Today, September 26th, I’m sharing my story with Natural Cycles for World Contraception Day. 🌍 If there's one thing we’ve learned from looking back at the history of contraception, it’s that the ability to make an informed decision about your birth control method is absolutely crucial.
In pharmacy school, we learned about all the options for contraception, but at the time, I didn’t want an IUD or implant, I was tired of trying to remember a pill every day, there was no way I’d leave anything up to chance with condoms or “FAM” so I felt like the only option I could trust was...
...the vaginal ring. I started the ring in 2009 after a friend told me how much she loved hers. My OBGYN told me I could leave it in for the full 28 days to skip my periods, & that’s exactly what I did. I thought not having a period was the greatest thing ever. Quite frankly, I never liked learning about hormones in our endocrine module. I thought they were so complicated & confusing. Why wouldn’t everyone just want to use birth control to skip periods?!
But 12 years later in 2020, I began to question if it was really so great after all. Thanks to my functional medicine training, I had become well aware of the negative impacts of hormonal birth control. While I wasn’t suffering from any side effects at that time, I began to wonder what would happen if I decided to come off of it. I was 32 now & needed to start thinking about planning for a family, even if I wasn’t sure I’d ever actually have a baby.
I heard about a fellow pharmacist who was teaching Natural Family Planning. She shared a fact that I somehow didn’t remember learning: that you only have about 6 fertile days per cycle: the five days before ovulation and the day of ovulation itself.
All of a sudden, a light bulb turned on. Why take hormones every single day to prevent pregnancy that can only happen 6 days of the cycle?! I knew it would take patience and practice to be able to pinpoint when those 6 days would be, but I was ready to finally pay attention to my body instead of just suppressing it month after month.
Somewhat by chance, I went on vacation in October 2020 & forgot to bring my new ring to change that week. Rather than deal with getting a vacation override at the pharmacy (IYKYK 😂) I took it as a sign that it was time to quit. I had an 8 day withdrawal bleed that month, then bought a fertility monitor to track my cycles and ovulation, assuming everything would just resume as normal right away.
3 months went by… no period.
I asked my OBGYN if I should be concerned. She said no, just give it time.
3 more months go by… no period.
At this point I take matters into my own hands and run a DUTCH test. My estrogen and progesterone are in the tank, nearly in the peri-menopause level.
I start reading all the books I can on hormones. Beyond the Pill by Jolene Brighten. Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden. The Woman Code by Alissa Vitti.
We do some more tests to rule out PCOS, then I embark on a liver detox, cut out alcohol for the first time in my adult life, and start taking supplements to support my hormones for another 3 months. Still no period.
I begin to realize that all those years on the ring just covered up a much deeper problem. I start to believe that I might have hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA). I fit the picture perfectly: I dropped down to 127lb in Dec. 2018 while intermittent fasting, training like a body builder, working my first year as a market director, staying up til 3am most nights while finishing my masters degree, and being a caregiver for my mother who has bipolar disorder, cirrhosis, and alcoholism.
I stop exercising and start eating well over 2000 calories a day. I begin acupuncture (even though I’m terrified of needles) because I heard from another friend that it helped regulate their cycles. My acupuncturist is more like a therapist too, listening to me talk about my anxiety levels and all the things I’m dealing with at the time, while placing needles all over to balance my blood flow and calm my mind.
In September of 2021, my whole world turned upside down when my mom passed away and I had to take a mental health leave from work. But just two weeks into my FMLA, my period finally came back. After all that time, I finally realize that my body was just protecting itself: there was no way it would let me ovulate or have a period or risk a pregnancy, given just how unwell I had become with the amount of stress I was under those last 3 years. I had never been happier or more relieved to have a period in my life. It felt like such a precious gift.
But I wasn’t in clear just yet. My cycles have continued to be very irregular, sometimes as long as 45+ days between periods. I didn’t get my first positive LH surge and "peak" reading on my monitor until another 6 months later.
After that first surge, things finally started to normalize a bit but I still couldn’t quite predict when my cycle was coming. Then I heard the announcement that Natural Cycles was integrating with Oura Ring. I loved my Oura ring, so I signed up right away, excited to finally gain some reliable insights. I plugged in my cycle data that I had been tracking and it filled in the rest!
So far, this app has been an amazing tool so that I know exactly where I am in my cycle, and so that I feel confident and empowered using it. I don’t have to remember to take my temperature first thing, I just have to open my app when it reminds me in the morning.
Now, I can honestly say that I look forward to my periods each month. It’s literally been a year to this week since I regained my period, and I’ve learned more about my body more this year than I ever did in my 33 years before. I learned that my body is wise and strong and resilient, but that I must listen to her and care for her and give her rest.
If you are interested in effective natural birth control, thinking about planning a pregnancy and/or wanting to learn more about their body, I can’t recommend Natural Cycles enough.
From now through September 30th, anyone that signs up with my referral link will get 26% off!