OPINIONS_NaturalCyclesApp_MariahWilson-6101
Photo by Mariah Wilson

Rhythm method offers alternative to hormonal birth control

By Lady Marmalade, November 24 2017 —

I was on hormonal birth control for three years. If you’ve been on the pill, you know that there can be some pretty nasty side effects. I’m also really sensitive to the way these hormones impact my body and mind, so after getting migraines and gaining weight made me resent having to take the pill every day, I decided to explore other options.

I tried an intrauterine device (IUD) for just nine months before removing it. The side effects were even worse than the pills. When my relationship ended, I decided to remove the IUD and try something else because I was not happy with the method of contraception.

Like many people, my Facebook news feed is constantly pushing ads that may or may not relate to my life. Immediately after my IUD removal, an ad came up in my feed that boasted the title of “The Only Certified Contraceptive App.” The comments on the advertisement were what you’d expect. People were outraged that the rhythm method — calendar-based contraception — was being advertised. I decided to do some research.

Natural Cycles is an app that tracks users’ menstrual cycle by measuring their basal temperature every morning. The app then creates an algorithm based off of when ovulation occurs and gives users “green” or “red” days for when they theoretically can and can’t get pregnant. Users can have unprotected sex on “green” days and should either abstain or use another form of contraception on “red” days. Their research followed almost 23,000 users through the initial testing of the method and found that with perfect use of the app and temperature tracking, the method is between 93 and 99 per cent effective.

I decided to give the app a try to see how it worked. The obvious benefits of this method are the complete lack of side effects and the ability to be hormone-free and getting my body back in check. The main issue I had is that it’s slightly terrifying. The service costs around $90 per year and you receive a thermometer in the mail. After a four-month period of using this method, here are some thoughts.

Taking your temperature first thing in the morning is tedious. I thought that I would be motivated because I was so curious about this alternative but I really blew it on this one. For the most part, the app was able to figure out a good schedule for me. Initially, my “green” days were almost non-existent because the app needed to go through a few cycles to get used to my body’s schedule. I also took a few ovulation tests throughout using the app to get some more accurate data. I like that the app can track my periods and let me know when a cycle is starting or ending. I also set an alarm to go off right after I wake up to remind me to take my temperature.

I love being off hormonal birth control. My mind is clearer, I feel more in touch with my body and in control of my cycle. Also, I didn’t get pregnant. Of course, this app doesn’t prevent STDs, so still use a condom. Though the science behind the app and this method does put my mind at ease, it should be taken with caution. Also, you can use the app if you are looking to get pregnant because it can give you some helpful tips regarding cycles and patterns in ovulation.

While many people still choose the pill, it isn’t the only way. The IUD works great for some people — just because it doesn’t work well for me didn’t mean that it won’t for you. There is also the ring, the patch, barrier methods and hormonal pills, but there are also hormone-free options. Do your research and be safe.

Articles published in the Gauntlet‘s opinion section do not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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