their life they’ve been on the pill to prevent pregnancy and now they are with the man they want to start a family with and 1. cannot get their period back 2. their cycle is completely out of whack 3. they totally blame the pill. Basically it does such an awesome job of preventing pregnancy and for so many years that when you do try to get off it and get pg, things may not be so easy. At all. I know soooo many women who try for a good 9-18 mos just to get their periods back or regulated after going off the pill.

As for what contraception method to use? It’s so personal and one has to be ok with the other risks involved (i.e. getting pregnant even if you werent’ planning on it) balanced with the risk of the intervention (i.e. taking hormones, getting an IUD placed, etc.).

OMG I LOVE THIS POST and have wanted to write a post like this on my blog about what all the vegan/health-informed/non-conformist :) women do. In holistic circles it seems that if you don’t chart or just do NFP you’re not holistic enough for lack of a better word. Well, that’s not always the best option for everyone so I am so glad you’re bringing attn to things here.

As always, much love & respect for you :)
xoxo
ave

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Veggie Booty October 5, 2009 at 7:49 am

Thank you for the post, Gena! This is a topic near-and-dear to my own heart, as I’m sure it is to many women.

I was on the pill for a decent stretch of time, I’d say about 4-5 years, and never suffered any major consequences. Which is lucky because I, too, was a heavy smoker at that time. (**This is a plea: If you are on the pill and a smoker, QUIT SMOKING!!**) My mom was actually never a huge fan of me being on the pill, as she simply doesn’t like the idea of putting hormones in your body, so when I started thinking about going off, she encouraged me. Also, as a Type I Diabetic, I already put a hormone into my body (insulin), and I don’t really have a choice about that one – the pill, on the other hand, I had the choice.

After doing loads of research on IUDs, I decided this was the option for me. I wanted the copper IUD – I’ve heard good things about the hormone-producing one as well, but my goal was hormone-free. I went to my college’s (Rutgers University) health clinic, and was shocked to discover that nobody could put one in for me. It’s the biggest school in New Jersey, and a pretty big school in general, and they didn’t have *anyone* who could insert this? Really?? It’s such a highly-effective form of birth control and SO EASY to “use,” as, all you need to do is find someone to insert it! No maintenance required – you just need to remember that you have it when you go for your annual exam!

I was frustrated, and sort of gave up hope. Then, when I started at Columbia for grad school, I felt sure that someone in their health clinic could do it. Wrong again! Fortunately, at this point, they pointed me to Planned Parenthood, and that is when I fell in love with that agency. I met with a doctor there who discussed all the risks, complications, and benefits of the IUD, and answered all of my questions, including one particularly weird one involving my boyfriend’s piercing. I felt no judgment from her about anything I was telling her, and she was understanding and compassionate. I realize my experience may have been unique, but it was stellar.

I had my IUD inserted, and wow! That hurt. She had told me to let her know if I felt like I was going to faint, and right as I was about to tell her I couldn’t take anymore, it was done. After that, I was a little bit crampy for 24-hours, but then, nothing. And I have had no complications. So, if anyone is considering this method of birth control, I would highly recommend getting in touch with Planned Parenthood. They were fantastic!

I also want to add that IF you are considering it, do your research! I’m quite sure this option is not for everyone, as it can cause increased cramping, bleeding, etc. As Gena said, you need to find what works for YOU. This is just what worked for me, as well as a plug for Planned Parenthood ;-)

Enjoy that for what it’s worth, and thank you for the post, Gena!

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Gena October 5, 2009 at 7:53 am

Wow. I love you guys. All of you. Please keep these AMAZING comments coming!!

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Janna (Just Flourishing) October 5, 2009 at 7:57 am

Thanks for writing about a topic that is relevant to so many women yet so rarely discussed.

I went on the pill when I was 17, and am now 23. At first I went on the pill to regulate my cycle. My period lasted for 10 days out of every month and was incredibly painful. On the pill, I did experience some weight gain, but that was the only side effect and it wasn’t anything drastic. My period was only 4 days long!

Now I use it as a contraceptive and it has been working well for me. I am on the lowest dose available which gives me some peace of mind. However, it does ultimately concern me that I am ingesting hormones into my body every day, and have been doing so for 6 years.

Also, I know there have been long term studies done of the positives of the pill, like preventing certain types of cancer.

What I learned is that the pill mimics pregnancy in your body. And many years ago, women were pregnant for long periods of their life, which was the norm. That’s what women were essentially there for, reproduction. Obviously nowadays that is NOT the case. And medical science is saying this could be the reason for certain cancers occurring in women – not ever being pregnant/having children.

And since the pill mimics being pregnant it can, indeed, give the positive effects that being pregnant seems to provide women.

Also, as I am in a monogamous relationship (but am not married) and would absolutely go crazy waiting for my “monthly friend” if I was using anything that was less than 99% effective. So, for now, I am sticking with the pill, even though it does go against living a “natural” lifestyle. Unfortunately, there really isn’t another option for me.

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Eat Naturally Minneapolis October 5, 2009 at 8:02 am

Hi, just to add to the birth control experiences:

I was on generic ortho-tricyclene lo for about 7 years and had no noticeable side effects, but as I started to get more into natural health the whole idea of putting this foreign stuff in my body started to bother me, so I decided to stop taking it. (I’m married and while we’re not planning on kids RIGHT now it wouldn’t be the end of the world, we were just going to use natural planning methods.)

Anyway this was at the end of January and I have only gotten 2 irregular periods since then, one right after I went off so don’t even think it was a “real” one. My doc said this is still in the “normal” range but it doesn’t feel very normal.

The scariest thing to me is, not one doctor over the years ever talked to me about how it can take so long to get back to “normal” after being on the pill – I have also heard stories about how it can be harder to get pregnant right after you go off – getting this news would be awful for someone who went off with the intention of getting pregnant right away and had to wait a year due to the side effects of the pill.

Ultimately, I do not trust doctors at all and am now wary of putting anything unnatural in my body, even flu shots, etc.

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Sarah October 5, 2009 at 8:07 am

Many doctors will not insert copper IUD’s in young women because it can make it more difficult to conceive and can increase risk for miscarriages.

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Eve October 5, 2009 at 8:10 am

This was a great post to read, Gena! I just wanted to point out – the person who asked the question, Alex, mentioned that she wasn’t keen on using condoms, due to their negative impact on the environment. Obviously, there are many thing to consider when choosing birth control, but the pill is not necessarily an environmentally wiser choice – it’s entirely possible that all the excreted hormones are wreaking havoc that we don’t know even know about yet.

I was on the pill (yasmin) for about two years before finally going off it a few months ago. I have absolutely no proof, but I will say that I developed stomach problems (ulcers, acid reflux, generally sensitive stomach) around the same time as I went on the pill. There were other things, too – the slowly creeping increasing weight, the sporadic but severe breast tenderness, etc. Considering that I had no stomach issues before I went on the pill, I am hesitant to say that they are unrelated. I’m happy to have my sex drive back, too!

I know everyone needs to make their own decisions about something this personal, but I know in retrospect, I am unhappy that I was never properly counseled about my options or the risks. Hindsight is 20/20, right?
-Eve

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JessicaR October 5, 2009 at 8:19 am

I’m still on the pill, but eventually want to go off. One of the things I have researched is the LadyComp (http://www.ladycomputer.com/f_introduction_ladycomp.htm). It’s from Germany and is supposedly 99.3% effective. I’ve heard a lot of good things, so I’ll definitely be purchasing one eventually. Has anyone here used one?

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JessicaR October 5, 2009 at 8:21 am

(Whoops, just saw that the Lady Comp was mentioned above. Glad to know it comes recommended by raw food ladies!)

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Rachel October 5, 2009 at 8:35 am

I am very disappointed with the lack of true research into natural living shown here. Gena, did you even truly look into natural forms of birth control?

