Unfortunately, not all health practitioners present birth control measures objectively.
According to Dr Christine Northrup, MD, during her experience “in medical school and residency, there was a tendency to push oral contraceptives as the optimal method of birth control and to downplay the reliability of the diaphragm and condoms... The pill is easy to prescribe, easy to take, very reliable, and very convenient. We can use it to manipulate our menstrual cycles, avoiding periods all together or on weekends. In short, it fits our cultural ideal.”
To simplify the discussion of various forms of birth control, let's divide methods in two camps: Hormonal and Non-Hormonal Contraceptive options.
There are a number of Hormonal Contraceptives. They can be injected (‘The Shot’), implanted (IUS and ‘The Ring’), applied to the skin (‘The Patch’), or taken orally (‘The Pill’). These methods contain progesterone and or estrogen in order prevent ovulation and limit the fertility phase of the menstrual cycle, or eliminate the cycle all together.
Menstrual suppression, via Birth Control, for an entire month, or year(s), seems extreme when the window of fertility is a matter of a few days. However, birth control is easy to take and places 100% control of a woman’s fertility in her own hands - requiring nothing of her partner.
If a woman chooses that Birth Control is the best option for her, an oral contraceptive is the best way to go (in my opinion). Eliminating the cycle for a year or longer is devastating to the endocrine system and physiology of the body. Monthly suppression is the better choice, in this case. Though she is not truly cycling - her body does get a reprieve from the suppression every three weeks. Be mindful not to place metal in the body. Be mindful not to stay on birth control long term. Be mindful to choose this option only if you are actually sexually active.
The next logical question would be, if not The Pill (or any other hormonal method), then what? How do I prevent pregnancy? What are my other Non-Hormonal options?
There is one other common contraceptive method that is non-hormonal but is not natural. The IUD is a copper intrauterine device that is inserted into the uterus. It is a long acting (5 year) contraceptive that changes the environment of the uterine lining and prevents the sperms ability get through the cervical mucous and to fertilize the egg. In my clinical practice, there seems to be a correlation between IUDs and an increased risk of acidity in the female as well as a significant need to detoxify the body in order to increase fertility. Women with IUDs do have an increased risk of infection and are associated with an increased risk of tubal pregnancies. Just as I mentioned above, be mindful not to place metal in the body.
There are a number of options for natural pregnancy prevention that does not include traditional birth control. These options require more education about the body and more active participation than the pill. The level of responsibility and accountability increases depending on the method a person chooses.
Current culture would assume that fertility and the responsibility for birth control measures lay solely in the hands of the female. While it is imperative for a woman to come to know and take responsibility for her own body, birth control methods (in my opinion) should be a shared responsibility between partners.
Charting a woman’s cycle in order to be informed about where a woman is in her fertility is always my first choice. There are a number of charting methods for fertility awareness. Natural Family Planning or the Creighton Model Ovulation Method are excellent choices. Couples who use fertility awareness as their chosen form of birth control experience no side effects and often find increased intimacy in their relationships. Three major studies regarding Fertility Awareness Methods showed effectiveness rates to avoid pregnancy between 95% and 97%.
A woman who knows her body and her cycle reclaims her power and creative force. Since there is a small period of time that a woman is fertile throughout a given month, barrier methods or abstinence can be utilized during this window. Condoms, Female Condoms, and Diaphragms would be the most effective if utilized properly during the fertility phase of a cycle.
Condoms require the male partner to be cooperative and share responsibility of prevention. They have a 98% effectiveness rate if used conscientiously. Condoms can protect against STDs and help decrease the risk of cervical dysplasia.
There are also female condoms that have a 95% effectiveness rate. Much like condoms, they protect against STDs and require a one time use only. Diaphragms with contraceptive cream or gel is another option during the fertility phase of a cycle. Diaphragms will need to be fitted by a health professional and faithfully used at each intercourse. They have a 96% effectiveness rate.
Cervical caps are used as well. The caps come in three sizes and are not fitted specifically for the individualized female. Therefore, accurate fit is not always assured. The effectiveness rate for a cap is 74% (compared to the 96% of a diaphragm). This effectiveness rate drops drastically in women who have already had children. For these reasons, I recommend a diaphragm over a cap.
These four methods of birth control (Fertility Awareness, condom, female condom, and diaphragm) help to maintain the normal, natural cycle of hormones without suppression or dis-regulation. They require cooperation and mutual responsibility for a couples combined fertility.
Below is a chart that diagrams the effectiveness of each choice. It is important to distinguish between the failure of a birth control method itself and the failure of a woman or couple to use it properly. I prefer this chart because is shows both perfect use and typical use (accounting for user error).
This post was intended to be a starting point for discussion regarding various birth control options outside of typical oral contraceptives for sexually active individuals.
Women or teenagers who are not sexually active and are having hormone dis-regulation or severe periods should seek natural care to help balance their systems. Birth Control is not the best option to reduce symptoms and balance their bodies.