02 April 2013

the post where i talk about birth control

I was sitting on a cozy couch in a cozy cabin near Lake Placid with a group of girlfriends last fall, and the topic of birth control came up. It wasn't the first time I found myself surrounded by friends, chatting about babies and planning for a family and what that all meant when it came down to pregnancy and adoption and timing it all out. And as usual, I shared our decision to go natural from the beginning, which always brings a lot of questions. Questions I'm always happy to answer, as it's a topic I kind of love talking about. And that's when the ladies told me I needed to blog about it. I hesitated, it being such a hot button issue, knowing there would be people out there that thought we were crazy. But they were right, and it's been mulling around in my mind for months - how to tell our story, and my reasons for sharing it. Obviously it's kind of weird to put it all out there, but it's a good story, one that works for us, and one that I think could work for just about anyone.
So, here goes. Me, my husband, and our decision not to use artificial birth control.

You could write us off as that family that will soon have five kids ages 6 and under. Like you're really gonna take what we say to heart in our crazy chaotic, very full life. But let me start by saying, all of our kids were "planned". Our biological kids are all nearly three years apart... going through my third pregnancy in eight years of marriage isn't that crazy, right? We love our full, happy, messy life - not one accident in the bunch.

Nay sayers might also point out that we're Catholic, so we can't use birth control. But when I made this decision, I was a young, newly engaged girl and I wasn't Catholic. I wouldn't have done something because an institution told me I had to. I was more of a crunchy granola vegetarian hippie wannabe that would not have put an artificial hormone in my body if you paid me. The faith part of it entered in later in our journey, and while that's much more of a factor now, it wasn't the basis of my choice. I researched every single option out there - I wanted the decision to be made long before the wedding night - and came to the conclusion that this was the best thing for me. Nick was totally on board from the get go, and I am truly blessed that he was.

Back then, and still today, I think it's so ironic that we live in a culture where it is a tragedy to even consider drinking nonorganic milk or to eat chicken that isn't (gasp) free range. There are thousands of articles written about the horrors of genetically modified food, and yet we pump our bodies full of artificial hormones on the daily because God forbid we learn enough about our bodies to understand that we can easily prevent pregnancy by learning a couple of signs that tell us, very clearly, what's going on. The crazy thing is, I don't think most of us even realize that's a possibility. We're taught from adolescence that you have to figure out which kind of birth control you're going to use asap if you don't want to end up unexpectedly pregnant. The body isn't that mysterious. It's pretty awesome the way it's set up, actually, so that after awhile, you know what's going on without thinking about it.

Choosing to go natural wasn't hard for us in the beginning, but we questioned our decision after the first baby came, once the signs weren't so clear. It took awhile to figure things out again, but we did, and we are so so happy we stuck with it. Honestly, looking back, it's been a beautiful thing for our marriage. It opens up communication, we both know what's going on and when - it isn't all up to me to figure out what we're using and if it's working. It's made us realize that sex is a gift and not a right. It makes it more than just an act - it's more holistic, if that makes any sense. 

There are so many reasons I am passionate about natural family planning. Some of it is because of my faith, and some of it is about making the healthiest choice for me and my future babies. I'm going to write more - a post for the faith side, and a post about health benefits and crazy facts I've learned along the way. But I'd also love to hear your questions, if you have any. I'm not an expert, but I've been doing this for eight years and I feel pretty comfortable with it. So email me, leave questions in the comments, and if there's interest, I'll do a q&a post. In the meantime, if you're interested in learning the ins and outs, this book is the best I've found - filled with everything you need to know! 

48 comments:

  1. I also read that book before getting married, and our kids are also planned (we were just crazy enough to plan them 18 months apart). I did it for health reasons.

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  2. Well, it's a little awkward, as your mom, to post a comment here but since you are so open, I will be too.

    I'm so thankful for you. Thank you for doing all that research and sharing it,, I think it's a fascinating topic! I'm so glad my kids aren't polluting their precious bodies. And thank you for my beautiful, "planned" grandchildren :-)

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  3. We don't use artificial birth control either, not anymore. I just can't put that stuff in my body anymore!

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  4. Thank you for sharing your NFP journey! We need more women like you to speak out! Like you said, NFP isn't just the best choice because someone's Catholic. It is the healthiest choice. :)

    Thank you again!

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  5. Thank you for sharing! More people need to hear about this, and not just because the Church says we have to.

