About a year ago I started looking into Natural Family Planning (otherwise known as the Fertility Awareness Method). I was taking Yaz and doing well on it, although I did feel a bit sluggish and had gained more weight that I wanted. Bryan and I decided to switch from hormonal birth control to NFP within a year. I thought January sounded pretty good.
It was probably August or September when I started questioning Yaz. My brother, David, and I were talking about birth control, and he said that his wife, my dear sister Stacey, was feeling a bit hormonal/emotional on her birth control. Wow did I understand that!! The first birth control I used, Tri-Sprintec (generic Ortho Tri-Cyclen) did incredibly terrible thinks to my state of mind and my blood pressure. It was on Tri-Sprintec that I had my first panic attack, the first in a long line of such attacks. It was on Tri-Sprintec that my blood pressure shot up to 160/95 (normal is 120/80), and it was on Tri-Sprintec that I had ridiculous crying fits at least twice a week.
It was a dark time, let me tell you. And only a couple of months into our brand new marriage!
All that to say, when David mentioned Stacey's birth control, I said "well how about Yaz?" His response was surprising to me, "You mean that birth control in all those law suits? The one that's killed people?"
I brushed off the concerns, I'll admit it. I hadn't heard many bad things about Yaz, and I really really loved that it didn't make me all crazy, crying girl. I had recommended it to a number of friends because I loved the lack of side effects.
I'm sure David was exaggerating.
Then came late September. I was at my Ladies' Group (one of the Life Groups I'm a part of) and I mentioned how well I was doing on Yaz when one of the gals mentioned her difficulties with the Nuvaring. Once again, another girl mentioned all the lawsuits against the medication.
"I don't know... really? Have you actually heard anything, or is it just random lawsuits? Because there are lawsuits against alllll types of drugs."
She insisted that she knew a girl who got a blood clot in her leg from Yaz.
I went online and investigate. What I found was super scary. So many women had deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms from this drug! Some had DIED of HEART ATTACK or STROKE! And at MY AGE! After talking to friends I realized that I knew a few girls who had blood clots in their legs. And a friend of my aunt's had multiple pulmonary embolisms and was in the hospital for days.
I was officially terrified. I'm already a bit of a hypochondriac, so this did not help me by any stretch of the imagination. I decided that I would for sure go off Yaz by January. It was already September, and I figured I may as well use up the rest of the medication that I had, since I was getting 3 months at a time.
It was in October that my mom called me to chat. We talked about church, about her and dad, about my work. And then she said, "Hey, I want to tell you something but I don't want you to freak out, okay?"
Never a good sign.
She proceeded to tell me that one of her good friends from the library had a family friend who had died a couple of days before from a stroke. This girl was my age. They did an autopsy, and apparently the only thing they could attribute the stroke to was Yaz. My mom, who I had been updating about the possibility of going off birth control for the past few months, asked that I get off of the medication as soon as possible. She told me she was scared for me.
It was a couple of weeks after that conversation when I was able to see my health care provider. I told her I wanted to try Natural Family Planning and she was elated. She said that she thought I'd really benefit from a method that put me in touch with my body. She also thought it would be better for my anxiety and state of mind to get off of hormones. She fitted me for a diaphragm (which was an incredibly incredibly incredibly awkward visit and I don't even know if I should discuss it here) and sent me on my way.
I've been using Natural Family Planning since November, and I really love it. I wasn't able to rely on it for birth control the first two months that I tried it, since my cycles were irregular from so many hormones. Once my cycles became normal I easily saw when I was ovulating and when I was fertile. During any possible fertile times we use a combination of condoms and diaphragm (which is used with spermicide). When we're in a non-fertile time, we don't use anything.
I will admit, I really do not like condoms. And even the diaphragm can be a drag. But I love love love not being on hormones. I'm hoping eventually we get used to the condoms and diaphragm and they stop being such a pain. Until then, I'm at least happy that I feel more like myself and that I'm not worried about blood clots. Possible clots weighed heavily on my mind for the last three months I was on birth control and it was not great for my anxiety.
What I really love about NFP is that it's really easy once you get used to it! I take my temperature at the same time every morning and chart it on Fertility Friend (thanks Shannan!!!) I'm pretty sure that Fertility Friend is primary used by women trying to use NFP to get pregnant, but it works well for birth control as well. I read Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler and it really helped me understand by body in a whole new way. I read how to make a fertility chart, which was helpful, but I really love that Fertility Friend's VIP Membership (cheap compared to birth control pills) shows you when you are fertile and when you are not. It's so easy!! I love it.
Here's my chart from my last cycle:
Okay, apparently it's a bit blurry, but that's okay. I'll tell you what this chart did for me. It.Is.Awesome.
So the blue dots are my temps each morning. It is necessary to take your temp at the same time every morning for this method to work. The pinky-purple dots are when I exercised. The M, S, and C's refer to my cervical fluid (ewwwww, right?). It's important to note cervical fluid when using this method as well, especially towards the beginning of your cycle. The green is when I'm most likely fertile, if I were trying to conceive (when you're using NFP as birth control, you assume a longer fertile period as you want to be extra careful not to get prego). The vertical line is when I ovulated.
Why is this important? Well, modern medicine says that women usually ovulate on the 14th day of the month. This is what your doctor most likely uses to estimate your ovulation. If you look at this cycle, I ovulated on day 25. Not 14. If I hadn't been charting, I may have assumed that I was "okay" (not fertile) after day 18 (if I was being conservative). I would have stopped using barrier methods and would have definitely been at risk of conceiving.
Since I knew that I ovulated on day 25, I also knew that I would most likely start my period on day 36. This made it easy for me to be prepared for my period and not worry about randomly bleeding.
Like I said, I love Natural Family Planning. I could see myself going back to hormonal birth control after childbirth, since a woman's menstrual cycles are irregular for quite a while after birth and it's hard to rely on NFP. But right now, I love this method. I love how much more I understand my body, my cycle, and my moods. I love charts in general, so I love Fertility Friend. And I love not being on hormones.