I have been effectively using fertility awareness for over 10 years with my husband and we’ve never had a single problem. Please, please, do the research- I hear all of you crying out for a natural form of birth control and THIS IS IT!

It’s not the calendar method, it’s not the rhythm method- it’s KNOWING for certain when you can get pregnant and when you can’t. I’ve found it to be simpler than the pill (which made me horribly ill) and less polluting and inconvenient than condoms and diaphragms.

Plus, by being fully enlightened to your body’s entire hormonal cycle (not just your period) both you and your partner are so much more connected to what’s really going in your moods, illnesses, stress, etc.! It’s brought my husband and I so much closer emotionally and sexually.

I’m telling you from first hand experience- read Taking Charge of You Fertility and stop paying so much for various forms of inconvenient, unnatural birth control! Our bodies send us several clear signals throughout the month to let us know when we can and can’t get pregnant- for certain! My husband and I have had worry-free, money-free sex our entire marriage!

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, fertility awareness is AS effective as the pill and other forms of birth control (or moreso) when practiced properly. If you know for sure when you’re fertile, you can’t get pregnant- makes sense, right? Going on 11 years and no pregnancy scares for us! We’re blissful and connected as a couple!

Please stop struggling and give it a try- it fits so perfectly with a healthy, raw food, natural lifestyle!

You can even email me with any specific questions- feel free!
racheldehoff@gmail.com

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Gena October 5, 2009 at 8:40 am

Rachel,

Thank you for your very passionate response and offer for help. I would appreciate your suspending your disappointment, though — I prefaced this post quite clearly by stating that I have not had the time to research fertility awareness. If I were to enter another monogamous relationship, I would of course do more research. This post was meant only to spark a conversation and give women who feel pressured to take the pill an outlet to speak up — not to be an expert’s take on fertility awareness. And while your input is welcome, the attitude was not.

Gena

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rhodeygirl October 5, 2009 at 8:44 am

I am married and on the Pill, but I really wish I wasn’t. I hate that I am taking in hormones every day. Why do I agree to that but won’t even touch any food containing hormones? Or let my husband eat them?

The sad truth is that I am not willing to try the other options right now, and we are also not ready for a baby. I am SO excited to get off of it in May (as my husband and I have decided) and I wonder in what ways how I feel will change.

Surprisingly, some of my friends completely disagree with me and see nothing wrong with it at all!! In fact, this weekend when I complained that I hate taking in these stupid hormones, I was teased. I wish I could educate them, but I suppose each woman must decide for herself.

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Kelly October 5, 2009 at 8:45 am

I am married for almost for years now and at first i was on the pill until side effects started. i was feeling awful all the time and it got me thinking on how much it must be affecting me and for longer without me even noticing.

we use condoms now and have no problems with it. i understand some guys and girls don’t like it but ultimately i think for us its the best choice. if going to a gyno isn’t embarassing enough, let alone going to a gyno in a muslim country (we live abroad, in Dubai…).

i wouldn’t get back on the pill, i dont trust it. i dont think hormone shots or whatever those pill have its safe, its natural.
we are exposed to so many things everyday (i can’t always buy organic, pollution…) so take hormones on top of that sounds scary to me.

now with my nearly vegan diet, my menstrual cramps are better and i dont feel as bad as before, so yay!

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Meaghan October 5, 2009 at 9:23 am

Hi Gena,
Thanks for starting a conversation on this important topic! I’m 26 and was on the pill for about 7 years before I went off it 2 years ago. I had frequent infections (throat & sinus, a few yeast infections) but didn’t associate these with pill use, so thought I had no major side-effects; the changes that the pill had made to my body were not clearly visible until after I stopped taking it. When I went off the pill I didn’t menstruate for 11 months. That was scary. I saw a Naturopathic doctor during that time, and found that I wasn’t absorbing nutrients well, and was also generally feeling badly a lot of the time. My skin started to break out a lot, which had never been a problem for me before, even in high school. My energy levels were low; I was lethargic and slept a lot. I had severe cramping and pain during my periods for several months, too. Now, 2 years later, my system is starting to reach a balance (I hope). My periods are regular and cramping and etc. is less problematic, and my skin is starting to return to normal. I try to eat healthy, natural foods as much as possible, and my energy is better.
I’m in a monogamous relationship, and we have been relying on condoms to prevent pregnancy. It’s not perfect, but it’s okay for now. I would not go back on the pill, especially after seeing how long it can take one’s hormones to find balance again. It’s great to hear about other options from everyone’s comments! Thanks again.
Meaghan

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Lindsay October 6, 2009 at 6:15 am

When I read your response a light clicked on! I get strep throat 2-3 times a year and sinus infections 3-4 times a year without fail. No matter what I do to prevent them. I never thought they may be related to the pill. I plan of paying closer attention to that connection!
Thanks.

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kay (eating machine) October 5, 2009 at 9:24 am

i’m on the pill… and i don’t love it, but what was the DEVIL was depo… ugh… weight gain, mood swings like a madwoman, and spotting CONSTANTLY. and you can’t take that stuff out of your body! it was terrible-it’s there for 3 months!
i would like to try an IUD but i’m just scared as heck that i’ll have some wacky side effects with that too.

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valerie October 5, 2009 at 9:25 am

It may be a regional thing but OB/GYNs in Northern California will put in IUDs regardless of previous pregnancy. They even seem to be pushing the Mirena. Personally, I had too many side-effects and prefer the Nuva Ring. While the Nuva Ring still has hormones, I have found it to be free of side-effects (and I had many many side effects from the pill) and very easy to use.

Thanks for the post Gena!

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melissa October 5, 2009 at 9:28 am

talk about well detailed and researched. I am comforted to know that sometimes there isn’t an easy solution and you may have to make due with a less than perfect alternative, mainly because I have such a hard time being perfect. omg, my boss just came over. kind of embarassing. i almost got an iud last year, but at the last second canceled since it’s not great for your bones. xoxo

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Sarah October 5, 2009 at 9:30 am

I was on the pill for years before I began to question whether it was a smart choice for me or not. When I decided to experiment going off of it, and subsequently lost my period for the next year and a half I knew the pills effects on my body were not good. I finally regained my period and will never go back on the pill. What I find disturbing is the amount of people who freak out when I tell them I am not on the pill. I am married and my family and friends, when they hear my choice, act shocked, as though I am being irresponsible. Why do so many normally open minded women think the pill is the only choice and why is my reproductive system anybody, but my husband and I’s business? It isn’t.

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Stefania October 5, 2009 at 9:31 am

i was on the pill for 3 months when I was a freshman in college at 18. My ex suggested it. I agreed to try it out for the three months, and emphatically decided it was not for me. I only gained maybe 5 pounds, I never had cramps really to begin with, and my period was reasonably regular on its own. So really I didn’t notice any side effects from the pill. But it still felt unneccessary and I was freaked out about the hormones. I told my ex we would go back to using condoms- he wasn’t thrilled, but he agreed it was my choice.

My husband and I now do not use the pill or condoms or anything else. We use our combination of the calendar method, rhythm method, and just try to keep track of fertility, and pulling out. We are not trying to have kids right now- we aren’t quite ready. But at the same time we know we would never be fully prepared for kids. If it happened right now, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Surprising, yes, but we would still be happy.

I know the method isn’t for everyone, but so far we have been together 4 yrs and it works for us.

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Janessa (epicuriousvegan.blogspot.com) October 5, 2009 at 9:34 am

Wow, what a great post. I, too, have always felt uncomfortable with birth control. I don’t know if Portland is just more progressive, but when I decided to get a copper IUD, I had no problem finding friends to share stories and recommend doctors.

The doctor I found was a super sweet lady who discussed all my options with me. At no point did she express concern about me being unmarried. (Seems pretty old-fashioned! I’m kind of shocked that there’s still that kind of thought out there.)

It was also mostly covered under my then-insurance.

