Green Your Birth Control

Photo by  Amy Treasure  on  Unsplash

Photo by Amy Treasure on Unsplash

Hormonal Birth Control

The most popular birth control options today contain synthetic hormones and for that reason are called hormonal birth control. Hormonal birth control includes all products that use synthetic hormones to shut down the body's natural ovulatory cycles and/or prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. This includes the pill, patch, shot, implant, ring and the hormonal IUD. While these methods have a lot of pros for a modern female, the synthetic hormones cause a wide range of frustrating side effects as well as increased risk for serious health issues. Read more about the side effects and risks of hormonal birth control in my post called Reclaim Healthy Cycles. 

Photo Credit:  Beatrice M. 

Photo Credit: Beatrice M. 

Negative impacts on health and wellbeing are not the only reasons that hormonal birth control is not green-friendly. For example, the estrodial in hormonal birth control goes into and through our bodies (where it may or may not mix with other chemicals in the body) and then as we continually excrete it, it becomes an active agent once again in the environment. Scientists are continually studying the environmental impact that synthetic hormones have on animal, plant and soil life. All current hypotheses point to no bueno! One example is frogs. 

For the last two decades in urban areas of the northeast, populations of frogs have been found with limb and reproductive deformities. For example, male frogs have testes that contain eggs and other intersex abnormalities. Professor of ecology at Yale, David Skelly, shares his concern, "this phenomena may have troubling implications not only for amphibians, but for other vertebrates, including humans." You can read more about the studied link between hormonal birth control and populations of deformed frogs here.

A common question for many female has now become “do the pros of hormonal birth control outweigh the cons?” That is up to each individual female to decide for herself based on her needs and with concise understanding of all the options available. The good news is that there are a variety of options that are effective, hormone free, and eco-friendly. 


Non Hormonal Birth Control 

Photo Credit:  Hey Paul

Photo Credit: Hey Paul

Non hormonal birth control refers to the products that do not contain synthetic hormones and work by putting a barrier between the sperm and egg . This includes, but is not limited to, products such as the male condom, female condom, cervical cap, diaphragm, vaginal spermicides, and copper IUD (the Fertility Awareness Method is also non hormonal, see below). Non hormonal birth control methods are currently not as popular as hormonal birth control options and therefore carry negative stigma.  It’s commonly assumed that the reason non hormonal products are not as popular is because they are not effective.  Actually, these products have effectiveness rates comparable to hormonal contraceptives. Non hormonal birth control is a benefit to a female's reproductive system, but the question remains: are all non-hormonal birth control methods eco-friendly? 


Hormone free, check! Waste Free? Chemical Free? Hmm…

Just because a birth control method is free of synthetic hormones, does not necessarily mean that it is eco-friendly. Just like any disposable product, disposable birth control methods accumulate in waste lands and if they are not biodegradable then they are left to impact the land, soil, and water for countless decades to come. 

First of all, condoms are the only form of contraceptive (hormonal or not) to protect against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and in that sense are very important and necessary! That said, if you’re in a long term relationship and want a waste free birth control, condoms may not be the best option because the majority are not biodegradable. The only condom product on the market to date that is fully biodegradable is the Lambskin Condom; however, please note that these do not prevent from STIs. It’s also important to point out that, unless otherwise labelled, the majority of condoms are sold doused in spermicide and lubrication. Because condom manufacturers are not required to  list the ingredients of the spermicides and lubrications on the packaging, consumers are left in the dark as to which chemical compounds are absorbed by one's skin and then later absorbed by the soil in the landfill. 

Unlike condoms, the cervical cap and diaphragm are not disposable which saves the amount of waste put in the environment. However, cervical caps and diaphragms are often used in conjunction with vaginal spermicides for increased effectiveness. If you are looking for to avoid skin contact with chemicals, then spermicides may not be the best option. 

The copper IUD is free of hormones and does not have the same amount of waste associated with condoms. However,  if you are looking for the most natural and non-invasive method, then the copper IUD may not be the best option.  It is a T-shaped metal device that requires a doctor to dilate the cervix for insertion. The copper IUD comes with a different set of unfortunate side effects. 