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  6. Nine years of marriage, NFP only, three kids, ALL planned. Here's what I am struggling with now... We have always been open to more kids. We wanted three, We never worried about an "accident" because it wouldn't be one, we WANTED more. Now, with our youngest just a month old, me at 38, I feel we are done. I am ready to be done. Now comes the scary part. Yes, it has worked for nearly 10 years, but what if? What if???? I am breastfeeding and not even six weeks PP yet, so all is good for now, but in short, the panic will set in. Any advice?

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    1. Yes. Take one day at a time. The beautiful thing about NFP is its flexibility. You might find yourself surprised to be wanting a fourth in a few years. Or you might not. Currently, we aren't using anything at all but, if I wanted to make absolutely sure, I'd probably invest in using the Marquette method. It requires daily testing to see if you've ovulated from what I understand and, in my opinion, is probably an extra measure of security. And use the conservative rules for judging your fertile times as well. Congratulations on your newest little one!

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    2. Yeah, the breastfeeding is what really really threw me off! I'll write more on this in another post, but if you're exclusively breastfeeding, or pumping regularly, it really does work as birth control... how'd it go with your first three?

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  7. Thank you for sharing! I am currently pregnant with our first child and was on birth control (Yaz) before we got pregnant. I wanted to get off of it and stop putting those hormones in my body but wasn't sure if NFP worked. This is great info and I appreciate you being willing to share!

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  8. I think that you should do whatever works for you (you in general, not you specifically) when it comes to stuff like that. The only person I know who did NFP got pregnant twice while trying to not get pregnant, so I've definitely never thought about going that route.

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  9. this came at the perfect time for me.. thanks for being open! i haven't been on BC since right after ruby was born, and don't plan on going back to the pill. we aren't planning to have any more biological kids, but i feel like daniel getting the snip is too big a decision for us to make since we're not even in our 30's yet. BUT i don't want to be pregnant anytime soon, if ever again. the kink comes in right now.. i feel like i got "tracking" down to a science when trying for sadie, but now that i'm breastfeeding things are wonky and i'm nervous. this might be TMI, but we don't want to have to use protection every time but i'm too nervous to go without when things are so different tracking wise right now. just wondering how it worked for you with natural planning soon after babies.. after ruby, i never got a period again until after i was done breastfeeding her at a year. i wanna think it's safe to assume you can't get pregnant without a regular period, but i am TOO afraid to risk it without someone telling me that's true. so that's my question.. how'd it go for you? whatcha think? ;)

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    1. Try looking into a method called Creighton, it is also sometimes called by Fertility Care. We selected this method because of the one on one training and its versatility to grow and change with us as our family and needs grow and change. We have been nothing but happy with it. I personally value the one on one support from our trainer and have always felt extremely confident in its accuracy. The small cost of learning this method is so worth it in the long run.

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    2. I'll talk more about it in my post, but if you're exclusively breastfeeding or your pumping when you bottle feed, you should be ok - just like with Ruby. I know it's scary and there are a lot of "what ifs" - that's been me too. But I've heard A LOT about the Creighton method (like commenter above) and I think it covers that topic pretty thoroughly!

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    3. Marquette Method is the BEST for postpartum craziness! nfp.marquette.edu I got my period back at 4 months while exclusively breastfeeding and thanks to Marquette's method I knew exactly what was going on with my cycle which was great and put my mind at ease :)

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  10. I totally love this post! I wish I had known about the fertility awareness method and TCOYF before I got married because I never would have used birth control pills if I knew about an effective and natural way to prevent pregnancy. I think every woman should read it, even if just to understand the female body better. We are woefully uninformed, and I think that's so sad!

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  11. this was great and well written.
    Thanks for sharing.

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  12. i love this! we are NFP as well! it's been a beautiful thing for our family, too! Thank you for sharing your story :)

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  13. Great post! As another NFP-user, can I just point out that a large family is not proof that NFP doesn't work? I married very young, and DH & I always had a range of 6-10 in mind. We wanted a big family. #10 is on the way. The fun part is, my cycles used to be much wonkier. I'd walk into the OB's office and they'd ask my LMP date and I'd tell them but point out that my charts pointed to a very different date. The nurses would smile and spin their little wheelie things and pronounce me x weeks along. Then there would be an early, in-office ultrasound, which would always validate *my* chart-based date, sometimes as much as a month different from what the little wheel said.

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  14. Another benefit of being gay, no need for birth control:)

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  15. I dont understand how to do what you are talking about so I just use b.c because my husband and I def. do not want kids right now, not for a few more years. I feel like b.c is the only option for that (although I do know ppl can still get pregnant while on it) so I will have to investigate that book you linked to. Im not a huge fan of putting things in my body that dont need to be there but it has helped calm my nasty out of control periods down so that's a plus I guess.

