What I’m about to tell you might sound too good to be true. Believe me, it’s not. There’s a method of birth control that’s more affordable than the pill, Mirena or injection. A method that won’t kill your sex drive, has zero side effects (like weight gain or risk of deep vein thrombosis, breast cancer or stroke), and will tell you so much about your body that you’ll be able to spot early clues to potentially devastating diseases.
How is this even possible? Because this method is an alternative to hormonal contraceptives and opens up a whole new world of birth control options. Did you know the pill was only invented a mere 54 years ago? Have you ever wondered what women did before then?
What made me change my birth control?
I was on hormonal contraception. I actually remember being quite excited starting Yaz.
It was like I had entered adulthood. Every morning I would pop my pill, not thinking about what it was doing to my body. Even though I was an elite athlete and it was preventing me from reaching my peak performance. Even though it was preventing my body from doing what it was supposed to do every month. Even though it stopped every single system in my body from working – I thought it was great. Come on, we could have sex and I wouldn’t fall pregnant!
I did this for five years and then during one run on a Wednesday morning, I started chatting to a woman named Heidi who had been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33. This conversation changed my life forever. She told me that morning she felt one of the three reasons she got breast cancer was her use of hormonal contraception. This hit a nerve for me: was I increasing my chance of breast cancer?
Yes, I was – my chances of getting breast cancer and liver cancer were increased by 50%. If you are on hormonal contraception for more than four years, your chances of getting cancer get higher and higher.
At the same time, my body was being stripped of all my B vitamins, my zinc, and iron. And I was affecting my future fertility – I may not have fallen pregnant.
My wakeup call was Heidi. It took a friend getting breast cancer for me to start questioning the pill. Maybe your call will be someone you know dying of a pulmonary embolism or heart attack because of hormonal contraception.
I decided I would rather fall pregnant than continue to use something that could increase my chance of getting breast cancer (P.S. I didn’t fall pregnant until many years later when I was ready to).
This is where my life changed:
- I stopped Yaz
- I started charting my cycle
- I started having control of my body
- I started listening to my body
A natural birth control method that works
I’m sure you’ve heard of the Rhythm Method – don’t confuse this simple mathematical calculation (and often ineffective) method with what I am about to share with you.
Understanding The Justisse Method of Fertility Awareness
The Justisse Method of Fertility Awareness (1987) is a standardised system for learning fertility awareness in a way that allows women to manage their reproductive health and birth control needs. The Justisse Method is best learned from a comprehensively trained Justisse Practitioner, (I completed the rigorous 2-year training to make sure I can offer women this scientific method). All practitioners are committed to caring for women’s well-being as it relates to sexual and reproductive health, and to respect women’s right to make their own decisions as to what is best for their-self. You may Learn to Chart on your own as well, though we recommend at least a few consultations with a practitioner.
Scientific basis of fertility awareness methods
Methods of natural family planning that depend upon fertility awareness, including the Justisse Method, have evolved from scientifically validated principles relating to menstrual cycle events that enable a woman to differentiate her fertile and infertile periods during any given cycle.
There are various methods of fertility awareness as brands. These brands include:
- Fertility Awareness Method
- Natural Family Planning
- Billings Ovulation Method
- Couple-to-Couple League
- Creighton Method
- Sympto-Thermal Method
- Justisse Method
These brands differ from each other in various and important ways:
- Charting method
- Fertility signs observed
- Rules to avoid or to achieve pregnancy
- Ideological and/or religious foundation
The effectiveness of each and every one of them depends on the same scientific principles.Namely, the three primary signs that any women can be taught to observe, chart and interpret.
The three primary signs of fertility are:
- Cervical mucus secretions
- Basal body temperature
- Cervical position
These observable fertility signs are influenced by the primary hormones of the menstrual cycle. Each cycle unfolds in three distinct phases. However, women who use hormonal birth control including oral contraceptives or Depo-Provera cut themselves off from this intuitive body wisdom and will not experience these cyclical changes.