So, maybe everyone should just move to Portland with me?

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Rachael October 5, 2009 at 9:38 am

For those of you interested in the IUD, I just want to second what 2 other girls said about Planned Parenthood. I got an IUD at the age of 18 with no trouble at all at my university (University of Florida), but I know several other girls my age that have gotten theirs at Planned Parenthood. I would recommend anyone interested in an IUD to go there as they are nonjudgmental and usually will provide this service.
Also, I haven’t experienced any negative side effects such as cramping or heavy bleeding during my periods, and I’d highly recommend the IUD as a hormone-free birth control option.

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Heather October 5, 2009 at 9:46 am

Thank you SO much for this post. It really is enlightening to read your opinion. I’ve been on and off birth control since I was twelve, because of several different blood disorders. Never once has it been a good experience and it usually left my body more unbalanced then before. I’ve finally reached a point in my life, where I recognize that the benefits (and there *are* a lot of benefits for me with a platelet dysfunction) do NOT outweigh the set backs.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your opinions, thanks for sharing. :)

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Gabriela October 5, 2009 at 9:54 am

Thank you for a great question and a great, honest answer. I was on the pill, on and off, for about five years until, five years ago, I decided to stop. I finally realized that my body is extremely sensitive to fake hormones and I had the same effects Gena mentioned: lack of sex drive, feeling flat moods, etc. I have been using condoms since and I have NEVER had one single problem. I know condoms are bad for the environment and I care about this, but let’s put it this way: You care for the environment because, ultimately, you care about the earth’s health, which ultimately includes your health as well. To me, condoms hurt the environment less than fake hormones do (think of all the people who flush their birth control pills down the drain… contaminating our water supply- but that’s another long story).

In lack of a better option, I vote for condoms.

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Julie October 5, 2009 at 10:36 am

I am really grateful for this discussion; it’s good to hear what everyone has to say. I just want to offer one caveat about forms of birth control that rely on charting one’s cycle, measuring one’s body temperature, etc. Studies have shown that some women can get pregnant on 25 days out of 28, and it doesn’t matter how carefully these women try to take their temperature, chart their cycle, etc. – they still will be unable to arrive at any sort of conclusion about when it is possible to have sex with minimal risk of becoming pregnant.

I only mention this because if you are one of these women, it feels a bit belittling to have other people tell you that it’s “more natural” to use a method like NFP, Ladycomp, Justisse, etc. We’d love to be ‘all natural’, but these are not effective forms of birth control for everyone. There are also many women who do not have any sort of regular cycle, and those methods really aren’t helpful if your period is 27 days apart, then 35 days, then 14 days, then skips a month, etc.

Again, this is not to say that there is anything wrong with those methods. If they work, that’s great. But they just don’t work for everyone, and we should all be careful about judging other as being ‘less natural’ for not using those methods.

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missalix October 5, 2009 at 10:49 am

I went on the pill at a fairly young age (16) at the recommendation of my gynecologist. I was on it for 4 years following that when I decided it was best to go off since I was no longer in a committed relationship (read:not having sex) and didn’t feel the pressure put foreign hormones in my body. During that time I didn’t notice any adverse effects.

It wasn’t until my gynecologist again talked me into taking it at 23. I went on it for a month and felt like a total crazy person. All of a sudden I flashed back to my teenage years and realized a lot of my angst and anxiousness were a direct result of the artificial hormones I had voluntarily been taking.

I immediately stopped taking it and returned to my normal self. I wish that it had never been prescribed to me as I think it is highly related to severe depression I experienced during the time I was on it. I wish I could to take that time back, that I feel in retrospect, was stolen from me.

Another thing that gets me is that I think a lot of women engage in unprotected sex with non-monogamous partners when they are on the pill since they can’t get pregnant and that scares me.

Thanks for writing this and opening up the discussion.

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Bianca- Vegan Crunk October 5, 2009 at 10:55 am

I’ve never really even thought about this. I’ve been on the Pill for almost 10 years with no side effects whatsoever. So I guess, for me, it hasn’t been an issue I’ve had a need to think about. I’ve had a few friends who got all crazy on the Pill and one who had serious blood clotting. But I lucked out. For now, it’s working for me…and since I don’t like babies (unless they’re baby kitties!), that’s a good thing!

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Ashley October 5, 2009 at 11:09 am

Hi! Delurking to give some major props on a well written commentary. I appreciate your comment regarding the pill and feminism. One of the major reasons I went on the pill (5 years ago) is that I wanted to take control of MY body. Even though I’m in a serious, long term relationship, I’m uneasy relying on my bf, or any one else for that matter, to keep me from getting pregnant. However, like many of the commenters, I’m anxious to get off the hormones, although I’ve never had any major issues. Unless I get over my silly fear of IUDs (which sound great, from my research), we’ll be sticking to condoms, most likely. Until, of course, they come out the with the male bc pill. Seriously, awesome–they’re even working on a non-hormonal one!

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meagan October 5, 2009 at 11:11 am

i’m 23 and married. i took the pill for a year and quit this past april. i experienced vaginal dryness, mood swings and a general fogginess that i hadn’t experienced before. after a month of readjustment (which was…just horrendous…) i felt so much better.

to compensate–since my husband and i don’t want children—we combine temperature/cervical mucous/calender/cervical positioning with condoms. by taking my temperature and charting my body i now know so much more about my cycle, my reactions to hormones, my moods—wow! i recommend it even if you AREN’T having sex. it’s fascinating and even doing it for a few months gives you a wealth of knowledge.

i followed ‘taking charge of your fertility’. it’s a fascinating and empowering journey.

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Courtney (The Hungry Yogini) October 5, 2009 at 11:52 am

I didn’t realize that Copper IUD’s were so hard to get! I actually just got one (err, should i be admitting this in the comments section, let along on the internet??? Oh well…) and my doctor was beyond supportive when I decided that’s what I wanted. She was impressed that I had done my research however, so I recommend anyone wanting to get one to do their research and let their doctor know that they have their facts. I completely disagree with hormonal birth control, and am beyond happy with my IUD. It’s 99% effective…and you don’t have to worry about it!

Thanks for shedding light on this topic, Gena! Such an important piece of info to have for all women who want to protect their bodies!

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Greenling October 5, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Just wondering if you think there’s a significant difference between hormonal BC and hormones taken by trans individuals for the purposes of sex reassignment… do you have a stance on how something like the surgery and medication involved in transition fits into a ‘green’ or ‘healthy’ lifestyle?

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nicole October 5, 2009 at 1:04 pm

hi gena -

i’ve been a lurker for a while, and wanted to thank you for the post and the blog in general – you have provided a lot of advice and inspiration without a shred of judgement*, and have challenged me to continue to lead a healthier life. i’m a vegetarian who is a sometime vegan, and is dabbling in raw foods, and a growing student of kundalini yoga.

your post has led me to wonder if you have any advice to offer in the way of migraines. two years ago i suffered an injury that has led to chronic migraines that, unfortunately, require daily medication and regular visits to a massage therapist. while i believe that, for now, medication in my case is necessary, i would love to to whatever i can decrease the need for meds, or at least reduce any factors that can lead to migraines. other than obvious things like no chocolate or wine, have you come across anything in the raw movement to counter migraines?

thanks again for the inspiration…

*as a small side note, i’m finishing up my dissertation and one of my areas is women’s studies, and i really appreciate the way you remain sensitive to everyone’s individual reproductive needs and medical situations. unfortunately, some doctor’s could take a cue from your book.

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Salamander October 6, 2009 at 5:03 pm

Nicole –

Just a little note after reading your comment.

I was on the pill for several years, with chronic headaches and migraines. Eventually – migraines worked up to 3x per week and I couldn’t function. I went on various different “Low dose” BCPs and while things got minimally better – nothing ever worked.

