Dear Free Contraception,
So the other day I read this:
and this about 4000 years of choice and the long history of women controlling their fertility.
I am cross that in America there are moves to try and limit women’s access to free birth control, and I am thankful that in this country we do have access to free birth control although that access is not as wide as I would like for example some of the more expensive Pills are rarely offered or getting Nuvaring prescribed is a real mission as it costs £10 a month.
Given such moves are being made, although I think very unlikely to happen in this country I do think it is important all women also understand free ways of controlling and understanding their fertility. I am always a bit surprised at how poorly many women understand their own bodies and how they work, and how they can work with their bodies to achieve or avoid pregnancy. Remember no method of contraception is 100% but studies have found the two methods I am going to talk about to be ~96-98%% effective which is as good as many of the other methods of contraception out there IF ADHERED TO PROPERLY (and that’s the crucial bit- if not stuck to properly then obviously unintended pregnancy is a much higher possibility.)
The two methods I am going to mention are:
a) Withdrawal Method
b) Fertility Awareness Method/Natural Family Planning this is MUCH more detailed than the “rhythm method”
Which may lead you to joke “What do you call people using such methods? Parents” but with proper adherence, pregnancy is no more likely than if a couple were using condoms or some pills (efficacy of contraception depends on the type- the most reliable forms of contraception being those without any user failure, eg implant, coil etc- humans are stupid after all). But do bear in mind that the ONLY form of contraception to protect against STI’s is Condoms- so these methods are not really suitable unless in a long term monogamous relationship.
Firstly Fertility Awareness method/Natural family planning. You can use a load of different indicators to try to pinpoint ovulation (I always say its a shame we are not baboons and don’t just get a big red bottom at ovulation time- much easier all round). The method involves taking your basal metabolic temp at the same time every morning before getting out of bed, and checking things like cervix position and cervical mucus. Your menstrual cycle has three distinct phases- relatively infertile period (leading up to ovulation), Fertile Period (an egg is only viable for max 48hours post ovulation but sperm can live in body for up to a week) and then absolutely infertile period up to (and possibly including) your next period. The easiest way to learn about how to record these signs and pinpoint what is going on is to read these books:
Taking Charge of your Fertility- By Toni Weschler (plus website) and check out Fertility UK which has a fab book (possibly now out of print) but also a database of where you can get FREE Natural family planning lessons from trained practitioners. Definitely worth doing.
I also love the Fertility Friend Website for charting. Yes it is more for achieving pregnancy but the chart prediction tools on that website are fascinating and fun to use. Worth paying for the extra features. Or there are lots of apps you can download for charting or just plain paper and pencil charts.
Secondly the Withdrawal method- this paper details its efficacy but the key findings are:
“If the male partner withdraws before ejaculation every time a couple has vaginal intercourse, about 4% of couples will become pregnant over the course of a year . However, more realistic estimates of typical use indicate that about 18% of couples will become pregnant in a year using withdrawal . These rates are only slightly less effective than male condoms, which have perfect- and typical-use failure rates of 2% and 17%1, respectively”
“while research suggests that pre-ejaculate fluid does not typically contain sperm [10-12], confirmatory studies are needed.”*
*I read some other research which suggests it doesn’t unless the man has ejaculated previously that day but urination would clear any residual sperm, but I can’t now find the article to link to.
So there you go some free methods of contraception that are not as unreliable as you may previously have thought (however please don’t sue me if they don’t work for you!).
P.S This is the post I had been meaning to write for ages for @MotherScuffer. Sorry!