Natural Cycles: Hormone-free Birth Control

I don’t know that I ever anticipated being as open about my contraception use as I am. But after over a decade of using one method or another (and feeling a bit like a guinea pig along the way) I decided to stop all hormonal birth control back in 2017. I had my IUD removed, I didn’t fulfill a prescription for birth control pills (that I hadn’t asked for, my doc just wrote the script assuming I would want them).

A few months after said removal I downloaded Natural Cycles, a birth control app that tracks my cycle and ovulation through daily BBT analysis. Truthfully, I’m not sure what I anticipated, but what I did know if that I wanted to let my body come back to its homeostasis. I started hormonal birth control when I was 16, which means that I started at a time when my body was still figuring out its hormonal levels. I wanted to start to work with my body again, to know who she really was and what it felt like to ride my menstrual ebbs and flows with her.

After two years, I know my body better than I ever have. I listen to her and what she tells me. Regardless of the calendar, I can anticipate the moment I will get my period, down to the hour. I know exactly how long my PMS cramps will last, and when they will end. I know when I’m ovulating and that my right ovary tends to be more active than my left. All based on feel.

Transitioning into hormone-free birth control was the best move I ever made. While it did come with an adjustment period (read: teenage-style acne for a few months) I wouldn’t go back for anything. I wanted to share this with all of you because, as womxn, it’s important that we embrace this dialogue — with ourselves, our care teams, our partners, and each other — so we can learn from each other and about what will make us feel most empowered and nourished in our bodies. The more we know, the more we know.

Natural Cycles is 93% effective with typical use for ages 18+ and doesn’t protect against STIs.

 

#DifferentKindOfBirthcontrol #NaturalCycles

Dear Molly, My boyfriend gets frustrated …

Hi! So lately (in the past 3 months) my boyfriend has been getting really frustrated with me when we don’t have sex and I’m on my period. He’s been really stressed at work and I know that sex is a good way for him to decompress, but I don’t like to have sex when I’m on my period. I’ve tried to explain, but he doesn’t understand why it’s uncomfortable for me. Basically I’m looking for how can I explain this to him and how can I still support him when I’m on my period. Thank you!

 

Get a new boyfriend.

This guy doesn’t respect you and how you’re feeling. He wants to decompress? Go for a run. He “needs” to get off? Masturbate.

Sex with you is not a medication for his mental health and you don’t owe him that at all. Supporting him and subjecting yourself to his “needs” are two different things. Especially if you have said “No, this is uncomfortable for me” and he’s still pushing for it or throwing a temper tantrum? BYE. He is not worth your energy. Sex is fun, sex is a way to connect and play, but sex is not a need. You can go your whole life without it. It’s not a need, it’s a desire. And desires don’t come before needs.

I’ve had times in my life where my mental health and physical health made me completely uninterested in sex for six straight months. Do you know what my boyfriend did? SUPPORTED ME. He put me first because my need to have my feelings validated and supported outweighed his desire for a sexual release. A good partner will do that and it sounds like your boyfriend is doing the exact opposite. He’s making you feel guilty and that is bullshit.

On to the next, my love. He is not worth your time.

 

xx,

M

 

Sustain: women-led period care & sexual wellness

scroll down for more info on how you can get everything in this photo!

 

Back in October, I had the opportunity to spend an evening with Sustain (the newest addition to the Grove Collaborative marketplace), a sexual wellness company that makes shame-free products for periods, sex and body. I was fascinated by what their founder, Meika Hollender, said about the current industry standard (or lack thereof) in feminine care.

Immediately following that dinner Sustain became the only period care I used. Several months later, and they have become my all-time favorite. Tampons, pads, menstrual cups, are all used on the most sensitive parts of your body. You deserve to know what’s in them and Sustain thinks so too. Tampon manufacturers are not federally required to disclose the products’ ingredients on the packaging, so many don’t. The result is that the majority of tampons that contain bleach, dyes, rayons, and synthetic perfumes. 

The exception? Sustain.

Here is the complete list of ingredients for Sustain’s tampons, pads, and liners: 100% Organic, Fair-Trade Cotton.

That’s it.

That’s all.

And that’s the way it should be. You deserve the right to know what is going in and around one of the most sensitive, absorbent, and intimate places on your body. In addition to organic cotton, their tampon applicators are made of plant-based bioplastic (90% sugarcane)!

 

 

Not only is Sustain working to provide you an array of period care products that are safe for you to use, but they also have a sexual wellness line complete with condoms, lubricants, and massage oils that are better for you and your pleasure. 50% of condoms are made with natural latex. When forming latex condoms many brands use money-saving accelerators (ZDEC, ZDBC, ZMBT, and dialkylamines).  A byproduct of this process is carcinogenic nitrosamines. This is such a large issue that the World Health Organization (WHO) has been encouraging condom companies to remove nitrosamines since 2010 as they serve no purpose in the condom’s function.

