By: Mia Kibel
This week we’d like to talk about a topic you might expect from your friendly neighborhood feminists: periods and birth control.
Compared to other normal health events, there is a lot of ignorance surrounding contraception and menstruation. Most people can only name two or three kinds of birth control and one or two menstrual products. There is a lack of available information about cheap, environmentally friendly and equitable products. This is a huge disadvantage for anyone with a uterus; period-havers deserve choices that reflect the huge diversity of experience surrounding menstruation and contraception.
Everyone knows someone who feels that the pill made them crazy, who bleeds through tampons, or who can’t afford to be buying this stuff every month, which is just a few of the reasons why we need to know about as many of our options as possible. In the spirit of publicizing alternatives, I want to tell you about a method of birth control and a kind of menstrual product that are radically different from the kind we normally see.
Pregnancy can only occur when a person is ovulating, which normally happens once a month. Users of the “fertility awareness method” (FAM) prevent pregnancy by tracking their ovulation cycle, and avoiding pregnancy-causing sex on fertile days. It is possible to predict fertility to a high degree of accuracy using just a thermometer — there are even apps and thermometers available specifically for tracking fertility. However, when combined with other fertility tracking techniques, a regular thermometer is just fine. When tested in academic studies, the fertility awareness method (when used properly) shows pregnancy prevention rates similar to the pill — around 99.3 percent! It is completely hormone-free, creates no waste — except for possibly thermometer batteries, and paper for period-math — doesn’t cause heavier bleeding or cramping like some IUDs, is cheap and is comparative to other contraception in terms of safety.
Much like the lack of awareness surrounding FAM, most people also don’t know that a period doesn’t have to last five to seven days. Menstrual extraction is a process by which you can have your entire period all at once, not over a week. It can be done by a regular person — you! — not just medical professionals, with cheap and easily accessible equipment. If you’re interested, search around; there might be a feminist group or a midwife in your area that teaches the practice. This could make a huge difference in the lives of many. Currently for people who don’t use hormonal birth control, period skipping options are slim. There are those who might not want to have a normal period; it might be someone with severe cramps and an upcoming vacation, someone who is made uncomfortable by their periods, a sex worker who doesn’t want to lose a week’s worth of income, or an athlete with an upcoming event.
The only way to spread these revolutionary practices is to talk about them. Common arguments against these ‘radical’ solutions are that they require too much work, or that people do not yet have enough knowledge about their own biology. These are not good reasons to avoid the conversation. Individuals can decide for themselves if something is too much work or too hard, and we can’t just assume people are “too grossed out” or “too lazy.”
These options are radical not because they are different from the norm, but because they assume that period-havers are capable, intelligent and responsible owners of their own bodies. They take the control away from companies and doctors, and give primary responsibility to the individual. Current discourse around menstruation does not even begin to cover the full diversity of period-havers. Without these conversations, people who don’t fit the ‘normal’ menstruating mould will have no one to ask for advice, because doctors, friends, and parents aren’t always informed about the whole range of options. We all deserve solutions that put us in control, and that allow us to experience normal life events with dignity and empowerment instead of secrecy and shame. We are not going to stop talking about our uteri.
Photo Credit: MariGurumi