What is FAM & other non-hormonal contraceptive options.

What options do we really have?

In terms of contraception, the pill is without a doubt one of the easiest ways to prevent pregnancy without having to think too much about it, while offering a 91-99.7% efficacy rate. But the conversation regarding the nasty side effects of the pill is getting louder and louder within the world of women’s health, and so many of you are asking “Well how else will I prevent an unwanted pregnancy?”

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Honestly… us women don’t have many great options that don’t involve side effects or daily work. If you want to try to get in and interupt the powerful work of evolution (reproduction) while still enjoying your pleasurable intimacy with another human, you’re going to need something quite miraculous. And unfortunately, if you want there to be a high chance that your good times won’t result in a pregnancy, like your body innately wants to do, you’re going to have to sacrifice something. That might mean things such as putting up with side effects of the pill or an IUD, interrupting hot and steamy times to put on a condom, or taking the time to learn a fertility awareness method and then practicing it daily to avoid having intercourse during your fertile window.

I personally have tried almost every single form of contraception there is, and what has worked the best for ME is the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). I wanted to introduce this method and explain it in my own words because there are so many mis-interpretations of it and misunderstandings, and I wanted to highlight to you that if you do not stick to the rules of FAM, yes, you could get pregnant. Just the same as if you don’t stick to the rules of taking your pill everyday, you could very well wind up pregnant.

So, What is Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)?

Back to basics – in order to become pregnant, you need a viable egg, viable sperm and a hospitable environment. Once ovulated, an egg can only live for 24-48 hours. Sperm can live inside a woman up for up to 5 days. (Given this information, don’t you find it funny how historically, the responsibility of contraception has largely be placed upon women, while men are actually more fertile on a day to day basis?)

Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is practiced by tracking the certain biomarkers that your body has (cervical mucous, LH testing, Cervical position, Basal Body Temperature – see Tracking your cycle), and works by abstaining from sexual intercourse once you recognize signs of impending ovulation, all the way through until you have confirmed ovulation. Some people choose to use a barrier method of contraception during their fertile window, but the efficacy of Fertility awareness is based on completely abstaining during that window of time, and so if one does choose to use a barrier, the efficacy of preventing pregnancy would then revert to the efficacy of that method (for example, a male condom is 82-98% effective).

There are many methods of fertility awareness and if you’re new to FAM, I would recommend that you study and learn ONE method and practice it until you get a clear picture of your ovulatory pattern before switching or incorporating other forms.

The method I am training to become certified in right now is call the FEMM method, and we use observation of cervical mucous changes as well as LH testing strips to determine a womans fertile window. After the first few cycles, the rules are as follows: you can have unprotected intercourse during your PRE-ovulatory phase on alternate dry days (no cervical mucous), and anyday during your post-ovulatory phase. Other methods have slightly different rules.

Other methods can include but are not limited to: Taking Charge of your Fertility rules, Marquette, Sympto-Thermal, sensiplan, and the Creighton methods. The difference between these methods are simply the biomarkers you choose to observe and the rules are sometimes different as well.

I can’t speak for the other methods, but the FEMM method is 92-98% effective. With 1:1 online nurse management of the FEMM method, the efficacy rate increases slightly to 93-98% effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy.

Natural Family Planning (NFP)

Is very similar to FAM, except it is practiced from a religious standpoint, reserving sexual activity first and foremost for the purposes of reproduction. NFP does not allow any intercourse, even with the use of a barrier in the fertile window, unless trying to conceive. The Billings method is a popular method practiced by folks who are of catholic faith.

The efficacy of this method is the same as FAM as it uses the same principles.

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Rhythm method

The rhythm method is what gives FAM its bad wrap – because people often get it confused with FAM. FAM requires you to be constantly interpreting your bodys biomarkers each cycle and only having intercourse during “safe days”. The rhythm method, also called the calendar method or standard days method, basically gives you a set of standards to follow based on the length of your cycle which tell you which days are safe and which are not (for example, if you have a 28 day cycle then your fertile window is day 10-16). It does not take into account any of your body’s biomarkers. The problem with this method lies with folks who really can’t stand to have an unwanted pregnancy because even in the most “regular” women, cycle lengths can vary. Rarely is a womans cycle ever the exact same number of days for all 12 cycles of the year (unless she’s on birth control, which of course then none of this applies at all because its not a real cycle). Stress, travel, weight changes, amoung many other things can budge a period backwards or forwards a few days, which means you fertile window also changes and if you use the same set of days as your “safe days” you could be very mistaken.