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    1. Read the book! Seriously, it's not a hard thing to master, and you'll be amazed at how much better you feel. And the My Days app (iPhone and Android) is awesome - totally helps you keep track of everything and I think it's free.

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  16. Great post Carina!

    What has always intrigued me about birth control, is the idea that when we go to the doctor and get a prescription, it's usually to fix something that is broken. With a birth control, it's the opposite; the doctor is prescribing something that is essentially "breaking" something that is already "fixed"; the reproductive system. Birth control takes something that is working as designed and makes it not work as designed. On that note, I know that birth control is prescribed in some cases to fix cycles or other hormone issues. I am not speaking about those cases.

    With that said, as someone who is not really into the organic/natural scene, our primary reason for choosing NFP (my wife and I) is based on our faith. It's not something that I feel forced/pressured into because of my Catholicism though; it's something I have chosen. When I was in college and searching for guidance on this, I read a great Catholic church document called Humanae Vitae. I highly recommend it, even for non-Catholics: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html. It gives a good overview of the church's teaching on this issue and why.

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  17. On my blog I have a discussion going regarding the marriage debate. To a certain degree the way we handle fertility impacts our ability to defend marriage as one man and one woman.

    As a nurse I am deeply troubled by the use of hormonal birth control for a period of years--it impacts a woman's health and delays childbearing to a time when a woman is less fertile.

    As a person of faith I believe that we should honor the way God has designed our bodies. I am very thankful that you have started this blog!

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  18. Love NFP for many reasons but I would love suggestions for NFP while breastfeeding!


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    1. Checkout nfp.marquette.edu. You can learn how to use a fertility monitor during the time when your bodies signs might be too confusing.

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  19. Love NFP for many reasons but I would love suggestions for NFP while breastfeeding!


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  20. I think it really depends on the woman and the health of her reproductive cycle. For me, I also prefer not being on hormonal birth control (like I need MORE hormones driving me batty), but I have a copper IUD because I am not ready to have a child and am not going to leave that up to semi-chance. I know there's a bio-rhythm method (and followed it once for a year, with only one accidental pregnancy, ironically, the day I sucked at math and boinked on a high-fertility day....whoops!) but it only applies if your cycle is regular, there aren't outstanding hormonal or tumor/cancer issues, etc etc.

    I will say, on a related note, I really hate that some doctors prescribed hormonal birth control to myself and my friends when we were in high school and middle school, as a way to give us fewer acne breakouts, "easier" periods, mitigate migraines, etc.

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    1. The fact that you're using terms like "sucked at math" and insisting that you have to be regular to use NFP leads me to believe you were not using NFP but rhythm. There are many people who don't know what the difference is, but rhythm is a guessing game based on counting. NFP is science, based on observations. It's not math, it's learning what your body does when fertile then noticing if your body is doing that. Many, many women with irregular cycles use it successfully because it doesn't matter if it's been a week or a month since your last period, if you are showing signs of ovulation (and know what to look for) you will notice.

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    2. I realize I'm writing a month behind but I just stumbled across this post and have to agree with above. My husband and I started using NFP when we got married. My cycles aren't regular (I vary between 29 and 33 days) but using NFP I know exactly when we need to not have sex if we don't want to conceive (and it really has nothing to do with math). I feel so empowered and in-control of my life, fertility and my body. And we're going on 8 months of TTA with no issues, even with my varying cycle. It's not "semi-chance", it's science.

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  21. Carina I love that you are posting about this!! Hunter and I started doing this (using the same book) after a giant struggle with hormonal bc led to eye-opening research I should have done way before... anyway it's amazing and empowering and we loved it so much! I'm glad you're brave and are sharing your story :)

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  22. this is so interesting to me...i'd be open to learning more about it, but my periods have always been all over the place with no regularity. ??

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  23. Just found your blog and am totally going to stock you!! I love this post. I don't think I've seen any other bloggers that believe in NFP. I had this book a while ago but lost it, total bummer. I'm at the end of my pregnancy with my first child and would love if you could give me some advice as to how to start it up again. I know sleep cycles are suppose to be normal and I'm sure you know there's no normal sleeping pattern with a newborn! Really hope to read a Q&A about this topic from you!

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    1. That's awesome - congrats on your baby! I'll definitely talk about it in the q&a and provide some resources that should help.

