When choosing birth control, you have a series of questions to ask yourself. Naturopathically-speaking, having as little impact on the normal functioning of your body as possible is ideal, while keeping you happy and functioning.
Birth control is an utterly wondrous invention for everyone involved, but there are no birth control methods that don’t come without some effort, side-effects, and general impact on your life. You just have to decide what you are prepared to live with, and be willing to adjust as necessary.
The general options for birth control first take into account two considerations: do you need to protect yourself from STIs and pregnancy, or just pregnancy? This will dictate your options.
I want protection from STIs and pregnancy
I only want protection from pregnancy
Within this group, you have physical barrier methods and hormonal methods.
To explain the action of each briefly:
Condoms, sponges and diaphragms – provide a simple sperm barrier
IUDs – irritate the lining of the uterus just the tiniest bit to prevent implantation of a fertilised egg, and in some cases stop ovulation
Hormonal IUDs – irritate the lining of the uterus and provide local hormones to reduce fertility, ovulation, and increase mucus production to stop sperm travelling through
The pill (OCP), the mini pill, the Depo Provera injection, Implanon, Nuvaring and patches – stop you from ovulating (releasing an egg) and also make an unfriendly environment for supporting a pregnancy, should an egg escape and become fertilised
Fertility-awareness methods – these work exceptionally well when carried out diligently, and are a truly beautiful way to not get pregnant, because you are so in tune with what your body is doing each day. The rhythm method does NOT work, and should never, ever be used.
Withdrawal – withdrawal, for all of its perceived risks, is actually much more effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy than we are led to believe. Couples have used this successfully for long periods of time, but do so at your own risk!
The morning-after pill, or as it is known in some countries, Plan B, is widely available if your vagina happens to come into contact with semen – this might be through consensual sex, rape, or from accidents like a broken condom.
Don’t forget that the morning-after pill is the same hormones as the regular contraceptive pill, but in higher doses, so if you have a packet floating around or a friend does, you can safely take these pills instead of the morning-after pill, which tends to be expensive and can be really embarrassing to pick up. Here is the chart to see what doses of specific brands and hormones you need to equal the morning-after pill to ensure it is effective. Read the chart carefully, check the dosages on the packet of pills to make sure it matches, and take it as soon as possible.
Impact on your natural cycle
Condoms, diaphragms, non-hormonal IUDs and fertility-aware methods do not exert any influence over your normal menstrual cycle.
Hormonal contraceptives completely interrupt your natural cycle, replacing it with a pregnancy-unfriendly environment. Hormonal contraceptives are heavily prescribed, very common and their safety and efficacy has improved significantly from when they were first released onto the market. Be careful when choosing hormonal birth control methods – they are fantastic and convenient, but they come at a cost to your body that you can’t see. Yet.
Important information about hormonal birth control
Don’t think for a second that ‘nothing happens’ when you take hormonal birth control except that you don’t get pregnant. The impacts of hormonal birth control on your body are numerous, and are ticking away under the surface. Just because you don’t feel anything, doesn’t mean nothing is happening.