In the last decade, oral contraceptive usage has dropped.  This suggests a collective desire to regain control of our bodies and health.  Many women report headaches, weight gain, mood issues and a host of other symptoms from taking the pill.

What is replacing the Pill?

Last time I visited a sexual health clinic I was pleasantly surprised to see the fertility awareness method (FAM) included on the intake form.  FAM has not always been an accepted form of contraception.  This was the first time I’ve seen it alongside the IUD and hormonal birth control.

I have never taken oral contraceptives.  Not once although it seems like such an easy option.  My mom told me how they work.  This encouraged me to explore other options.  When I asked about FAM and the IUD in my 20’s I was laughed at by clinicians.  That’s putting it lightly.  The sexual health clinics were somewhat coercive.  If I wasn’t there to get the pill why had I come?  I had read Taking Charge of Your Fertility and was getting to know my body.

Research,Technology & Men

Today there are a number of new books on the subject. There are also cycle-monitoring apps and social media groups devoted to fertility awareness. Packed with research, these offer accessible information. Learning  what’s normal is a big deal.  Then we can get support about what’s happening with our menstrual cycles.

In the 90’s, the intrauterine device (IUD) wasn’t offered to women prior to giving birth.  Now women can choose the copper or Mirena IUD whether or not they have children.  These devices can be disruptive in other ways but work well for some women who want to avoid the side effects that come with the pill.  The Mirena has hormones and a woman may still lose her cycle.  With the copper its important to monitor your zinc: copper balance.  Some women also experience gall bladder issues or other pain along with a heavier cycle.

One of the most important changes that is occurring is men taking more of an active role in fertility and contraception.  I presented at a conference a couple years ago and was speaking to this.  A master herbalist was following me on stage.  I invited him into the question and answer portion of my talk.

Supporting women’s menstrual cycle is a way to prevent unwanted pregnancy.  He explained that he knew exactly when his wife was ovulating.  Instead of showing his daughters what herbs prevent pregnancy, he shows them how to normalize and track their cycle. It is encouraging to have male allies in this important work.  Men are getting on board with cycle tracking.  This allows women to relax and enjoy their bodies more.

‘A Women’s Health Epidemic’

This shift comes at a time when our collective hormonal health seems to be getting worse. Experts know this is largely a result of our modern lifestyle.  High stress, environmental toxins like xenoestrogens and a diet high in processed food are all factors.  Then there is a lack of research and focus on women’s health.  Conventional medicine rarely tests hormones.  Invasive interventions are offered before gathering basic information that directly relate with women’s symptoms.

“I absolutely believe we are in a women’s health epidemic,” Nicole Jardim, a New York-based hormone expert. I believe that there are a number of different reasons why that’s occurring right now. Most of them can be attributed to the fact we live in a crazy modern society. Women have super-human expectations of themselves. Other people have them too.”  This creates a lot of pressure and stress.

Jardim is a nutritionist and holistic health coach specializing in hormonal and reproductive health.  She says that electronic addiction and poor nutrition wreak havoc on women’s bodies.

“Combine that with the insane stress so much of us are under, our lack of sleep and I think we have a perfect storm for hormone imbalance,” she adds.

All the Same Root Cause

Ninety percent of women experience difficulty with PMS now.  Polycystic ovarian syndrome, breast cancer and difficultly with menopause are not as separate as they first seem.  Underlying all of them is a lifestyle and environment that is mismatched with our bodies.

We can shift this culture by learning to adapt and care for ourselves differently.  Enough meditation and rest is important.  Choosing medical marijuana instead of harmful pain medications is another step we can take.  Getting thorough hormone testing is also very empowering.