Head this way to read more about the scientific basis of the Justisse Method.
Benefits of fertility awareness
The Justisse Method has an effectiveness rate of 99.6% when used correctly, exactly the same as the Pill. However, the benefits of this natural method go far beyond just avoiding pregnancy:
- The overall costs are far cheaper as it’s a once off cost to learn the method.
- As you are not ingesting any chemical hormones it doesn’t kill your sex drive.
- Couples who use this method report having sex more often than couples using contraception.
- It’s a complete healthcare option – if your body is not functioning optimally you will be able to see it on your charts.
- It helps to keep your lifestyle choices on a healthy path.
- It provides an early clue to potentially devastating diseases which enables you to practice preventative medicine.
- There are no side effects (such as weight gain, deep vein thrombosis, breast cancer or strokes).
- This knowledge is empowering and understanding the ins and outs of your body is liberating.
So, if this method is so effective and there are so many benefits, why have we not heard about it in mainstream media, from our doctors, or from our moms?
The other main reason is that it takes time to learn this method and doctors do not have the time to sit and teach patients.
How long will it take you to learn this method?
The initial consultation takes 1.5 – 2 hours to teach you, as an individual woman, or you, as a couple, how to use the method. Going forward you have three more one-hour sessions (at one-month intervals) to make sure you have fully grasped the method. So in total, it takes most women four sessions to grasp the method. There are women who take more or less but on average it’s three.
If you want to teach yourself the method you can buy the products online or you can download the app.
How the Justisse Method actually works
Have you ever kept a diary? Are you into blogging? Well, charting your menstrual cycle is quite similar – it’s just blogging (privately) about your body. That’s the beginning of fertility awareness. I’ll teach you how to jot down the signs your body gives you every single day. You have to do this religiously – every single day.
Every morning when you wake up, you have to take a special thermometer (a Body Basal Thermometer) and insert it into your mouth to take your temperature reading. This thermometer enables you to track when ovulation occurs because as soon as you ovulate you see higher temperatures than usual. So that’s the first thing. Easy right?
The next step is to look for cervical mucus. Sound gross? Not really. It’s just something to look out for whenever you go to the loo. Mucus is the key to falling pregnant. If you see mucus, you have a 75% chance of falling pregnant if you have sex that day.
During ovulation, a woman’s sex drive is higher naturally, but the method requires abstinence during this time if you don’t want to fall pregnant (you can also you a barrier method or get a little more creative in the bedroom).
If you’re choosing to abstain and use this time to connect in other ways also bear in mind that your partner will naturally find you more attractive and sexy when you are ovulating.
So, yes, the two primary disadvantages to this method are:
- Possible abstinence
- Journaling your cycle
Thinking of making the change
So this sounds like a little bit of fun. What next. Don’t be too quick to just come off hormonal contraception because you do need to have some method of contraception. If you have been on hormonal contraception it takes time for your body to get rid of all hormones and therefore one’s body can do some funny things.
Note: While learning the method it is advised to either abstain from intercourse or always use a condom.
How long will it take for me to use this method as my birth control option?
The answer to this question really depends on a couple of factors:
- How long you have been using hormonal contraception
- How committed you are to attending follow up sessions and reading the guidebook
In my experience about 4 months before you really get the confidence to have sex without a condom and be confident in your choice.
Don’t be scared to ask questions. Don’t be coerced into a method that you do not agree with, and make sure you know the pros and cons of the method you choose.
Like I mentioned earlier, I enrolled with Justisse Healthworks for women to become the first practitioner in this method in Africa, because I felt I needed to pass this information on to other women because it was so life changing for me.
Article written by Claudia Slattery
Claudia works with women and couples all over the world so she can either see you in person in her office in Johannesburg and in Hoedspruit or online via Skype anywhere in the world. If you feel like this method could be for you, you can get in touch with Claudia via the below details.