Until – I went to a Chiropractor for low back spasms. My Chiropractor at the time, recommended that I think about other forms of BC, and gave me Evening Primrose Oil to help me transition off the synthetic hormones. Along with this – I had very regular Chiropractic adjustments that honestly – SAVED me. I now work as a Chiropractic Assistant, and am adjusted regularly. I’ve not taken any Axert or other triptiline/drugs for over a year or two and my migraines are down to maybe 2x per year.

We see a lot of headache and migraine people in the office, and particularly after an accident it is extremely important to get proper X-rays and treatment. You may have seen a Chiropractor before, but they are just like any other practitioner in that not all are created equal. Feel free to contact me (salamanderpal at gmail dot com) if you’d like some help in finding someone. I’ve found lots of other benefits, but going off my BCP as well as adjustments have saved my sanity!

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Hadley October 5, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Thanks, Gena, this is very informative. I recently went off the pill and found that taking milk thistle greatly helped re-regulate my hormonal levels. As it was explained to me, milk thistle helps your liver process toxins and hormones — including estrogen. So by helping that process, one avoids estrogen build up (ie, the cause of many PMS-related symptoms such as water retention and cramping). I’ve been taking one pill per day for the past two months or so — I’ll probably cut down to just the week before my period going forward. I experienced NO side effects going off the pill–was greatly relieved.

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Becky October 5, 2009 at 1:30 pm

I have been on several different kids of birth control for years now. All trying to find “what’s best for me”. Honestly, no type of birth control is really “right” it seems.

I tried the patch and even though everything else about it was alright, I got horrible headaches. Shortly after I read articles and such of blood clots and that headaches was an indicator. Scary stuff. I immediately went off it prompted by my fiance when I mentioned it to him. More recently I was on the pill for about a year. I got on it because my periods were extremely heavy and when I could not stand it anymore went to the doctor and after many tests, that was the alternative. When, I explained to a friend of mine how much blood I was losing she responded, “So, you were basically bleeding to death.” Again, a scary thought.

Although, I do not want that to happen again, I also had similar side effects to bc pills. When my prescription ran out I decided I did not want to refill it and my fiance backed me up. I did not like feeling fatigued all the time or the lack of sex drive. We always had such a healthy sexlife prior. Its been a couple of months since I’ve been off and I feel much better about everything. I now realize how “cloudy” I felt. Another odd thing, which could have been coincidence was that I got 2 urinary tract infections, one which was pretty bad. I honestly hadn’t made the connection until my fiance did but I’d never had one before in all the years we knew other until I got on the pill. The doctor told me she didn’t think the UTIs were a result of the pill but rather of the exposure of not using condoms anymore. It could have been coincidence. Who knows.

Although it is not the optimal choice, we have agreed to use condoms until we are married and then we will look in to other options such as fertility awareness and natural family planning. I have two children from a previous marriage so I’m sure I would’t have a problem getting an IUD, but we do want a child together, we’re just unsure of how soon. We just figure at least once we’re married, if it happens it will be a blessing.

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Rebecca October 5, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Just to add some balance to the discussion, I’ll chime in here. I’m 34 and was basically on the pill since age 19, with a few months off here and there when I forgot to pick up my prescription. I never had any side effects and liked the shorter periods and lack of cramps. My complexion always looked marvelous, and I had no PMS. Two years after marriage, my husband and I decided we wanted to start a family. I got off the pill and got pregnant immediately. I know there are horror stories out there, but for every horror story, there’s a woman like me who had no problems with either being on the pill or coming off it and having regular cycles and getting pregnant.

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Diana (Soap & Chocolate) October 5, 2009 at 1:50 pm

I was nervous to read this post at first, so I put it off a couple hours. As a pill popper myself, I correctly assumed that it would make me want to think twice about continuing on it. I’m actually glad I waited a while to read the post though, because I enjoyed skimming through the comments too. It’s a touchy subject for sure! There is no doubt in my mind that I would prefer not to be putting pills of any kind in my body, but I think it is the right option for me at this stage of my life. When I am married, I’ll toss em out the window, but in the meantime the pill affords me certain benefits (and no negative side effects to speak of) that I don’t want to give up.

Being in a responsible, monogamous relationship, I know I could trust the bf in this matter, even w/o the pill (we have super duper safe sexy times…which is the less sexy part about it, unfortunately), but that’s just it: we’re both responsible and cautious to a fault, but would simply prefer to keep it that way until we’re in a position to be a little more co-dependent (in a healthy way!).

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Rebecca October 5, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Just to clarify the above message – I got off the pill at age 34 after having being on it for basically 15 years and got pregnant the first month!

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Christine October 5, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Thanks for the informative post. It’s a tough decision for women and I think more men should be involved by getting snipped when they know they’re done having kids or do not want kids to spare women from this in future relationships.

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Joelle October 5, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Personally, I have been using the fertility awareness method for the past 2 yrs. It has a little bit of a learning curve but it is definitely reliable (it is NOT the rhythm method). I like it because I have learned so much about my body and cycle, minus messing with my hormones. My husband, who is a physician, didn’t want me to have to take a bunch of chemical birth control options and risk all the side effects. I have thought about switching to the Lady Comp, but it’s so pricey and basically I can figure out the same thing from the Fertility Awareness Method that I currently use.
I definitely would suggest to anyone rethinking birth control options to check out the book “Taking Charge of Your Fertility.” Even if you decide not to use that method to practice birth control, it is SO helpful in learning about your cycle.

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W. June 6, 2013 at 6:17 pm

I was someone who was really interested in the fertility awareness methods but it was just SO overwhelming to me and I was afraid I would ‘miscalculate” things. I got a lady comp because I felt more comfortable with a computerized mathematical algorithm and super sensitive thermometer. Lady Comp is what convinced me to take the plunge, but I also got “Taking Charge of Your Fertility”. I just wanted something on backup in case I did things wrong and also something that didn’t require constant charting and such. The hassle level of lady comp is about the same as getting out of bed and taking a pill (probably it’s less because it’s the getting out of bed part that is the hardest!)

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nicole October 5, 2009 at 3:21 pm

I am a physician and a raw/vegan, and have been on the pill for several years with no major complications. I started because I lost my period in college after struggling for nearly 10 years with anorexia & bulimia. PLEASE, if you are not getting your period (for whatever reason), have lost weight, are concerned about bone density, or have irregular periods–you NEED estrogen. Without replacing your hormones via the pill, you risk lifelong infertility, heart disease, and early onset osteoporosis. I received a hormone panel routinely at my OB/GYN appointments, and had close to no estrogen at my lowest weight, and for QUITE sometime thereafter. You will do far more harm than good if you abandon this proven successful method.

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Nancy October 5, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Like all of you, I’ve too been on the hunt for convenient, comfortable, affordable, hormone-free contraceptive, so I looked into copper IUDs. It sounded wonderful, but then I came across information somewhere — don’t remember where now! — that it is NOT advisable to put copper in the body because it will leach.

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Amber October 5, 2009 at 6:32 pm

So happy you addressed this topic. I only wish it was addressed more and in other arenas. I feel as though everyone here looks seriously at the implications on their health by what you put in your body. I only wish women were so inclined to think that way.

Personally I have not been birth control for quite some time. I am married but am not planning on becoming pregnant yet so I use the Baby Comp to monitor my ovulation. Although I pretty much know my body’s rhythm now I choose to take my temp as an insurance thing and I one day will plan to use my baby comp to help aid in becoming pregnant.