The efficacy of these methods range between 75%-99.9%.

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^ The daysy fertility monitor ^

Daysy fertility monitor

“Daysy is a fertility tracker that uses the fertility awareness method by learning and tracking your menstrual cycle. Daysy calculates your fertile window: Your fertility status will be displayed either as a red (you are fertile) or green (you are not fertile) light.”

The daysy fertility monitor is based off of basal body temperature alone. Daysy will not give you any green days for at least three cycles, while it gets to learn your cycle. It has a corresponding app that you can sync your device to (the device is a thermometer) where it will display the temperatures.

*I am currently using my daysy monitor as my thermometer and interpreting my temperatures by myself*

Daysy claims to be over 99% accurate at calculating your fertile time.

Ladycomp (the real OG)

The lady comp was the first fertility device around (has been around for atleast 20 years) and also uses basal body temperature to give you a fertility status. It is physically bigger than the daysy and provides more information about your past and future fertility (when to expect your period, etc.)

Ladycomp claims to be 99.3% accurate at calculating your fertile time.

Natural cycles

Is and app that does sort of the same thing as the above two mentioned, but it has its own branded thermometer and you enter your temperatures into the app yourself. There is a large margin of error when it comes to this because it relies on the user to round her own temperatures and enter them, rather than it being read and kept by the device itself. I don’t recommend using this app if you are absolutely trying to avoid a pregnancy, as I have seen some big “oopsies” because the app miscalculated.

Natural cycles claims to be 93% effective at properly calculating your fertile time.

My thoughts & feelings on fertility devices:

While I think they are one of the best inventions since sliced bread, the downside to them is that the user does not ever gain the valuable knowledge about her body that she would if she were to learn and calculate her own fertility (BODY LITERACY!). Some women feel more confident to rely on a device to tell them when it is safe to have intercourse (and I can understand that), but what i’d really like to see happen is women really begin taking their health and fertility into their own hands. Contrary to popular belief, if a woman learns FAM properly and practices it well, she IS capable of preventing or achieving a pregnancy exactly when she wants to, if she wants to. We need to believe this for ourselves, too.

Lactational Amenhorrhea Method (LAM);

Can be used for up to six months postpartum in a mom who has not yet had her first period return and is exclusively feeding her baby at the breast – no bottles, no soothers, no schedules. This method has been very effective for some women – up to 99.5% effective in fact, however, again, if you are seriously trying to avoid another pregnancy I would be careful with this method because say your babe gets sick and misses one breastfeed, your ovulation could return and you could become pregnant.

Other non-hormonal contraceptive options

Copper IUD

Is a little T shaped device that is coiled with copper that gets inserted into your uterus by the doctor and stays there for 3-10 years. For years, doctors explained that “we don’t know how the copper IUD words, but we know it works well”, but now we know that the copper induces an inflammatory immune response within your uterus, making it an inhospitable place for a pregnancy to grow. The copper is also toxic to sperm, making it harder to conceive. With 99.4%-99.6% effectiveness, it can also be used as an emergency contraception if you can get it in within 7 days after unprotected sex. The copper IUD is a great non-hormonal option for women who don’t have the time or efforts to put into learning a method of FAM, and who need their birth control to be as effective as possible. However, don’t let the 99.4% effectiveness steal your attention, because there are side effects with the copper IUD.

I’m going to get real with the critical thinking for you all because I feel like this is an area that some people don’t realize – if a copper IUD can prevent a pregnancy 7 days after unprotected sex, then what it actually is capable of doing is aborting a pregnancy. It was for this reason that when I wanted one when I was 21, my doctor actually wouldn’t do it for me – he sent it to someone else – because it was “against his religious views”. There is the possibility that conception can occur but due to the inflamed, copper toxic environment, the pregnancy cannot really take off.