Hormone, Chemical, & Waste Free

Are you wondering, “What’s left??” I'm not going to say the withdrawal method (although you can read more about how pulling out can work for some couples here).  

Photo Credit: Justina Thompson

Photo Credit: Justina Thompson

Actually, The Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is a hormone free, chemical free and waste free form of birth control! Furthermore, beyond the initial fee to learn FAM, it is a cost-free birth control method. FAM certainly sounds too good to be true and that’s because in a small way it is. FAM is not for everyone and it requires commitment and discipline. Read more about the pros and cons of FAM in one of my previous blogs here.

FAM is a highly accurate and effective method of natural birth control when the 4 FAM rules are charted and followed in each cycle. FAM is over 99% effective when used correctly, meaning it is as effective as oral contraceptives in preventing pregnancy. 

FAM is based on the observation and charting of two scientifically proven fertility signs that determine whether or not a female is fertile on any given day. These fertility signs are the pattern of a female's cervical fluid throughout her cycle and her waking Basal Body Temperature. 

Males are fertile (meaning capable of impregnating) every single day of their reproductive years, whereas a female's fertility in her reproductive years comes in waves.  One biological fact about the female reproductive system is that a female is only fertile (meaning capable of getting pregnant) for 1/3 of her cycle. A cycle is defined as day one of a female's period until the first day of her next period. Whether a female's cycle typically lasts 25, 28, 45 or even 73 days long, if it is an ovulatory cycle then she is only capable of getting pregnant for 1/3 of that cycle.

It's the amazing biological truth missing from our middle school health classes!

If you’ve already done the math, this means that if a female's cycles typically last 30 days, then she is only fertile for 7-12 days. That leaves the possibility for barrier free intercourse for a total of about 18-23 days in that cycle.

Couples who want to have a completely waste free birth control can choose to abstain from intercourse completely for that 7-12 day fertile wave each cycle. Alternatively, couples can use a barrier method (such as a condom or diaphragm) during the fertile wave. The difference in land fill waste between using condoms for all sex versus only using condoms for sex during the 7-12 day fertile wave is significant.  Use of a barrier method during the fertile wave means that you are using that  barrier method (i.e. condom, diaphragm) to prevent pregnancy and are therefore depending upon the effectiveness of that barrier, not the effectiveness of FAM. 

In order to use FAM correctly, a female must learn how to accurately pinpoint the beginning and end of her fertile wave in every cycle.

This requires a commitment to learn in a class setting and a short period of practicing her charting technique before relying on FAM as the primary birth control method. 

When you take a class from a certified Fertility Awareness Educator (FAE), such as myself, you are learning how to accurately determine the following on a daily basis:

A. When your fertile wave begins. 

B. When your fertile wave ends.

C. Other amazing facts missing from middle school health class!



Green Your Birth Control Challenge

As you can see, there is a wide variety of alternative birth control methods that are effective and eco-friendly. Here are some ideas that can guide you in the challenge of greening your birth control:

1. Decide for yourself and with your partner what you are comfortable with trying using this guide. 

2.  Read more about the options you've decided to try using the links below.

3. Purchase the eco-friendly contraceptive item or class you're interested in using.

Or a number of my colleagues:

Chemical Free Lubricants

4. Manufacturing companies need motivation to create biodegradable and eco-friendly packaging. You can help by calling the manufacturer companies of birth control methods that use a lot of packaging (foil and plastic wrappers) such as oral contraceptives and condoms and tell them that you only give your dollar to companies that are working to minimize packaging waste!                                                                          

I hope you enjoy these resources to get you started with the steps you may take toward a greener birth control! I am available for further details on any of the topics discussed. Feel free to chat with me via the comments below, Email, Twitter, or Facebook.




