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Discovering Life After Hormonal Birth Control [Fertility Writers Series]

Dear reader,

I’ve never really written anything before so please be patient. Like many women in their 30s I recently embarked on motherhood. It’s been, and still is, a life-changing experience. But, for me, one of the biggest changes has been the discovery of my own body.

When you’re pregnant for the first time you notice every inch of it. But, this story isn’t about the birth of my amazing daughter. This is about something much more important that I feel I need to share, fertility awareness!

I considered myself a relatively well-educated and intelligent, modern woman, so how is it that I didn’t know that there’s an alternative to hormonal birth control (HBC)? I didn’t know because my school sex-education classes consisted of:

  • Women should have a period every 28 days
  • This is a condom and this is a banana
  • You shouldn’t use tampons if you’re a virgin
  • You never know when you might ovulate so you could potentially get pregnant anytime
  • Oh, and, let’s not forget, you can’t get pregnant having sex during your period

After the birth of my beautiful daughter, during my six-week exam, I was asked about my plans for birth control. I’d been on HBC most of my life and felt like it was time for a change so I opted for a Mirena coil. This was fine for the first year, but after 12 months of use, I developed horrendous, persistent, resistant, thrush.

At the time, I didn’t realize that this was all linked to my return of fertility (ROF). I’d returned to work and pretty much stopped breastfeeding. So, my hormone balance had changed because, unknown to me, I was actually ovulating again.

The coil was removed and, surprise, surprise, my thrush disappeared, practically overnight, after months of discomfort. So, back to the pill, I thought. It’s not like I had any problems before, and I got pregnant straight off the starting blocks so it can’t be that bad for you. Right?

WRONG!

I’d experienced life without HBC for only two years and was shocked to find that I’d actually had loads of side effects from the pill all those years ago. I just didn’t realize they were side effects because I thought they were normal.

What was most noticeable was the reduced libido, the weight gain, the low-grade depression, and the restless leg syndrome. In fact, it was the restless legs that made me connect the dots. I’d suffered terribly with night cramps throughout my early 20s. I even took quinine bisulphate nightly for years. Could it have been the pill? Surely not. My doctor would have said something and not given me another drug to sort the symptoms of the first drug.

So, I started looking for an alternative. There must be something better. On one of the many mother and baby Facebook pages I asked, “Ladies, is there an alternative to the pill?” I was directed to the book “Taking Charge of Your Fertility (TCOYF)” by Toni Weschler. I then discovered the Facebook group Fertility Awareness Method of Birth Control.

Those ladies are amazing, a multicultural menagerie of like-minded women devoted to women’s health and education. As a result of their collective knowledge, I bought more books and gained more information about how my body works.

I can recommend “The Complete Guide to Fertility Awareness” by Jane Knight and “Justisse Method” by Geraldine Matus for further reading. So, I stopped taking the pill and bought myself a Basal Body Thermometer (BBT). Here’s my very first chart.

Sarah Broadberry Basal Body Temperature Chart

I’m so proud of that first chart. It wasn’t easy getting up at 5AM every morning to take my oral temperature. At the time I was co-sleeping with my then two-and-a-half-year old, who I’ll admit any day is an awful sleeper.

To get an accurate BBT temperature it is preferable to get three hours of sleep before taking your temperature. This is no small feat when sleeping with a restless toddler. So, again, I was on the hunt for knowledge. There had to be a better way of taking my BBT. 

I tried “first waking temp” and, while I still did get a workable chart, I just didn’t trust it enough to have unprotected sex (UP) in my infertile phase. Tempdrop launched in July 2017 after years of development and crowdfunding and it seemed like a good option to solve my problem. 

I’d seen the device mentioned in the FAM Facebook page. I had also considered the Ava Bracelet, but it was much more expensive and, after a quick search of their website, I found it’s not recommended for women trying to avoid (TTA) pregnancy.

So, I bought myself a Tempdrop (TD)! I was so excited to buy it and pretty miffed when it got held in customs for a week, but it finally arrived and I haven’t regret buying it for a second. The armband did take some getting used to - I don’t normally wear any jewellery because I find it claustrophobic - but after a week I barely remembered it was there, so much so I forgot to turn it on one night! 

Now, over a year has passed and I never, ever want to go back to manual, traditional BBT temping. Not only do I not have to wake up at the same time each day, but it also has an algorithm that seems to compensate for alcohol, traveling, daylight savings time, minor illness, and, most importantly, frequent nighttime waking. 

This is because unlike traditional temping Tempdrop takes your temperature thousands of times a night. It uses this data along with data on sleep patterns to discern one temp for that night, and the more data you feed the algorithm, the better it filters. I admit this did take some getting used to - when the past 30 temps change overnight after you sync the morning of day 31, it is pretty unnerving. But, my charts speak for themselves.

Tempdrop Sleeping Temperature Data Comparison Chart

Now I’m over 18 months into using Tempdrop. I feel amazing, rejuvenated, and free. I have learnt so much about myself this last year. I am grateful to the patience of others who have helped me along the way and my only wish for every woman is that they are informed about their options as I now am.

And, now, I have this to be excited about:

Tempdrop baby on the way

My way is not for everyone. It requires patience and education, but it is a viable option. I am thankful that I can pass this knowledge on to my daughter and she will have the power to make truly informed decisions about her own fertility journey.

Tempdrop Year of Sleeping Temperature Data Chart

Thanks for reading,

Sarah Broadberry, Tempdrop User, FAM Advocate 

Sarah Broadberry

FAM Advocate, Tempdrop User

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