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Manda October 5, 2009 at 7:35 pm

Usually I read your posts and am nodding along in agreement, but when I read the bit about the “calender” method, I was on the disappointed side. Being raised Catholic, I had always heard about Natural Family Planning. However, so many had wrongly told me it was the ineffectual rhythm method so I crossed it off without researching it – as sadly you have done here. After I had my son (who was conceived while I was on birth control pills!), I was especially careful about further BC options, as he was exclusively breastfed for quite a while. Even though my OB pushed me to get an IUD or NuvaRing – both bad for breastfeeding, which my OB openly lied about. He’s 2.5 now, and still nurses (big advocate for child-led weaning here), so I still want to be careful. A couple of months after his birth I actually read The Art of Natural Family Planning, and found it was an effective, evidence based practice, with studies showing it to be as effective as BCP. As an RN, evidence-based and science supported are big things for me. It’s an effective and safe method that has gotten me off that horrible hormonal birth control. Similar in method and secular in text is the Fertility Awareness Method. I have not read it myself, but I have heard great reviews of Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Both NFP and FAM are dependent upon the individual woman and DO NOT rely on a regular period.
Birth control pills and other forms of hormonal BC are touted as safe and effective, and yet they have a very high risk of side effects. And serious side effects at that with heart disease and stroke. There are also the other issues, as hormonal BC changes the bacterial balance in the gut, leading to yeast infections and decreased immune function. I’m certainly not condemning anyone for using it, as I did myself for a few years. What I am condemning are healthcare practioners who are not giving their patients the complete story. Much of the reason behind it is their own ignorance, which is endlessly frustrating from my point of view. MDs, PAs, and NPs need to stay current on the research, and they simply do not. It is incredibly important to be an informed consumer of healthcare.

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Gena October 5, 2009 at 7:39 pm

Manda,

I believe my words were: “There are calendar based methods, which I have nothing but the highest reverence for, if one’s cycle is regular enough, and intuition good enough, to make those work.”

I also pointed out at the start of the post that I had not had time to research, but wish very much that I had. I wrote this post with full admission of an imperfect knowledge base and a request for others to fill it in. This is not a lack of research due to apathy. I merely have not yet, and did not want to ignore the question altogether until I had.

Gena

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Manda October 6, 2009 at 3:43 am

Gena, I certainly did not mean to come off as snotty, and apologies if I did. For me, what took so long to discover NFP (or FAM) is that so many just wrote it off as the rhythm method, and because of that I never took the time to research it. My (what was intended to be friendly) objection is the statement that one has to have a regular cycle and good intuition in order to implement one of these methods.
Thankfully, that’s not the case! When you use the cross-check method, it’s all about *your* body and your unique cycle. Also, you can be completely out of tune with your body, and this method will help you to learn a great deal and develop a new awareness.
It was truly freeing to discover something that has kept me off of hormonal birth control, and I want other women to know that there are options – even if you have an irregular cycle or no clue about fertility to begin with.
The downside, of course, is that you need to be diligent in your observations, especially when you begin. Also, during your fertile time you’ll need to either abstain or choose a barrier method. And, of course, it’s important that this method only be employed in monogamous and trusting relationships if you want to get away from condoms.
The upside is that it can also be used for when you want to conceive – you’ll know your ovulation days and have a greater chance for success.

On a different note, I’m excited to hear about your upcoming trip to NOLA. I am very interested to hear the viewpoint of another vegan, especially high raw, when surveying the unique food culture down here. I hope you’ll be sharing your thoughts in a post!

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Gena October 6, 2009 at 7:59 am

Thanks Manda! I was really grateful to you for elaborating on another option. When I’m in my next monogamous relationship, this is all going to be serious food for thought!

And I can’t wait to post on NOLA.

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Laura October 5, 2009 at 8:57 pm

I desperately want to go off of bc, but fear the return of the high androgen levels and associated (bad) hair growth that put me on them in the first place. I am not aware of any “symptoms” my bc has caused, but worry about the internal effects everyone is describing, as well as any slow changes that I might not attribute to bc. Has anyone out there gotten rid of hyperandogenism through diet?
Thanks for the good discussion.

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Hanlie October 6, 2009 at 2:10 am

I have just finished reading Toni Weschler’s “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” and am absolutely blown away by it. It’s not a calendar based method, but a way in which to interpret your fertility signs – she teaches three complementary methods which will tell you exactly when you’re fertile. On those days you can use condoms or an alternative method of birth control. I have started with her method (of course I am trying to conceive, but the principles are the same) and it really takes no longer than brushing your teeth every day to check your fertility signs.

I truly recommend this book, which is an absolute fountain of information. Furthermore, there is wonderful software available to complement the book.

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Casey October 6, 2009 at 3:48 am

Thought provoking and extremely well written post as always, thank you Gena. A topic well worth discussing.

Case xx

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Nathan McKelvey October 6, 2009 at 7:12 am

There are a lot of birth control options out there Gena. One, which is not all that well known is VCF is a film much like those breath mints that dissolve in your mouth. It’s a spermicide so it will not prevent STD’s so is not right for those who are not in committed relationships. It lasts for three hours and neither partner can feel it.

The important note here is that you keep trying since there are so many manufacturers and product lines. I am confident that you and your partner can find something that meets your needs.

Good luck and thanks for the article.

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Ilana October 6, 2009 at 12:11 pm

I’ve recently started reading a little bit about herbal/natural methods of contraception. A good place to start is http://www.sisterzeus.com/, which provides a lot of information about various topics regarding women’s health, particularly fertility awareness and using herbs to affect the menstrual cycle. I’ve found it fascinating, although I haven’t really tried any of the methods. I am on the pill, but it’s something I have never been comfortable with and am seeking other alternatives.

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Salamander October 6, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Gena,

Thanks so much for bringing up this topic!

I snuck into a Planned Parenthood when I was around 16 years old, because my cycles were just so irregular and painful I couldn’t stand it anymore. My mother was not supportive so I went to my appointments in secret, driven by my best friend. From 1996-2004, I was on various BCPs – with a couple years in the middle where I was off them.

I suffered with constant headaches and migraines throughout that period, repeated strep/ear infections/sinus infections, weight gain and other issues. My MDs switched me from pill to pill, trying to get ‘rid’ of my headaches. I’ve been on just about every low-dose pill there is, even a version of Yaz (or back when they’d just tell you to skip the week long period part).

My Chiropractor encouraged me to stop taking them in University, and the headaches grew to be minimal and something I could handle. My cycles never regulated, and continued to be horribly painful and heavy (when they did show). As I got older, my MD started tests for PCOS (which all came out Negative) and recommended BCP as a way of regulating my periods.

Seeing no real purpose other than to have a monthly period (and still not getting to the root of the problem) I took them for several months and then stopped. I’ve been free of BCP for over 5 years now, but STILL do not have a regular menses. I can go up to 8 months without one, still have symptoms of PMS, and when I do – they are miserable. I’ve never been regular but I really believe that my continued use of these hormones was a huge detriment to my health.

Thank you – for bringing up this topic and encouraging people to share their stories. Women sharing is an important part of healing.

Sarah

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Michelle @ Find Your Balance October 6, 2009 at 6:44 pm

I apologize if I’m repeating something mentioned above, but I have become a huge fan of the Fertility Awareness Method. This does not assume that your cycles are regular, but rather empowers women to monitor their bodies for signals of fertility each day. Not only does this charting of biological factors appeal to my Type A side, it allows me to be hormone-free and ALSO will allow me to get pregnant more easily when the time is right.

However I admit freely that if I were not married I would still be on the pill. 99.9% is hard to argue with.

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gina (fitnessista) October 6, 2009 at 7:39 pm

how is it that you keep reading my mind?! first with the probiotics, then with this.. you are psychic my fried :D
i’ve been on the pill for about 12 years and haven’t debated going off it until recently. i work so hard to eat well and here i am putting chemicals into my body on a regular basis. the bummer is that i’m most definitely not ready for little fitnessistas and pilots to be running around, so for now, i’m staying on it. i would LOVE to stop, but like you said, i’m super paranoid and having to wait for baby-free confirmation every month would drive me bonkers

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Celia October 6, 2009 at 8:06 pm

I completely agree with the content of this article. I constantly find myself at odds with the “health” aspects of hormones (as an animal science/veterinary student, i’m well aware of the delicate balance of hormones!! spend one class talking about dairy cattle and you will too!!) with the practical and piece of mind necessities. Luckily I was not in a sexual relationship until recently so it was moot.

