Sick of hormone-based contraception - one young woman tries a new app instead
By Jeya Lorenz
Having spent years taking different hormone-based contraceptives I finally found them too disruptive to my life and my emotional state and made the decision to never take them again. My reasoning, aside from the mental and physical effects, was fuelled by the defiant feminist notion that I wasn’t going to pollute my body with hormones just to prevent a man (lucky enough to have sex with me) from having to ‘endure’ the terrible burden of wearing a condom. I have witnessed girlfriends have such extreme reactions to the self-imposed hormones that in one case, they even put her job in jeopardy and yet most women continue to use hormone-based contraceptives and simply ‘deal’ with the emotional rollercoaster consequences due to fear of pregnancy and in essence, the desire to appease the man who hates the condom. Our NHS and sexual health services in the UK are marvellous. I am genuinely grateful to be a woman in this country with access to these outstanding services every day. However, the default contraception offered young women is the pill. I remember embarking on my first trip to the sexual health clinic as a naive 16 year old and being offered the pill as the only real viable option. I took it blindly without knowing any of the side effects. Is this the best we can do? The only real non-hormone-based option available is the coil which is presented willingly to older women who have already given birth and plan to keep it in for a few years, but less so to younger women. It is a painful procedure to get in and get out and is reported to make periods more painful and heavy. There are speculations that it may also reduce fertility. To me, this wasn’t an appealing option either. I spent a few years ‘living on the edge’ using condoms and then the ‘withdrawal method’ with longer term boyfriends (with whom I had had the “Let’s both have a check up and be sure we don’t have STDs” chat with) and subsequently having routinely monthly panics in the lead up to my period about whether or not I was pregnant that month. Being a tokophobic (that is someone who innately fears pregnancy and childbirth) the monthly panics got the better of me and I decided I needed to take my contraceptive methods a little more seriously than pulling out and hoping for the best. The idea of using ‘calendar-based contraceptive methods’ seemed risky and impractical. It was something I envisioned that only an on-point, organised “family” women could achieve. However when someone flagged Natural Cycles to me - which is a biostatistical app with proven 99.9% accuracy at finding green infertile days- it seemed like something I might actually be able to easily use and incorporate into my daily routine. When my Natural Cycles pack arrived in the post I opened it right away to reveal a sleek box containing my thermometer, my subscription card and the small, simple instruction manual booklet. Within 10 minutes of opening up my package I had the app set up on my phone and, with my new thermometer, logged my first day’s information. The interface is clear and easy to understand; the red days mean no unprotected sex and the green days mean go wild.The first month has been entirely red days aside from the actual days I had logged that I was menstruating which were green. But next month I look forward to tracking my cycle, and sex aside, becoming more attuned to my body and in turn hopefully having a deeper understanding of my often flippant emotional states during the course of the month.