How Natural Birth Control Helped Me Take Charge of My Fertility

Let’s talk about the worst kept secret – periods, birth control, and family planning. Over the last year, I found myself getting asked by several friends and family members about how I handle these things. I can always tell where someone is in their life by what they’re asking. That’s because I’ve been open about my natural birth control and our family planning methods. It literally changed my life.

Like so many others, I started taking a birth control pill for prevention. I’d heard of other types of birth control, but most made my toes curl just thinking about it. At the time, the pill seemed like the tried and true method.

That’s until I started noticing both physical and mental symptoms from the pill. At first, I attributed my heightened feelings of anxiety to both buying and renovating my first home with my soon-to-be husband and trying to plan a wedding. It seemed to get worse until I couldn’t recognize myself. I was crying all the time and felt like my heart was in my throat all day, every day. The wedding and honeymoon came and went and still, my anxiety lingered. This time I attributed it to anxiety over not wanting to get pregnant at this stage in our life or marriage. Or the pressures of being a new wife and homeowner.

Then I started passing blood clots and decided I needed to look into a different type of birth control. A friend had mentioned in passing about a natural method she had been doing for a couple of years. At first, I shrugged it off. The words “natural” sounded like a catchy phrase and certainly not one I was willing to put my faith in.

After a few more anxiety-ridden months, I decided I could at least talk to this friend. So still on the pill, we talked. That’s when I learned about the Fertility Awareness Method or FAM for short {sometimes it’s also referred to as the rhythm method}. I personally like the name Fertility Awareness Method as I feel like this encapsulates wherever someone is in their journey – whether family planning or prevention.

My friend recommended the fertility bible, Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler and the Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods by Lara Briden. While still taking the pill, I spent a couple of months reading and studying. These books talked about becoming empowered and learning about my own body. They talked about things I didn’t know anything about. For example, did you know every woman’s cycle length is different? The 28-day reference we all know well is only an average. The length of your own cycle can vary each month depending on what’s going on in your life and stress factors.

birth control books on a nightstandI won’t lie. FAM sounded like a lot of work. I had to take my temperature every day? AND I should measure my cervical fluid… weird. My curiosity got the best of me though and propelled me forward to give it a try. I decided to let my birth control pack run out and see what happened.

What happened was… I discovered the intricacies of my body. I could literally see the impact of stress or travel or the toll alcohol took on my body. I could look for patterns. I could know how long my cycle typically was, not the average woman’s cycle. I knew when I was the most fertile and what months I didn’t ovulate. I didn’t have to guess or take a test to tell me. When my husband and I finally decided to start a family, I had already put in the work to learn to listen to and read my body. That doesn’t mean charting helped me achieve pregnancy overnight; it still took several months. But I knew if I had ovulated and then I knew very early on each month whether we had achieved pregnancy. The month we did get pregnant, charting told me well before any test could’ve. The test merely confirmed what I already knew days prior.

Fertility Awarness Method, natural birth control chartingLet me be clear, if you’re going to try this method, it will take time for you to feel confident and comfortable that you know what you’re doing. Until you reach that place, you should definitely be using another prevention method if you’re using it as a means of birth control. I personally used two other prevention methods while I figured out FAM, for my own peace of mind.

Here are some quick tips:

  1. Download one of the many charting apps out there. I personally like Kindara. Their app has a whole community forum section where you can talk with other people, ask questions of the Kindara experts, and compare charts. It’s a great place to learn, especially if you’re new to charting. This app and others allow you to set goals, whether family planning or prevention. As you begin to chart it lets you know when you’re likely to be the most fertile based on the information you enter each day. This made it easy for me to switch from charting for birth control to charting to achieve pregnancy.
  2. Get yourself a basal body thermometer. I’ve tried a few and I prefer the Kindara Wink thermometer. It’s Bluetooth, so it syncs automatically with the app installed on my phone. It’s super quick and easy and comes with a warranty. Seriously, my thermometer died when COVID first happened, and I had been out of warranty for two years. I contacted customer service and they sent me a new one within a few days, free of charge.
  3. Start by taking your temperature every day. It should be the first thing you do when your eyes pop open in the morning. Don’t even get out of bed until you take your temperature as movement will cause your basal body temperature to change. Tracking this temp will help you predict ovulation.
  4. Measure your cervical fluid. Yes, it is going to be strange at first, but you’ll get used to it. A lot of people like to just stick to temperature taking, but it only tells part of the story and not the most interesting part. Cervical fluid or CF is where’s it at. If you can learn to read your CF, you’ll know rather than predict if you’re fertile or not. I’d recommend measuring it a few times a day, especially when you first start, and record the most fertile CF.

I also recommend purchasing a copy of Taking Charge of Your Fertility. It covers the whole span of your charting experience, from the first period through menopause, from birth control to achieving pregnancy. It has sample charts, stories, and suggestions and ideas if you’re running into an issue, such as a vitamin deficiency that may be impacting your health and fertility. I constantly still turn to my copy when something new crops up that I’ve never experienced or if I want to refresh myself on something.

Even now when I’m breastfeeding, I’m starting to chart again. As many of you know, you can still get pregnant while breastfeeding, so unless you’re ready for another kiddo right away, prevention is important. FAM can be tricky while breastfeeding since there are many new factors to take into account, such as frequency of feedings, so using another means of prevention during breastfeeding is important if you’re not completely sure or comfortable exclusively using FAM. I’m starting to chart again to look for patterns and to start to familiarize myself with this new mama-bod. That way, when my breastfeeding journey is over I’m ready and empowered no matter which path we choose next.

Have you tried natural birth control? Share your experience with us!