Of course, when my always inconsistent reproductive system went completely WHACK a year or so ago (ps. bleeding for 3 straight months is not fun), I kind of ended up NEEDING to be pumped with hormones on a regular basis to keep my system from going whack.

So I guess being pumped with nasty hormones is sometimes good? :P

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kate October 6, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Just to add my two (or twenty!) sense- I’m 24 and was on and off hormonal treatment for the last 5 or 6 years with much of it being (several different versions of) the pill, but also several months with the nuvaring (which i was always very aware of and found somewhat invasive during intercourse) and about 2 years on the patch. i had found the patch to be the easiest and most stress free option when it came to preventing pregnancy, as I wasn’t very good at taking the pill regularly and the patch is a once a week thing. it was however the most difficult for me with side effects mostly including nausea for the first few days after putting on a new one and eventually a few sever headaches which was the perfect support for my growing concern about the problems with taking hormones. Right around then i was ending a long term relationship and took a good 6+ months to abstain and not use any birth control. This helped me reset and get a clear idea about how i wanted to move forward with contraception. With all that, fast forward another 6 month and add a new amazing and conscious partner and i have arrived at the Paragaurd Copper IUD.
After reading all the horror stories-and successes- i decided the possible and likely reward out-weighed the risks. I’ve had light and fairly regular periods up until now, so the slight increase in flow and cramping isn’t much of a draw back. I, like several other posters went to planned parenthood and had a candid and informative discussion and was given a free IUD with no guilt or discrimination attached. It was a pretty uncomfortable procedure-definitely the most invasive thing i’ve ever experienced- but was totally worth it. I know nothing is more important than doing what is right for Your body, but i would say give the copper iud some serious consideration, my only regret is that i didnt’ know there was a hormone free, extremely effective option like this sooner.

Thanks for the post and discussion!

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Marissa October 7, 2009 at 11:07 am

I was on the pill for a few years purely to deal with severe cystic acne, and it did help that, but the more research I did, the less comfortable I felt about it.

I don’t trust hormonal birth control at all, I also am upset by the pollution of our waters by hormonal contraceptives. It isn’t purely about my own personal health, but the health of other people and the environment. I personally believe hormonal birth control is a poison.

I am lucky in that my doctor would have absolutely no problem putting an IUD inside me, but for right now I prefer condoms. I have been with my boyfriend for nearly a year now, but seeing as we are not engaged, I am personally not interested in having to go through the procedure to have it put in (VERY painful). IUDs don’t protect against any STDs either, so until I am engaged or married I have just decided that condoms are the way to go.

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hannah October 7, 2009 at 3:53 pm

I have a copper IUD and got it without much problem at all when I was 23 and had never been pregnant. I am in a monogamous relationship, though. I had to get a pap right before to make sure I didn’t have any STDs and they tried to encourage other methods. One of the NPs asked me how often I had sex because she wanted to encourage a diaphragm. Anyway, I got it for free, it didn’t hurt too badly… I do have some extra bleeding and cramps, but nothing that isn’t worth it. The only thing I dislike pretty strongly is the fact that my diva cup that I love so much has leaked since I got the IUD. I have heard of a few others with the same problem.

Oh, and IUDs are just as effective as the pill.

I did read and liked the idea of natural family planning like in the taking charge of your fertility book, but I seem to be stupidly fertile and I really don’t want to use condoms/abstain/pull out that much (that was just going to be a back up method to my IUD).

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alex October 7, 2009 at 7:45 pm

It never occurred to me to associate my diva cup leakage with the IUD! It’s worth it, though. I was on the pill for five years but it made me an emotional wreck. Going off it was like a breath of fresh air – my moods went back to normal and I could drop the environmental guilt. I used FAM for the next four years. While I still believe that it is a truly wonderful option for many women and I still chart in order to keep track of when my (irregular) period is coming, I’m going to offer this caveat: it is only for those who are prepared to be highly diligent and very aware of the signs their bodies are sending them. I had one month where my fertility signs were somewhat ambiguous, and I was stressed out and got a little careless. I got pregnant, at a time in my life when I was absolutely not prepared to deal with it.

After looking into the options I decided that the lesser evil was a copper IUD, and my doctor agreed that it would be a good choice for me. I had no problem getting one (this is in Canada) and experienced very little discomfort. And despite the stories I had heard about painful periods, mine quickly went back to normal.

What frustrates me is the way that this method is presented in sex ed classes. Condoms and hormonal methods were pushed heavily while IUDs were presented as being for “older women” (implication: “your mother’s age”) so as a 20-something it never really occurred to me that this would be an option for me.

I realize that I was actually lucky – my partner went to Catholic school, and his sex ed was basically “don’t do it”. And I understand that even public schools in many areas take the same approach. I also understand that IUDs aren’t ideal for teenagers. Still, the education you get in high school needs to take a longer-term view. It took an unplanned pregnancy and abortion for me to get some straight talk on my full range of options, and that is just shameful.

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Briana (aka Trilby Drew) October 8, 2009 at 6:22 am

Isn’t it weird how something can be going on in your own life and suddenly there’s a blog post, or a news article, or something about it that just seems to pop up? That’s how the birth control post was me.

I was put on birth control when I was 15 years old. Not for birth control but to regulate my periods and decrease my crippling cramps, backaches, and unbelieveably heavy flow. Ok, maybe that’s too much info, but whatever. We’re having a frank discussion here, right?

Fast forward to now. I am staring down my 28th birthday and just decided about 6-8 months ago to stop taking the Pill. I had been taking it so long on my doctor’s orders and it had become so routine, that I never really stopped to think about whether or not I really wanted to take it. Yes, I have been in a long term relationship this whole time with my high school sweetheart, and it was nice to know that the whole birth control issue was taken care of. But after doing some research into the subject of just how the pill affects your whole chemistry, I decided to stop taking it. Luckily, Mr. Boyfriend was totally supportive and didn’t want me to take any pill that might be harming my health just because it made birth control a little easier.

So fast forward to now. It is so much easier to maintain my weight after stopping the pill and I have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that I’m not taking something that screws with my hormones everyday. Oh yeah, and for years I was told by my doctors that the pill would help with my constant breakouts. In fact, that was probably one of the main reasons that I kept taking the pill all those years. But I bit the bullet and decided to take whateveer skin problems came my way when I stopped. And you know what? My skin actually cleared up after STOPPING the birth control. So much for everything my doctors said about it helping my skin.

The downside? Well, I’ve had only two things that really jump out at me. 1) No one is thrilled at having to use condoms. 2) Some of the cramping and heavy flow that I experienced before I was on the pill has returned, but not nearly to the point it was before.

Hmm, it was surprisingly good to get all of that off my chest. And I love hearing everyone’s take on this subject!

