Courtesy of Chaunie Bruise

Should You Use A Fertility Monitor As Birth Control? I Do, & This Is What It’s Like

by Chaunie Brusie

OK, modern women of the world, think fast and answer me this riddle: What is a married mother of four who really needs reliable birth control but doesn’t want to be on hormones and has no desire to stick a piece of copper into her uterus to do when it comes to family planning? (Hint: She uses any number of contraceptives. Hell, maybe she even uses a fertility monitor.) It may appear as though we’ve advanced pretty far in the world, where women are equal and we have choices and are seen as more than available uteri with legs, but for a great majority of us, it still feels like we don’t have a lot of options for a birth control that doesn’t come with its own long list of serious risks.

I’m not alone in my desire to skip the hormones for my birth control. Some of us really question if 20+ years of completely altering the most basic and sensitive of our body’s systems is really a good idea, and even wonder if there could be undetected long-term risks. We don’t necessarily think that being an empowered woman means suppressing a natural cycle in our bodies and being on medication every single day of our lives. And why aren’t doctors focusing more on solutions to the disorders birth control is frequently prescribed for instead of just masking the symptoms with a fake cycle?

It feels kind of ridiculous knowing I am an empowered, modern woman and who feels like choosing not to stuff my body full of hormones all for the sake of preventing pregnancy is akin to bucking against the trend. I mean, really; it shouldn’t be this hard to find some kind of natural birth control, should it? I know I’m not the first woman to question it, and the push from women like me for more natural forms of birth control is gaining popularity by the day.

In the meanwhile, some women turn to diaphragms or other forms of barrier methods, others have found success with the copper IUD. But I wasn’t feeling any of those options and I decided to look into the (gasp!) concept of natural family planning. And no, “natural family planning” probably isn’t what you think it is.

Finding "The One"

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First up, there are tons of different ways to do natural family planning and the simplest, cheapest way is with a simple chart and a basal body thermometer.

But I was really looking for something that could help me a little more. I felt a little intimidated in the idea of trusting something so important to a little device that my daughters think is a play thermometer and frankly, scared of getting pregnant again. I knew that I wanted something super simple to use, something that was backed up with some actual scientific evidence, and something that didn’t take 10,000 years to figure out. I’m a nurse, so I’m totally comfortable with cervixes and their accompanying substances, but I also didn’t want to spend hours charting my body temperature or analyzing my own cervical mucus.

I ended up doing a bunch of research and chose to apply to review Daysy, a new fertility monitor on the market. It sounded exactly like I was looking for: small and discreet, totally simple, and it would literally give me a “red light” on the days I was fertile. Plus, it was backed with studies proving it had the same effectiveness as hormonal birth controls (when used correctly, obviously).

Getting To Know You

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Because I was breastfeeding my daughter and my cycle hadn’t returned yet, I hung on to Daysy for a full eight months before I felt comfortable to take her for a spin. You can use fertility monitors while you’re breastfeeding, but my daughter was nursing so often at night that I didn’t trust that my body temperatures would resemble anything at all normal. You also need at least four hours of sleep for your body temperature to register with Daysy, and I literally wasn’t getting more than an hour or two straight for months, so I figured it was pointless to even try using the monitor.

So I waited until my cycle came back so I would at least know that I was ovulating and could look for other signs too, just in case. (Told you I was nervous to use it!)

Breaking Her In

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This is where Daysy lives, right by our bed. to use the fertility monitor, you are supposed to take your temperature immediately when you wake up, so I had to stash it right by my side of the bed.

My oldest definitely came across it one day while going through my drawers (why?) and I honestly didn’t know what to tell her what it was. I just kind of distracted her from it, not wanting to get into that conversation with her at age 7, but I am also comforted by the fact that at least someday she will look back and realize it could have been a lot of worse than just a fancy thermometer she found in her parents bedroom, right?

Using The Monitor

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Really, the concept of actually using the monitor couldn’t be more simple. All you do is hit the button, take the cap off, stick it under your tongue, wait one minute, and then the device tells you if you’re fertile or not. Red means you’re fertile, and green means you’re safe to have sex without getting pregnant, Yellow means that Daysy isn’t sure, so you should be careful.

Daysy also predicts if you’re on your period and it flashes purple for the occasion; if you are on your period, you hold down the button to confirm or just do nothing if you’re not actually menstruating. You can also just hold down the button to add a period that Daysy doesn’t pick up if you’re still in the learning phase.

How Accurate Is This Thing?

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I’ve been using Daysy for about two months and the website says most fertility monitors take about three months to “learn” your cycle. The software uses algorithms that need enough to date to know your typical cycle so it can pick up on the those slight changes in body temperature that indicate ovulation.

It’s fine if you skip a day or two when using Daysy because it will be able to “predict” your cycle the more you give it accurate data. The first month I got all yellow lights as it was learning my cycle, but then I was really shocked when literally the day after my period was done it gave me a red light. What the heck? Isn’t ovulation supposed to happen on like day 14? I thought. This thing must be wrong.

Turns out, it wasn’t. I kept track of my cervical mucus (TMI?) just in case and sure enough, Daysy was right on the money. I did ovulate that early. I’m currently on month two and yet again, a day or two after my period, Daysy predicted early ovulation yet again, so I think she deserves my respect for doubting her.

The Downsides

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For me, the biggest hurdle to using a fertility monitor has been remembering to use the darn thing right when I wake up. So many mornings I hear the baby start to cry and then I stumble out of bed, only to realize when I’m in the hallway in the dark that I forgot to take my temperature. Again.

It’s super frustrating because you only get one shot to take your temperature and it’s literally right when you wake up. You can’t, like, wake up, lounge about for an hour or two, and then take your temperature. Not that I do a lot of lounging about in my bed as a general rule, but there are some mornings when I wake up and kind of half-awake, half-asleep so I’m not entirely sure what that does to my body temperature? I asked someone on the support team at Daysy (who, for the record, are incredibly helpful to answer any questions I have had) and she was pretty no-nonsense in her response: “Well, if you’re awake enough to wonder if you should use Daysy, you’re probably awake enough to use it.” Oh, right.

Has Using A Fertility As Birth Control Made Prevention Any Easier?

I’m still in the beginning stages of using Daysy, but it’s been strangely addicting to use. I have found a fascination in learning about this previously uncharted territory about my body -- it’s like this mysterious phenomenon that was always going on and now I’m a detective figuring out the clues to my own power of fertility. 

OK, maybe it’s not that dramatic, but still, there’s something empowering in being able to know what’s going on with my body.

I’ve also learned that I am totally and completely unreliable when it comes to taking my own temperature in the morning because, a.) my baby is out to thwart me by waking up at ungodly hours, and b.) apparently I’m a zombie in the morning.

So, to combat my problem of remembering to take my temperature right away in the morning, I’ve taken to setting an actual alarm in the morning on my phone, which has actually caused an unexpected bonus: forcing me to get my lazy butt out of bed before the kids in the morning. I’ve become quite possessive of my little morning quiet time with my coffee and my computer now.

Overall, for me, I’m still really happy with my decision to try a non-hormonal form of birth control. I just have no desire to alter my body in any way and this feels like a great solution for now.

But if you see a pregnancy announcement from me anytime soon, do me a favor and don’t rub it in, OK?