Is there a natural alternative to the Oral Contraceptive Pill?My answer to this in my opinion is No. There is no such herb. One can’t however deny that there are herbs that can prevent conception to a certain degree if used in a certain context. As a medical herbalist I don’t use herbs for this action but in other cultures this is common practice. Take China for instance with a population of 2 billion people where it is illegal to have more than one child. The use of synthetic hormones, or “the pill” is not common there, about 3% of all married women. I know that people use herbs here to modify the menstrual cycle to inhibit conception and for other relevant actions, spermicidal herbs etc. Similar practice is prevalent in the Amazon communities.
There is a method of contraception that is natural and doesn’t involve taking anything and has been used traditionally for many years. This method can be termed Fertility Awareness.
Fertility Awareness is a natural method for preventing or achieving pregnancy based on a woman's daily charting of her waking temperature, cervical fluid and cervix changes. According to numerous studies, the method is virtually as effective as the contraceptive pill in preventing pregnancy, if its rules are followed. It can be learned from a book or also there are groups that teach it to women and men who prefer not to use hormonal birth control, or who have allergic reactions to spermicide etc.
A good starting point for learning this method is books by author Katie Singers called The Garden of Fertility: A Guide to Charting Your Fertility Signals to Prevent or Achieve Pregnancy—Naturally And Honoring Our Cycles. These should be read and understood before trying this method Fertility Awareness (FA) is known by several names. Women using the Sympto-Thermal Method chart cervical fluid, temperature changes, and (optional) cervix changes. Users of the Billings or Ovulation Method chart only cervical fluid changes. The Rhythm Method, which is much less effective, determines fertility by observations of past cycles.
In order to prevent pregnancy, couples who practice FA avoid intercourse or use barrier methods during fertile phases.
How Fertility Awareness WorksJust as a meteorologist can observe and measure cycles in the earth's surface to determine weather patterns, a woman can observe her daily waking temperature, cervical fluid and cervix changes to gauge her gynecological health, and to determine when she can and can not conceive.
At a very basic level there are two hormonal phases that occur during the menstrual cycle each month for a woman. One phase where there is estrogen dominance, prior to ovulation, where the estrogen produces cervical fluid, cools her body slightly, and opens her cervix. These three fertility signals (mucus, temperature and cervix changes) can all be observed by daily charting.
The other phase is where there is progesterone dominance, after ovulation, where this hormone dries up the woman's cervical fluid, warms her body temperature and closes the cervix. In between these two phases ovulation occurs. This is the period where successful conception only occurs. Basically there is just a 5-7 day window each month for successful conception, if intercourse is avoided during this time pregnancy wont occur, but its important for a woman to know her body well and monitor her signs through charting to identify this window.
The waking temperature is typically cooler before ovulation, and warmer after ovulation. The cervix is soft and open during fertile phases, firm and closed during infertile phases. With about two minutes of daily attention, women can observe and chart their fertility signals. If its rules are followed, Fertility Awareness is virtually as effective as the Pill in preventing pregnancy.
This is an age old method and as it is useful to inhibit conception it is also very useful to aid conception by locating the best times of the month where intercourse will result in pregnancy. It has also helped countless couples to conceive.
I think all women of childbearing age can benefit from charting their cycles just to get to know themselves better and tune into their natural rhythm.