In the past week another birth control method came under fire for a brief moment: even the intrauterine device (IUD or coil) with the lowest amount of hormones when compared to the birth control PILL, has an oftentimes negative effect all over the body and is not 'just' effective locally. I was like, "duh, what else were you expecting?" .
Afterwards, the news disasppeared rapidly out of the headlines as of course, what else is to the disposition of a fertile woman, who likes to have sex, but doesn't like to get pregnant? A condom!
Indeed, a condom. But what if you have a steady and reliable partner, who isn't likely to get a STD, then it is quite something to always be using 'that' contraption.
Fifteen years ago, when I was just dating my current partner, I decided to have a IUD inserted as it is the hormonal birth control with the least amount of hormones.
By coincidence (or was it?) I got horribly sick from food poisoning within 24 hours after insertion. Enough to make me end up in hospital and have it removed surgically.
Maybe having had this IUD inserted simultaneously with getting so sick was a mere coincidence, but it made me think "never again".
To my utter joy and gratitude I was tipped about a prfectly natural hormone-free birth control method that doesn't make you use a condom for each and every time you want to get intimate with your partner. I'm talking about a method that is partially the same 'temperature' method that gets scoffed at when you are getting taught about the the various existing birth control methods in high school. The reason for dismissing the temperature method is that temperature measurements can be unreliable once you're truly getting sick.
However, combining temperature measurements with cervix observations makes this a truly reliable method to not get pregnant when you don't want to, provided you are using a condom when you are fertile. And vice versa, it is one of the very best ways to make sure to get preganant when you do want to be blessed with a son or daughter.
At the time, I chose to inform myself with a book called "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" from Toni Weschler, which is still an authority in this field and by now also accessible by her own website and forum.
Even though the book and the accompanying software was good enough, I also used a work book that was published by NFP-Nederland (Natural Family Planning), translated from their German counterpart (explained on this website Sensiplan) .
The combination of a book, the software and this work book along with a friend who actually followed a course on it, allowed me to get familiar with the quirks of my own cycles and soon had also mastered the art of interpreting them without making mistakes.
Whether or not it is easy to interpret your observations and temperature, mostly depends on how stable or erratic your cycles are: when they are variable, it may take a few months before you 'get' it and until then it is better to err on the safe side and label more days as 'unsafe'. With more complicated cycles and/or a burning desire to get pregnant, you may want to take a hands-on course nearby.
As to be expected, NFP gathers news and information on side-effects of hormonal birth control methods.
One of them refers to an article that originally appeared in an online magazine "De Correspondent" and tells about how the major hormone producing company Organon has managed to keep side-effects from the Nuva Ring out of the news.
Here follows the first part of their article
"In 2000, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was about to judge whether or not a new birth control method called the Nuvaring originating from the Netherlands is safe enough to allow it onto the American market.
The NuvaRing is said to be a revolutionary birth control method because it is a synthetic ring that can be inserted vaginally, upon which it release a low but effective dose of hormones.
The NuvaRing is far easier than and as effective as using an oral contraceptive tablet and very important: a woman can insert it herself without needing a doctor or nurse to help her do it. The lower dose of hormones would minimize the possible side-effects.
However, some employees at FDA have their doubts. One of them is Daniel Davis, who observed how in pilot studies twice as many participants suffered from thrombosis than in studies on women using oral contraceptives. Compared to the oral contraceptives that were deemed to be the safest, the risk was even four times higher.
In an internal evaluation notice, Davis wrote "It is clear that the FDA needs to point at the higher risks that these hormones pose according to the scientific literature".
From documents that De Correspondent obtained, it shows there have been quite a bit of negotations going on between the FDA and Organon to make sure that vital results from research that associates a higher risk of the products were to be left out from the insert that was to be added to the product.
If these heightened risks for thrombosis had been made public in the insert, it would have meant the end of the new contraceptive device. The doubts that FDA had at the time had resulted in a lot of anxiety at Organon, since Organon had already invested money into the NuvaRing for over 10 years. The large farmaceutical company was very eager to make sure there would be a favourable judgment from the FDA and an insert that would overall be positive in comparison with birth control pills."
The Dutch article continues further but the gist of it is clear: inserting a NuvaRing is not as risk-free as it has always been suggested.
Apart from having a higher risk on thrombosis there are more risks at using hormonal contraceptives, such as a higher risk for sports injuries, as noted in a research done in Copenhagen.
"Women on the pill are more likely to incur an injury than women who are not taking ethinyl estradiol to prevent pregnancy. Sports scientists at the University of Copenhagen discovered that synthetic estradiol prevents the muscle attachments from being strengthened by training.
When men train by running, their tendons get thicker. If young women do the same, their tendons do not grow. Female athletes are also more likely to develop tendon injuries than male athletes.".
More information on Ergo-Log.
One of the major advantages of using an all-natural method is how much more aware you become of physiological processes that are related to your hormonal cyclue, such as lesser or heightened libido, appetite, as well as sports performance.
Whomever plays sports for her own pleasusre and is not dependent of others, can figure out on what days you are able to seek to improve on previous PRs.
In conclusion, if you weren't already swayed by the health arguments to dismiss using hormonal contraceptives, those seeking top performance also have a good reason to not use the pill apart from improving their sex life.
For the few among us whose natural cycle causes them to be overly miserable due to exessive blood loss or debilitating migraines, your best alternative would still be an IUD as it releases the least amount of hormones, provided you don't have a family history of thrombosis.