There are the rare risks of things such as dislodgement (5% chance) and implantation into the uterus (0.01% chance, although I have personally seen this in the operating room). Women who have an IUD tend to have more yeast infections, and another thing to consider is the fact that this is a foreign object in your body. This is important for folks who have an IUD and are struggling with inflammatory conditions. So long as you have an IUD in, your immune system is going to work harder than normal to try to attack the foreign “invader”.

Side effects involved with the copper IUD include (but are not limited to): Longer, heavier, more painful periods (the copper is increasing inflammation, remember..) So if this is you, keep an eye on your iron levels after having a copper IUD inserted! The copper IUD claims to not cause any weight gain, mood changes, nausea or sore breasts, but this is simply not true observationally. Many women do experience hormonal changes after having the copper IUD, so if you feel like its caused some changes for you, it may not be all in your head. More research is needed in this area to determine other side effects that may be associated with the copper IUD.

condom

Condoms

Are considered a barrier method: they physically keep sperm contained from entering the vagina. They come in two varieties: Mens & womens and are available In latex and non-latex (polyurethane). Condoms are generally not a couples favourite choice because they can decrease sensation for both partners, especially if a man has been circumsized. They’re also a bit of hassle to have to apply every time you want to have intercourse. They are however, the only form of birth control that protects against STI’s.

A note about lubricated condoms: the lube that comes in these is generally of low-quality, so they can cause irritation for some women. Some condoms also come with spermicide in them, which can cause issues for women (see diaphragm & spermicide below). If you choose to use your own lube with these, make sure it’s water based because oil-based lube will break down your condom!

Condoms are 85-98% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Diaphragm & spermicide

A diaphragm is a rubber cap-like object that you use by inserting into the vagina to cover your cervix prior to intercourse, so that sperm cannot travel into your uterus. It is also a barrier method. It is expected that you use it with spermicide, a jelly lubricant that kills sperm. In order for a diaphragm to be effective you need to have it fitted for you by a doctor. After intercourse, you need to keep it in place for 6 hours to allow the spermicide to kill the sperm. They do come in silicon as well, for those who are allergic to latex.

Spermicide (called nonoxynol-9) is actually quite irritating to the vaginal mucosa, and in fact health Canada has recommended that each woman re-evaluate whether she needs to use this or if there is a safer method. When the vaginal mucosa is irritated, it is more susceptible to contracting STI’s & HIV. Additionally, spermicide has been known to increase UTI’s in some women, so if you are prone to UTI’s, this isn’t for you!

 

I hope this guide has been somewhat helpful in answering your questions with regards to non-hormonal options for contraception. I also hope that conversations related to these topics continue to get louder and louder so that more research can be done and hopefully more options will become available to men and women trying to avoid pregnancy! 

THANKS FOR READING ❤

 

Photo credits for photos not taken by myself:

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Photo by Simone van der Koelen on Unsplash
Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

 

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Body Literacy GIVEAWAY

I love social media because as I like to describe it, if you’re using it properly its like going to a party where you know NOBODY but then by the end of the night, you’ve made tons of new friends – And they all have the same things in common as you! You can literally choose who you virtually congregate around and you can form friendships easily.

However, sometimes I really struggle with social media because of the marketing and influential aspect. Which I myself participate in. Ironic, I know.

What I’m talking about is the heavy influence that I see out there telling (specifically) women that they should do this and DON’T do that. They SHOULD eat a keto diet to heal their hormones. They SHOULD NOT eat animals because thats horrible. They NEED to try this amazing (but bloody expensive) antioxidant supplement. Please know that anything I ever talk about on my blog or on my Instagram page is, as explicitly explained in my “about me” page on this website, a sharing of information and of my experience, and never a one way fits all.

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If you’ve been following me for sometime, you’ll get the sense that I feel strongly about hormonal birth control. When I write about it and share about it, my heart is to simply share information that I feel like women have missed. There is a huge lack of education around this subject that I feel passionate to rectify. That being said, and I’ve said it before – there are situations where a woman will choose to take hormonal birth control. Is this wrong? NO! As long as a woman is properly educated about a topic, I would hope that she is able to make a decision about her health that she feels good about, no matter what that decision is.