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  24. For all of you who want to know more, check out this link:

    http://www.fertilitycare.org

    You can find a teacher in your area to teach you NFP through the Creighton Model. I'm a teacher and I work with all sorts of women with all different cycles: women who are breastfeeding, couples with infertility, couples trying to avoid pregnancy, single women, women with irregular cycles or who have PCOS. The Creighton Model works to achieve or avoid a pregnancy, and there is also a research arm of the system that has developed and continues to develop therapies that are natural to heal some of the fertility-related problems out there (irregular cycles, low progesterone, etc.). The great thing about the system is that you work one-on-one with a teacher to learn about your OWN cycle and how to chart it and understand it accurately. Check it out!

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  25. hooray for hippie granola girl! lol
    This was so well worded. go girl.

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  26. Hi! I'm getting married in Nov and have never been on birth control (proud 30 year old virgin here :)). I would love, love, love to hear about your experience. Really the more details and more info the better! I know I don't want to go on birth control but also want a little bit of time to enjoy being married before having kids. Would love to hear your thoughts! Robin

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    1. One great resource that I love is fertility friend. It's a free charting website, and they have a free downloadable booklet with so much great information about becoming aware of the signs your body gives you! :) I definitely recommend it! I use it for ttc, instead of prevention, but it works both ways :)

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    2. You've got plenty of time! I started charting about 6 months before we got married so I was sure of what was going on before the wedding day. Fertility Friend is great, like Amy said. The My Days app for your phone makes everything SO SO easy. I'd start with that, and the book and you should be good to go! I'm going to do a "how to" post soon, I promise!

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  27. Love this :) I was on the bcp for a couple years, and it totally messed me up! I went from being regular, to completely irregular. It's been difficult, especially trying for our own little one, but I'm all about NFP now, both for health and faith reasons as well! (so for those reasons, we also don't plan on medicating to conceive) I've been charting for a while now, and I think it's really important to know your body, and what's going on with it :)

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  28. thanks for being open and real. we started out natural. then at 4 kids under 5 and (being that we still didn't want to be birth control) had a vasectomy. "four and no more" was our motto. four years later He opened our hearts in an amazing way and we were able to get it reversed (for under $2000) from a christian doctor in texas. we had 2 more beautiful babies and look at them everyday amazed. they are worth every sacrifice parenting as to offer. now, it is just one pregnancy as a time. we'll see! anyways, we are all learning what God desires for our families. blessing to YOU. look forward to watching your family GROW!

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    1. JuRita, this made me all kinds of teary. Thanks for sharing your story - such an inspiration!

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  29. Love this post, Carina! The mister & I knew before we even got married that we didn't want to use any artificial bc - I've had friends who've had major problems with it, & I just couldn't see putting my body through that if there was a more natural way to do it. I borrowed that book from a friend, although I found this handy little pearly (http://www.raxmedical.com/pearly.php) that I use - it's pricey, but for me, it was an easier (lazier, maybe? wink) option, & even though it might not be 100%, it's worked for us for a year and a half. :) I generally feel a little weird because I feel like I'm the girl who's not normal, but I feel like it's been good for us - and my hormones make me crazy enough without adding more! ;) Thanks for sharing!

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  30. I have to chuckle with the people who see using fertility awareness as chance - the only folks I know of with "surprise" babies are those who used artificial contraception. Somehow our culture ignores the reality that artificial contraception methods, whether the pill, IUD, etc., aren't 100% effective either - so are also a method that includes a chance of becoming pregnant.

    I have loved the knowledge of my body's rhythms that fertility awareness has given me, both for preventing pregnancy and achieving it. I've loved being able to know when I've ovulated to determine the precise starting points of my pregnancies as well.

    Thank you for this article - I think it is so important to point out the logical inconsistency in being pro natural everything and yet willing to put hormones in one's bodies to fix something that isn't broken.

    Honestly - I don't see how feminists can accept hormone based artificial contraception - it works from a philosophical presupposition that women can't achieve empowerment and/or liberation with the female body remaining in its natural state. How is that anything other than a false liberation?

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  31. Love your article and wanted to add my success story. I started NFP after getting engaged because I am Catholic and don't believe in bc. After starting it I found out why I had been irregular and experiencing so many problems with my cycles. NFP helped my doctor diagnose my endometriosis and PCOS. My endometriosis has since been resolved (without any bc) and with the help from my doctor and our NFP teacher, my husband and I, were able to figure out my irregular cycles. We successfully avoided pregnancy or first two years of marriage. Then when we began trying we discovered I was not consistently ovulating. After a year of trying I can say that it is because of NFP that I am holding my perfect 10 week old little boy!

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    1. That is so awesome!! Thanks for sharing your story and congrats on your sweet boy!

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