Sustain is the only brand that has no detectable levels of nitrosamines.

Sustain has also reduced the protein level in its condoms by 75%. Meaning they are less likely to cause irritation or sensitivity.

You deserve a company that cares about you at the individual level and that’s what I’ve found with Sustain. At their core, Sustain believes that gender equality starts with sexual equality and that ethos is evident in all their products and I highly suggest you check them out.

 

All new customers will receive the following in their first order of $20 or more:  Sustain Tampons (Box of 12), Sustain Pads (Box of 10), Sustain Ultra Thin Liners (Box of 24), Grove Hydrating Bar Soap, 60 day VIP trial

 

Check it out and let me know what you think!

 

 

* this post was sponsored by Grove Collaborative & Sustain *

Let’s Chat: How You All Care For Yourselves During PMS

 

A few weeks ago I asked you all what your go-to methods are for when PMS strikes. I got responses from women between 16-36 and in that 20 years of menstruation experience, we have some seriously great ways of dealing with the cramps, headaches, breakouts, etc that come with your crimson wave.

Without further ado…

 

‘I focus on healthy foods that help me mentally feel better which is half the battle when I’m PMSing.’

‘I prefer curling up with a hottie than a heating pad because they don’t have to worry about cords, falling asleep with it on, and because a hottie tends to be “squishier” and more comfortable.’

‘I start detox and clay face masks 1-2 days before PMS to battle any breakouts. Not sure this one is dermo approved, but it’s my holy grail.’

‘Sending my boyfriend out for nearly everything is the best way I get feel supported. I have PMDD and on my worst days my boyfriend shines. He’s constantly fetching snacks, a heating pad, giving me back rubs, checking in with me, anything I need.’

‘Pain relievers. Midol, Advil, Tylenol. Anything.’

‘Taking a half-day at work on days the cramps are the worst so I can couch surf and focus on me.’

Mess-Free Period Sex? A Review of Intimina’s Ziggy Cup

A few weeks ago I published my experience using menstrual cups. They are my favorite method for when I’m on my period and when I heard about another Intimina product, the Ziggy cup, I was very excited to try it out. This is a menstrual disk worn just below your cervix, tucked behind your pubic bone and because of it’s placement can be worn during sex. MESS. FREE. PERIOD. SEX. There are about zero reasons to avoid sex when on your period, but some people are very squeamish about blood and it can definitely be a mental hurdle for the woman menstruating. A disk can alleviate these obstacles and make period sex more accessible for many couples.

 

 

 

The second mine arrived I was psyched. Putting it in was a different process than with a menstrual cup. I’m very comfortable putting in a cup and initially wasn’t worried about the process, especially since these disks are worn just under the cervix and I typically tuck my cup high around my cervix in a very similar position. However, I found that because it’s a different angle, it’s much larger, it’s placed deeper. It also only comes in one size and I found that it was a little too long for my anatomy. I did manage to shift it into position (tucked up behind my pubic bone) and couldn’t feel it at all (a good sign!).

 

 

One, it was definitely noticeable when he was fingering me, it blocked my A spot and put pressure on my G spot in a way that did not add to the experience. Two, we quickly found that the ability to have sex with it is highly dependent on the size of your partner. We both agree that if you need larger condoms you will be able to feel the disk during sex. I will note if your partner doesn’t typically get deep enough to hit your cervix you may be fine with the Ziggy cup! Three, the stress of getting the disk in and out doesn’t add to the sex appeal of it. With the size of my anatomy, I don’t anticipate it getting much easier. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this if you are newer to cups as getting it into place is less intuitive than placing a cup. When putting in a cup you can place it in a similar position to a tampon, but a disk sits in a very different position.

While I can still see myself reaching for the Ziggy cup as an occasional alternative to my Lily Compact, I don’t see myself relying on it for period sex. I would have rather have sex normally and done the classic “lay-down a towel” method.

 

*photos courtesy of Intimina.com, Flex.com*

On Why: I Switched to A Menstrual Cup

The average woman will have her period for 40 years and have approximately 13 cycles per year. Totaling approximately 520 periods over her life. Within each period she’ll use about 20 tampons (5 tampons per day for a 4 day period). This totals 10,400 tampons in a lifetime. These often end up in landfills (or worse, the ocean) and have detrimental environmental impacts. I am absolutely NOT here to place the blame of environmental issues on women, but I do believe if everyone did a little more we, as a planet, would be much better off.