Before I became a nurse, things were a lot more black and white for me. I remember my FIRST EVER maternity patient was a mother who had been trying to conceive for seven years. They finally gave up trying and then whoopsie doopsie, she wound up pregnant. Before I met her I read through her history (as I do with all of my patients), and discovered that she was a smoker. My instant reaction was to want to march in the room and tell her “don’t you know how bad it is to smoke in your pregnancy?!?!”. I didn’t yet have the nurse-guts to tell my patients “what’s up” at that time, so I just went in and cared for her as if she were a regular human being. Let me tell you, the love in that hospital room was INSANE. She was the cutest little baby girl ever and the love that both of her parents had for her was palpable through just the energy in the room alone. This baby was not just the result of a Good Friday night, this was the result of seven years of emotional rollercoasters, and now finally, she was here and their hearts, as a family, were complete.

What I didn’t know as a young nurse but do know now is that the best way to encourage people to make positive health changes is to meet them where they’re at. Provide education, help them with what they need support with, and put your own judgements and personal opinions aside. If you do this, your influence will be great.

I did not agree with that woman smoking in her pregnancy and I would never condone any woman to smoke in her pregnancy, but what I didn’t know was the other awful things that were occurring in her life at the time, which made her feel like she couldn’t give up that coping mechanism just yet. And I learned about these sensitive subjects because when I treated her like a human being, she opened up to me and she trusted me. I can guarantee that had I of marched into the room and told her that she NEEDED to do this or NOT do that, it would not have brought her any closer to quitting. I provided her with information on the effects of smoking around a baby, ways to quit and resources to help her quit when she felt she was ready. That time was going to need to be determined by nobody other than her.

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My goal for my presence within the social media world is not to tell you that you should or shouldn’t do anything. In fact, my goal is to provide education to help promote body literacy. Body literacy is as it reads: being able to understand the language (signs and symptoms) your body gives you. And when it gives you signs, be able to interpret them to then in turn, give it what it’s asking for. Seek help when you think you need it. Eat differently when you’re feeling crappy. Try different tactics to help balance your hormones. Body literacy is something you learn over time, its not something that can be gained in one night from reading one persons blog, but I can guarantee it will leave you feeling empowered and better able to make decisions about your health.

As a way to celebrate body literacy, I am doing a giveaway on my instagram page to help YOU get in touch with your body. In true Kim fashion, it has to do with periods and hormones of course! I’ve been so lucky to have received my favourite book from the author herself, Lara Briden, for giveaway. “Period Repair Manual” is exactly as it reads, a manual that you can go to time and time again when you feel like your cycle is off. This book covers EVERYTHING, from how to support your body when coming off the pill, to how to deal with certain hormonal conditions such as PCOS, to how to deal with peri-menopause. This book has specific dietary and supplement recommendations by Lara Briden who is a naturopathic doctor that specializes in women hormones. Once you read this book you’re likely going to want to try a new supplement or at the very least, make some healthy meals for yourself to support proper hormone balance. So thats why I’m also including a $100 Whole Foods gift card so that after reading the book you can decide what it is YOUR body is needing at this time!

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To enter, see my instagram page @kimschneids

Common vs. normal periods

Often women experience things or wonder about their cycle and are told that it is “common”. There is a big difference between what is “Normal” and what is “Common”.

It is common to have really painful periods, but it is not normal.

It is common to experience major PMS, but it is not normal.

It is common to bleed heavily, but it is not normal.

There are cases where you may regularly experience something in your cycle that has always been that way, and its normal for you – but if it interferes with your well being and your doctor just keeps telling you that its normal, seek out a different health care provider.

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So what is normal anyways?

For the post pubescent adult female this is what you can expect for a normal period…

Cycle Length

Normal is anywhere from 24-36 days. Contrary to popular belief that a cycle should be 28 days for everyone, a cycle that is regularly 35 days long is normal. Anything less than 24 days may just be because your follicle begins to develop early, but it also could mean that you are low in progesterone. A cycle that is longer than 36 days is often due to delayed follicle stimulation, which often occurs due to stress or illness. If you experience long cycles or go months without a period, its probably because your body is trying to ovulate but it can’t. This is not normal and should be investigated by a health care professional.

