HORMONAL BIRTH CONTROL:
June 2017 I finished my last month of hormonal birth control pills.
This story truly begins my junior year of high school. Being such an active kid and having a mother who didn’t start her period until she was in college, I knew it would come late for me. All of my friends had already gotten their periods in middle school. Then there was me, waiting year after year in anticipation for the big day to come. I was about to turn 17 and had given up all hope that I would ever enter womanhood. The day FINALLY came, and my excitement lasted approximately three minutes. I guess mother nature decided I deserved payback for all the period free years I had. Now officially a woman, I was dealing with the heaviest, longest and most unpredictable cycles. The bleeding was so bad that I put ultra tampons (the heaviest they come) to shame. Then to make things even more dramatic, my normal period would last for three weeks. Please take a second to let that sink in. Every month I would be on my period for three weeks, then I would have a week off, and the terror would start all over again. After deciding I couldn't handle it anymore, I went to see the OBGYN with my mom to talk about my options. Without hesitation, she put me on the pill. At that point, all I knew was that I wasn't going to spend the next 30ish years of my life dealing with periods like that, so I jumped on board. She promised me that the pill would take away the pain, clear my skin and regulate my cycles. What more could I want?
My 7 Year Birth Control Journey:
I started with the pill for about a year -> switched to the NuvaRing for six months -> went back to the pill -> tried every version of the pill over the next four years -> got an IUD -> got the IUD removed after three months, and then went back on the pill
Around March of 2017, I jumped head first into my health and wellness journey. At this time I was fully committed to clean eating and only using organic products on my skin and in my home. I had eliminated all of the medication I was using for my acne (read that post here) and assured myself that I was doing everything I could do to live the healthy lifestyle I wanted. I had come across a few articles about birth control but disregarded them because as far as I could see, birth control was helping, not hurting. I'm not sure what my tipping point was, but Kiersten and I finally started to have the conversation about getting off birth control more frequently. The biggest thing holding me back was fear. I WAS SO DAMN SCARED! How would my life go on without this little pill that I had relied on for the past seven years?
I was afraid that:
My skin would break out
My hormones and emotions would be out of control
My periods would be heavy and painful again
What kept me going back for so long? From my perspective at the time, the pill worked. My skin stayed clear, my period was regular, manageable and for the most part, my emotions were under control. Now that I look back though, I was so blinded by what was going on.
RED FLAG #1 - About every three months I would have to go back to the OBGYN knowing that it was time to switch pills because my skin would break out. My doctor told me that my body had gotten used to the hormones and it needed a shock of something new to reduce the symptoms I was having.
RED FLAG #2 - With the IUD, your body still goes through your normal cycle, but you no longer bleed. Because I had no idea when my cycle happened or how long it lasted, I felt like I was on my period every single day and my mood swings were unmanageable. I belonged in the psych ward during those three months.
RED FLAG #3 - When I told my OBGYN that I no longer wanted to take birth control, she practically laughed in my face. She stated with her full support that I had no other options and that I would immediately regret my decision.
I knew that:
Birth control is bad for your body
I didn’t need it
Hormones affect everything
I had other options of protecting myself from unplanned pregnancy
The day finally came for me to take my last pill. It brought on a lot more emotion than I thought it was going to and the journey since then has not been easy. For the first six months, I barely got my period, and I never knew when it was coming. When I first went off birth control, I didn't know anything about my cycle or the different phases and how they affected me. All I knew was that I wanted to take back control and understand my body. I came across the MyFlo app and then purchased the book, Woman Code. I was able to start keeping track of my periods and my symptoms in the app, and I began to feel more in tune with my body. I knew that this wasn't going to be a quick fix and it was going to take time for my body to bounce back from what I put it through the past seven years. Slowly, but surely my periods were starting to regulate, and to my surprise, they were more normal than they had ever been.
TAMPONS & CONDOMS:
I know I'm not alone in admitting to leaving a tampon in for far too long. We've all read the warning on the side of the box about toxic shock syndrome, but sometimes life happens, and you forget how much time has passed. After having one of those days, I decided to do some research on tampons. I found out that the FDA does not require menstrual hygiene product manufacturers to disclose ingredients or conduct testing to determine their products’ long-term effects on our bodies. Just take a minute to think about how many tampons will enter your body during your lifetime. It is such a vulnerable experience to put these tampons in your body so often and without the knowledge of what is actually in them. Immediately after reading that I switched over to organic cotton tampons. Even though I was no longer using tampons with harmful chemicals, I still had a hard time watching the clock. I eventually talked myself into switching over to a menstrual cup. Yes, I know, your immediate reaction is GROSS. Mine was too. If you didn’t already, you'll get to know yourself very well after inserting it a few times. Eventually, the eww factor faded, and I realized how magical the cup was. It's better for my body, it's better for the environment, and now I'm saving a good chunk of change from not having to buy tampons every month. **Lee From America has an excellent How-To on her blog**
The same goes for condoms. Take control and inform yourself about what is going in your body. Through my research, I've found that there are so many amazing companies out there helping to change the perspective on sexual health. My favorite company is, This is L. Not only are they a woman-run business, but when you buy an L product, they donate one to a female entrepreneur in a developing country. WE NEED MORE OF THIS. I genuinely believe that if we can change our education and conversations about sex, the quality of life for women will significantly increase.
NATURAL BIRTH CONTROL:
So I've ditched the pill, and the tampons. I want to introduce now you to Natural Cycles. Natural Cycles is an effective, straightforward method of birth control that uses your body temperature to tell you where you are at in your cycle and when you need to use protection or abstain from sex to prevent a pregnancy. You measure your temperature first thing in the morning before you get out of bed and then put the information in your app. Your temperature is used to detect ovulation, and after continued use, the app can identify green days, when no protection is needed, or red days, when you should use condoms or abstain from sex to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. I would recommend integrating this into your life if you are looking for science-based evidence on how your body is moving through its cycles. As an added bonus, you can to step up your protection game and log your sexual activity.
What I didn’t know before, but do know now:
There are SO many options
There are SO many resources
There is SO much support
Now that I have reached the end of this post, I feel overwhelmed by the amount of information I still want to share with all of you. I feel like I'm doing a disservice by only touching on each of these topics. I want to extend the invitation to you, whoever you are out there, to use me as a resource. It's taken me years to figure out what works and to find the confidence to talk about my period and sex with other people. Bottom line: women get their periods and we all have sex. Let's change how we look, feel and talk about these things. WE NEED TO STOP SLIDING OUR TAMPONS UP OUR SLEEVES AND BE PROUD OF WHAT OUR BODIES WERE MADE TO DO. Please remember, what I need isn't going to look the same for you, so do your research and listen to what your body is telling you.
POWER TO THE SHE.
"I believe that when women's bodies don't thrive, we fall out of sync with our lives - out of the zone of possibility, and away from our life's purpose. And when we're not healthy and happy, we lose our way. Too many of us are searching for answers to healing and self-empowerment in the wrong places, with the wrong teachers, and suffering needlessly as a result."