Natural birth control

We are thrilled to introduce you to our newest Lunarevolution sister, Kim Anami. Kim is a life coach who specializes in sex and intimacy, and has some powerful things to say about the connection between our intimate lives, wellbeing and sense of personal power. Stay tuned for some video interviews looking at the intersection of sex and periods, and in the meantime please enjoy this insightful guest blog post about natural birth control and fertility awareness. Those of you in the Vancouver area can attend her upcoming workshop on this topic February 15th.

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Question: What is the sexiest, easiest and safest form of birth control?

Answer: Your finger.

I’m often shocked at how many people haven’t heard of this method. It’s is also called the Billings or cervical mucous method, having been discovered by Australian husband and wife team, Dr. John and Evelyn Billings. It’s a simple, fast, body-safe and even sexy way to diagnose fertility.

It makes sense that since every other female on the planet of other species gives clear signs of fertility, that humans ought to as well.

We do.

Most people are aware that female ovulation takes place sometime during the middle part of a woman’s menstrual cycle–approximately Day 14. The cervix is plugged with a thick, impenetrable mucous (read: hostile to sperm) up until just before ovulation. The plug protects the uterus from random debris and infection. And sperm.

A few days before ovulation, the plug loosens and falls from the opening of the cervix, allowing sperm to enter the uterus. The cervix remains open for three to four days before the plug forms again. What the Billings’ discovered is that the mucous has a measurable consistency. It’s these observations that allow women to monitor their own fertility. The mucous has a certain thickness prior to the plug dissolving; it changes when the plug drops and it changes again when the plug reforms. You can diagnose the texture and fertility-friendliness of the mucous by inserting the tip of your finger into the opening of the vagina.

When I first read about the method, I began to apply it immediately. I’d gone off The Pill a few years earlier because it felt intuitively wrong to be on it. I eat a clean, organic diet and I use naturopathic medicine, so shoving a bunch of carcinogenic hormones into my body seemed like a bad idea. In the same way, an IUD felt wrong. The copper in IUDs is absorbed by the body over time and I could taste the metal in my mouth. I had it removed in a month. I’ve never tried a diaphragm and condoms suck for many reasons.

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What’s recommended, especially at first, is a daily charting of one’s cycle. It’s super easy to do and can be kind of hot. Your lover can walk up behind you while you are cooking dinner, slide his hand into your pants and tell you what’s happening there. Then you run off to the bedroom, put a sticker on the chart and either finish dinner or start having sex.

The catch is that during ovulation, when women often experience a surge in libido, they’ll be far more susceptible to pregnancy. You can use condoms for that week or just become devoted oral and anal sex enthusiasts. I recommend both.

When the method is followed, it’s 100% effective. Billings educators all over the world meet with singles and couples to explain how the method works. When you attend a presentation, you are supplied with a chart and stickers so you can track your findings. Even though I read a book about the method years ago, when I attended my first presentation and had a chance to ask questions, I understood the method better and was far more confident in using it.

On that note, I highly recommend watching the presentation as a couple. Another downside of The Pill, apart from it being a class one carcinogen that leads to a 1000% increase in breast cancer in women under the age of 20, is that it gives men the impression that women magically never get pregnant. Understanding the method also allows men to become more aware of a woman’s monthly rhythms. Many men already intuit when a woman is ovulating or is premenstrual. Understanding and practicing the method together builds intimacy.

I’m bringing in a certified Billings instructor to put on the presentation of how to use the method on February 15th, from 7-9pm. The presentation itself is fairly short and there will be time afterward for questions and sharing. Like all of the salons I hold, there will be organic wine and aphrodisiac chocolates to help set the mood. The instructor will also be available for future follow-up if you choose to adapt the method.

Natural Birth Control Class:
Date: Feburary 15, 7-9pm
Location: downtown Vancouver (details upon registration)
Fee: $50- (plus hst) includes organic wine, aphrodisiac chocolates and sushi.
More information and to register.

