Before finding the symptothermal method 3 years ago, I wasn’t sure if I would ever feel safe using a hormone-free, natural birth control. Now, three years later, I’ve converted many of my friends to the symptothermal method and we are never looking back.
In this post, learn everything you need to know about the symptothermal method and if it can be the right brith control choice for you.
Disclaimer: Please note, I am not a medical professional; I am simply sharing my personal experience. Please consult with your doctor before making a signifiant change to your sexual health. Birth control is an extremely personal choice and this article is in no way intended to condemn anyone’s choice on this matter.
What Is The Symptothermal Method?
The symptothermal method is a type of a fertility awareness method, which is a way for women to track the pregnancy and ovulation in order to prevent pregnancy or assist with conception.
There are different fertility awareness methods that range from tracking basal body temperature, charting your cycle, observing cervical mucus, and tracking your mensural cycle.
It is a Combination of Three Fertility Awareness Methods:
Tracking Basal Body Temperature
Observing Cervical Mucus
Charting Menstrual Cycle Length
Why Choose The Symptothermal Method?
With so many birth control options available to women, the first question people ask when they hear that I use a natural, hormone-free, birth control like the symptothermal method is, why?
There are many reasons why birth control with hormones isn’t for everyone. Some women have religious beliefs, medical conditions, a desire to live a more naturally-focused life, and some women just don’t enjoy the side effects of hormonal birth control.
For me, I didn’t like the idea of putting artificial hormones into my body and how long that it could take for my cycle to regulate once I stopped using the birth control. Plus, I was nervous about the mood swings, acne, weight gain, blood clots, and other possible side effects.
Is The Symptothermal Method Actually Effective?
According to FACTS About Fertility, the symptothermal method is “99.4-99.6% effective in avoiding pregnancy (98-99% effective with typical use).” That’s actually MORE effective than the contraceptive pill which is 91% effective with typical use, according to Planned Parenthood.
As is the case for many conventional medications, hormonal birth control has been advertised as the only effective birth control method for the past few decades. However, they are also known for a long list of undesirable side effects that make some women be leery of.
I had always believed that a woman could get pregnant at any point in her cycle without birth control but this is false. There are only on average 6 days per month that a woman is likely to get pregnant. When I begin researching if a natural, hormone-free, birth control method would be possible for me, I was shocked to learn how effective the Symptothermal Method can be.
Will It Work For Me?
Just like the contraceptive pill, this method of birth control will only work if you remember to do it. This method does require a little more forethought than other options like the arm implant, shot, or IUD. For me, it is worth the work to know I am not putting any type of artificial hormones in my body.
The best candidate for the The Symptothermal Method will be someone who is responsible enough to take their temperature at the same time each day (+/- two hours) five days/ week. Sounds simple enough, right?
How Does The Symptothermal Method Work?
In order to effectively use the Symptothermal Method, you will be tracking your cervical mucus, basal body temperature, and charting your cycle.
Again, on average, there are only 6 days in a woman’s cycle that she is likely to get pregnant. This method works by identifying your most fertile days so you know when to avoid unprotected sex. Of course, that is if you are trying to prevent pregnancy. This method also works in reverse. If you are trying to conceive, this method will also help you do that.
Example of A Symptothermal Method Daily Routine
Each morning when you wake up, before doing anything else, take your basal body temperature while lying down. Your body’s temperature fluctuates slightly depending on your cycle stage, this indicates if you are fertile or not. Put your temperature in a tracking app and also indicate if you are on your period.
Note: sickness, being hung-over, or sleeping differently could effect your body temperature and should be excluded from your measurements.
You can also note your cervical mucus as an indicator of what part of your cycle you are in:
No Mucus: Unlikely to be Fertile
Sticky: Low Fertility
Creamy: Fertile Window is Approaching
Egg White/Watery: Peak Fertility
As your fertile window approaches, you can also take ovulation (LH+) tests to confirm your ovulation date. A positive LH+ test indicates that you will be at your most fertile in the following 1-2 days.
What Is The Best Way to Track The Symptothermal Method?
For the best results using this method, I recommend using an app subscription to house all of your tracking information. The app be able to make informed predictions of your cycle based on your past information as time goes on. It also uses data from thousands of other women’s cycles to make informed predictions.
