Are you pre, between or post bubba Mum life and searching for a safe contraception option that won't compromise your health? You're not alone, as this is one of my most frequently asked questions as a Naturopath.
Read on as I share both hormonal or non-hormonal options for you and/or your partner, so you can make an informed contraception decision that's right for you.
If you're actually ready to start planning for a baby, this info will help for your fertility tracking too and further support to prepare your body for pregnancy here. If you're wanting to stop your hormone contraceptive but concerned about symptoms, head here to help balance your hormones and transition smoothly off of your hormone birth control.
Now, back to the current contraception options available to you.
There are different hormone birth control options available through your GP. They ultimately work by either shutting down the messages from your brain to your ovaries which are needed for ovulation, cause changes to your cervical mucous to create a hostile environment for sperm, and/or irritate the uterus lining to prevent implantation of a fertilised egg. Learn more about their individual functions here.
"It’s important to understand that hormonal contraceptives deliver synthetic hormones to your system that impact every system and every cell of your body. Every cell of your body has receptors for these hormones and just like your natural hormones can elicit changes, so can these synthetic birth control hormones.
In addition, coming off of hormonal birth control of any kind can result in post-birth control syndrome, a collection of signs and symptoms that arise after discontinuing birth control." Dr Jolene Brighten explains.
With increased cycle awareness, I am certainly seeing the trend of women choosing to not to use contraception containing synthetic hormones. I love that women are asking questions and seeking the information of potential side effects. You can read more about the synthetic hormone contraceptives and the impact they may have on your health, here.
If you've decided against a hormone contraceptive, but you are avoiding pregnancy, here are some further options. They do not require a script from your GP.
*Barrier methods such as condoms and diaphragms are an obvious option. However, they can still be ineffective if used incorrectly during the fertile phase of a woman’s cycle. Allergies to latex are also common.
Permanent Contraceptive Options
If you are 100% sure you do not want to have any / any more children, you may want to consider Tubual Ligation, a procedure which is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, by blocking your Fallopian tube (and therefore sperm reaching an egg). This will require anaesthesia, so be prepared for potential side effects post procedure, such as nausea and vomiting.
What About The Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD)?
Another hormone free contraceptive that does require a visit to your GP, is the Copper IUD, Paragard. This is a plastic, T-shaped device that is inserted by your GP into your uterus for a long term birth control method for up to 10 years. It has a copper wire coiled around it along with two copper sleeves on its arms, which continuously release copper into the lining of the uterus. This produces an inflammatory reaction that interferes with sperm movement and is what prevents fertilisation taking place.
Copper overload is therefore a concern with longterm use of this device and is further compounded with exposure to oestrogen, as the hormone increases retention of copper in the body. This is unavoidable of course in a woman's body.
Symptoms of copper toxicity include anxiety, depression (including post partum depression), paranoia, hallucination, heart palpitations, dizziness, low blood pressure, fatigue, headaches, sleep issues, PMS, hair loss, among much more. This copper overload, unless addressed through removal of the device and detoxification, may be passed onto the next generation. It is important to also note there is a strong connection with copper toxicity to disorders such as ADD/ADHD, autism, hyperactivity and behavioural issues in children.
Copper competes with zinc in the body, so high levels will also contribute to a zinc deficiency- a crucial mineral which activates over 200 enzymes in your body. Zinc is an important antioxidant and plays a role in immune, respiratory, metabolism, musculoskeletal, hormone, gut, skin and mental health, plus many more functions within your body. Needless to say it is a mineral you don't want to be deficient in.
There is also concern for women who have yet had children due to the uterus irritation the Copper IUD causes.
There are other natural contraception methods available help to educate women about their own cyclic changes. Understanding these crucial signs empowers a woman with the personal awareness of when she is and is not fertile. Sound less invasive? It sure is, and I've left my personal favourites to delve into further.
I use both of these empowering and non-invasive tools for both contraception and fertility awareness.
I personally use and recommend a method that doesn't involve getting a script and you instead gain powerful knowledge of what is happening throughout your cycle. No more unnatural withdrawal bleeds (nope, they’re not periods when you are on the pill) or side effects from synthetic hormone exposure. It's all about tuning into and charting my cervical mucous changes.
So what's mucous got to do with hormones and fertility? In the lead up to ovulation, therefore is a heightened level of oestrogen production which stimulates the production of a fertile, wet, sperm-protective mucous from your cervix which is usually very detectible for you to feel and see. It will begin to look slightly stretchy.
Just before ovulation (day 12-13 if ovulation was on day 14), therefore is a rise in the hormone progesterone. Along with supporting the development of the tissue and blood in your uterus, progesterone encourages the change to an egg-white type, stretchy mucous at the cervix, a rise in body temperature and an increased libido, which you may experience at the time of ovulation. This evolves into the sensation of a very wet, slippery, clear and glistening type mucous which creates a perfect environment for sperm to reach an egg. These symptoms indicate the last day of this mucous the peak of your fertility, ovulation.
My knowledge around mucous charting started with training on the Billings Ovulation Method™, a science based method which has been used for 60 years to assist couples to both achieve and prevent pregnancy. This method is just as effective as the oral contraceptive pill (99% effective) for preventing pregnancy and is more effective than IUD’s, condoms and diaphragms.1 You can check out the table of comparison here.
When you are taught Billings Ovulation Method ™, you learn to recognise and understand the signs of fertility and infertility. You do this by observing the sensation of cervical mucous at the vulva, which is a direct reflection of your hormone level changes through your cycle. Creighton Model is a standardised modification of the Billings Ovulation Method, which also considers the presence and texture of cervical mucous, such as the colour and how stretchy it is upon touch.
These mucous changes both from Billings Ovulation Method and Creighton Model indicate if it is a nurturing or hostile environment for sperm survival. You can use this information for your personal needs of contraception or to optimise the chances of conception.
I believe this body awareness is crucial for women of all ages, to understand their personal reproductive cycle and have control over your fertility, free from health side effects of synthetic hormone use.
There are many options available on the market today, where you can digitally track your temperature overtime and therefore have the knowledge of when you may or may not be fertile. Although I will always use the powerful knowledge I have of fertile mucous changes signs, I also wanted confirmation through temperature tracking. I looked into many and I went with (and love) the trusted Daysy fertility tracker.
This one gives you important awareness around your menstrual cycle, by calculating your fertile window. This is displayed through different coloured lights before (and confirmed after) each morning temperature measurement. Being a busy Mumma, that doesn't always get the time (or easily get distracted) to investigate mucous changes, this has been a welcomed addition into my life. You can see if this tracker is right for you, here.
When seeking a contraception option for your body, consider how this impacts your body. Have you read the fine print? What short and long term side effects could occur? Does it give you awareness around your cycle, or merely shut down your natural cycle events, such as ovulation and menstruation?
Honour your body, your hormones and your fertility. Get empowered with the knowledge of your contraceptive options, to truly understand what the best option is for you.
1) John Nurtagh, General Practise 5th ed, McGraw-Hill, 20
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