My Connection with Feminine Empowerment & Birth Control
As women, we take the burden of protecting ourselves and our livelihoods by deeply micromanaging when and how we plan pregnancy and motherhood. For the past couple of decades, taking birth control has been seen as a form of bodily autonomy and feminine empowerment, but is it truly?
I questioned this idea quite a lot when I started seeing someone seriously and wanted to feel protected and safe. As someone who values natural and alternative medicine, I wanted an option that aligned. I had tried hormonal birth control in the past and it just wasn’t for me.
I started to go through my list of options: birth control pills, copper IUD, hormonal IUD, the shot, the patch, and the list goes on. However, all of these have one thing in common and that is that they change the way our bodies do their processes naturally. They all affect our hormones in some way, shape, or form. Even the copper IUD isn’t a ‘natural’ option.
I have been going to a holistic wellness practitioner and acupuncturist specializing in traditional Chinese medicine. She taught me that the copper IUD, while it’s the most natural of all the options, can cause significant inflammation in the uterus. Inflammation is the root cause of most medical issues and creating a hostile environment like that can lead to even further complications.
I went my whole female adolescence hearing how birth control is a great option that’s completely safe and absolutely normal. I was in medical school and the specialists I interned for were all for it even though I’d watch them complain how their new birth control pills were making them break out. Still, they swore by it and raved about it too.
I vividly remember taking a class in my undergraduate studies called Hormones & Homeostasis, an endocrinology class. Our professor was going over the female reproductive system and fertility. The topic of birth control came up and for the first time, I heard an academic professional discuss the downfalls of birth control. He clearly said: “if you suppress something long enough, it’ll eventually stop working on its own.” Why was I hearing this from a white European man, rather than female physicians having to take the burden of birth control pills?
I started to think about how the whole idea of female empowerment and bodily autonomy associated with birth control was a facade. Birth control was created by men to control women’s bodies for pleasure, even though there are major consequences. We bought into a product and idea that was meant to suppress us in every way and it felt so wrong to partake in it all. Don’t get me wrong, birth control pills can be a suitable option for women with PCOS, or very irregular periods, but I wouldn’t recommend it for most people. Even though doctors say the hormones leave your system in a matter of days when you stop taking it, there’s a reason most women who have taken birth control for years have trouble with fertility.
I hated the thought of having to pick one poison over the other knowing they all mess with my body’s balance. I asked myself questions wondering why it was that only women take the burden and why it has to be our problem to deal with. The thing is that birth control for men has been in the works, but men drop out of the trials due to the horrid side effects, yet we stay. The worst of all is that the side effects are very similar to those that women experience with birth control. We deal with it because it’s our livelihood.
Even then, if men were to take the burden, the same issues we usually deal with would just be passed onto them and that’s not right either.
Fertility Awareness Method
I found a solution. My acupuncturist recommended something called the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). I had never heard of it other than a few stories of people getting pregnant using a similar method. I was skeptical, but I was out of options, so I did some research and found a FAM educator and practitioner.
I learned that using this method correctly was actually just as effective as birth control pills. It can be up to 99% effective. It just takes patience and tenacity. It wasn’t easy, but I started to realize just how out of touch I was with my own body. I had no idea how the menstrual cycle truly worked, how my body reacted to every stage, when I ovulated, and all of it. I was clueless.
In order to practice FAM, women should usually have quite regular periods, although women with irregular periods can use it too. It’s just a bit more difficult. I was willing to put in the work though. People think that FAM is just like the pull out method, or guessing and wondering, but it’s so much more complex.
What baffled me the most while I was learning about the female body was that we really can only get pregnant 24 hours in a month, but since sperm can live in our reproductive systems for about 5 days, there’s a risky 5 day window. So, why are we taking birth control pills every single day, risking our wellbeing, to protect us from just those 5 days?!
Every day, you have to take your basal body temperature before waking up and you have to monitor your cervical mucus to check fertility levels. It’s this two step process that is involved and it’s way more than a guessing game. I would track all of this information in an app called Kindara.
When we ovulate, our basal body temperature spikes and then it stays like that for the second half of the cycle. There are rules, so only have unprotected sex after that peak in temperature has been up for 72 hours. Use condoms the days when you’re at risk and universally, we aren’t fertile the first 2 days of our menstrual cycle.
This process was interesting because I started to realize my body had a rhythm. Since I have regular periods, for the most part, I only did this process for about a year before I stopped. At this point, I know how my body works and I play it safe. I have managed to effectively avoid pregnancy and when I am ready, I know the best times to have sex and achieve pregnancy.
If you’ve been considering a natural option, I highly recommend FAM because not only is it great for preventing pregnancy, it’s also really helpful when you’re trying to conceive. You will always know when it’s best to have unprotected sex instead of relying on gadgets and tools. This method teaches you so much and not just about yourself, but also what autonomy and empowerment truly mean.
Delving so deep into this method has helped me understand my body like never before and that has been true empowerment for me. It has been so fulfilling to deeply understand the way my body works, naturally.
This piece was written and contributed by:
Intuitive Reiki Master and Coach
Emily Volovitz is a reiki master, intuitive guide, life mentor, and energy worker. Having gone through body image issues, and family/childhood trauma, she found that there wasn’t a unique space to hone it all in. She created a space where individuals can connect with every part of themselves.
She was born and raised in Miami, FL with a Colombian background. At 18, she moved to London and later to Amsterdam where she currently resides.
Emily's mission is to help individuals get closer to who they truly are, combining all the various methods that have helped her find her own alignment, in order to assist and propel the collective into a space of greater love and light. Tough life experiences disconnect human beings from their natural state of being, one that is aligned and vivacious. She believes that it is not a matter of healing, but a matter of getting closer to our essence.