What Charting as a Form of Birth Control Actually Means

In pursuit of searching for natural alternatives, you've probably heard talk about women who "chart" their cycles, but what does this mean? Sometimes we hear "charting" referenced when a woman writes down her period start dates. I've also heard of a couple who got pregnant accidentally from using a "charting" method as birth control, only to find out they were relying on a a device or phone app that estimated their fertile window (prediction or calculation methods are less effective because they only work if a woman has around a 28 day cycle every time, which is not common).  Anytime I hear about "charting," I like to ask more questions to find out that person's definition of the term.  All this talk of charting can get rather confusing! To sum it up, charting can mean different things to different people. Just because someone you know is "charting" her cycles, does not necessarily mean that she is using the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) to prevent pregnancy. FAM is a method of fertility charting that is up to 99.6% effective when it is used correctly and is effective for women with irregular cycles as well as for women who have typical cycles! Other forms of natural birth control are less effective, particularly the forms that involve prediction or calculation.

When we use the term “charting” within Red Coral Fertility, we are referring to the daily fertility charting of a woman's 3 signs of fertility: Cervical Fluid, Waking Body Temperature, and the Cervix (this one is optional).  When a woman is charting with FAM, she is charting observationally, not statistically. FAM allows a woman to know on a day to day basis if she is fertile or not based on the observations of her fertility signs; whereas, calculation methods are based on statistics of what a woman's body did in past cycles. A woman's body in this day and age doesn't mix well with statistical calculations because there are too many factors with health or the environment that can throw things off randomly.  Fertility charting is amazing because it works with the ebbs and flows of having a random cycle every now and then. However, a woman using FAM as her birth control needs to be well informed that there is more to it than just putting temperatures on a chart. 

With FAM, charting involves 3 daily aspects of techniquechecking, and recording.  This sounds sort of clinical at first, but actually charting becomes an easy and simple practice early on!  If a woman is new to charting and intends to chart for natural birth control, then I recommend that she:

#1 Take a class with a qualified teacher (like me!)

#2 Chart with FAM for 3 cycles prior to relying on it as her primary birth control 

That way she has time and experience to become comfortable and confident as well as time to attend a Follow Up appointment to have her charts assessed and her practice affirmed. Follow Ups are hands down invaluable in one’s practice of charting for birth control.

So what are these three aspects of charting all about?
1. Technique: In my classes, you learn the best technique for how to check your signs of fertility. Just like learning how to drive a car or do cartwheels, something that is unfamiliar at first does not take long to become an automatic practice. My job is to teach you the best technique so that the foundation of your automatic checks is based on accuracy. Even though technique and checking may become automatic, it is still important to carry an overall awareness of one’s body. I recommend touching base with your body to ask questions like “How am I feeling? What am I noticing about my body today?” or saying positive things like “I love you, body!" and “Wow, being female is sacred and phenomenally epic!”
2. Checking: Checking is the routine of taking (or checking) Waking Body Temperature each morning and also doing Cervical Fluid Checks throughout the day while on bathroom breaks. This also includes doing a Cervix Check once per day if a woman chooses, as this one is optional. Cervical Fluid Checks are very quick, simple and straightforward.  Learning about Cervical Fluid absolutely rocked my world and I highly recommend all women get to know their Cervical Fluid up close and personal! 
3. Recording and Rockin’ the Rules: Recording is when, at the end of each day, you (or your partner), jot down what your checks told you that day.  A common misconception about charting is that the practice ends with recording. However, the most important part of charting for natural birth control is to apply the 4 FAM Rules or as I put it, Rockin’ the Rules! This takes just a minute. In fact, after learning how to chart, the daily commitment of fertility charting boils down to just a few minutes each day which is only as long as it takes to brush your teeth!
Thanks to a woman's fabulous technique (that she learns from taking a FAM class) plus her routine of daily checking, then at the end of each day she is able to answer the question: “Am I fertile today?” Yes or no?  After taking a FAM Workshop, a woman will not only be able to answer that question each night, but also know which one of the FAM Rules to follow for that night. Application of the 4 FAM Rules throughout the cycle is the reason FAM is up to 99.6% effective for preventing pregnancy. Ergot, we’ve got to rock those rules to get the results. 
That’s the gist of what charting means. If you want to learn more you can schedule a FREE 15 minute phone call to discuss your questions that you have as you are deciding if you want to take a FAM Workshop. Click here to schedule a FREE chat today!

 Remember to tell yourself regularly that you’re a phenomenally epic female!!