As I become more and more aware of the ingredients that go into our beauty products, and I become more in touch with how each of these ingredients affect my body, I started to think… there is still a really, REALLY big hole in my non-toxic routine. Can you guess what it is? It’s that little white pill that I take every day that quite honestly, is a huge mystery to me. It’s hormonal birth control and I have no idea what’s in it or how it affects my body. Every woman I know is or has been on some form of hormonal birth control, be it pills, injection, or IUD. Most started in their teen years, which means we don’t really understand what we are like as adult women off of hormonal birth control. Totally scary! I started doing a ton of research on reliable, alternative methods, and fell into a rabbit hole of information (albeit overwhelming). I was lead by this amazing book called, “Sweetening The Pill: Or How We Got Hooked On Hormonal Birth Control,” by Holly Grigg-Spall, a writer who also defaulted to hormonal birth control and struggled with a long list of side effects as a result. Her book outlines the crafty marketing techniques used by pill distributers and how the incredible promises of the pill don’t quite line up with the reality of the experience for most women.
Wanting to try something different, I found a little device called Daysy. It’s a fertility monitor that uses your basal body temperature and a database of temperature charts from all kinds of women to determine when in your cycle you are fertile and when you are infertile. Daysy claims to be able to predict this with 99.4% accuracy [For the record, HBC is 99% effective when used correctly, but with typical use, it is 91% effective]. There are all kinds of fertility monitors like Daysy, like the Lady Comp, as well as apps like Kindara which guides you through the Fertility Awareness Method to help you determine when you ovulate and when you can best avoid pregnancy.On the other hand, you can also use these processes to help you get pregnant quickly (not what I’m looking for but will appreciate it when the time comes) as you learn your body and its most fertile days.
What is FAM?
Fertility Awareness Method uses a combination of temperature measurement, cervical fluid analysis and the good-old rhythm method to predict when you have ovulated. It’s recommended that you use a combination of all three of these techniques to get the most accurate results. What I love about this world of fertility monitoring, is that it encourages you to really learn and understand your body and what it’s telling you. There are also no side effects which is major! When we start the pill as teenagers, we don’t totally understand how it affects our development. It works amazingly for some people and they report no side effects. Others experience a slew of mental health problems along with physical symptoms. It was only after I stopped taking hormonal birth control that I realized the extent to which the pill was negatively affecting me.
All of this sounds incredible, but there was still one big hurdle for me when I started using a Daysy… How could I trust this method? I’d relied on medicine to prevent pregnancy for the past decade. Could I really let this little device protect me? Luckily, Holly Grigg-Spall is not just an awesome writer, she’s a brand ambassador for Daysy. I phoned her up and talked to her all about my concerns surrounding Daysy, which might answer many of your questions too. You know what you are comfortable with, but I encourage you to research the world of fertility monitoring and consider if it’s right for you! I’m on month three and have been LOVING every second of it.
Kendall: Hi Holly! I’m so glad we are getting a chance to connect. When I started using the Daysy, I joined the Facebook support community, and you’ve been answering all of my technical questions- it’s been so helpful! What is your role in Daysy?
Holly: I call myself a brand ambassador for Daysy because I’m an independent. About 8 years ago I started a blog about my own journey off hormonal birth control and that then became my book, Sweetening the Pill. Daysy approached me and said they were launching in the U.S [They’re based in Munich] and they wanted to have somebody who could help them out with doing events, talking to journalists, and doing marketing. They sent me their product and I started using it and it really spoke to me because I had spent a couple of years at that point doing interviews and explaining fertility awareness and the feedback I had been getting was, ‘Well that sounds great that you can track your temperature and your cervical fluid, but it isn’t easy enough.’ People are too busy or there’s too much responsibility or anxiety around having to chart themselves and analyze that information. Daysy made going off the pill an easier choice for women who want to do that. It made it more accessible to a lot of women.
K: That has been my favorite thing about the online support community, how knowledgable women are about their bodies and their willingness to help others.
H: The interesting thing about it is, only 20-25% of women who have purchased Daysy are aware of Fertility Awareness Method before their purchase, Daysy becomes a gateway for a lot of women for wanting to know more about their bodies and fertility cycle and fertility signs. Women are very proud that they’ve not only made this choice and invested in their health and wellbeing, but they know that it’s not, at this point, a choice that a lot of people make. Most women are still on the pill or using hormonal birth controls. So it’s a very tight-knit community that feels they need to support each other because a lot of them face skepticism from their doctor or boyfriends. They’ve done a lot of research on Daysy and they know it’s the right choice for them and they’re very loyal to that and they feel very strongly about helping other women who have made that choice for themselves as well.
K: When you started using the Daysy, did you personally have any reservations?
H: I already at the time had been practicing different modes of fertility awareness for a few years, so I was aware that basal body temperature was an accurate sign of fertility and that you could use that to understand when you ovulate. That usually couples with tracking your cervical fluid. Users wonder how Daysy is able to set the fertile window in front of confirmed ovulation. Daysy confirms ovulation with your basal body temperature shift, but you have to set the fertile window of the Daysy prior to that. The algorithm that’s used in the Daysy is not manufactured, it’s real menstrual cycle data from a lot of different scenarios and different women across many years. Essentially it constructs it ahead of time by doing statistical analysis driven by the algorithm. It determines the earliest you will ovulate. I think that I would have been more skeptical if it had been a newer company- I knew the company had been around since the Lady Comp had been created some 30 years ago. I knew Daysy has a precedent for making fertility computers that millions of women were using world wide, and they were helping women make the transition and helping them learn about their fertility cycles.Once I understood the fertility window, that made sense to me and I was comfortable with it.
K: I’ve been reading your book as well and have been learning so many things about my own body that I was never taught in health class growing up. What stood out to me was this part you wrote about being on birth control and feeling numb, or not really feeling anything. Or the exact opposite and feeling manic. It’s crazy to me how many women are experiencing all of these symptoms and feeling this way but are not so open to talking about it. Do you remember the moment that you felt you needed to write this book?
H: I had been on the pill for 8 or 9 years at that point. I was on Yasmin and I was having side effects. It had taken me about two years to figure out that the pill was causing those side effects that I was having. I was on forums online about birth control survivors. I made the connection that it was the pill that I was on that was causing these side effects. I remember sitting down and trying to write about Yaz, one of the most popular pills that was ever produced. It had been marketed more heavily than any other brand and it was causing terrible side effects for many people. I was talking about side effects that women may have not heard of, and side effects that women may have no realized they were even having because they don’t know these side effects exist, especially the mental health side effects you mentioned. It was something that we needed to discuss.
I interviewed a doctor and I asked her, with all of this research done surrounding mental health and the pill, how could so many women still be taking it? She said there was a gender bias there. I decided to go off the pill after 10 years. Fertility awareness is what gave me the confidence to do it actually. I realized I could avoid pregnancy without being on the pill and it was long term, do-able, and easy for me to understand.
K: It’s such a powerful choice! What have been the criticisms with the book and with Daysy?
H: When the book came out in 2013, there was a lot of pushback because a lot of women are very defensive about their choice to use the pill. In this country there are always issues around accessing birth control that you want and insurance coverage and the price of birth control. All of that makes it very contentious discussion. Also as someone who had been taking the pill for ten years, I could see where people were coming from. You make that choice for yourself and you see what works for you, which can be very hard. Everybody experiences different side effects, but this was a choice I made for myself, and I wanted to examine it in that way.
Special thanks to Holly!