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  • Tara

    this is great info! we’ve used charting (taking temp/checking CM) for when we went off the Pill before getting pregnant, for getting pregnant, and now to prevent getting pregnant. works great! :)

  • http://www.lifeofcarla.blogspot.com Carla

    I go back and forth on NFP. I’d love to truly live the natural life I aspire to, but my nuvaring is so convenient and low-maintenance. But if I’m willing to spend the extra time soaking and washing cloth pads, why should I be so bothered by the idea of a simple mucus check every day?

    I’m taking my natural/green transition step by step. I think NFP is definitely in my future, just not in my immediate future. I’ll get there, once we have the money to actually take the class. Thanks for the post!

  • Faith

    I wouldn’t badmouth condoms so much. They are not bad for some people- and they are fairly consistent.
    but, i read with interest your article and want to do this, I’ve always been intimidated by it though as it seemed so complex and I haven’t been willing to risk pregnancy at all. I went off birth control a couple of years ago, as I felt like you, just wrong in putting that in my body when I’ve committed to other such healing and green habits.
    So, I want to look into this and bring my husband into it as well. Thank you for the info…

  • http://www.lunapads.com Suzanne

    Carla, I purchased the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility http://www.tcoyf.com/ and found it very useful to learn how to do NFP myself. I only wish I had discovered the book and the method much earlier! NFP definitely helped me get pregnant both times.

  • http://www.lunapads.com Lisa

    yeah, what faith said. what about sti/hiv prevention? is this such a non-issue that it feels ok to make a statement like “condoms suck” without qualifying it? i recognize that the focus here is on fertility + birth control, but failing to address sti risk/concerns while recommending sex without barrier use strikes me as pretty.. irresponsible. is billings only intended for long-term, regularly tested, fluid bonded partners? if so, fair enough — i just think it’s important to make that clear.

  • http://facebook.com/lunapads Kristen

    I am so excited to see FAM coming into the mainstream! And I applaud you ladies for providing such information!
    One thing I am noticing in many articles though, is a push for condom use or other sexual acts during the fertile period. It worries me a bit that abstinence during the fertile period is not presented. It seems like the idea of abstinence is taboo. There are non-sexual ways for a couple to bond if they are TTA. I encourage your readers to head over to the Natural Family Planning group for more information about various FAM/NFP methods (there are sooooooo many! Above and beyond the STM that the author mentions) and for information regarding abstinence during the fertile period.

  • Miranda

    While I have not tried NFP myself, and I do agree with the general dislike for the pill, I would like to insert a small warning. I have known 3 women who have tried this method, and all three fell pregnant while using it.

    Now I have no idea how strict they were or how well educated they were about the method (although none of them were slapdash kind of girls) and I completely allow that it may be they were not following it properly. I am not qualified to challenge the biology of NFP and would not wish to do so.

    However I would caution that, in my second hand experience, things can go wrong and it is essential to be 100% clear on what you are doing if you undertake this method. I am sure the teachers would say the same thing.

  • http://www.bodaciouslifecoaching.com Kim Anami

    I know that initially the idea of natural birth control can seem intimidating and difficult to learn. I believe that part of why we have that idea is that pharmaceutical companies and most allopathic physicians have made it seem like women gauging their own fertility is “risky.” Unfortunately, those institutions have a vested interest in women being reliant on their methods because using one’s finger and own observations cannot be patented. Or profited from.

    When I first tried the Billings method, I admit, I was nervous. But then I was elated after following the method for a few months and seeing that it was truly effective.

    I agree that transitioning so many dimensions of our lives to self-responsibility and what I see as healthier choices is a constant work-in-progress. We all decide what to prioritize. One of the best things about making any change, is when we see and feel the differences in our bodies and psyches.

  • http://www.bodaciouslifecoaching.com Kim Anami

    Re: condoms suck.

    In writing that, I assumed it was a given that we are discussing natural birth control and fertility as related to a safe-sex union. If I needed to qualify that, consider it qualified!

  • http://www.bodaciouslifecoaching.com Kim Anami

    Re: abstinence.

    In the use of the pure Billings method, i.e. what the good doctors John and Evelin Billings created, they suggest abstinence during the fertile period. Part of the reasoning is that during a woman’s fertile period, she is *so* fertile that even playing “just the tip” or “almost just the tip” can lead to pregnancy. Plus, they suggest that being sexual and producing lubricant may obscure the reading of the mucus.

