Groove

What IS natural birth control?

wrote this on January 11, 2016

When food, beauty products, and household cleaners are labelled “natural”, we typically expect them to be better, healthier, and superior in some way to their chemical-laden counterparts. So why doesn’t the same thing go for birth control? When the word “natural” is used to describe a birth control method, it makes people feel pretty uneasy.

I’m not exactly sure why that is. What I do know, however, is that natural birth control gets a REALLY bad rap and has some seriously awful stereotypes attached to it. To help you overcome any discomfort you have with using a natural birth control method like the sympto-thermal method, I’m going to break down what natural birth control is AND what it isn’t.

Natural birth control ISN’T

1. only for religious individuals

Natural birth control is often associated with religion since the Catholic Church helped to pioneer several “natural” methods as early as the 1930s — starting with the now-outdated (and ineffective) rhythm method. By the late 1960s and early ‘70s, the Church was touting the benefits of a natural, symptoms-based method that later became Natural Family Planning. This paved the way for the what we now know as the sympto-thermal method. You can thank the Catholic Church for popularizing natural birth control enough for rigorous scientific studies to be conducted, but that definitely doesn’t mean you have to be religious to use and benefit from it!

2. based on guesswork or pseudoscience

It’s a mystery to me how the rhythm method became the poster-child for natural birth control, especially since there have been SO MANY scientific advances since its use began in the 1930s. It’s true that the rhythm method is primarily based on guesswork, but it’s honestly so old-school that I don’t really even consider it to be part of the natural birth control world. The sympto-thermal method — which is both modern and super effective — is based on anything BUT guesswork! It was founded on scientific principles, has been rigorously studied and tested, AND is just as effective as the pill when it’s used correctly.

3. irresponsible

I’ve honestly never understood this misconception. I suppose if you assume that natural birth control = the rhythm method, it probably makes sense to think that using natural birth control is totally irresponsible. But modern-day natural birth control like the sympto-thermal method is pretty much the opposite of irresponsible in my mind: it fosters some major learning and empowers its users with actionable data. That sounds pretty responsible to me!

4. time-consuming

Sure, learning how to use the sympto-thermal method takes some time up front, but, honestly, what DOESN’T?! Learning to tie your shoes, riding a bike, driving a car — each of these has a learning curve. But like those other life skills, using natural birth control becomes second nature pretty quickly. Once you have it down, it doesn’t require any more of your time than, say, popping a pill.

5. a total wet blanket on your sex life

A lot of people who don’t use natural birth control assume that it’s a total mood-killer. It’s true that the sympto-thermal method is most effective when you abstain from sex during your short fertile window, but abstaining isn’t a requirement to use the method. There are many, many couples out there who choose to use condoms or withdrawal during the fertile time. There are also many folks (like myself), who use the fertile time to spice things up in the bedroom with things OTHER than penetrative sex…use your imagination here! Natural birth control doesn’t = loss of spontaneity or a dull sex life. I know many people who have found it to be quite the opposite!

Natural birth control IS

1. data-driven

Mmmm…data. In case you didn’t know this about me, I’m a massive data junkie. Like…I love data so much that I should probably be embarrassed about it, but I’m totally not. From hormone testing to self-experiments to measuring my blood sugar with a glucose meter (I’m not even diabetic), I LOVE gathering data about my body. So the fact that natural birth control is data-driven is a huge bonus for me. Collecting data from your body is super cool, and then being able to use that data to AVOID PREGNANCY?! AMAZING! It’s probably my all-time favorite thing about the sympto-thermal method.

2. highly effective

You’re probably used to hearing about how ineffective natural birth control is. We’ve already discussed the rhythm method, so hopefully now you have a better idea about why that myth exists. Natural birth control is actually HIGHLY effective. Like, on the same level as the birth control pill. That’s pretty wild considering that most people think natural birth control = no birth control. If someone ever makes you feel guilty about using natural birth control, drop a serious truth bomb on them in the form of this kickass scientific study.

3. empowering

Using natural birth control (aka awesome DATA) means that you’ll know exactly which days having sex can result in a pregnancy (and which ones can’t). I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty darn empowering to me! Plus, it teaches you a ton of stuff about your body that most sex ed curriculums either glossed over or skipped entirely. It’s also super empowering for your partner, who becomes more involved in the birth control process. Sah-weet.

4. good for relationships

I touched on this just a second ago, but natural birth control is pretty awesome for your relationship. Almost every person I’ve spoken to has told me that the using the sympto-thermal method has improved their relationship with their partner. Natural birth control allows your partner to be highly involved in the process — unlike most hormonal methods — which helps to foster communication and intimacy. I can personally attest that my relationship with my partner has greatly improved since we starting using natural birth control.

5. good for your health

Tracking your body’s data isn’t just good for preventing pregnancy, it’s also great for your health! The data you track when you use natural birth control is a measure of your hormone levels. That’s super helpful because it means you can actually visualize whether your hormone levels are in a healthy state or if you have an imbalance that needs to be addressed. This means that natural birth control can help you prevent pregnancy AND improve the health of your periods and your body.

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6. eco-friendly

I admit it: I’m a tree-hugger. I try to optimize my life in a multitude of ways to minimize my impact on the environment, and I love anything and everything sustainability. I make many of my health, beauty, and cleaning products at home; I try to reuse things like glass jars for storage; and I like to minimize my use of chemicals. Natural birth control has no waste, no chemicals, no packaging, and is incredibly earth-friendly. What better way to be eco-friendly?

7. FREE

Let’s be honest…who DOESN’T love to save dat money? Aside from the one-time purchase of a thermometer, natural birth control doesn’t cost you a CENT. That’s right. Natural birth control is 100% free! I can totally get behind that!

Jennifer Aldoretta is the cofounder and CEO of Groove. She is an entrepreneur, engineer, and biohacker who is obsessed with periods, nutrition, hormones, and the microbiome.