For some, the increased fertility that accompanies eating a paleolithic diet is awesome, for others, not so awesome.
Personally, I do want to parent another primal kiddo, but it’s just not in the stars for me right now, so I am taking baby making precautions.
Whether you do or you don’t want to get pregnant, monitoring fertility signs is an important part of a contraceptive/pregnancy-planning strategy so you don’t get stuck taking fertility and birth control medications.
Effects of synthetic hormone birth control medications
Hormonal contraceptives are just as popular as they are damaging to a woman’s body (and the environment as they flush through the toilet into our water causing fish feminization and other problems). According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, more than 80% of American women have taken birth control at some point in their lives. Hormonal birth control is the most frequently used form of birth control.
Altering our hormones with synthetic variants such as those derived from horses doesn’t jive with with the principles of our Paleolithic past and should not be part of a couple’s contraceptive strategy. Birth control medications have been proven to be damaging to a woman’s body in countless ways. Some side effects of synthetic hormones include low libido, depression, weight gain, headaches, increased blood pressure, certain types of cancer, yeast overgrowth, b-vitamin and mineral deficiencies, among others.
Hormonal methods of birth control include: (refer to Planned Parenthood)
- The Pill
- Depo Provera – shot prevents pregnancy for three months
- Lunelle – shot prevents pregnancy for one month
- Vaginal Ring/Nuva Ring – hormone releasing ring placed in the vagina for 3 weeks
- The Patch/Ortho Evra Patch
- Birth Control Implant – small rod prevents pregnancy for up to three years
- The Morning After Pill – emergency contraception
- Hormonal IUD/Mirena Plastic T shaped device placed in the uterus, releasing hormones for 5 years
They have invented so many creative ways to pump a woman with hormones! These methods all do pretty much the same thing with equal effectiveness but they have different concentrations of different hormones which may affect women differently.
Non-hormonal conventional methods and their effectiveness:
- The sponge – a foam sponge containing spermicide placed under the uterus. 80% effective.
- IUD/ParaGard – T shaped copper device which is placed into the uterus. The devices alters cervical mucus to prevent implantation. 99.9% effective.
- Cervical Cap – A thin, silicon cap placed over the uterus, used with spermicide. 70-85% effective.
- Diaphragm – A silicon cup placed over the uterus, used with spermicide. 92% effective.
- Condoms – 98% effective in general, but if it breaks then the effectiveness drops to 0%.
- The Pull out method/withdrawal The oldest method of birth control known to man might take some of the fun out of sex but, believe it or not, if it is used correctly, the pull out method is 96% effective! But using it correctly can be tricky. First, you can’t use the method too often because sperm may reside in the man’s urethra and be expelled in pre-cum. Also, you must be careful to withdraw early enough so as not to spill any semen anywhere on the vulva. For most people, then, the method is about 80% effective.
Most of the above mentioned non-hormonal alternatives require spermicide to reach the effectiveness listed (condoms have not been shown to increase effectiveness even with spermicide). Spermicide is not, however, as safe as it is made out to be. Spermicide kills healthy bacteria in the vagina. This can lead to yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and urinary tract infections.
Family Planning (on not having kids) Methods
Condoms, abstinence, and breastfeeding all work really well but when those options are not available, what can we do? What did humans do before contraceptive devices were invented? Well, either they didn’t worry about it (I mean, there are over 6 billion people on this planet) or they listened to their bodies. A woman’s body exhibits clear signs of ovulation which can be observed and then predicted in following months.
Ovulation is the short window during which the egg passes through the Fallopian tube and into the uterus. The egg has a life span of about 24 hours so the window of opportunity (or danger as the case may be) in which implantation can occur is short. In an average 28 day cycle there are 672 hours, only 24 of those hours can you actually get pregnant. That’s a 4% chance that you can actually get pregnant each month.
So what’s all the fuss about? Doesn’t really sound like you’re going to get pregnant anyway does it? Well, those little sperm are built for success. They can survive inside a woman’s body for 3 to 5 days. So if you have sex 5 days before ovulation, you could still get pregnant. This changes the percentage a bit. In reality there is a 17% chance that a woman will conceive in any given month. And as her libido often increases during this time, she is going to take full advantage of that small window.
Signs of fertility
- Cramps – I’m not exactly sure why the release of an egg smaller than the period at the end of this sentence should hurt, but a woman can often feel a slight cramp as the egg makes its way down the fallopian tube. It just lasts a day, or even a few moments and it usually is felt on either the left or the right side depending on which tube the egg is traveling down.
- Saliva – Hormonal changes in the body can be observed with a microscope in the saliva. The saliva exhibits a fern like pattern under a microscope. Dr. Mercola wrote an article on this method. The type of microscope he recommends is called an Ovu-Tech. It’s cheap, reusable, and small. Sounds pretty good to me. I think I’ll get one!
