Safer Options Exist—Top Eight Natural Birth Control Methods

Safer Options Exist—Top Eight Natural Birth Control Methods

 

 

 

 

 

 

Young women are often not given options for natural birth control. They opt for BCPs because they’re easily available and convenient and they’re not aware of the the health risks.Here are some effective options for natural family planning that prevent pregnancy without damaging your health.

Barrier Methods:

Male condoms: Condoms have a 98 percent effectiveness rate when used correctly. A water-based lubricant will increase the effectiveness; do not use an oil-based lubricant, however, as they break the latex.
• Female condoms: These thin, soft polyurethane pouches fitted inside the vagina before sex are 95 percent effective. Female condoms are less likely to tear than male condoms.
Diaphragm: A diaphragm is a soft latex or silicone dome that’s inserted into the vagina before sex. It must be initially fitted by a doctor. When used correctly with spermicidal jellies, it’s 92 to 98 percent effective.
Cervical cap: This heavy rubber cap fits tightly against the cervix and can be left in place for 48 hours. Like the diaphragm, a doctor must fit the cap. Proper fitting enhances the effectiveness above 91 percent.
• Cervical sponges: The sponge, made of polyurethane foam, is moistened with water and inserted into the vagina prior to sex. It works as a barrier between sperm and the cervix, both trapping and absorbing sperm and releasing a spermicide to kill them. It can be left in for up to 24 hours at a time. When used correctly, the sponge is about 89-91 percent effective.

Tracking Ovulation:


• Calendar Method:
The woman avoids sex during the week the she is ovulating. This technique works best when a woman’s menstrual cycle is very regular. However, it may not work very well for couples who use it as the sole means of contraception, as its success rate is only around 75 percent. You can boost its effectiveness by combining it with the temperature and mucus methods described below.
• The Basal Body Temperature Method: This is a way to pinpoint the day of ovulation so that sex can be avoided for a few days before and after. It involves taking your basal body temperature (your temperature upon first waking) each morning with an accurate “basal” thermometer, and noting the rise in temperature that occurs after ovulation. This method works best in women who have regular monthly cycles.

Following your basal body temperatures enables you to become so aware of ovulation that when you’re ready to have your family you can better plan your pregnancy. I used this method myself when
I was in medical school and I was able to later choose a convenient time to have my pregnancy!

Be aware that illness or lack of sleep can change your body temperature and make this method unreliable by itself, but when it is combined with the mucus method, it can be an accurate way of assessing fertility. The two methods combined can have a success rate as high as 98 percent.

The Mucus Method: This involves tracking changes in the amount and texture of vaginal discharge, that reflect rising levels of estrogen in your body. For the first few days after your period, there is often no discharge, but there will be a cloudy, tacky mucus as estrogen starts to rise. When the discharge starts to increase in volume and becomes clear and stringy, ovulation is near. A return to the tacky, cloudy mucus or no discharge means that ovulation has passed.

I realize the convenience of birth control pills is what makes them so popular. However, my advice to women is to seriously evaluate the risks versus benefits before taking any type of birth control pills. A bit of planning on your part is well worth the health risks you’ll avoid.

Recommended Reading

1. Outliving Your Ovaries by Dr. Marina Johnson. While I initially wrote this book for menopausal women, I also included chapters for young women that included a section on natural birth control.
2. Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement and Reproductive Health by Toni Weschler
3. Honoring Our Cycles: A Natural Family Planning Workbook by Katie Singer

Are Birth Control Pills Safe?

 

Are Birth Control Pills Safe?Artificially controlling your menstrual cycle with birth control pills (BCPs) may seem like an ideal method for highly effective, relatively inexpensive and easily reversible birth control. After all, they come in these cute, little pink packs and they’re given to 13 year-girls, so they must be safe, right? Think again. You need to know that BCPs have been linked to numerous, serious health risks, so it’s important to carefully weigh the benefit of this convenience against its considerable risks.