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Cindy October 8, 2009 at 8:08 am

HI Gena…for some reason, whenever I read or try to write comments further down the line..part is cut off and I can’t read or see it all….not sure why?

anyway…I wanted to chime in…I JUST had my copper “paragard” IUD removed yesterday as a matter of fact. WHY? for over a year I have had every 27 days on the dot (ovulation) PAIN. horrible abdominal pain. I have been checked for cancer, ovary issues, ulcers, and on and on.. I have been offered perscription strengh ibuprofen…and on and on. I asked for the copper hormone free one becasue the reason for going on the IUD was to stay off the pill. Years ago (I am 39)..I was on the pill..before and after baby #1 (who is 15 now)…I was on the pill for over a decade. After re-marrying I went on an IUD (thinking it was the hormone free one) and realized later it was not. (I am furious) getting pregnant was a nightmare (2 years) even though my cycles were regular. I always feel “off” on the pill…yes my periods were lighter and yada but I never felt good. I finally had that baby and the SECOND I hit my post delivery appt the doc peddled bc on me and I was so frustrated! I hadn’t planned on going back on it. NOT NOW!…my husband had a vasectomy (sorry for the TMI) but I feel so relived…it killled him seeing me struggle with this 3-5 days of VERY uncomfortable pain (days off work etc) and having to take MORE meds to deal with it (which I avoided )

I am lucky I don’t have to worry now about it…and they nurses and doc was so frustrated with me for NOT going back on the pill or choosing another IUD with hormones…it’s UNREAL…and then they wanted to know what I plan on doing when menopause hits….

well, I guess I will figure it out as I go. I just don’t understand this PUSH…for hormone fixing of all our monthly issues….I have really cleaned up my diet and made some great changes these past 2 years and I have barely a symptom of PMS…and my periods will likely lighten up now that the copper IUD is out! (that nurse told me I will age faster OFF hormones…that she’s seen this trend of women who don’t use hormones aging faster…she sees it in their faces…) I felt like it was a SCARE tactic!

I am so so thankful my husband did this for me and if I “look” older in a few years, so be it…I will live a longer and happier life!

shew. THANKS GENA for a great topic.

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Marianne October 8, 2009 at 12:36 pm

I’m probably the opposite of many of the people who have commented before me – the whole reason I went on the pill was because I have excess male hormones due to polycystic ovarian syndrome (as well as some of the other classic symptoms – trust me, I ain’t never gonne be called skinny!). I was diagnosed when I was 20, and have been on the pill since. Well, until mid August that is. I had just moved, and hadn’t unpacked/found my BC pills, so I figured I would just forget this month, wait until I had my next period, and go back on them. Too bad I haven’t gotten that period back yet. I had always had the most irregular periods growing up, and the pill allowed me to know what was happening when. I also have been getting horrible acne (and I’m 30 years old) lately. I thought it was just because of the stress of going back to school, until it made me clue in that it’s probably because I stopped taking my pills. For me, this just confirmed that what my doctor & endocrinologist prescribed me with was in my best interest, even with the known side effects (the pill that I take, Diane-35, actually has a slightly higher incidence of blood clots/stroke than other pills, but is needed because of it’s anti-androgen properties). It’s all about that health hierchy, eh?

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Lauren October 9, 2009 at 8:39 pm

My partner and I use condoms only. Even if I were on hormonal birth control, we would both feel the need to continue using condoms anyway. (We’re cautious! I know several women who have gotten pregnant on the Pill.) The Pill just doesn’t add enough independent benefits for us to add it to our contraceptive routine.

And it isn’t cheap, either. In our personal estimation, it simply isn’t worth the cost. Condoms are uncomfortable, no doubt, and we certainly wish we didn’t have to use them at times. But hormonal BC seems 100 times more uncomfortable! Why put myself through all the pain and agony? Irregular, painful, heavy, or extended periods; weight fluctuations; acne; lowered sex drive; mood swings and emotional distress; increased risk for cancers, miscarriages, and reproductive problems…versus a condom. I’m glad that every woman has the freedom to choose hormonal BC if she decides it’s right for her, but for me the choice of condoms is a no-brainer.

P.S. The way I see it, the issue of waste is not a deciding factor. I’m willing to accept that condoms create waste, because when it comes to my health, I’m selfish like that. I have no qualms about admitting it. Just as I continue to take vaccinations, even though plastic syringes create waste (and all sorts of other analogous situations). And I doubt that the commercial production of the Pill is waste-free.

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Evita October 10, 2009 at 9:49 am

Oh Gena what a timely topic for me to find you writing about!

I have been on the pill for 4 years and as an advocate of natural health, yes, especially over the last 1 or 2 I have had twinges of guilt in using it. But it worked, I had no side effects, felt amazing the whole time and it is so convenient.

Well this summer both me and my husband said enough is enough, so I went off of it last month and started researching natural birth control. I just felt like there had to be something else people out there knew about besides the “take your own temp and watch for mucus cahnges” method.

And there was! As at least one of the commentators above already mentioned, I discovered the site which features the PEARLY, LADY COMP and BABY COMP.

After reading tons about those devices, calling them and learning some more, I decided to get the pearly. Once in the morning upon waking, you just take your temp with this unit and it tells you if today is a “green” day (infertile) or “red” day (fertile). I haven’t started using it yet, but will within the next 2 weeks and will be doing a full fledged review on it in November probably.

I just can’t believe more people don’t know about this. It is 99.3% effective!!! And sure it comes with a larger price tag up front, but the way I see it, this thing will pay for itself very fast and in the end I think one has to decide what is a good sex life worth to them?

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Erin October 11, 2009 at 12:41 pm

I have read many of these comments about birth control and, for women in their early child-bearing years, the meager options discussed above are still the only ones to choose from, sadly. But, for a more mature, but still ovulating, group I don’t think anyone brought up vasectomy or tubal ligation. Of course, those two options are for people in committed relationships and who are certain they want a child-free lifestyle. I’m just adding it to the list of options.

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Amanda October 18, 2009 at 12:51 pm

It is shocking to me that so many of us have experienced the same birth control side effects, yet so few of us probably received warnings or counselings before the prescription. I tried three or four different pills before giving up because of yeast infections. It was very frustrating and also humiliating to admit to my partner each time I had the problem.

I have been using a copper IUD for three years now and am VERY satisfied. No more hormones playing with my body. The only downside is harsher cramps and heavier bleeding the first few days of my period. I am willing to deal with it, though.

I would like to echo other responders and encourage women to consider the IUD if they aren’t ready for children for a few years. Thanks, Gena!

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Lady Comp October 18, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Lady Comp user here for almost half a decade now and I have nothing but good things to say about it although I would agree that the price could be a little cheaper. But if you really think about it, the price is but worth every penny especially knowing what you are getting in return and the device comes with 5 years warranty.

I know the thing that it does can be learned somehow especially for those who have a background in medicine but unfortunately, that is not my case and I have not the luxury of time to learn it too.

Regardless of my experience, I’d like to thank Gena for bringing this up and for everyone who has shared their thoughts as well. I just found out that the copper IUD could have been a good option for me as well – and how I wish my gyne gave me this for an option too – but all is good since I got a hold of my own natural fertility management.

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Amanda November 3, 2009 at 7:35 pm

Wow! great read. Thanks!

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Erica November 19, 2009 at 7:56 pm

Fabulous post. I have been on the pill for …what feels like forever and have always felt like it did all sorts of crazy things to me. While Josh and I aren’t sure that we’re “ready” yet, I think I’m ready to rid myself of these fake hormones. Thank you for addressing this tough topic.

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Calla November 20, 2009 at 6:10 am

This was perfect! I just began a new pill because my cycle is so irregular (even without the pill). This one has a little bit more estrogen, but the same level of progestin in my last pill. I have been in constant debate about evening remaining on BC to begin with-it seems like I always have to switch pills to find one that will provoke my period (since without it I am left bloated and very uncomfortable). I also feel weird about putting these hormones into my body. If my cycle is irregular without the pill, and it still is on a low-dose pill, then maybe I should just stop fighting nature and let it be wonky.

This is an internal debate I have been struggling with for months, but upon recently voicing it to my long-term boyfriend (with plans for more long-term in the future) we decided its best for me to remain on it until I finish grad school (i.e.; get a higher paying job and can afford a kiddo). He was very supportive and understanding, so ladies, I suggest talking to your significant other-it can help a lot!

This week has been the first on this new pill and I have been a bit more emotional than before….something I really do not like. I have decided to deal for now, and then once I can afford to (and feel a bit more settled in my life) care for a child, I will go off it and remain off it.

Thanks for such a great post, Gena. I think a lot of us are in the same boat!

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Hilary November 20, 2009 at 6:47 am

There are natural, reliable alternatives to birth control. You just have to want to learn about it! I haven’t read all the comments, so if I am re-posting, my apologies.

