My experience of hormonal contraception…
I have been on some form of hormonal contraception for the last twelve years. Until last year I took the depo-provera injection which was ok but did give occasional spotting which was a bit of a pain, anyone taking this should be aware that it can take 1-2 years to regain your fertility after your last injection. I kept having the 3 monthly injections until my wedding… I needed to be 100% sure I wasn’t going to get pregnant before the wedding as our budget wasn’t going to stretch to this and 12 months maternity leave in one go!
After this my GP gave my microgynon – I think they try and start everyone on this as it’s super cheap, but in my opinion also a bit crap. Maybe it was the post wedding blues but I spent the first couple of months feeling a bit weepy and a bit crazy and the tender breasts were a massive pain…that thing where you get massive good feelings from releasing out of your bra at the end of the day – and I’m a very small C cup!
I’m a bit of a Instagram and Stylist website addict and Natural Cycles kept repeatedly popping up on my screen. I do enjoy things that are a bit new and more natural (I own a mooncup and am admittedly prone to fads) so Natural Cycles really appealed to me.
The app was set up by a Physicist and Postdoctoral Researcher – they use some clever maths to set up algorithms based on changes to your Basal Body Temperature (BBT) that signal ovulation. They actually set it up to help plan their first pregnancy but once you know your ovulation days with accuracy it also doubles as a contraception. There are other apps on the market that help you track ovulation but this is the first ever app to have been certified in the EU as a contraceptive. In 2016 the Karolinska Institute (the best medical institution in Sweden…apparently) studied this and proved it is as effective as the pill but with no side effects, EXCELLENT! I’m sure I read elsewhere that it is 0.5% less effective than the pill in clinical studies, but this just means that in a given year 2 people out of 200 are likely to get pregnant on the pill compared to 3 out of 200 on Natural Cycles…this is no biggie for me as it won’t be too long till I am trying anyway.
Using Natural Cycles…
I paid £49.99 for the year and this included the BBT thermometer and app download. It took over a week for the thermometer to arrive, but you can always buy your own and pay £7.99 for a monthly subscription and get going straight away. (Bear in mind you would need to buy condoms if you don’t want to get pregnant, and buying ovulation tests as well will make it more accurate sooner so there are additional costs as well)
I started using the app the day after my last microgynon pill, you need to use the thermometer as soon as you wake up (as your BBT goes up when you wake) and you need to have had four hours continuous sleep beforehand and take it within 2 hours of your usual time every day. You just put your thermometer under your tongue then input to the app…this seems pretty straightforward but I found that I was paranoid-ly waking through the night then worrying if it was too late to get my four hours continuous sleep before waking…or too early to take my temperature. NB – you have the option of putting it in your anus or vagina, but it is no more accurate so sounds like unnecessary effort and cleaning when you are half asleep!
At the moment the app is giving me a lot of days when I am potentially fertile, but this should narrow down after three months. It is able to predict the day I will ovulate, but I will still take a ovulation test strip (2 days before predicted ovulation) to increase the accuracy of the app. Apparently it takes to 2-3 months until it becomes fairly accurate.
- Hormone free, side effect free
- Once you know your cycle really well you can have a more accurate due date once you conceive
- Using the app for a while before you plan to conceive could alert you to any problems with ovulating in advance – that way you have more time to do something about it
- One user kept using the app to record BBT during pregnancy and it alerted her to a potentially life threatening problem for her baby which meant she had the chance to tell her midwife before any real symptoms started to show
- Cost – you could just buy a BBT thermometer for £5.95 on amazon prime and track it yourself
- Bad sleep if you’re worried about using it 100% as instructed
- 10 working days for delivery of the thermometer was a bit annoying
Here is a shot of the app after one week’s recordings (green is not fertile, red is potentially fertile. The little egg symbol symbolises ovulation)