Most methods of contraception, such as the pill, mini-pill, Nuvaring, Mirena and Implanon require the woman to take synthetic hormones which disrupt her natural menstrual cycle. This is usually achieved by preventing ovulation and creating an environment unfavourable to the implantation of a fertilised egg. The problem is, these are not the only ways that synthetic hormonal contraception disrupts our bodily process and many women are asking the question, is there another way?
Did you know that there is a method that is completely drug-free and is as effective as the pill? Maybe you have heard of it? It’s called the Sympto-thermal Method and it has become increasingly popular over the last 5-10 years. At Ranges Integrative Health you can book in to see Dr Shirley O’Dwyer, a fertility awareness instructor with a passion for all things hormonal to learn the technique.
When you learn this method there are two main areas of focus; the first is recording certain key symptoms and signs that are markers of fertility and the second is taking what is called your basal body temperature each morning upon waking with a special fertility thermometer. A woman is only fertile for 3-4 days every cycle, and you will be taught how to interpret your results to recognise this window.
Benefits of the Symptothermal Method.
- There are no side effects
The list of side-effects common and uncommon from synthetic hormonal contraception is too long to list here in full but just a few of the common day to day ones include headaches, depression, anxiety, low sex drive, bloating, food sensitivities, weight gain, fatigue and infertility after ceasing the treatment. When you practice the Sympto-thermal method you are working with your body to be the healthiest version of yourself, the side effect of this is feeling in tune with your body!
- Better chance of falling pregnant down the track
Often the body will take some time to recover from many years of synthetic hormonal use. Like a conductor leading a symphony, the brain must orchestrate the release of many key hormones and neurotransmitters in order for the menstrual cycle to flow correctly. Often, after being defunct for years during synthetic hormone use it can take months for periods to return and to be healthy ovulating cycles with adequate hormone levels to sustain a pregnancy. Many women are waiting later to start a family, and the process of waiting for your cycle to rebuild itself can be stressful when you know your biological clock is ticking.
- Better body literacy
This means that you have the ability to not only read bodily signs and symptoms in relation to the menstrual cycle but also to be more in tune as to how external stressors or habit changes affect your health. An example of this might be seeing how back pain is linked to your emotional state or digestive discomforts are cyclic patterns linked to your menstrual cycle. Having a deeper understanding of your own personal tendencies will help you to pick up on nuances and correct them before they become part of a chronic disease pattern.
- Better connection to your partner
As with most things in life, it takes two to tango, and yet when it comes to contraception, it is usually the female that takes on the full responsibility of remembering to take the pill, or of coping with the side effects that come with that. With the Symptothermal method you will learn many patterns about your body that you are encouraged to share with your partner. You will be pleasantly surprised at just how interested your partner is in the secret world of women’s stuff. Let them in on some of the secrets and they will help to pick up on signs like breast changes, cervical mucus patterns and in general they keep you motivated to keep charting. And during the fertile window, if you don’t want to abstain, then guess who’s turn it is to take on the responsibly of contraception and wear a condom!
- Safe to use during post-partum while you are still breastfeeding.
Many women don’t like to take medications while they are breast feeding as hormonally it is a very sensitive time yet they are also worried about falling pregnant again. As there is a period after birth when your body is naturally unable to conceive this affords its own form of contraception, but what do you do when your normal cycle starts kicking in again? Well, practicing the Symptothermal method before you fall pregnant and learning your body’s rhythms and ques will help you to recognise when it is coming back into fertility and you can safely begin practicing your usual Symtothermal techniques to prevent pregnancy. Your fertility awareness instructor can also give you tips and tricks to assist and there is no denying that this is a difficult time for you and your new bub.
- No ongoing costs
When you use the Symptothermal method you don’t have ongoing costs for medication or doctors’ appointments. Instead the Symptothermal Method is taught over the course of 3-6 appointments with a fertility awareness instructor and these appointments are spread out to be roughly 1 appointment per menstrual cycle.
Every woman is different and therefore there are many factors that make this process quick and simple and others that make it lengthier. If you have previously been keeping rough diary of your cycles consistently then you will have a head start. If, however you have only recently come off hormonal contraception or you have problematic cycles the technique will take longer to put into effect. Either way if you are interested in learning it is suitable for all.
When you start learning with Dr. Shirley you will receive a fertility thermometer and an instruction booklet with blank charts at the back. So, apart from photocopying or printing out more charts or possibly buying a new battery every 10 years or so for the thermometer there is no other ongoing costs involved.
Learning the Symptothermal method is one of the most rewarding things that a woman can do for herself and her body. Most of the time women say things like, “This should be taught to all girls in school”, and “I can’t believe I didn’t notice this about my body before now”. It is never too late to learn and never too late to start your healing journey.
Join Dr. Shirley O’Dwyer on Tuesday 17th March at 7pm for a free information evening called, Naturally Not Pregnant and walk away feeling a new level of respect for your fertility.