Don’t worry, reputable apps will not share your information directly with any other user.
What Are The Best Apps for The Symptothermal Method
Once I decided that I was going to try the symptothermal method, I spent hours on Google and Youtube. I wanted to learn everything about other people’s experiences and what app they used. I ultimately chose Natural Cycles because of how many users the app has and that it is FDA approved.
The Natural Cycles makes it easy for me to see if it’s a “red day” (fertile) or “green day” (infertile). Each morning, I input my temperature and instantly know what kind of day it is and then move on.
I also considered Daysy, but the price of the thermometer was a deterrent to me.
What Do When You Are Fertile?
Once, I was excitedly explaining the benefits of the Symptothermal Method to a friend and she was immediately uninterested. She didn’t like that you couldn’t have sex on a fertile day. Since most apps want to err on the side of caution, you may have 8-12 days a month where unprotected sex isn’t recommended in order to prevent pregnancy.
However, the answer here is simple- just use protection! Barrier methods like condoms are 82%-98% (according to the NHS) effective and easily solve this problem.
Are There Any Downsides to The Symptothermal Method?
Of course, nothing is perfect. Naturally, the symptothermal method has its downsides. This mainly has to do with the fact that you have to remember to take your temperature +/- 2 hours of your typical wake up time.
If you’re a college student or shift worker with an inconsistent schedule, this is going to be a struggle. If you are not going to be able to take your temperature +/- 2 hours of a “typical” wake up time 5 days a week, this method will be more ineffective.
Thankfully, there are products out there that solve this problem. Personally, I use the TempDrop armband (pictured above). You put it on before going to sleep and take it off when you wake up. This is nice because I never have to worry about waking up at a specific time, and can sleep in.
Another helpful product is the Oura Ring. You can wear this ring thought the day and night and it will track your basal body temperature. This nice thing about this option is that it syncs up with the Natural Cycles App.
Sadly, you’ll have to fork out $150-$350 depending on these options, which is unobtainable for some.
Another downside is that you have to remember to put your temperatures into your app to check your fertility. For some, this responsibility could feel like too much. You don’t want things to heat up in the bedroom and then have to stop to check your fertility. At that point, you’re much less likely to care.
Does it Work With Irregular Periods?
Often times, doctors will prescribe hormonal birth control to “regulate” a women’s period. While the science still hasn’t confirmed hormonal birth control actually does this, some women are looking for natural options.
A key factor to the symptothermal method is period and ovulation tracking. If you are not having a period on a regular basis, you also may not be ovulating every month. This is going to make it difficult for the algorithms in tracking apps, like Natural Cycles, to predict your fertility.
In short, I would recommend waiting to rely on this method until you have a regular period.
As always, if your period is irregular, please see your doctor. This could be an indication of malnourishment, PCOS, Endometriosis, and other medical conditions.
Recent research has shown that there is actually a close relationship between food, environment, and lifestyle and irregular periods. Nicole Jardim discusses more about this in her book, How to Fix Your Period.
Is The Symptothermal Method Expensive?
Unfortunately, the The symptothermal method is isn’t free or covered by certain insurance plans like some birth control options.
Each year, I pay $99 for a Natural Cycles subscription, which included a free basal body thermometer. While there are free apps out there, Natural Cycles protects their users information, which is worth paying for.
I also made a one-time purchase of a TempDrop armband. I use this instead of a thermometer and wear it while I sleep. They typically sell for about $170-200. To me, you can’t beat not having to worry about waking up around the same time every day. What can I say? I like my sleep.
Some insurance plans do reimburse you for a Natural Cycles subscription, be sure to check with your provider.
To me, paying less than $9 per month for birth control is very affordable. Plus, I don’t have to go to the pharmacy each month to get a refill!
Wrapping It Up
So, if you’re looking for a natural, effective, and relatively inexpensive birth control method, the symptothermal method could be a great option for you! Just remember, you have to be willing to consistently take you temperature every morning and record it before doing anything spicy if you want to ensure it will be as effective as possible. As someone who has successfully used this method for 3 years, I can’t imagine doing things any other way.
Are you considering the symptothermal method? Tell me in the comments below what reasons you may or may not be interested in this natural, hormone-free birth control option.
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