I've been using oral contraceptives for as long as I've been having sex. Which means, in short, that I hadn't had a natural period for over 10 years. Even through long periods of singledom I'd use my pill as a handy back up (please don't do this) as a way to control my period by doubling up if I had a holiday (please don't do this either) but for the most part out of habit.
As with any oral contraceptive, my pill came with an element of risk. Increased chance of cancer, which runs in my family and an increased chance of depression. Well hello there! It's a chemical cocktail I don't need to submit myself to, and increasingly, more women are opting out of the contraceptive pill.
When I came off the pill I found myself anxious as hell for the first, say, 6 weeks. There was the genuine fear I had accidentally got myself pregnant (lol) or I had buggered up my insides beyond recognition (I hadn't been for a smear for a long time; also please don't do this.) I am prone to default to the worst case scenario, constantly. It means I'm great with planning, not so great with anticipation. The one thing I really wished someone told me? Was that you're not going to go back to your regular flow right away. Fucking goodie.
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It was 6 weeks off when I got my first period sans pill. I don't think I've ever been happier to have to go buy tampons. Like, giddy, thank fuck, there you are old friend happy. As I read through leaflets and online I increasingly discovered this was a) fairly normal and b) not the last of it. One friend came off her pill a year ago. She has had 3 periods in that time. 3. We should all be so lucky.
Though seriously, women are still held responsible for this whole not getting pregnant business. And 3 periods a year isn't the norm. Or not having a period for 3 months because you're period gets in the way of your plans.
And all of a sudden, there's all these women in my friend group using their smartphones as a contraceptive. Apps like Natural Cycle and Daysy are becoming increasingly common, as women are taught to be more in tune with their ovulation cycle – something that's primarily been in the domain of couples trying to get pregnant, but more so for those looking for a more natural way to stay in tune with their body. It's a matter of taking your temperature, tracking your cycle, and keeping to a traffic light system (red days to remind you to stay protected) to green for the all clear.
And the thing is? It's effective. Natural Cycle's in particular has been given medical clearance as a digital contraceptive if used correctly (the caveat that comes with any contraceptive really.) And surely anything that allows you to get more in tune with your body and not have you searching for that last packet you swore you had somewhere, is a good thing, right?
Natural Cycles has 300K users worldwide and is taking the UK by storm with over 10,000 new users per month, with more women in the UK using the app than any other country in Europe.
It's a great idea. In theory. I think if you're in a long-term relationship and have reasonably high levels of self control it can be great. Yes, there's an increased chance of pregnancy when if you have sex on off days. There is an element of classicism and the expectancy for everyone to have a smart phone, or hell, for people to know how to use it correctly. If you're single this isn't something I'd use as your back up on baby times. Condoms remain the main stay if you want to remain disease and baby free, and a thermometer and a tracker from the app store isn't going to cut it there.
Since coming off the pill I've certainly felt happier, healthier and all around more balanced. I think that it's certainly important to be aware of our bodies natural cycles and make informed choices about what's right for us at different stages of our lives. Maybe some day I will use something like Natural Cycle as my prime form of contraceptive. Or the coil. Or I'll go back on the pill (never say never ever right?) Either way, it's giving women more options, and fuck it if that isn't just all kinds of brilliant.