Bleeding Length

Bleeding should last between 3 and 7 days long and should start medium-heavy and progresses to light. Sometimes it is normal to have a lighter day before your heavy day. It is normal to have 1 heavy day, a few medium days and a few light days.

Spotting for a day or two before your period may be a sign of progesterone deficiency. If your period is short and light all the way through, you likely did not ovulate that month and instead you’re just having a shed due to falling estrogen levels.

Amount of blood

You should loose approximately 50 mls of blood throughout your entire period (10 fully soaked regular tampons, approx 3 tablespoons).

Less than 25 mls is considered a light flow, and may mean that you did not ovulate that cycle. Yes thats right, if your period is TOO light, thats a concern, as well! If you did not ovulate, you didn’t make any progesterone to help support the uterine lining, so when your estrogen levels eventually fall, you’ll have a small bleed but this is technically not a period.

More than 80mls of blood is a heavy flow, which you may want to have investigated due to the risk of anemia, as well as for other issues with regards to why you bleed so much (endometriosis, thyroid condition, hormonal imbalance). On this note, even if your bleeding is not quite 80 mls but is on the heavier side and you’re left feeling wiped during or after your period, have yourself checked out for anemia.

Quality of blood

When your blood exits your body, it should be bright red and then fade to light pink as the days go on. Brown blood is blood that has been oxidized (come in contact with air) and is a sign of old blood. If your blood is commonly brown when it exits your body (not when its been on your pad for a few hours, but when its fresh) you may want to consider improving pelvic circulation through movement and exercise, or even sex, to help flush out the old stuff.

Small clots can be normal especially on a heavier flow day, and especially if you have been sitting or lying down for a long period of time and then stand up. Blood will sometimes pools in the vagina and while it’s sitting there it will begin to clot. However, frequent, large clots are not normal and could be a sign of excess estrogen or endometriosis.

Spotting

Spotting during your cycle is generally abnormal. It may be due to estrogen levels that are too low or too high, or if it occurs for a few days before your period, it may be a sign that you have low thyroid or progesterone levels.

Other causes of spotting can be caused by undiagnosed sexually transmitted infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical hyperplasia or polyps, endometriosis or other abnormalities in the vagina or uterus.

Some people experience ovulation spotting, which looks like light spotting on the day of ovulation, which is normal. It may also be normal to experience some light pink bleeding after sex, especially if it was more vigorous than usual.

The Exceptions

Where you can expect to see things a little different with your cycle include: From puberty – up until the age of 18, Post-partum or breastfeeding, and peri-menopause to menopause.

It is normal to have irregular periods in your teens (cycles can last up to 45 days long) and this is why its such a shame that doctors are quick to prescribe hormonal birth control for teens who want to regulate their period, because teens are 80% more likely to suffer from depression as a side effect of birth control, than adult women (1). The fact that a teens menstrual cycle does not regulate for a few years suggests that her brain also hasn’t finished developing either, making her even more susceptible to mental health disorders to begin with.

During the post partum period, you may experience some bleeding at 6 weeks as this is when the high levels of pregnancy hormones seem to decline. Breastfeeding also causes hormones to fluctuate in such a way that may result in some spotting but are not real periods. This is normal. After giving birth, the return of a period differs for each individual and it will depend on how long you breastfeed for.

At around age 40, your periods start to change and become less regular as you enter peri-menopause. This is likely due to the loss of follicles, which are needed for adequate hormone production. This is where hormone replacement therapy (estrogen) and bio-identical progesterone can come in handy, because the loss of hormone production can result in the awful side effects we all hear about being associated with menopause.

So, how does your period match up? Have you done something to improve your periods for the better? Share below!

 

Resources:
FEMM teacher education training
Contraception Technology 20th revised edition, R. Hatcher, J. Trussell, A. Nelson, W. Cates, D. Kowal, M. Policar
Period Repair Manual, Lara Briden
Woman Code, Alisa Vitti
Taking Charge of your Fertility, Toni Weschler
(1) Skovlund CW, Mørch LS, Kessing LV, Lidegaard Ø. Association of Hormonal Contraception With Depression. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(11):1154–1162. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.2387

 

 

Pubic hair & your sexual health.