    I’ve become adept at reading the changes in my body and during my fertile period I use a combination of abstinence, condoms (yep!) and other sexual play besides vaginal intercourse. Because I am not abstaining from vaginal intercourse though, I can’t officially say I’m using the Billings Method. And 7-10 days of no sex each month is a tough sell for some people.

    I had a discussion with a Billings instructor about the abstinence issue. Since the Billings’ were Catholic, they were also motivated by religious reasons to find a method of birth control that fit their belief system. I wanted to know if the abstinence stipulation was physiological or ideological. I’m told it’s physiological, for the reasons I mention in the first paragraph but clearly there is a bit of both there for some people.

    The woman I spoke to also mentioned the benefit of regular abstinence periods within a relationship. She felt that deliberate restraint can actually increase sexual attraction. I think there’s something to that. So when I omit the idea of abstinence, it’s only because it is typically coming from a religious place with no other criteria other than “sex is bad” or “only for conception.” And I cannot endorse that idea. When there is a larger purpose to strengthening the relationship consciously, I think that’s worth looking at.

  • http://www.bodaciouslifecoaching.com Kim Anami

    Miranda,

    In the Billings studies, the only people who have ever become pregnant are those who did not properly follow the method. This does mean being educated in it, but that isn’t a fault of the method. After one 20-minute presentation, my partner and I understood completely the logic behind it. We followed the instructions to a “T” and after a couple of months had the utmost confidence in it. I have yet to be let down. I feel grateful that my body can convey its intelligence so clearly to me.

    I’m not sure why the same idea of “risk” isn’t applied more widely to taking the birth control pill. If people (women) at large understood that they had at least a 50% chance of getting cancer from taking it, they might consider the “risk” higher. But, in our culture, “catching” cancer is considered normal, like catching a cold, and yet the idea of knowing our own bodies and being responsible for them seems radical. Strange, isn’t it?

  • Jan

    My husband and I have used the Billings Method for our entire marriage. We are Catholic.

    First, let me say it’s great to hear about Billings in a positive way from someone coming from a non-religious standpoint. It’s true, the relationship benefits Billings are trememdous.

    Second, it is so much easier, I believe, to export a natural family planning method to developing nations because the women there will not be forever reliant on foreign aid as may happen in programs dependent on barrier or hormonal methods.

    Finally, the environmental effects of manufacturing the Pill are becoming more known, i.e. fish species changing gender.

    So thrilled to hear this positive review of natural family planning. I am proud to say I chose this method for faith-based reasons, and so proud that others might now discover it for themselves, for their own reasons.

  • http://www.heartsong2012.org Catherine

    There is also a natural method called the Honey Cap which I was fitted for by Dame Shirley Bond, she is a very well repsected gyny in London’s Harley Street area. It is like a diaphragm but it is made specifically to work with organic honey. Organic honey is apparently a natural spermicide.

    Its like a Dutch cap only smaller and you have to leave it in for 9 hours after sex but it is very safe and very pleasant. When storing it stays in a pot of organic honey (seriously). It is easy to use and there are no unpleasant or harmful chemicals involved.

  • Hayley

    Re. Condoms suck for so many reasons.

    I think it is still dangerous to make this statement even when considering “natural birth control and fertility as related to a safe-sex union.”

    In a safe-sex union a partner may still suffer from a STI and regardless of what method of birth control they wish to use condoms are an essential part of maintaining that safe sex scenario.

    The Billings method may also take some time for both partners to feel comfortable and confident with and the use of a condom is a readily available and effective method of both pregnancy and disease prevention.

  • Shelby

    I’m in my late 20s and only recently started having sex. When my boyfriend and I discussed birth control he was adamantly opposed to hormones and I was hesitant. So I got a lot of great information from plannedparenthood.org (great source of information, covers everything from abstinence to sterilization). Then I downloaded the iPod app from fertilityfriend.com (you can also use their program online and take their free 20 lesson course). The app works great. My iPod wakes me up in the morning and I use it like a flashlight to read the thermometer, then I input my data and the program creates my chart for me. I like condoms and we always use them, but when I hit my fertile days we stick to “everything but” sex. I love this system. I know my body now, can predict my periods, and don’t have to worry about getting pregnant.

