This is a guest post by natural birth control expert, Hannah Ransom


Birth control is something nearly everyone needs at some point in their life. Most methods leave the users riddled with unexpected or unwelcome side effects. Particularly for those trying to live natural lifestyles, there doesn’t seem to be much in terms of options.

For women dealing with acne, birth control can be an even bigger question. Many women will get on hormonal birth control to get rid of acne and some women may find they get some acne with a copper IUD due to a depletion of zinc. Those who want to get down to the roots of their acne problem may want to get off of hormonal birth control, but are at a loss for what they can do to control their fertility.

Fortunately, there is a method that is both natural and effective. Not only that, but we can use it to help gauge our hormonal health to work with any issues we may have in that arena. What is this wonder mystery birth control, you may ask? It’s called the sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness.

At this point, you may be thinking: “Wait a minute. I have heard of this natural method, it’s that thing the catholic family with 7 kids across the street uses” or “My best friend’s sister used that and got pregnant”. Thankfully, this method is not to blame. It’s actually 99.6% effective, according to one of the latest studies. 

Often, the unplanned pregnancies you hear about include people doing one of many things. This includes using the method but not actively trying to avoid pregnancy, using the method with improper instruction, or practicing the method incorrectly. There are a variety of reasons that this is happens, but if you get a good instruction in the sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness and are motivated to avoid pregnancy, you will have excellent effectiveness.

The other issue is that many people say they are using fertility awareness or natural family planning, but equate that with predicting ovulation based on former cycles or even withdrawal. This isn’t their fault, the way in which the natural methods of birth control are clumped together, in statistics or doctors offices, can get confusing.

You see, the sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness is classed under the umbrella term “fertility awareness based methods,” which include everything that tries (because that is all a lot of them do) to determine when you are likely to be fertile and advises avoidance of unprotected intercourse during that time.

So that makes two reasons why the method can be so misconstrued.

  1. The other methods are not accurate or less accurate in identification of the true fertile phase than the sympto-thermal method, and
  2. If you use the method incorrectly you are, by definition, having unprotected intercourse during a possibly fertile time.
Careful Kermy, I think I’m fertile.

Fortunately, the sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness is a method in which we use the science of what our hormones do cyclically and the observable changes that these hormones make in our bodies so that women can determine the window of time in which they are fertile. This is a great approach because we are capable of asking ourselves on a daily basis “Am I fertile?” and look to our bodies for the answer. This method can be better accepted than some of the other fertility awareness based methods because the fertile phase is highly accurate and not as long. It averages about 9 days.

At this point, you may be wondering what you actually have to check to use the method, and how this all works. The signs that we are checking for are cervical fluid and basal body temperature. Cervical fluid is produced by estrogens, which increase significantly just before ovulation. Our basal body temperature increases under the influence of progesterone, which is in copious supply after ovulation has taken place. So daily, we are looking for the onset of cervical fluid, the rise in basal body temperature, and cessation of cervical fluid.

The reason that we can use these two signs and actually determine our fertile window is based on these facts:

Sperm need cervical fluid to survive, swim, and be effectively “washed” and capable of fertilizing an egg. Sperm can live in fertile cervical fluid for up to 5 days, but dies quickly in the naturally acidic vaginal environment.

Cervical fluid builds up in response to estrogen, which is released by the developing sacs that hold the egg. This is happening in the days leading up to ovulation.

The egg can only live for 12-24 hours, and ovulation can only happen once in a cycle. If two eggs are released, the second comes within 24 hours of the first, after which ovulation is inhibited by high levels of progesterone.
Progesterone is released from the corpus luteum, which is what the sac that held the egg turns into after ovulation has taken place. This raises the body temperature, dries cervical fluid, and inhibits a second ovulation.

We are able to determine our fertile window based on what we know about the lifespan of sperm, the environment the sperm will live in, and the lifespan of the egg. We know that the fertility signs can be used to accurately predict the days that we can actually get pregnant, while the rest of our cycle is infertile because there isn’t a possibility of the sperm living long enough to actually meet the egg, or the egg is already dead and we don’t need to worry about ovulating again – until the next cycle, that is.

Here’s the thing: since this method is used to identify your fertile period and not to completely ameliorate it, you have to be creative during your fertile time. This can involve abstinence, alternative sex, or barrier methods of birth control. In addition, you want to make sure that you are very careful during that time with whatever you decide to use, because that is the exact time that you don’t want anything to fail you.

In order to be able to accurately identify your fertile time, you will want to learn the method well. To do this, I believe the best thing is to take a class. This will give you good instructions plus a qualified individual to go over your personal charts and help you interpret what your own body is showing you. You can find online classes in the sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness on holistichormonalhealth.com. If you aren’t interested in taking a class, I recommend the book Taking Charge of your Fertility by Toni Weschler. If you read the book and still have questions, you can get a consultation with a qualified instructor.

If you think you might be interested, but still have some questions, I invite you to email me or join a free google hangouts party I host monthly to get any questions answered.

If you are curious about other forms of birth control or what might be right for you, feel free to contact me with those as well – hannah@holistichormonalhealth.com