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Ooh, controversial huh?
A small disclaimer before we start: I use NC purely as a way to track my cycles and try to understand what my body is doing after 10ish years on hormones. NC does not guarantee your fertility nor is it a whole picture of reproductive health, only medical professionals are able to do that for you. I do not recommend rash decisions around coming off your contraception without seeing a doctor first. Like all products on a blog, do what is best for yourself, be safe and do your research before getting started.
Natural Cycles has been all over my feeds recently and surrounded by controversy as to whether it counts as contraception or is just another dangerous blogger trend. Actually, unbeknown to most I’ve been trialling it since last September when I first made the decision to step away from hormonal contraception.
I had a few reasons:
- I’ve been on some kind of hormonal contraception since I was 16 now – so almost a full ten years. My body does not love it. After 3 years on the implant I’ve been left with extremely irregular cycles, poor mental health, a lump in my breast, migraines, hormones that are backwards and sideways and every which way but where they should be, and a solid 2 weeks of my month is spent acting out every dragon lady period stereotype that has ever existed.
- Secondly, I’ve been living a whole lot more holistically in general over the last year or so and the idea of finding yet another hormonal option was, frankly, exhausting. After years of screwing up pill schedules and knowing full well that most options I’ve tried have been nothing short of a nightmare, I was bored of constantly worrying about one symptom or another and if my body was doing something normal or not. Time to pass on the hormones.
- Finally, I’m in a stable relationship with someone who thankfully sticks around to hear me discuss every gross symptom and who is mature enough to not be super freaked out by basic body functions.
So What Actually Is Natural Cycles?
Natural Cycles is an app that is set about to make Natural Family Planning a whole lot easier. Although it uses a different Pearl Index for the algorithm, the principles are largely the same and they mean that you cut down on guessing, paperwork and frantic diary scribbling to track your cycle.
Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a method that people have used for years to predict ovulation and track their cycle – and just as this can be used to help you get pregnant, you can also use the data to not get pregnant either.
NFP tracks physical symptoms throughout your cycle to allow you to predict ovulation. For the case of someone trying not to get pregnant, this provides a bed of data that lets you know when is a better time to use protection with the aim of not having unprotected sex during your fertile window (we’re here talking about contraception so it’s time for me to stop wincing at fertile windows, right?).
Most methods NFP mean taking your Basal Temperature every day at the same time in order to spot trends – changes in hormone levels during your cycle can be indicative of ovulation, which is what we’re looking at. Specifically, changes in your Leutenising Hormone (LH) levels are what indicate you may be ovulating.
So Is It Really That Simple?
Well… no. NFP usually means tracking more than just your temperature as (somewhat obviously) many different factors can affect it. Sickness, stress, poor sleep, medication, forgetfulness can all alter the data that you enter on the app, which creates what the app calls “deviant temperature” days, which won’t be counted. Generally, NFP involves tracking your temperature and/or cervical mucus. Natural Cycles also recommends regular LH tests for the first few months as testing for different levels is a more accurate way to predict ovulation – all of which adds up to a little more hard work than sticking a thermometer under your tongue and hoping for the best.
One criticism of bloggers promoting Natural Cycles is that it’s oversimplified, not clear enough and not nearly detailed enough to actually let people know what they’re doing. I agree with this to an extent; I haven’t seen many influencers actually discuss this as a method at all and they certainly don’t talk about other factors that you can track (hormones, mucus, etc). So to clarify: this doesn’t mean you’re 100% not gonna get pregnant. NFP is what you make it, so if you skip a bunch or don’t commit to taking real measurements, you’re also not gonna get the most accurate results. And yes, there’s an algorithm involved (and we all hate algorithms right now) but really all this does is take the maths and annoying handwritten tracking that you’d have to do without it.
It’s also not really as simple as “red day” vs “green day” – for most this doesn’t mean riding bareback for 24 hours straight as soon as you see a green day. Since it also doesn’t protect you from STD’s either, you’re probably going to want to be using condoms or some other alternative anyway. Having a red day doesn’t mean it’s “knees together at all times” day, just as green day doesn’t translate to “get ya leg over, Cindy”.
It really is about consistency and a bit of common sense. If you really don’t want to get pregnant I personally wouldn’t recommend using only an app as birth control, get yourself some condoms or invest in other methods.
How Have I Got On With It?
Overall, I much prefer it to being back on the pill or the implant. My body is still adjusting to years of being fucked with, so I’m still not wholly relying upon the algorithm (nor do I tend to be), but in general I’ve enjoyed the experience of getting to know my body and being able to understand a bit more about what it’s doing from time to time. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find the process a bit of hard work – I can barely open my eyes in a morning most days and remembering to take my temperature before having rolled about for ages getting comfy again is a bit of a chore. It’s not a super fun experience to talk about or try to evaluate cervical mucus either, tbh, but I’ll still take it over crippling migraines and cramps that keep me in bed for days at a time.
I definitely don’t think it’s as simple as some influencers have made it out to be – and I’m definitely of the belief that bloggers/influencers do have some responsibility to share as much info as possible when discussing these things. But do I think Natural Cycles deserves quite as much backlash as I’ve seen? Definitely not.
As a brand, I will also say that Natural Cycles have been very helpful. They offer insights into your reading, are genuinely very educational on their social media and their newsletters, and the app offers tonnes of extra tips to help you out if you’re struggling.
For sure, it’s not for everyone but it’s an option if you’re willing to commit to it!
What are your thoughts on Natural Cycles? Let’s talk in the comments!