Natural Family Planning - My Story Part 1

Oh, boy. Here we go. This can be a touchy subject, so I avoid talking about it most of the time. Birth control is a very personal topic, and people tend to get defensive on topics like this. Yet here I am, sharing my opinion on the issue!

My husband and I practice Natural Family Planning (NFP). This idea goes by many names (Fertility Awareness Method is another popular name), but NFP is the one I decided I liked best. Its something we've been practicing for about 8 months now, so I am by no means an expert. I also know that many, many women are totally happy popping birth control pills every day, or taking a shot every 6 months or whatever. I say, whatever floats your boat! So please don't think this post is some sort of PSA designed to tell women that I think they're stupid for using birth control. I'm just sharing my story! ( :

FYI: This story is long, so I'm splitting it up. Also, if you read this you will learn a lot about me that you might not want to know, haha, so be warned! ( :

I started taking birth control pills when I was 18 or 19. My cycles were extremely random - some months, I'd have 2 periods, some months I wouldn't have one at all. I just never knew what to expect. I thought that was normal (well, it was normal for me), so I never talked to anyone about it or sought help for it. Finally, I mentioned it to a friend and she urged me to go see a "woman doctor." Well, of course, the gynecologist immediately started me on birth control to regulate my cycles. Thankfully, it worked. But it didn't take me long to realize that the pill wasn't working for me other than to regulate my cycles.

For the next 8 years, I stayed on birth control, trying basically every type of pill available. I'd give each one a try for at least 5-6 months before making a decision about it. But every single one gave me terrible side effects. Some made my periods almost unbearable (cramping), some made my periods super-long (like 18 days), some made me way too emotional or just plain mean (thanks, Yaz). Apparently, I am extremely sensitive to hormone levels!

I never tried the patch or the ring or the shot. I don't even know if the patch is still available, but a girl I used to know tried it and went swimming and it came off. How is that effective?? The ring always freaked me out. Plus I'd heard horror stories of it getting stuck in there...yikes. And I didn't like the shot for several reasons. One, its kinda long-term, so if I was on the shot and wanted to get pregnant, I'd have to wait for it to get out of my system. Two, everyone I know who tried Depo gained a ton of weight. No, thanks. Three, the shot increases your risk of getting osteoporosis. Since that runs in my family, I figure I'm already at enough of a risk, so I won't be intentionally doing anything to up that.

I know that leaves the IUD, and I'll get to that in a minute.

The summer after I got married, I had had enough of birth control and screwing my hormone levels up. I talked it over with my husband, and we decided to let my body take a break from the pills. Immediately, I felt better. My cycles were normal, I stopped having all the highs and lows, everything was just better. We weren't quite ready for a baby yet, so we were just careful. That winter, we decided a baby would be nice, so we stopped being careful. We figured it would take a while to get pregnant. (I mean, all you hear is stories of women who try for years before they get pregnant. Plus I'd been on birth control for so long, I figured some of that was bound to be left in me for a while. Plus my doctor told me if I was able to get pregnant, it might be hard due to some other issues I had years ago.) Well, we were pretty surprised when I got pregnant the following March! (Or maybe early April, we're not sure. I found out in April.)

So, obviously, I had a nice long break from birth control pills - from the summer of 2009 at least until I had C in December of 2010. Of course, while I was still in the hospital, my doctor gave me a prescription for birth control. I think that one was for the mini pill since he knew I planned to breastfeed, but I never got it filled. I didn't do much research while I was pregnant, but thankfully I quickly learned a lot after C was born. One thing I learned was that even the mini pill can impact your milk supply (even though its not supposed to). One of my friends was having no problems breastfeeding, and then she started the mini pill and she dried up. I wasn't about to let that happen to me. If nothing else, I knew I wanted to breastfeed for as long as possible. (Plus, let's be real. I had just had a baby, sex was the last  thing on my mind! haha) So I never got the prescription filled. When I went for my 6 week checkup my doctor was kind of rude about it and made me feel stupid for not being on birth control yet. He basically said that without it, I'd be knocked up again soon. Um, hello, I know how not to get pregnant! I ignored his urging to get on the mini pill and went about my business.

I had my first postpartum cycle 17 weeks after C was born. I was kinda mad that I only got 17 weeks and I was exclusively breastfeeding! I kept reading about how all these mamas didn't have a period to return for almost a year or more. Oh, well. I was happy that my cycles were extremely regular now. I didn't know I could be so regular on my own! I could set my clock to my cycles, it was awesome.

Well, after months of having to be careful all the time (because I knew nothing about a woman's fertility), DH understandably got tired of it and started asking me to please consider birth control again. I thought a little more freedom would be nice, too. I looked seriously into getting an IUD. In fact, I called my insurance company and found that if I got it by the end of the year I wouldn't have to pay a dime! It seemed like a sign to me, like all the stars had aligned for me to get an IUD. It would be free to us, I could have birth control without having to take a pill every day, and it could last up to 5 years, but could be taken out at any time to get pregnant. It seemed too good to be true!

Part 2 coming soon....

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