Ah, the good ol’ days – when sex was an act of love and intimacy, performed under a clear, starry sky or curled up on a bear skin rug by the fire. When it was just you and your partner. It sounds like a scene straight out of a fictional romance novel, but it doesn’t have to be. When were we led so astray? When did we trade this for loveless sex, condoms, and birth control – a chemical cocktail and physiologic nightmare. How was an entire generation convinced this is the way?
It feels that we’ve reached a point where people, and especially women, don’t even know that sex and menstruation can be natural and toxin-free. I certainly didn’t. But it can be. And once you’ve gone down the rabbit hole, there’s no turning back.
Let’s start with menstruation
The average woman has a period for about 40 years of her life. With 12 periods per year, that’s 480 periods in a woman’s life. The average woman will use over 9,000 tampons during that timespan1. Why is this important? Because tampons are toxic, and they’re affecting an astronomical amount of women.
Most commercial tampons are made with synthetic fibers that are more absorbent than cotton. These synthetic fibers contain toxins that are suspected to be endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). EDCs are exactly what they sound like – chemicals that negatively interfere with the body’s endocrine system, ie. your hormones. Among these EDCs are parabens and fragrance ingredients like diethyl phthalate16 and Galaxolide®2.
The vagina has a high rate of absorbency for two reasons:
- When a tampon is inserted, it often causes microscopic tears in the vaginal walls, leaving a direct pathway for toxins to enter your blood supply.
- The vagina is a mucous membrane that can absorb fluids at a higher rate than the skin. This goes for chemical absorption, too. This means that any and all chemical toxins found in condoms, lubricants, and feminine hygiene products will absorb more easily in the vagina than through any other part of the body2.
Even if toxins found in tampons are only present in trace amounts, they become significant once you multiply them by the average 9,000 times a woman uses one in her lifetime.
Sex – we’ve been convinced that it’s safer when we use condoms, but to what end? Many commercial condoms use spermicide, a lubricant added to the outside to kill any sperm that may have entered the vagina. In short-term use, condoms containing spermicide don’t seem to have any lasting effects, however, continued use shows a negative change to the vaginal flora that makes women more susceptible to disease3. I’m not a fan of condoms for several reasons, like pleasure and disconnect from partner, but if they’re a non-negotiable for you, consider organic brands that don’t use spermicide, which will be written as nonoxynol-9 as the active ingredient. Personally, I choose to track my fertility window as my only form of birth prevention. But we’ll get there.
Lubricants can be great if you know what you’re looking for, but unfortunately, many commercial lubricants also contain nonoxynol-9. When looking for a lubricant, I recommend two things:
- Natural + organic. Check the label for harmful ingredients like spermicides (nonxynol-9).
- Avoid aqueous-based (water-based) lubricants. These lubricants can pull water out of the cells, causing them to shrink and shrivel2.
I use Toca Botanicals, a CBD-based lubricant.
Birth control pills are certainly an effective method to prevent pregnancy, but at what cost? I was put on birth control at 13. Not because I was having sex, but to regulate a somewhat irregular period. For decades birth control has been a sort of cure all for women and teens – to regulate periods, clear up skin, heal anemia and relieve cramps to name a few. But let’s make one thing clear – birth control isn’t fixing anything. It’s acting as a bandaid to hide a problem, not heal a problem.
So what is birth control anyway? Birth control pills manipulate female hormones by containing synthetic versions of estrogen and progesterone. The pill prevents ovulation, so there is no chance of an egg dropping, attaching to sperm and creating a baby. The pill also causes the cervical mucus to thicken, making it difficult for sperm to make it’s way through.
The known risks associated with birth control (oral contraceptive) pills include:
- Imbalanced hormones that can take years to regulate
- Masking symptoms instead of understanding the root cause
- An increased risk of breast and cervical cancer4
- Structural and functional changes in cognitive processing, including the amygdala, hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and cingulate gyrus5
Ladies, did you know that you can only get pregnant 6 days out of the month? This isn’t some hippie nonsense. It’s real, and I can’t for the life of me understand why I, and many women I know, were never taught this in sex-ed. The fertility window is only six days long. This includes the one day a month that a woman ovulates and the five days before ovulation. Sperm can live up to five days inside the body, so if you have sex up to five days before your egg is released (ovulation day), you can still get pregnant. This explains the six day fertile window.
How can you know, for certainty, when your fertile window is? The simplest and most accurate natural method is through tracking basal body temperature (BBT). Your BBT changes throughout your cycle. BBT is lower in the follicular phase, which is the first part of your cycle – the time frame after your last period and before/during ovulation. Temperature should range from 96-98 F. BBT goes up ever so slightly in the luteal phase, which is the time frame after ovulation and before your next period. Temperature should range from 97-99 F. In order for this method to be accurate, you must record your BBT every morning in a notebook or an app (I use Kindara). BBT must be taken immediately upon waking – before getting out of bed, sitting up, eating, drinking, checking your phone, etc. After a few months of recording, you should have a very good understanding of your fertile window.
By tracking my fertile window through basal body temperature, I’ve managed to avoid both oral contraceptives and condoms.
- Swap tampons for nontoxic period underwear or a menstrual cup. Both of these options will save you money in the long run. Cotton pads and tampons are better, but they still hold a risk of pesticide use during production.
- Ditch the birth control and buy a basal body thermometer (this is the one I have) and start tracking. I use the Kindara app because it does not predict your fertile window based on other women. Every women’s fertile window is slightly different. Kindara will use your BBT recordings.
- If condoms are a non-negotiable for you, consider organic, natural brands that don’t contain spermicides (nonoxynol-9).
- Switch to organic, natural lubricants. I use Toca Botanicals, a CBD based lubricant. You can use code VITAPURE-10 to get 10% off your order.
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