  • Jeanne

    I love to hear about this new initiative! I started using NFP for natural and health reasons 35 + years ago and believe it’s the best of all the options in many ways (including the periodic abstinence part) but note that it requires commitment and flexibility from both people involved (especially as you get older and your hormones change). The book that has been most helpful to me is John and Sheila Kippley’s book the Art of Natural Family Planning. The Kippley’s present this detailed and evidence-based information from a clearly Roman Catholic position. Their book is the training manual for teaching couples and has more information than any book i have ever read on the subject.

  • Jessie

    Hi Kim,

    I just wanted to clarify something from your reply to Miranda. Are you saying that any woman who takes the pill at some point in her life has at least a 50% chance of developing cancer from it?

  • NFP User Elizabeth

    To echo Miranda: Yes, people, PLEASE be careful and take classes before starting this method. (BTW the success rate for correctly-practiced natural birth control is just the same as the pill. I’ve only been doing it for a year but don’t find it complicated OR bothersome in the least. Yes, it’s easy to do it wrong. But it’s just as easy to do it right. As for the abstinence periods? Sexual creativity is only spurred!)

    But the article is misleading: that thick mucus you get that they claim is inhostile to sperm? Negative. It may delay the sperm from reaching the open cervix, but thick mucus is actually the biggest sign that you’re at your most fertile. It’s a great bonding agent with the sperm. So yes, please don’t use this article as a guide! (And Carla, actually you don’t have to check your mucus every day. I examine mine maybe three times per month. The rest of the time you can tell when your mucus is flying off the handlebars. Sorry for the image…)

    I’ve found NFP (pretty much the same as FAM/Billings) to be a great way for me and my husband to get to know my body without being worried about getting pregnant OR experience all the negative effects of the pill, IUD, etc…

  • http://http://greenmumma.wordpress.com/ Samantha

    Yay for anal! hahaha its not often you see someone who admits and endorses it! :) I’ve been off the pill since I was 17 because it made me very depressed and it “felt wrong”. Since then I’ve used will power to not get pregnant until i wanted to :P ( i have two boys who were both planned!) I’ve just started tracking with Sympto on my iphone. I might read more about the billings method though (also an option on the phone).
    Yay being in touch with our bodies and yay for anal!

  • Jess

    I just turned 20 and I hate being on the pill. However, I won’t come off the pill even though it makes me feel tired all the time, gives me headaches and totally kills my libido. My fiance and I are extremely sexually active and I just feel like this method is just asking to be pregnant. I’m studying to become a Veterinarian and do not want children, ever. I feel like I’d be playing a too risky game either with or without the pill. I just wish they’d make one that didn’t do so many screwy things to my body.

  • Guest

    There are just so many problems wrong with this article I hardly know where to start.

    First, it is so dangerous and reckless to say that this method is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. Anytime a person puts their sperm-producing penis into a pre-menopausal vagina, there is risk of pregnancy. On the pill, with an IUD, a diaphram, with a condom, or using fertility tracking, there is risk of pregnancy. The only 100% effective way to prevent pregnancy is abstinence (or same-sex sex, but that’s not being discussed here). Statements like the one in this article are dangerous because this method only works with so much planning and forethought and intuition about one’s body and most people (MOST!) aren’t able to do this. It leads to unwanted pregnancies.

    Second, YUCK YUCK YUCK at your suggestion that “your lover can walk up behind you while you are cooking dinner, slide
    his hand into your pants and tell you what’s happening there.” Unless this action is discussed ahead of time, it is not consensual.

    If this is the form of birth control people choose, that’s great. The information should of course be available. But I think the author is failing to account for the fact that this method is totally unrealistic for so many people.

    • Guest 2

      You plan every sexual activity in advance? Lame. If the person says no, stop, etc and it doesn’t stop then it’s not consensual. Couples being spontaneous is natural. Yes, there’s no 100% effective birth control for sexually active people but this is as effective as the pill. It’s more convenient than the pill too. You notice if your wet or not and how the consistency wetness is. You don’t have to take a pill each day at the same time for it to be reliable. You are sadly delusional.