Yup, I’m talking about another taboo topic on the big open inter-webs.

Pubic Hair. Should you shave? Wax? Laser that shit away? or should you just let it grow wild?

The answer is this: it’s up to you. It is not up to what the potential men who are going to see you naked think. It’s not up to what your husband thinks. Its not up to what you think is the norm out there right now. Its simply about what you’re comfortable with.

Lets talk about a couple of things to consider when it comes to this topic..

Pubic hair has a purpose, and thats to protect your bits from germs that can cause infection. When we strip that away, we are removing a physical barrier to infection. Think: genital herpes, genital warts, yeast infections. You are more likely to contract an STI if you have removed your pubic hair (1a, 1b, 1c). Additionally, you are more likely to have vulvular dysplasia (a change in the cells that can lead to cancer) or cancer itself from shaving your pubic hair (1d). Folks who have removed their pubic hair even once in their lifetime were more likely to have had a history of an STI!

We also have to think about the method in which it is removed. Shaving and waxing can often lead to microscopic cuts, ingrown hairs, irritated hair follicles and redness. Did you know that our skin (aka our integumentary system) is a large part of our immune system? It physically protects us from getting germs that belong on the outside, from getting into our insides. When our integument is compromised with things like cuts or irritation, it opens up a space for infection.

And did you know that having pubic hair increases sensation during intimacy? We have little nerve endings at each hair follicle that help with sexual arousal. Removing hair and/or damaging the follicles can lead to decreased arousal and even vaginal moisture!

But with all this being said, some people hate the feeling or the look of having hair down there. From looking at various informal online surveys, up to approx. 80% of women remove some if not all of their pubic hair in one way or another. There are different times of year (aka summer bikini season) where you may not want to have it all hanging’ out. So lets talk about the safest ways to remove it so you can prevent damage and protect your bits from potential pathogens!

Shaving

It seem this is the most common method people choose. If you’re going to shave regularly, try to soak the skin in warm water first (a bath) to help with removal. Never use a dull or dirty razor and if you find that your skin is sensitive and ends up in red bumps afterwards – try applying deodorant as your “shaving cream” – trust me, it works!

Trimming

Also popular, removing some of the hair but not all of it with an electric shaver can be a good way to help decrease the bush load without as much irritation to the skin. This might be a safer option for those with super sensitive skin!

Waxing

Consider where and who is waxing your bits for you. Most people opt to have it done at a waxing bar rather than do it themselves – just make sure that you’re having a professional do it in a clean environment. Contracting skin or vaginal infections from the processes of waxing can be common.

Hair Removal Cream

Can be pretty risky and is essentially a low-key chemical burn. These creams are full of chemicals that have unknown effects on your reproductive system, I would avoid this method if you can.

Electrolysis & Laser Hair Removal

If you’re looking to bid your hair goodbye for good, same principles apply as for waxing. Make sure you’re going to a professional that has proper sanitation standards, and keep in mind the associated risks of having NO hair down there anymore.

So no matter the method you choose, or if you choose to use no method at all, YOUR hair is YOUR choice, just the same as the hair on your head.

 

 

References:
1a. 2017, Osterberg EC1,2, Gaither TW1, Awad MA1, Truesdale MD1, Allen I3, Sutcliffe S4, Breyer BN1,3.
1b. https://sti.bmj.com/content/93/3/162
1c. 2015. Gaither TW1, Truesdale M, Harris CR, Alwaal A, Shindel AW, Allen IE, Breyer BN.
1d. 2018, (Schild-Suhren M#1, Soliman AA#1, Malik E1.

 

Why I’ve switched to cloth pads

While I do use a menstrual cup during the day, I prefer to use a pad at night and on light days because often my pelvic area is really achy and it feels better to not have anything up there. I have recently made the switch to cloth pads after some skepticism but I won’t be turning back!

