Younger generations are turning to natural birth control methods. There are good reasons why.

According to the UK’s NHS, more of the younger generations are turning to natural family planning (NFP) or fertility awareness methods (FAM) instead of hormonal contraception.

The NHS surveyed about 555,400 women between the ages of 13 to 54 over the past 10 years and found that, compared to when the survey first began in 2013, the amount of women choosing natural methods in 2023 has doubled — from 4,500 to 8,800. Incredible. But why? Natural methods (which require abstinence to avoid pregnancy during the fertile time of a woman’s cycle) don’t exactly line up with the message of mainstream feminism: sex on demand without repercussions. The shift may be a realization of the damage mainstream feminism and hormonal contraception have had on female health overall.

A recent op-ed by Ella Whelan, a freelance journalist for Unherd, points out that millennials largely favor hormonal contraception such as the pill, IUDs, and others. “We millennials would risk pretty much anything to have carefree sex — even our waistlines,” she says. She briefly outlines her own experience with these contraceptive methods calling the copper IUD a “medieval experience” and recalls “soldiering” through taking various birth control pills and later resorting to the morning-after pills. Yet, when Whelan was later told her remaining fertility would not be enough to conceive a child without medical intervention, she expresses no regret for her choices.

According to the same NHS research, only about 30% of women using oral contraception back in 2013 are still using it today. That means a little over 294,000 women chose to stop taking the pill. 

The too-common reality of the troubled path of hormonal contraception seems to have reached the ears of the next generation: Gen Z.

Misunderstanding the nature of fertility awareness

Many still hold on to the outdated image of the “rhythm method” as the predominant natural contraception, but science has shown women how to track their own signs and symptoms — biomarkers, if you will — to identify when they are becoming fertile and when they’re not.

Natural Womanhood has a host of helpful and clearly organized resources for learning about the various NFP and FAM strategies, hormonal contraception side effects, and an advice line for any and all cycle concerns. FemTech has caught on to tracking these biomarkers and has made many advancements to allow NFP and FAM methods to be technologically available to women who are busy building a career, mothers with little more than 10 minutes to themselves, and women entering perimenopause and beyond. As Whelan puts it, many women feel that “methods of contraception feed into the idea of a woman’s sense of self.” Teaching women about their bodies and the incredible design of their fertility is empowering. In the age of data and self-empowerment, NFP and FAM fit right in. 

Whelan quotes Dr. Rebecca Steinfield, a reproductive health commentator, stating,“I’m not convinced dressing up age-old methods, like the rhythm method, in snazzy new apps is the reproductive utopia fem-tech companies want us to believe it is…They all romanticize a past when people lacked access to revolutionary, literally life-saving innovations like modern contraception, effective pain relief in labour, safe surgery in birth, and life-sustaining formula milk.”

But is this really the reality of NFP and FAM?

Scientifically backed and effective

Steinfeld fails to mention the scientifically backed and effective natural methods of family planning such as Sympto-Thermal (SymptoPro or Couple to Couple League), the Creighton Model, the Billings Method, FEMM, Marquette, and ChartNeo. These methods each include various ways of tracking one or more of the following fertility biomarkers: cervical mucus, cervix position, basal body temperature (BBT), and hormones detected by at-home urine tests.

While it is not clear which methods Gen Z is choosing over the pill, it is obvious that FemTech has latched onto methods like Sympto-Thermal, FEMM, and Marquette. Apps such as Read Your Body, FEMM, Flo, Clue, and others allow women to track their biomarkers in digital format for quick reference and ease.

Natural Cycles, a newer, FDA-approved, and somewhat controversial app, has also gained popularity in recent years. Yet, it has garnered much criticism for its lack of tracking more than one fertility sign and relying mostly on a computer algorithm for fertility prediction.

For methods requiring BBT monitoring, newer FemTech devices such as the TempDrop, Ava, and Daysy have been made with the intent to create an easier way to track this biomarker. The Clear Blue Fertility Monitor (17) is specifically for use with the Marquette Model to make reading urine tests a breeze when pairing with an algorithm based on a woman’s body. 

With all of these innovative FemTech additions to the NFP family, it’s no wonder Gen Z has stopped to listen.

Despite this, critics like Whelan claim that NFP and FAM are “failing women.” Yet according to Natural Womanhood, the failure rates of the top NFP methods rival the failure rates of the pill, IUD, and condoms. These rates include typical use — meaning human error is included in the calculation. The Sympto-Thermal method stands at a 1.8% failure rate with typical use, the Creighton Model lands at 4%, and Marquette sits at 7%. Comparing these to some of the more popular forms of hormonal and non-hormonal contraception, the IUD sits at a 1% failure rate, the pill at 9%, and condoms at 18%. 

Drawbacks of hormonal birth control

Many are beginning to recognize that fertility awareness can be empowering and effective, and without the nasty side effects that can result from hormonal contraceptive use. These side effects can include an increased risk of autoimmune disease, blood clots, stroke, depression, cancer, copper toxicity, libido changes, weight gain, and HIV transmission — as Live Action News has previously discussed.

Studies done recently show that women taking hormonal birth control (HBC) are significantly more likely to develop an autoimmune disease, including being “[35%] more likely to develop multiple sclerosis, [50%] more likely to develop lupus, and up to three times more likely to develop Crohn’s disease, when compared with women who never took birth control.” A study done in 2023 with data from the UK Biobank showed adult women had a 79% increased risk of depression and adolescents a 95% increased risk of developing depression with use of oral contraceptives. For adolescents, the depression continued for longer than two years even after discontinuing usage of the pill. Brain, breast, and cervical cancer links to hormonal contraception have now all been documented, with breast cancer risk increasing by 20-30% among HBC users. HBC use comes with a risk of stroke, heart attacks, and blood clots in various parts of the body including the lungs, pelvis, and legs. Blood clots such as these kill about 300-400 women per year in the U.S. alone, according to Public Discourse.

The statistics go on and on — a poor and tragic track record, to say the least.

‘Grave consequences’ to freedom?

Whelan ends her op-ed by claiming that by rejecting modern hormonal birth control, we are “fetishizing the very things that might hold us back.” This, all in the name of her idea of “women’s freedom.” She posits that the trend away from a more medicalized and modern version of contraception may lead to “grave consequences” for “women’s freedom” and may potentially undo the work of past mainstream feminists.

But Gen Z has been watching, and like many generations before them, they want to take matters into their own hands. New and better ideas behind fertility and contraception are being brought to light. The evidence is clear: NFP and FAM have significant pros, and HBCs have significant cons.

Milllenials like Whelan take the risks and throw them to the side in the name of sexual freedom and a warped idea of feminism. But for Gen Z, perhaps there is hope for change and a brighter future for authentic women’s empowerment, in the form of recognizing and appreciating the amazing way women’s bodies are designed to work.

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