Artificially Manipulating Your Hormones is a Risky Proposition

The pituitary gland, a small pea-sized gland at the base of brain, is in charge of regulating all hormone production in your body. Most birth control pills, patches, vaginal rings, and implants contain a combination of synthetic derivatives of the hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Young women are astonished to learn that the dosage of these synthetic drugs in BCPs is ten times higher than is seen with natural hormones given to menopausal women! Understand that your reproductive system does not exist in a bubble. All the different hormones and organ systems “talk” to each other. When your pituitary sees these high hormones, it perceives that your body is in an “overdose” situation. Therefore, the logical response from the pituitary is to send a signal to the ovary to stop ovulation, the primary source of estrogen production! If there’s no ovulation, you can’t get pregnant, which is the whole goal of BCPs.

It would be fine if the only role of estrogen was for reproduction. However, you need to know that estrogen has over 400 actions on different tissues in your body! Women on BCPs often have NO detectable levels of natural estrogen in their body! These low levels of natural estrogen can have variable results. Some women seem unaffected…others develop headaches, sexual dysfunction or gain weight around their waistline. Young women may hesitant to question their doctors or may not realize these are BCP side effects. Read on to educate yourself on the risks of BCPs.

Well-Documented Risks of Synthetic Estrogen and Progestin

Because hormonal BCPs contain synthetic estrogen and progesterone,
they have the same well-documented risks, including an increased risk of blood clots, stroke, heart attack, and breast cancer. With HRT, these risks are primarily seen with oral estrogen pills especially when combined with a synthetic progestin. It’s important to emphasize that these risks increase with higher doses and with longer duration of use. Recall, the doses used in BCPs can be ten times higher than those in HRT! If BCPs are used for one to two years before starting a family, risk is probably minimal. However, many young women start BCPs as young as twelve or thirteen and may take them for twenty years or longer!

For the convenience of contraception (which you can do naturally just as well, and I’ll explain how below), you are putting yourself at risk for the following:

Cancer: Women who take birth control pills increase their risk of cervical and breast cancer, and possibly liver cancer as well.

Fatal blood clots: All birth control pills increase your risk of blood clots and subsequent stroke. And if your prescription contains the synthetic hormone desogestrel, your risk of fatal blood clots nearly doubles!

Thinner bones: Women who take birth control pills have lower bone mineral density (BMD) than women who have never used oral contraceptives.

Heart disease: Long-term use of birth control pills may increase plaque artery buildup in your body increase plaque artery buildup that may raise your risk of heart disease.

Impaired muscle gains: A recent study found that oral contraceptive use can impair muscle gain from resistance exercise training in women.

Decreased cognition and memory

Long-term sexual dysfunction: BCPs may interfere with a protein that keeps testosterone unavailable, leading to long-term sexual dysfunction including decreased desire and arousal.

Migraine headaches

Weight gain and mood changes

Yeast overgrowth and infection

Newer Hormonal Birth Control Methods May Be Even Riskier

Two of the newer hormonal contraceptives—the hormone-releasing vaginal ring, NuvaRing, and the combination pills Yaz and Yasmin, that also contain the hormone drospirenone in addition to estrogen and progestin—may be of even greater concern than the older “classics.”

The NuvaRing is a flexible vaginal ring that is replaced once a month. It releases estradiol and desogestrel. The latter is known as a “third generation” progestin, desogestrel, which has been linked to serious health concerns and may double your risk of blood clots when compared to second generation contraceptives. The NuvaRing delivers a relatively high dose of this hormone.

Other types of birth control also contain this third generation hormone, including some implants. More than 4,000 lawsuits have been filed against Bayer for serious side effects suffered by women taking the newer birth control pills Yaz and Yasmine. The four most common adverse effects are blood clots, gallbladder disease, heart attack and stroke. The first trial is scheduled to begin in September, and according to some legal estimates, the number of lawsuits filed may at that point reach 30,000.

So faced with these dire risks, what’s a woman to do for contraction? See my next blog entry that gives you guidance on natural options for birth control.

MARINA JOHNSON
M.D., F.A.C.E.
MEDICAL DIRECTOR

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IN ENDOCRINOLOGY
& METABOLISM AND
INTERNAL MEDICINE

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Suite 510
Dallas, Texas 75231-2111

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