 

Reasons why I’m now on the cloth pad train:

  • They feel SOFT on your lady bits. You don’t feel like you’re wearing a diaper, it just feels like you’re wearing your regular cotton underwear.
  • Because of the plastic (not the blood; surprise: blood doesn’t really smell like anything), disposable pads start to smell after a few hours. Cloth pads have literally NO odour.
  • The only chemicals in the cloth are the ones you wash your clothes in, which you have control over.
  • They absorb just as much blood as a disposable pad does. You need to change it just as often as you would a disposable one.
  • They come in various different sizes, just like disposable ones, to fit your body and flow.
  • I don’t have to constantly remember to close the bathroom door all the time while i’m on my period… (My dog is an animal and loves to eat dirty pads.. barf)
  • They’re a heck of a lot better for the environment.
  • Over time, they save money. One cloth pad is about $20, but if you think of how much money you spend yearly on pads, cloth pads are a no-brainer. I mean, people have been using cloth diapers on babies for decades for financial benefit so there’s no reason I can do the same for myself.

Tips for managing cloth pads:

One thing I noticed with them is that because they don’t have the adhesive that a disposable pad does, they can sometimes slide around on your underwear. This is where its important to choose the right size of cloth pad for your body and flow – it will help keep it in place. As for cleaning them, I usually don’t have to worry about changing them when i’m out and about because I use a menstrual cup during the day, but I keep a separate large container (used yogurt container – the big square one) and I keep my used folded ones (see clip below of how easy they are to store once they’re used) and period underwear in there. When I’m finished my period, I fill the container up with cold water to rinse them in the tub and then throw them in the washer with my darks. Thats. it. I hang my cloth pads and period underwear up to dry instead of using the dryer like I do with all of my favourite pieces because the dryer is the ruiner of all things nice!

Lunapads is my go-to brand for cloth pads here in Victoria BC because you can purchase them either online or at local stores like London Drugs. Lunapads are made in East Vancouver (my old hood!) in accordance to their sustainable and feminist values. They create these little gems with zero waste, low carbon production and they use sustainable materials like organic cotton. And get this! They donate a portion of their sales to feminist organizations such as Pads4Girls – This company checks all the boxes for me!

Have you tried cloth pads? What are your thoughts? Comment below!

Big Announcement! (not the pregnancy kind) & my birth control story.

Why I quit birth control pills and will never, ever look back.

It started when I was 15 years old, I had my first “boyfriend” and my mom sat me down and said “I think it would be a good idea for us to go to the doctor to get you some birth control…  you know… so that when you need it, you’re already used to taking it”. I wasn’t sexually active yet but I had heard that birth control did good things for your skin and I thought that sounded pretty good. My doctor took my blood pressure (which was fine obviously because I was 15 years old) and prescribed me the pill. I was told nothing about side effects to the pill. At 15, I barely even knew what a side effect was because beyond taking Tylenol & Advil for my cramps, what medications was I ever taking? Probably none.

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17 year old me – most I’ve ever weighed and a D cup!!

Fast forward to 17, after experiencing depression and mood swings and loosing friends because of it (I was a NIGHTMARE at times), It came time to think about a prom dresses. I went shopping with my mom and found a super cute little white sparkly dress, but it was just a tad too small. I purchased it in January and thought “no problem, I have until June to shed a few pounds which should be no problem because I love to work out and eat healthy!”. So I did. My mom would take me to the gym before school with her in the morning and I was known as the salad girl at school, always eating a clean lunch. March rolled around and I had lost 1 pound. I was so upset and discouraged. I now think back about how fucked up it was that I was stressing about loosing 5-10 pounds at the age of 17, but at the same time It is concerning that despite my efforts, I wasn’t able to loose any weight. Something inside me made me wonder if my birth control pill was causing me to gain weight, so naturally I hit up Dr. Google for some advice. Sure enough, hundreds of women over various different “fourms” (as they were called back in the day ;)) with testimonies of how birth control made them emotional, depressed, suicidal, fat, and killed their libido. I checked nearly all of those boxes and couldn’t believe that nobody had ever mentioned this to me before, especially my doctor. Not once over the years, in all of my appointments for a refill on my prescription did he ever ask how things were going for me. (PS this is not a stab at my doctor, I respect him to this day, he’s a great doctor and did amazing things for our family when my mom was sick and dying but womens health is definitely not his specialty).

