Hormone-Free Birth Control with Natural CyclesNov 13, 2020
If you guys have been following us for a while, you'll know that the Balanced Beyars are BIG fans of three things as women:
- Tracking our cycles
- Taking charge of our fertility
- Hormone-free forms of contraception
We feel like we found the best tool that combines ALL THREE components mentioned above!!!! It's called Natural Cycles and we've been using it for the past few months as hormone-free birth control. We're loving it and we want to share our experience.
Let's dive in!
So, what exactly is Natural Cycles?
Natural Cycles is the first & only FDA cleared birth control app.
It’s an awesome alternative for women who are looking to take back control of their reproductive health & want a more natural alternative to hormonal birth control.
The Natural Cycles app combines data about your menstrual cycle and your daily basal body temperature to predict when you’re most likely to be "fertile-myrtle".
Wait, let's back up for one second...
Do you remember in the 8th grade when your health class teacher scared you into thinking that you can get pregnant every day of the month? WRONGO.
Contrary to what we were taught way back when, the truth is that women are not fertile every single day of the month. Women are actually most fertile right after ovulation, as well as a few days leading up to it.
Here's the deal: when we ovulate, our ovaries release an egg that can survive for 12-24 hours..... BUT you also have to keep in mind that sperm can live for up to 5 days.
*This is why women have a fertile window of 6ish days around ovulation. They are most likely to conceive during this time.*
As you can see above, ovulation is the main event of a woman's cycle, and it's crucial to know when it occurs in order to prevent pregnancy OR to plan for one! Natural Cycles aims to pinpoint ovulation by tracking your basal body temperature, your body's lowest resting temperature, which is best taken first thing in the morning.
Ok, so what's the link between temperature and ovulation?
In the second half of the menstrual cycle, there is a noticeable rise in temperature right after ovulation happens! This is due to the fact that a hormone called progesterone (the orange dash line on the graph below) enters the scene after an egg is released.
Progesterone is heat-inducing! Cool, right?
Source: Natural Cycles
The Natural Cycles algorithm works to analyze your daily basal body temperature readings in order to catch when you've ovulated! (You can read more about temperature and ovulation here.)
If you're wondering how this works in real-time..... the minute we open our eyes in the morning, we grab our thermometer, take our temp, and input the reading immediately into the Natural Cycles app. The app's algorithm will then give us a red or green day depending on if we’re fertile and can or cannot get pregnant.
Red days: You are fertile and should use protection during intercourse or abstain from sex.
Green days: You are not fertile and do not need to use protection during intercourse.
Do you ever forget to take your temperature?
We're not going to lie, for the first week or two it was reallllly tough to remember to do it every morning. And it's one of those things that you simply cannot cheat. Like if you get up to go to pee first upon waking and THEN immediately use the thermometer, then your temp is going to be altered (if you miss a day, the app may just give you more red days to be safe!). *It is recommended that you should measure first thing when you wake up in the morning before you sit up or get out of bed.*
But just like building any other habit in your health regimen, you just have to be consistent with it until it STICKS! After a few weeks, it became second nature and now the second we open our eyes, we think about our thermometers. Plus, we leave them out on our night stands right next to our bed to make it easy to grab right away.
PS. Natural Cycles recommends that you measure at lest five times per week.
Alaina is personally proud to say that she hasn't missed a temperature reading in a long time - woo!
Here are some of the things we are absolutely loving about Natural Cycles....
1. You can use Natural Cycles in conjunction with other methods to give you an extra sense of security.
Aside from consistently taking your basal body temperature, you can also track your cervical mucus to detect ovulation. Yup, your vaginal discharge changes before, during, and after ovulation (learn more about that here).
The Natural Cycles app lets you record your cervical mucus amount and consistency, along with a lot of other symptoms like libido, pain, mood, bleeding, intercourse (whether or not you used protection), and any other notable things.
In addition, Natural Cycles also encourages you to take LH tests (ovulation tests) to detect ovulation and improve the algorithm! I literally got the message below from them today!
2. They are there for you every step of the way with education.
We love that Natural Cycles provides a ton of education info to ladies throughout their cycle. In our opinion, it's not enough to know "what" is happening to you, but also "why" it's happening. The more we know about our bodies as women, the more empowered we can be about our health. Knowledge is POWER.
For example, see the screenshots below about taking LH tests. We're finding that their educational content is super informative, yet easy to digest. We've personally felt supported from day one!
3. They make charting our temps simple.
We've always wanted to learn how to manually chart our cycles, but to be honest, it always seemed a little daunting. Natural Cycles legit does all the hard work for you. One of the cool capabilities is that you can view your temperature data in a graph.
The three of us gals are visual learners so we feel that the graph makes it instantaneously easier to see & understand our temp patterns throughout our cycles.
*Take a peek at an example of Alaina's personal chart below.
4. The recommendations given by the app are tailored to OUR unique cycles.
In the past, we've had great experiences using the period app MyFlo (created by Alisa Vitti at FloLiving) to help us track our cycle & the 4 phases, but we're at the stage now where we're looking to dive much deeper into the state of our reproductive health.
Simple period tracking apps unfortunately don't take into account your unique cycle length. This means the estimated fertile window that they give you is not tailored to YOU! And that's a problem, because every lovely lady's cycle is different.
Natural Cycles takes it to a whole other level. Their algorithm learns about your unique cycle and can predict your fertile window ahead of time, so you know when you are most fertile and can plan a pregnancy or use protection on those days to avoid getting pregnant.
5. Natural Cycles allows us to take charge of our fertility.
Growing up, we've spent so many years in fear of our fertility & trying to suppress it (with synthetic hormones), or handing over our power of our own reproductive health to medical care providers. But now the more we learn about our incredible bodies, the more we look at our fertility & menstrual cycle as a SUPER POWER. We realize now that it is uniquely ours. It's something we should cherish and take pride in protecting.
Using an app like Natural Cycles has helped us get more in tune with our bodies cyclical nature than ever before. Having this new-found body literacy is beyond liberating!
How effective is Natural Cycles?
Ah, this is a KEY question.
If you're choosing a birth control method (and there are many options out there for you - make sure you do what's best for you!), it’s always super important to understand how effective it is. Here are the stats for Natural Cycles:
- When used perfectly, Natural Cycles is 98% effective. Perfect use means not having unprotected sex on red days.
- Natural Cycles is 93% effective with typical use - which accounts for all possible reasons.
Some others things to keep in mind...
- The app does take a little bit to get to know your body. As we've mentioned, we are still at the beginning of our personal journeys with Natural Cycles. During this time, the app is giving us more red days to be safe... overtime our green (non-fertile) days will continue to increase it gets to know us individually better.
- If your cycle is very irregular, Natural Cycles may be less suitable for you, as you may be given more red days, (these red days are a safety buffer since ovulation day can change with irregular cycles). However, according to NaturalCycles.com: those with irregular cycles often find Natural Cycles a useful tool in tracking their irregularities and better understanding their bodies. Alaina can attest to this!!!! She has PCOS and tends to have longer than average cycles, but she is still absolutely loving the app. If anything, it is giving her more clarity about her fertility, and it's giving her the opportunity to deepen her connection with her body & cycle. She also plans to use the app on day in the future to plan pregnancy.
- Users must be over the age of 18.
- Natural Cycles does not protect against STIs (only barrier methods, such as condoms, prevent STIs)
We will be sure to update this blog with any additional info when we become seasoned app users! In the meantime, please enjoy our affiliate discount below! :)
*The above link is an affiliate link. Balanced Beyars Health may receive a small percentage of commission from your purchase*.
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