Following on from yesterday’s blog, I’ve had a lot of women ask me what contraceptive methods they can use if they come off the pill – and that’s a great question!
I would always recommend condoms first, just because there is no negative impact on the body and they are 98% effective (almost as much as the pill). They’re not difficult to use and you can get them for free from most sexual clinics. You also have latex free options for those with latex allergies.
Yes, perhaps condoms are messier and more inconvenient, but they’re important because they also protect against STDs. There is rise in cervical cancer because we are no longer using condoms. Yes, that’s right. We’re now relying solely on the pill, only concerned about pregnancy, and spreading HPV between each other at a scary rate.
Virtually all cervical cancer cases are caused by the HPV virus (part of the Herpes family), as stated on the Cancer Research UK website.
“But I had the cervical cancer vaccination” – this doesn’t mean you’re safe I’m afraid. The vaccination protects against some of the high risk strains, but not all of them. There are over 200 strains of HPV! If anything, I think this has led people to think they don’t need to worry and have become more relaxed in my opinion. Also, if you practised unprotected sex before the vaccine, this could already be in your system and the vaccine doesn’t protect against any existing virus.
In persistent ‘high-risk’ HPV infections the virus can damage DNA and cause cells to start dividing and growing out of control, which can lead to cancer. The worrying thing about this virus is that men can carry it without ever knowing, because no STD checks can identify it. The herpes test in sexual health clinics are only for herpes simplex which result in cold sores, genital warts. etc.
The amount of women with these dangerous strains of HPV is rising because more and more people are having unprotected sex. Women only find out if they have these HPV strains when they go for their smear test. If they’re at high risk of cervical cancer they then have to have these cells burnt out, but that doesn’t mean it won’t ever return.
This virus can lay dormant for many years in the tissues and cause unknown long-term damage. Whether that be cervical cancer later down the line, impact on fertility or compromise our immune system. Even in a committed long-term relationship, if your partner has had unprotected sex previously, they could have (or have had) the HPV virus. THIS is why I always recommend using condoms. It’s not sexy but it’s safe.
If you really don’t want to use condoms and you’re in a committed long-term relationship (I know, I sound like an old women), but I’ve seen too many statistics not to worry, then there are a few natural methods. These are onerous and they do involve listening to your body. You should also combine methods in order to increase the effectiveness. Using the temperature, mucus and calendar method together will give you 98%-99% effectiveness.
Let’s start with the temperature method;
This is a way to pinpoint the day of ovulation so that sex can be avoided for a few days before and after peak ovulation days. The temperature method involves taking your temperature upon first waking up in the morning with an accurate “basal” thermometer. Then, you note the rise in temperature that occurs after ovulation takes place. Ovulation causes a slight, but noticeable rise in body temperature which can be tracked over time. When you measure your temperature every morning, you can learn to evaluate data over several months to recognise your own fertility pattern. This helps you figure out which days to avoid sex. Temperature method is most reliable when combined with the mucus method; the two methods combined can have a success rate as high as 98 percent.
So then onto the mucus method;
When oestrogen rises in your body, the texture of your vaginal discharge varies. For the first few days after your period, there is often no discharge, but there will be a cloudy, tacky mucus as oestrogen starts to rise. When the discharge starts to increase in volume and becomes clear and stringy, ovulation is near. A return to the tacky, cloudy mucus or no discharge means that ovulation has passed. This method can work very well (about 90 percent effectively) when used by women with regular cycles, however it’s not a good match for those who have irregular periods, frequent vaginal infections or irregular mucus or who have recently given birth.
And finally, there is the calendar method;
This is a term for practicing abstention from sex during the week the woman is ovulating. This technique works best when a woman’s menstrual cycle is very regular. The calendar method doesn’t work very well for couples who use it by itself (about a 75 percent success rate), but it can be very effective when combined with the temperature and mucus methods.
There are many Apps available now which help you track the above and assist you in calculating your fertility.
One more thing I should add, is that the other problem we have is for women who have irregular periods. Now, going on the OCP has helped with this but it’s only masking the symptom. Your body is being irregular for a reason and something is going wrong. Using a synthetic hormone to “correct” it, isn’t remedying the underlying problem. You are better to stop the OCP and resolve the underlying issue that is impacting this. It could be PCOS, endometriosis, painful cramps, heavy bleeding, but whatever it is, it’s a sign of a bigger picture.
If you want any more help or advice, feel free to contact me at;