Exciting Natural Alternatives to Hormonal Birth Control
Guest Post with Amy Sedgwick.
Robyn: Welcome Amy! As you are already aware, I’ve been a big fan and supporter of Red Tent Sisters for a long time now and couldn’t be more excited to share you with my tribe! What led you to becoming a top expert in the holistic fertility and contraception field?
Amy: Like so many other people in the holistic health field, my work was born out of a personal experience (several in fact!) that led me to natural birth control and healing of my decade-long menstrual problems. In 2005 I experienced side effects from hormonal contraception that caused me to produce an excess amount of breastmilk. My daughter was only a few months old at the time and the milk was coming out so quickly that she was choking every time she tried to nurse. So for the first time in my adult life I was forced to explore non-hormonal forms of contraception. I discovered the Justisse Method of Fertility Management, and not only did it provide me with effective, natural contraception but I also began healing menstrual pain and irregularities that I had been suffering with since my early teens. I was so astounded at the ways my physical, mental and emotional health were changing that I decided I wanted to share this gift with others. I enrolled in a training program to become a Fertility Awareness Educator when my daughter was just ten months old. Since then I have been teaching, lecturing and advocating about the benefits of Fertility Awareness Education for both contraception and conception.
Robyn: You talk a lot about problems hormonal birth control. What’s the big deal with taking these pills, patches, shots and IUDs?
Amy: As I see it there are four main problems with hormonal contraception. The first is that they put a very heavy hormonal load on the body which causes a number of problems – including increased risk for breast cancer, nutrient depletions, higher rates of Crohn’s Disease and various other health problems. The second is that it masks many pre-existing hormonal conditions, which means that important endocrine imbalances go untreated for years and sometimes decades. For example, the pill is regularly prescribed for women with PCOS, heavy periods, absent periods, and painful periods. These are all signs of underlying hormonal disturbances and sometimes inflammation and autoimmune conditions as well. Without regular periods as a “barometer” of our well-being, it can be easy to overlook serious health problems that require attention. Thirdly, hormonal contraception gets excreted by our bodies into the water systems. Research is showing a feminizing effect on our aquatic ecosystems as a result of hormonal contraception in the water. Lastly, I believe hormonal contraception disconnects us from the profound energy and wisdom of our wombs. This is a big topic, but suffice it to say that many women feel disconnected from their bodies, their sexuality and their partners as a result of having artificial cycles.
Robyn: For women who don’t want to get pregnant, and are scared to stop the medical contraception, what should she do first?
Amy: Contraception is a very personal choice – there is no “perfect” option. Every method has pros and cons so it’s about finding the method that fits a woman’s particular needs, values, and lifestyle. That said, I think a lot of women rule out FAM because they worry it will be too complicated or they don’t trust that it will work. So my suggestion is that women start learning to chart while using another form of contraception. She won’t see the same signs of fertility (women who are on hormonal contraception don’t actually ovulate), but it can help demystify the process to make it less daunting. Furthermore, getting into the habit of charting will make it easier if she does decide to use FAM for contraception in the future.
Robyn: What exactly is the Justisse Method of Fertility Awareness?
Amy: The Justisse Method of Fertility Awareness is an approach to teaching FAM (Fertility Awareness Methods). FAM is a set of skills that usually includes a combination of mucus checking (as this indicates a fertile vaginal environment for sperm survival), morning temperature taking (referred to as BBT) and cervical checks. The Justisse Method is a particular approach to teaching those skills. It is secular (unlike some of the large organizations that teach FAM from a Catholic perspective) as well as pro-choice and pro-woman. We support women in their reproductive freedoms and encourage them to make the best choices for them around their sexual and reproductive health. Justisse is the only secular organization worldwide that has its own system of charting, and also trains Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioners and Educators.
Robyn: It sounds a lot like the rhythm method. How effective is FAM compared with this outdated method?
Amy: Being confused with the rhythm method is FAM’s greatest challenge. The rhythm method is what we call in the field “a retrospective method” meaning it takes past cycles and tries to use it to predict future cycles. A lot of apps on the market do something similar. FAM is different in that there is no prediction at all. We make daily decisions about our contraception based on empirical markers of our fertility. These markers are grounded in research on human physiology. Research consistently shows that when taught and applied correctly, FAM is 99.4% effective in preventing pregnancy.
Robyn: What other insights (besides contraception or fertility signs) may a woman discover when she uses FAM?
Amy: There are so many it is hard to know where to begin! In the first few months of charting a woman may discover things about her digestion. Certain types of mucus tend to indicate inflammation which can occur when we have a sensitivity or an allergy to a particular food or something in our environment. My clients and I have also discovered thyroid problems, nutrient deficiencies, and adrenal fatigue through charting. On the emotional side women typically discover there is a cyclicity to their energy, libido, mood and sense of introversion or extroversion. I think through charting we all become more aware of the things that affect us and how to recognize what we truly need in any given moment.
Robyn: Any final advice for women looking to change to natural birth control?
Amy: Trust your intuition. And don’t be afraid to challenge authority. Most physicians don’t understand what FAM is or how it works, so you will likely have to advocate for yourself if you want to make the switch. Don’t let your inner authority be overrun by the voice of “experts” who claim to know better. You are your own best expert on your body.
Kim and Amy are the real sisters behind Red Tent Sisters. Amy is passionate about teaching women how to manage their fertility naturally, and Kim loves to help women feel sexually empowered. They offerclasses, private coaching, a blog, and a YouTube channel. They also have an online, eco-friendly shop called ecosex.ca. They’ve been featured in every major Canadian news outlet, including The Globe & Mail, The Toronto Star and Maclean’s. For more on their philosophy and offerings check out their About Us video.