Today let’s take a look at free birth control. I don’t mean free like free-from-the-clinic free or covered-by-insurance free, I mean $0 cost to you or anyone else. Unless, of course, it fails, then you’re talking about a few hundred dollars now or a couple hundred thousand or so for college tuition later. But it’s free now, and that’s what’s important.
The Catholic Church condones a single method of birth control, and that is “Natural Family Planning”, which is their jazzed-up-for-marketing name for the rhythm method.
Also in this edition, I will be talking about the absolute worst way to avoid pregnancy, complete with an example of the kind of real-life dumb ass that would rely on such a method.
What is the Rhythm Method?
The rhythm method is a family planning strategy (I am going to refrain from calling it “birth control”) that relies on the timing of a woman’s cycle to determine what days are safe to have sex if you don’t want to get all knocked up. For purists, the plan is simply to count days – when the woman gets her period, that’s day 1. The next week and a half or so are “safe days”. The next week or so are “baby days” and then the rest of the cycle is free and clear!
However, it should be noted that the method has been updated with new tips and tricks based on what people who want to get pregnant do. So, since couples who are trying to get pregnant do things like have sex during ovulation, and determine this using body temp and cervical mucous, people who are trying not to get pregnant simply don’t have sex during those fertile times, using the same indicators.
How effective is the rhythm method?
There is an old joke:
Q. What do you call couples who use the rhythm method?
It’s difficult to determine the effectiveness of natural family planning when “used properly”. I’ve read that it has a 1-9% failure rate. Which is not very helpful. You’ll either get pregnant 1 in 100 times or about 1 in 10 times if you properly monitor everything every month.
Typical use, however, works about 75% of the time.
Even when you use NFP perfectly, every month, your body may not cooperate, which would be fine if there was a way to know ahead of time that your ovaries will feel wonky next month. Alas, you cannot. And you may not know your cycle was off until your period is late. It could be late because your cycle is just behind schedule… or because Surprise! You’re experiencing the Miracle of Life!
Also, before this method can even be used, a couple must chart the woman’s cycle for at least 2 months. During those two months, the couple must not use any hormonal birth control and must remain abstinent or use an alternative method of birth control. And even after those first two months are charted, it’s important to remember if either of those two months were off-months, you may soon be expecting.
Really? 75% effective and you’re calling them ‘parents’? Come on.
75% of the time you won’t get pregnant using NFP.
70% of the time you won’t get pregnant if you’re actually trying to get pregnant.
I think part of the issue is the fallacious assumption that if x causes pregnancy, then -x causes not-pregnancy. The problem is our bodies are far more nuanced than that, and not that obedient. Unfortunately, unless you trick your body or physically barricade your cervix, your body thinks it’s job is to make little skeptics*… and that’s what it’s going to try to do.
*your body actually doesn’t care whether you make skeptics or not, as long as you make more people
So what’s the verdict?
If you’re indifferent to having babies, if you have a very mild desire to avoid pregnancy or if you actually have a driving urge to reproduce, this method is for you. I think it’s naive to call this “birth control”, since it’s just as effective as the “too hot and bothered to bother” birth control method, and just slightly more effective than actively trying to conceive.
I actually take issue with it being called “family planning” natural or otherwise. Since it’s marketed as a natural form of birth control, people actually rely on it as such. They’re very much not planning a family. An honest person would call this “tricking people into having babies they don’t want by calling it birth control”. Fortunately, pretty much everyone outside the Catholic Church call it such.
- Condoned by the Catholic Church
- No side effects from drugs
- No allergies
- 2 months of abstinence or non-hormonal alternative birth control
- Condoned by the Catholic Church
- Cannot be combined with other forms of birth control
- Side effects may include pregnancy
Wait, if that’s not the worst birth control method, what is?
If you’re like me, you’ve been ignoring the warnings that “these things happen” and going about your life without a care. You’re thinking to yourself, “Hey, it took me like three years of trying to have even one baby. No worries!”
So you don’t use birth control.
You don’t use emergency contraception.
You smugly tell your fellow Skepchicks that you don’t use any birth control because you don’t need it. Then you volunteer to write a series of posts on birth control options.
Then one day, you realize it’s been a while since your last period.
Next thing you know, you’re due to have your second baby this December.
That is, if you’re like me.
Insisting to yourself that you won’t get pregnant is the least intelligent way to prevent pregnancy.
Trust me, I tried it… and now I’m pregnant.
ETA: It seems many of you are confused as to whether I’m happy or in a blind rage about this. Mr. Elyse and I consider this to be very good, albeit unexpected, news.