Talking about birth control may not be the sexiest conversation you and your partner ever have, but it’s probably one of the most important ones. After all, it’s up to both of you to decide how you’ll enjoy a healthy sex life while avoiding an unplanned pregnancy. Depending on which birth control you’re using now, switching to a fertility awareness-based method (FABM) may feel like a big leap, and you may be worried about getting your partner on board. Here, we’ll cover what you can expect from that conversation, along with our best tips and resources for talking about natural birth control.
Deciding to make the switch
If something about your current birth control method isn’t working for you, you have every right to explore your other options. Many understandably turn to natural birth control after experiencing negative side effects from hormonal birth control, such as mood changes, weight gain, acne, and decreased sexual desire (1, 2).
You may also turn to fertility awareness-based birth control because you want to become more in tune with the changes that your body goes through each month. When you learn to spot the signs of ovulation, you’ll not only be able to tell when you’re fertile, but you may also start to recognize how things like your mood, energy levels, and even memory change as you go through the different phases of your menstrual cycle (3, 4).
Note: Natural birth control methods don’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you or your partner haven’t been tested for STIs yet, you should do that before having unprotected sex (5).
Ultimately, you make the final decision on the kind of birth control you use. However, it’s a choice that affects both you and your partner, and when it comes to sex, everyone deserves the right to make informed decisions. That includes being on the same page about the risks of STIs and pregnancy that come with whichever form of protection you use.
Bringing up natural birth control with your partner
Okay, you’re ready to tell your partner you want to switch up your birth control. Now it’s time to actually have the conversation. Before you get started, your partner’s probably going to have some questions. Chances are, you’ve been researching natural birth control for a while, but this may be the first time they’re hearing of it. Like any responsible adult, they’re probably going to want to learn more before committing to the switch.
There’s a good chance your partner may be concerned about the effectiveness of natural birth control. After all, you’re asking them to put a lot of trust in your abilities to read your fertility signs. The best way to address their concerns is to demystify how natural methods work. Go through the process of your chosen method, step by step, and don’t be afraid to bring up reputable sources and research studies to help explain things (more on this in the next section). Once they start to understand how fertility awareness-based methods work, you can start the real conversation about whether they’re right for you.
Also, it’s a good idea to bring up the effects that your partner will experience from switching to natural birth control — mainly that you’ll have to use a barrier birth control method (like condoms or diaphragms) or abstain from penis-in-vagina sex on days that you’re fertile (3).
Be prepared for some healthy questions, and don’t feel too discouraged if they sound skeptical or even opposed to the idea. Using fertility awareness-based birth control means having an open and ongoing conversation about your sex life and fertility. This isn’t going to be the only talk you have about this, just the first.
Doing the research
If you’re thinking of switching to natural birth control, you’ve probably already done your fair share of research. However, you still may want to brush up on some specifics before you talk with your partner so you’ll be more prepared to answer any questions they have. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have your sources ready so you can review the information together as well.
First, you should start by exploring the different methods of natural birth control. Most will use some combination of monitoring your cervical mucus, temperature, and the length of your menstrual cycles. Checking all 3 fertility signs every day — called the Symptothermal Method — is the most effective form of natural birth control (3, 6).
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When you look into any birth control’s effectiveness, you’ll notice a difference between “perfect” use and “typical” use. Natural birth control can be just as effective as condoms or hormonal birth control when you use it correctly. For example, unplanned pregnancies happen to less than 1 out of every 100 women who use the Symptothermal Method perfectly. For a comparison, condoms are slightly less effective with perfect use, resulting in an unintended pregnancy rate of 2 out of 100 (7, 8).
However, there’s a bit of a learning curve when you start using natural birth control, and it may take some time to really understand how to read your fertility signs. With typical use, 12 to 24 women out of 100 will become pregnant in the first year of using fertility awareness as birth control. However, this number includes women that use the Rhythm Method of birth control, meaning that they use the calendar to predict ovulation without monitoring any fertility signs (5). Among women using the Symptothermal Method, only 2 will become pregnant during the first year of typical use (6). That’s the power of learning to read your fertility signs!
What exactly is typical use? Basically, it means that you’re not perfect. Sometimes, you may chart your signs incorrectly or inconsistently, and that can affect how well your birth control works (similar to how you’d be affected by skipping a birth control pill or having a condom break during sex) (5).
Pro tip: The references listed at the end of this blog post are a great place to start your research on FABMs.
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Covering your bases
Aside from the specifics about natural birth control, there are a few other things you should probably talk about with your partner before making the switch. First, are you at risk for STIs? As we mentioned before, fertility awareness methods should only be used if you can be sure that neither of you has been exposed to STIs since the last time you’ve been tested.
Next, it’s a good idea to talk about what you two would do if your birth control plan fails. This should be a part of any conversation about birth control, no matter which method you use. It’s especially important for fertility awareness methods because it may not be easy to catch a mistake in time to use emergency contraceptives. Are you and your partner on the same page with how you’d deal with an unplanned pregnancy?
Lastly, talk about how you’ll avoid pregnancy while you’re learning to read your fertility signs. Ovulation looks different for everybody, especially as your body returns to its natural state without synthetic hormones, and you’ll have to chart a few cycles before you can really see and read your specific patterns. What form of birth control will you use in the meantime? If you’re just coming off of hormonal birth control, it can take up to 3 months for your natural menstrual cycle to get re-established. Your readings for those first few months may not be a good indicator of your ovulation cycles, so you may have to wait even longer before you can rely on natural birth control to prevent pregnancy (10).
Deciding to switch to fertility awareness-based birth control requires a lot of trust, commitment, patience, and communication between you and your partner. If you’re not used to talking openly about sex and fertility in your relationship, this may be a bit of a challenge at first. But, if you work through things together, using natural birth control can be a rewarding experience that brings you closer together.
About the author
Catherine Poslusny is a writer and content marketing strategist based out of Norman, Oklahoma. She's written for healthcare companies since 2016, and she's most passionate about her work in women’s health, fertility, and reproductive rights. You can find her at catherinerosewrites.com.