By Angeliz Venter
This blog is dedicated to all the people who sent me unsolicited messages after we announced our pregnancy, about how they ‘understood’ and can relate to having an unplanned pregnancy at a young age and basically just projecting their own experiences on our situation. Dear friends, (essentially strangers) we planned this pregnancy by using Natural Cycles to track my fertility, it wasn’t an “oepsie” as you so kindly indicated and maybe if you read the blog further you would understand a little bit better…
Great! Now that, that is off my chest, this blog is actually for all the women who are sick and tired of hormonal contraceptives side effects, forgetting to drink the pill, not understanding your body or cycle and wanting to track your fertility or pregnancy. I first heard about Natural Cycles from a friend and as someone who have been on the pill for many years, it sounded completely absurd to me, to use an app as a contraceptive. But I was so tired of having monthly headaches, anxiety, mood changes and just not feeling like myself. So, I consulted my gynecologist (it’s always safer to do so before making major changes to your contraceptives) and with her go ahead, stopped using the pill and switched over to Natural Cycles. The app has 3 different “modes” or settings, namely, Birth Control, Plan Pregnancy and Follow Pregnancy. I initially used the Birth Control setting and upon signing up, you have to input as much data and information as possible, to have the most accurate results, you also have to take your temperature every morning before standing up, with a Basal thermometer and add it onto the app. If you are in South Africa, it’s difficult to get the Natural Cycles basal thermometer, but I just ordered one from Takealot and it works exactly the same. The main focus is to have a thermometer that records 2 decimals and not just one, seeing that a fluctuation in those two decimals can indicate if you are ovulating or not.
At first, I struggled to remind myself to take my temperature every morning before going to the bathroom, but after a few weeks it became a habit, just like drinking a pill at the same time every day. It’s also so important to know that the app takes a few months to accurately predict your ovulation patterns, so don’t get a fright when you start using the app and have a majority of ‘red days’ (which means you cannot have unprotected sex due to the risk of pregnancy). The longer you use the app and add in your temperature every morning, the more ‘green days’ would be displayed, which means it’s safe to have unprotected sex, to avoid pregnancy. As with any other contraceptive, it cannot protect you against STD’s and other transmittable infections and diseases, so it is up to you to still use protection against these things. With perfect use Natural Cycles has a 93% success rate as a birth control method. This compares exactly the same as the traditional pill which is also 93% effective, condoms which is 87%, the vaginal ring which is 93% and the copper and hormonal IUD that is 99% effective.
It took a few months for my cycle to balance out and return to nromal after many years of using the pill and throughout we used the Natural Cycles app effectively to avoid pregnancy as my uterus lining was too thin from using the pill for too long and had to return to its natural thickness for a successful pregnancy. As soon as we were ready, we switched the settings on the app to ‘Plan a Pregnancy’ and the algorithm changed to help you track your fertility, with green days being fertile days and red days being unfertile days. I was told that I would struggle getting pregnant due to having PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and having my left ovary burst due to cysts when I was 15, so we didn’t expect too much when we started trying for our first baby. I will be honest and say that I also stopped drinking alcohol two months before trying and I also read “What to expect before expecting” to ensure that we did everything right as much as we could (that is within our control). Within my first cycle and ovulation after actively trying to fall pregnant, it happened! Even though we were trying and expected it, we didn’t expect it so soon and a big part of me had a fear that we would struggle for years! We were very shocked that it happened so fast and it can be attributed to many different factors of things that I / we did to make it easier to conceive, but I do believe having the correct timeline of your cycle, understanding your body and the process it goes through every month to prepare for pregnancy is what helped us the most to conceive.
The part I loved the most is then switching over to the ‘Follow Pregnancy’ setting and having all my data pull through to instantly indicate when our little baby was conceived and when is the expected due date. It also immediately gives you updates on where you are within your pregnancy, weekly updates on where your baby’s growth is, as well as the changes your body is going through in that week. You also have the ability to change the due date, as that is something most gynecologists would suggest if they see that the baby is growing faster than usual etc. You can track all of your symptoms, your moods, sex life and temperatures within the app during your pregnancy and this helps to keep track of how you are feeling through each trimester.
What I love about Natural Cycles, except that it is hormone free and I feel like myself again, is that you can set reminders to take your temperature before you stand up and it gives you nightly reminders of when to go to sleep for a good night’s rest and bedtime routines for optimal sleep. I also love their “Learn” section of the app. This is where weekly and sometimes daily blogs are posted all about female health, pregnancy, sex and many more as well as quizzes to test your knowledge about yourself, your body and female health in general. At least once per week I scroll through this section and read some interesting blogs or do a quiz and it’s actually shocking how much I learn every time even though I thought I know a lot on these topics already!
All in all, I love using Natural Cycles and I wish I was confident and educated enough earlier to start using a hormonal free contraceptive! I will definitely be using the app after my pregnancy, as I am scared to use anything hormonal again and especially when breastfeeding.
*Natural Cycles is FDA approved, but unfortunately, they are not yet working with medical aids in South Africa for you to claim back your monthly or annual subscription fee. AND I know as a South African, paying for something in $ is frightening (still works out at the same amount as the pill), that’s why I reached out to the Natural Cycles team for a discount code that works internationally. Use the code “Angeliz” for 20% off your annual subscription fee and save a bit of money. If you want to read more about Natural Cycles, visit https://www.naturalcycles.com/
** I know we as women go through many different struggles and I realize that we are very blessed to have been able to conceive so quickly and effortlessly. I acknowledge that even with using the app effectively, there might still be external and internal factors influencing your fertility journey. If you are currently struggling to get pregnant, I am thinking of you and praying with you that your miracle baby would soon make his or her appearance. Much love, Angeliz. **