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Natural Awakenings Boston

Natural Birth Control Methods Support Overall Health

Apr 29, 2014 11:57AM ● By Katja Swift

The vast majority of birth control options in the United States involve hormones. Many women don’t want to take artificial hormones, however, due to the possibility of long-term health problems and such side effects as mood disorders, brain fog, fatigue and hypothyroid symptoms. But perhaps even more important than potential side effects is the disruption of natural human cycles that hormonal birth control methods can trigger.

A woman’s menstrual cycle requires fluctuation in levels of hormones, in particular estrogen and progesterone, in order to function properly. It turns out that those hormones are connected to a much larger system that includes the regulation of insulin, cortisol, adrenalin and melatonin. As these hormones are interconnected, a lack of fluctuation in some of them, as triggered by certain birth control methods, can disrupt sleep and hunger cycles and the ability to effectively recover from stress.

The emphasis on hormonal birth control has left many women unaware of the non-hormonal options that are available to them. The most common of these are condoms, but some of them also carry potential health risks. Many women that believe they are allergic to the latex in condoms are actually reacting to the spermicide known as nonoxynol-9. A United Nations study in 2000 revealed that this spermicide can increase the risk of sexually transmitted diseases because it irritates vaginal tissue, leading to increased permeability that could allow pathogens into the body.

Fortunately, many brands of condoms are now available without spermicide, and thinner condoms on the market promise greater sensation for men that use them. However, there is a deeper way to practice birth control that builds greater connection to the natural cycles that are part of healthy human life. Such methods include fertility tracking, supporting appropriate fluctuation with food and herbs, and making sure to live a life that includes balanced time for work, play and adequate sleep.

Fertility tracking is done by charting oral temperatures first thing upon waking each morning. There is a significant spike in oral temperature immediately following ovulation, which is a very clear way to see what’s going on in the body. Over time, a distinct pattern emerges with stable predictability in the fertility cycle. When a pattern doesn’t emerge, it indicates an imbalance in the body that should be addressed.

Charting temperature and monitoring other factors such as sleep, exercise and food can yield important information about not only fertility, but also many other aspects of a woman’s health. Thus, it is a great habit to build for general health awareness. To see a sample charting template and instructions for using this method, visit

In addition to charting, a woman’s natural cycles can be supported with food and herbs as well. Reducing overall sugar intake helps to regulate hormones, starting with insulin. A few days before the onset of menstruation, drinking a daily tea with red raspberry, pennyroyal and chamomile can support an easier period and calmer moods. Nettle tea, steeped overnight for the highest mineral concentration, supports an easier, less “crampy” menstruation with fewer mood swings. Damiana is useful at other times to support a couple relaxing from the workday and settling in for intimate time together.

Katja Swift is director of Common- Wealth Center for Herbal Medicine, located at 25 St. Marys Ct., in Brookline. For more information, call 617-750-5274 or visit

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