- Mucus – Cervical mucus increases just before ovulation. During most of a woman’s cycle there may be none or very little. Just before ovulation it increases in amount and becomes thicker in texture. Monitoring the changes in mucus, called the mucus method can be useful in planning when to abstain or when to use condoms.
- Cervical opening – The cervix also changes, in preparation for ovulation, by opening and softening a little. By placing one or two fingers inside the vagina a woman or her partner can feel for changes in the cervix which would indicate that the egg is about to be released.
- Basal Body Temperature – A woman can monitor her body temperature before rising in the morning with a basal thermometer (you can pick one up at the drugstore). A woman’s body temperature will rise slightly when the egg is released and will remain that way for the rest of the cycle. Illness, allergies, and lack of sleep can alter the basal body temperature so it is not a reliable indicator by itself.
Using the signs of fertility
All of these signs can be used in conjunction to indicate when ovulation will occur. This works best in a woman with a regular cycle. Note the date and occurrence of these signs to determine the date of ovulation. For three months, mark this date on a calendar. For the 5 days before the expected date of ovulation, the date of ovulation, and they day after, don’t partake in intercourse. If, however, you are trying to get pregnant, now’s the time to hit the sac!
If these signs are not apparent and you suspect you are not releasing eggs, read the fertility chapter in my book, Primal Moms Look Good Naked.
Keep in mind that it is generally the goal of all living things to keep on living and hence, as it was so succinctly put in Jurassic Park, life finds a way. Even all of these methods can fail because the body will adjust itself to improve the changes of reproduction. Many women using these methods have ended up pregnant anyway. An ovulation date expected to be on November 10th could be pushed back to November 5th all in the interest of propagating the species.
Other types of sex play
I don’t need to go into great depth here, but honestly, do we really need to have sex every single day of the month? Abstaining from sexual intercourse doesn’t mean we have to abstain from naked fun altogether. There are so many entertaining and loving ways to engage sexually. Taking a break from intercourse at ovulation gives us an excuse to spice things up a bit!
Herbal contraceptives and abortifacients
There are herbs which some claim act as herbal contraceptives. Timothy Taylor suggests in his book The Prehistory of Sex (where he talks extensively about herbal contraception) that the effects of the plants are so wide spread
“they must have been used in prehistory and possibly throughout our evolutionary emergence”. These plants “can bring menstruation to a halt, work hormonally to alleviate PMS and function as contraceptives or abortifacients”.
I have listed a few herbs below that are frequently found in the literature on herbal contraceptives.
- Queen Anne’s Lace (Wild Carrot) – This herb has the best reputation for preventing pregnancy. It is defined as an implantation inhibitor. Its earliest recorded use dates back to the 16th century.
- Wild Yam – This herb does not have a great reputation as a contraceptive. It is meant to be taken every day to alter hormones in the woman’s body much like a birth control pill.
- Lemon Juice – There is some research on the effectiveness of using lemons to kill sperm 100% of sperm in less than 30 seconds. The lemon juice is to be diluted in 80% water. Using this concentration as a douche before and after sex can act as a spermicide. I’m not sure I would expect the lemon juice to come into contact with all 300 million sperm, though. Use this in conjunction with other methods.
- Neem – An herb which is very popular in India has been shown to kill sperm as effectively as lemon juice. It tastes and smells absolutely terrible. The seed oil is the part of the plant which is used as a spermicide. I wasn’t able to find any concrete evidence of its efficacy, at least in English. Let’s remember that the remedy does originate from one of the most overpopulated countries on earth. Go figure.
Abortifacients are agents that induce miscarriage or abortion. These come in the form of drugs which doctors use, herbs, vitamins, and physical strategies. I’ve listed a few that I am familiar with. There are more that are not listed here. There are a lot of options for abortifacients but they are not all supposed to be used in conjunction. You can hurt yourself or overdose if you take too much. Herbs have very real effects on the body and their use should not be taken lightly. Before attempting an herbal miscarriage, do you research, contact an herbalist, acupuncturist, or naturopathic doctor.
- Blue Cohosh stimulates uterine contractions within six days.
- Vitamin C can be taken in high doses (between 5-10 g) to interfere with progesterone. This is sometimes taken before herbs are added.
- Rutin interferes with the production of progesterone and should be taken with Vitamin C.
- Black Cohosh and Angelica root (dong quai) can help stimulate menstruation by causing uterine contractions.
- Ginger stimulates circulation to the uterus and aids the other herbs.
- Cinnamon also stimulates the uterus.
- Visualization techniques help the mind release the pregnancy.
If your herbal miscarriage is successful, follow up with a doctor so that they can check to be sure it was complete. When a miscarriage is not complete, the dead tissue inside the body will begin to smell. If this tissue is not released, it can lead to infection.
If your herbal miscarriage is not complete, follow up with a clinical abortion. Taking Vitamin C in high doses can lead to scurvy in the infant. The interaction of the other herbs with the fetus are unknown.