Using a menstrual cup is the “little more” that you, as a woman, can do. It’s one change to your life, that if enough women replicate, will have concrete and lastly environmental benefits. Additionally, most tampons include chemicals, such as dioxin, chlorine, and rayon, that can be harmful if absorbed into your body. Ladies, if you wouldn’t eat, don’t put it into your delicate area. We’ve known as far back as the 80s that chemicals, proteins, etc can be absorbed through the vaginal wall and yet those dangerous chemicals have yet to be banned from tampons.

The cup I’m going to talk about today is made with medical grade silicone – safe! I’ve used Intimina‘s Lily Cup Compact for over 2 years and cannot imagine going back to tampons or pads for several reasons. Not only for the environmental and biological reasons I just listed, but also because using a cup is so much easier and has made me more in tune with my body. I’m much more aware of the heaviness of my period, the days that will be heavier, and am always prepared with exactly what I need. The case for the Lily Compact is so small it’s easy (and discrete) to have it with me at all times.

 

the Lily Cup Compact collapses onto itself to fit in the convenient travel case it comes with

 

So the big question is typically a “how to” about the insertion. While it does require a certain comfortability with yourself, putting in a cup quickly becomes second nature. If you can check the strings of your IUD or chase a tampon that’s wandered too high you can absolutely insert a cup with ease. If that sentence made you nervous I would suggest starting with a cup like the standard Lily Cup. This one doesn’t collapse so you can actually push on the cup itself a little to adjust it (doing this to the Lily compact results on it collapsing on itself).

Below are several fold techniques for inserting the cup. I recommend trying each 2-3 times in your own bathroom to find which one works best for you! Ex: I cannot get the C-fold to work, but the Half-V fold is super easy and makes insertion just as easy as a tampon for me.

 

your cup will come with directions and diagrams to help guide you. there are also several online resources – particularly on YT

 

One of the important things to remember with insertion is that once it’s in place you want to double check the seal. Personally, I like to run my finger all the way around the cup to ensure it’s fully opened and then give the stem a small tug to make sure it’s has a small suction. It’s a mini, post-insertion ritual that mentally puts me at ease knowing that I’m “covered”.

Earlier I mentioned that using a menstrual cup meant I was always prepared because the Lily Compact is so small and discrete. Not only is it easy to have with you prior to the start of your period, but it also alleviates the need to stock your clutch or bag with tampons and do the “hours math” where you figure how long you’ll be out and therefore how many tampons you need to carry with you – and maybe one or two extra, just in case! 😅 With the Lily Compact, you don’t even need to carry the case with you throughout your period because instead of “changing” you’re “emptying”. I think this (emptying the cup) is one of the largest hurdles for people who want to switch to the cup so here are a few FAQs…

 

Isn’t it super messy?
  • Not at all. Part of inserting the cup is a gentle “tug” to ensure that there is a strong seal, which will prevent any leaking. However, for peace of mind, you may want to wear a liner your first few times.  When you remove the cup it’s at an upright angle and the contents don’t “spill” until you dump it.
How often do you change it?
  • Personally, I can wear a cup for 10-12 hours. For reference, I would normally use regular or super tampons (depending on the day). I typically change it once in the morning and once in the evening. Occasionally (on the heaviest day of my period) I’ll throw in a mid-day change for peace of mind, but I’ve never actually needed this or had issues with leaking.
What do you do if you need to change it in public?
  • Probably the most nerve-wracking part of wearing a cup is the “What happens if I can’t wash it in public?” question. Don’t stress, it’s easier than you think. You don’t need to rinse the cup every time you change it, all you need to do is dump it and give it a wipe down with bathroom tissue. If you have bottled water you can give it a little rinse in the privacy of the bathroom stall, but you never have to rinse it publicly if you don’t want to 🙂 Another option is to use these wipes from Bloomi (code MOLLY10 will get you 10% your entire order!)

 

We’ve covered why it’s safer and the logistics, but why is it sexier?

Using a menstrual cup requires you to get up close and personal with yourself. There’s nothing sexier than being incredibly in tune with your body and your anatomy. Remember when your health teacher recommended using a mirror to meet your vulva or insert a tampon? Well, class is back in session and this time you’ll be learning by touch. When figuring out your menstrual cup and where you like to wear it (high or low in the vaginal canal) there will be lots of shifting and adjusting that help you learn about the nuances of yourself. Additionally, throughout use, you’ll be learning more about your period, daily menstruation, heavy v light days, etc.

While I hope you do try out (and fall in love with) a menstrual cup, remember that the choice is your own. For plenty of women (especially those with Endometriosis), a cup may not be an option. What I hope and want for you is that no matter how you choose to address your period that you 1. have access to all the medical and hygienic resources you need and 2. you remember that your period is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed by. It’s a beautiful and radiant piece of you.

 

*photos courtesy of Intimina.com*