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So I decided in that moment to stop taking my pill. And to my surprise, by June, I fit into my dress. I had lost 20 pounds in 2 months and I felt like a completely different human. I was happier, I had so much more energy, everything felt lighter. Over the next few years, with nursing school starting I had tried to go back onto the pill (for fear of becoming pregnant at a highly inconvenient time) but every time I tried it, it didn’t work. Over my lifetime I have tried Tri-Cyclen, Alesse, Yasmin, Linessa, Marvelon, the depo shot (which was by far the worst – holy shit), and the Nuva Ring. Some made me less crazy than others, and some gave me more yeast infections than others, but over all they all did the same thing – caused me to gain weight, be depressed, have low energy and generally a lower quality of life.

But what about avoiding pregnancy? I’ll admit it. There aren’t any reversible methods of contraception out there that are as mindless and effective as the pill is. Learn how the pill works here. And if you’re taking the pill and its working for you, then great! Keep it that way. This is NOT an article to try to convince everyone to stop taking their birth control! Hormones aside, I did try having a copper IUD for a while, which caused me chronic pelvic pain the whole time and turned my period into a hemorrhage. What I became more drawn to was this idea of the Fertility Awareness Method – Tracking bodily symptoms to figure out when you’re fertile and when you’re not, and scheduling your boom-boom-business around those times or using a barrier method during your fertile window. I avoided learning the method for years because I didn’t trust myself to be able to understand and practice it well enough for it to work. But after a few years of using condoms and becoming allergic to latex, It seemed I was running out of contraception options (yes except latex-free condoms). I ordered “Taking Charge of your Fertility” by Toni Weschler, and got myself a drug store brand basal body thermometer, and starting charting my fertility in the app called Kindara. I joined a FAM facebook group and asked for advice from other women practicing the same method as needed. That was five years ago, and I haven’t been pregnant yet. Not only am I not pregnant, I have learned SO much about my body. I can tell you exactly which months I ovulated and which months I didn’t, and I can tell when I’m going to get my period. If my period is late, I can tell by looking at my daily temperatures whether I’m pregnant or if I just ovulated late. The body confidence I’ve gained from tracking my cycle and practicing FAM has been so empowering. And so this is why I’ve decided to become a certified FAM instructor, using the FEMM method – Fertility Education and Medical Management. I start the course in January and will be taking clients probably in April either in person or online via skype and I am SO excited. This is my passion – this is my true passion. I can only hope that eventually, one day this information will be taught to girls in high school so that they don’t have to experience the same dismal effects that me and so many other women have experienced!

Very green ESTROBOWL

Based on request, I thought it was time for a new smoothie bowl recipe! With this recipe I’ve stuck to my basic estrogen decreasing components but also added some other goodies in there. First off: SPIRULINA. Spirulina is a concentrated algae powder that is basically like a nutrition bomb. It contains at least some amount of almost all the nutrients you need daily, but specifically has a high amount of B vitamins and Iron in it. For those heavy period bleeders, iron can be a constant battle, and B vitamins are important during the menstrual phase to help create new hormones for the cycle ahead! Spirulina is not good for those who are prone to gout or kidney stones, or who are already on anticoagulants.

Instead of protein powder I have used collagen in this recipe – specifically marine collagen. Marine collagen is derived from fish. Collagen is a peptide that supports healthy hair, nails, gut health, and hormone production. Also, although not a complete protein, collagen is high in protein as well!

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Very Green ESTROBOWL

  • 1/2c steamed then frozen cauliflower
  • 1/2 – 1 whole frozen banana
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1-2 handfuls of greens: spinach, kale, chard
  • 1 serving of collagen (I used @sproos)
  • 2 teaspoons of spirulina
  • a dollop of coconut yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon of ground flax seed
  • 1 Tablespoon of hemp hearts
  • Coconut milk to blend

Top with whatever you’d like! Maybe cycle specific seeds: flax & pumpkin seeds if you’re in the first half of your menstrual cycle, or sesame & sunflower if you’re in the second half! Also coconut, cashews, almonds, fruit… possibility are endless!

**Win this super cute smoothie spoon for all your smoothie bowl needs – see my instagram to enter! Contest goes until January 11, 2019 at 11:59PM PST and must be a Canadian resident to enter – no purchase necessary!**