Please check out the Creighton Model of Fertility Care or the Couple to Couple League NFP method. Neither of these are “calendar methods” and are highly effective of postponing pregnancy if so desired (or helping you achieve if you are struggling!). They teach you to understand your cycle and to appriciate how wonderfuly our bodies are. Yes, they are largly practiced by Catholics, but you are able to use the methods no matter what your beliefs.

The Creighton Model is highly scientific and can help to fix underlying problems, not just mask them like birth control pills. If you want an informed choice that is better for you and the environment, please check it out! You will be amazed!

Hilary

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Kellyann November 20, 2009 at 8:38 pm

This is a great post, I have been struggling with my decision to stop taking birth control for 4 months now. I currently have a 4 year old son, which yes, thanks to Birth control he doesn’t have a little brother or sister running around as we speak, but I can honestly say that I truly believe the pill is causing my mood fluctuations. Since I have been taking it for the past 3 and half years, I have not felt like myself for quite some time. At one moment I am extremely emotional, and at another extremely angry. I have never a day in my life been this way, I was always very happy go lucky, and easy going. I have spoke with a few people who have said they have suffered from similar symptoms and that it is common, and although that may be, i do not want that “common” symptom, affecting my body.

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Hayley December 2, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Gena I’m really sorry I missed this post earlier…I saw a link to it on The Fitnessista’s page and I’m so glad I followed it. I went off the pill back in April after being on it for 10+ years and I have had ONE period on my own in the 8 months I’ve been off it. That tells me that it has to have had some kind of effect on my body. Though I’m reconsidering having kids any time soon with my husband (I don’t currently feel like it’s an appropriate time) I refuse to go back in the pill because I don’t like the idea of putting a synthetic hormone into my body. Your post just reaffirmed my beliefs and though you didn’t push your thoughts/opinions on anyone, I really appreciate you putting them out there. Thank you!!

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Catherine February 4, 2010 at 11:46 am

I just found this post via a link back from the Fittnessista’s blog and I’m so thankful that you posted about this and got so many responses! I’ve been on and off the pill since I was about 16 years old (I’m 24 now), but not exactly because I wanted to be. I initially went on it to clear up my skin and lesson my awful cramps, got off briefly and then went back on because I was entering into a monogamous relationship. About 2 years ago I decided to get off the pill simply because I didn’t like the idea of all the artificial hormones and suddenly had my sex drive back! Unfortunately for me though, I lost my period for about 18 months which was terrifying for me. I went to a holistic Dr and got about 3 small periods over the course of the next 6 months, but they were irregular and very light. I finally went back to a real Gyno and got tested for any cysts, etc (no problems) and he put me on the pill which is very low in hormones.

However, I am getting married to the same guy I’ve been with for the past 6.5 years in June of 2011 and would really like to get off any kind of birth control once I’m married. I’m so scared my periods will disappear again, but I want to take that chance and deal with the problem if it comes up then. I’m absolutely going to check out “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” thanks again for the info and post!!!

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everittnc March 17, 2010 at 3:02 am

I have to applaud you for the point that just because your doctor recommends something it is not necessarily the best or only choice for you. SO many people take their Dr.’s advice as an imperative while if we just look at history, Dr.’s are often carrying out the most recent trend in medicine which can prove wrong or even dangerous. That is why I feel lucky to have a Naturopathic Gyno who always give me options, usually a supplement before an RX and she says to try what I am comfortable with and see what works, not “this is what you need to do.” I am just so glad to see someone saying Doctors are people too, not infallible gods. Thanks!

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birth controll pills December 6, 2012 at 4:19 am

Birth control pills are no more dangerous than many other over-the-counter drugs, the organization reasons, and making them more easily accessible would mean fewer unintended pregnancies when women have trouble scheduling doctors’ appointments or renewing their prescriptions.

Read more: http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/opinions/editorials/x719501868/Editorial-Should-birth-control-pills-require-a-prescription#ixzz2EGIPFskM

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Sabrina June 16, 2010 at 11:21 am

Just discovered your blog, and it’s wonderful to read a post like this. Unfortunately, our bodies are made to reproduce whether we’re ready or not :P I have the luck of living in a very IUD friendly country, and I really recommend it. There are doctors (especially in Planned Parenthood) who are IUD friendly, and I think the doctors who refuse a woman’s choice of birth control based on her mother status shouldn’t be allowed to practice ><

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ke ke June 27, 2010 at 12:16 pm

i am on the depo shoot and i just got it last month on the14 and i was thinking about taking maca express its a herb should i take it while i am on birth control

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Sarah October 7, 2011 at 12:37 pm

A great post. Although already a few years old, I just found it while browsing.
I read through it all and I want to add one thing: it is a common misconception (no pun intended) that if you are on the pill your bleeding says anything about if you are preggers or not. The bleeding would happen either way, as it is a induced through the removal of the hormon from the pill. It is NOT a natural period and says nothing at all about your pregnancy status.

I think doctors are often very irresponsible when it comes to the pill. Usually, there are no questions asked and they are happy to receive their commision on the prescription. My sister has had breast cancer twice and is still on hormonal bc, because her oby-gyn doesn’t believe in anything else. I myself have had horrible side effects from the nuva ring and the pill.
I have tried the copper IUD (I have no children and insertion was totally painless), but developed an allergic reaction to the copper after having it for 2 years.
I am now using the lady comp to determine my fertile days and am using condoms during the fertile phase. With condoms size really matters. Hardly any man matches the standard sizes sold in the chemist/supermarket. There’s a company called mysize and they do all sizes. It was a blessing to my partner and myself.
Good luck everyone!

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I will March 23, 2012 at 2:35 pm

This really is the worst article of all, I’ve study

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bbb March 30, 2012 at 11:30 pm

It’s upsetting that in 2012 some doctors will not give IUDs to women who are not married or who have not had children. This is stupid and based on outdated science from the 70s. Luckily doctors are becoming more open-minded. I live in California and I was able to get an IUD at Planned Parenthood quite easily, I don’t even have health insurance. (I am 22, never given birth or been married) Back when I had health insurance I did not ask my doctor about IUD insertion because I had looked it up and under my health insurance it would have cost hundreds of dollars out of pocket. At Planned Parenthood I paid nothing, they simply asked me for a donation. They even let me choose between the Mirena (hormonal) IUD and the Paragard (copper, nonhormonal) IUD — I chose the Paragard. So, if you want an IUD I highly suggest you call your local Planned Parenthood, especially if you do not have insurance. It may not be free, depending on your location, but I know they do sliding-scale and monthly payment stuff. They even sent me home with a big box of iron pills (because I tested slightly anemic), dozens of condoms and a big bottle of lubricant, all for free! Planned Parenthood is amazing.

Sarah, I am shocked that your IUD insertion was painless, you must be lucky. For me it was the exact opposite. It was EXTREMELY painful! They told me there was going to be pain but it didn’t sound that bad. It was REALLY bad, but just during the insertion, which is only 5-10 minutes. There were five or six very sharp intense pains as the nurse was clamping my uterus and whatnot. I have pretty low pain tolerance though…before you get scared off of IUDs, ask yourself, is 5 minutes of pain not worth 10+ years of effortless contraception? The rest of the day I had bad cramps, but I went to sleep and woke up the next morning with zero cramps and haven’t really had cramping since (I’ve had it in about two weeks). I am glad to be off hormonal birth control — I was on the pill off and on for several years. I finally got fed up with it because I believe it gives me mood swings and irritability. I would start crying about nothing on the drop of a hat, and start stupid fights with my boyfriend about nothing. It was horrible, I felt like a monster, and out-of-control. Since I’ve been off the pill I can’t say I’ve had any particularly bad emotional outbursts like that, and I haven’t cried at all. I will give my body another month or two to adjust to really judge, but so far so good!

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