So let's talk about hormones, today (both natural and artificial).

Gentlemen, if you're out there reading this, now is not the time to click away. Chances are, you have a wife, girlfriend, mother, aunt, and/or friend who can relate to some of the things I say here, and trust me, as a woman, it's nice to have a man around who actually tries to understand a woman's hormonal struggles.

Ladies... LADIES, can I get a collective amen when I say hormones can sometimes feel like they're taking over your world? It's frustrating, annoying, and often uncontrollable, but I'm on a journey to master mine, so keep reading if you're interested in my story. Warning: it's a long one.

The Beginning

In May of 2015, I got married and decided let's not have kids right now. So I, like many other grown women (and some teens I suppose?), talked to my doctor about birth control options. She prescribed Lo-Estrin Fe, and sent me on my way. After a few months of crappy side effects (intense irritability, dull skin, low libido, etc), we decided it wasn't the best fit for me and that I should go back on Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo since I responded well in the past when my periods were irregular and my skin was acting up.

*Side note: it is very typical of doctors to prescribe a pill that just treats symptoms and patches the problem(s) at hand, instead of figuring out the cause and troubleshooting from there. But alas, this is an issue deserving of it's own post, so maybe I'll re-visit that in the future.

The plan was actually to start taking the Ortho for a few short months, while I decided one of the following long-term solutions: Skyla, Mirena, Paraguard, and Nexplanon.

  • Skyla: Hormonal Intra-Uterine Devicce (IUD) that prevents pregnancy for up to 3 years. It can be removed at any time.
  • Mirena: Hormonal IUD that prevents pregnancy for up to 5 years. It can be removed at any time.
  • Paraguard: Non-Hormonal IUD made of copper that prevents pregnancy for up to 12 years. It can be removed at any time.
  • Nexplanon: Hormonal Arm Implant that prevents pregnancy for up to 3 years. It can be removed at any time.
(Before I dive into these, can I just say it's a problem that there are all these options for WOMEN to take, consume, or implant to prevent pregnancy, but so few options for men. Why must we be poked, prodded, scrapped, and fingered, but men go by essentially unscathed? How about we dedicate more contraceptive research to our male counterparts?)

After talking it over with the Mister, we decided together that the arm implant was not an option. It's just creepy in a big-brother's-watching-you kind of way. I read every word in the other info pamphlets and decided Skyla was the least offensive of the four. It was also completely covered by my insurance, so that was a plus.

And so, I made an appointment to have it inserted. That's when the doctor's aid told me I may want to take the day off work, as there'd be some soreness and moderate discomfort for the first day or two, and that the doctor would likely prescribe Ibuprofen 800 if something like Motrin wasn't strong enough.

HOLD UP. What?

I thought the procedure would be a simple as a Pap smear - mildly uncomfortable yet fleeting and tolerable - but I was not prepared to take the day off work.

I thanked the woman on the phone, hung up, and proceeded to google "IUD reviews." As you can probably guess, things got scary from there. There are all these stories of women who's IUD got stuck, caused severe vomiting, induced pain so intense they could hardly walk, made it difficult to pee and poop, and, perhaps the worst of all, women who's partner could feel it during intercourse.

*Insert Macaulay Culkin from home alone gif here*

I fell down the rabbit hole. They got me. I cancelled my appointment the next day.

The Pill

And so, my journey with Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo began, and it continued for a couple months until my insurance stopped covering the name brand and forced me to fill the generic or pay $30/month. Nobody shared this information with me though. I got home from picking up my script, opened the package, and found a completely different set of pills. I called my pharmacy to investigate and that's when they laid it all out for me. I was not happy. Generic or not, it's a different mixture of artificial hormones. If they were exactly the same, there'd be no need for a generic version. At least, that's my logic.

Still. Since I didn't want to pay $30 a month when there's a free option, I started taking the generic: Tri-Lo Sprintec. A couple months later, my insurance forced all "on-going" meds to be ordered through their e-script service, and lo and behold, the e-script service did not offer Tri-Lo Sprintec. Again, nobody shared this information with me! I opened the package that was sent via snail mail to find a 90-day supply of Gildess FE.

By this time, I was all the way through with every pharmaceutical company, insurance company, doctor, and pharmacy. I was livid. I was on my 4th different brand of artificial hormones, and it hadn't even been a full year. How can these people keep switching out my prescription with no notice? These are hormones we're talking about! It's not like I'm referring to an antibiotic prescription. Hormones will literally alter the way your whole body functions, and the fact that they kept changing with little to no regard on how it may impact my health had me frustrated to the point of tears.

I gave J the task of calling the e-script service and seeing what the deal was (halfway yelling at him for something that wasn't his fault and halfway crying through the anger like an adolescent schoolgirl).

I'll spare the details in between, but things didn't get sorted for a few months, so I was stuck with the Gildess FE for a while. When I finally got switched back to the Tri-Lo Sprintec (the generic for Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo) (ya still with me?), I was already looking for ways to naturally monitor my cycles and possibly pursue more organic options.

The Natural Route

I had previously read a post from another blogger on Natural Family Planning. I'd link it here, but I can't find it in her archives anymore. More recently I came across Gala's post about how the pill was making her nuts, and around the same time I also stumbled upon this post about healthier methods of family planning. The timing was perfect. God was showing me all signs as clear as the parting of the Red Sea (pun slightly intended there) (get it?) I was nearing the end of my last pack of pills, and after perusing some articles linked in Gala's post, I felt inspired to just wait for Flo and let things naturally flow from there.

Around the same time, Sarah's YouTube video about how she cleared her hormonal acne popped up as a recommended videos. Again, God, I see you. She mentioned how seeing a Naturopath made all the difference in her journey, and how something as simple as the right mixture of supplements can completely transform and balance your hormones. I knew coming off the pill meant I'd likely have irregular periods for a while. My own hormones needed to re-learn how to function without the fake ones in the mix.

An unreliable cycle would obviously make it more difficult for me to track my fertile days, and since I/we am/are not trying to have a baby right now, so I was searching for ways to regulate my hormones as quickly as possible. I wanted a smooth transition; vitamins and minerals seemed wholly harmless, so a new journey began.

I made an appointment with a local holistic practitioner and did some research on the best supplements, according to my body's patterns and hormonal history. I started taking Fish Oil for heart health and its anti-inflammatory properties (pimple = inflammation), zinc because it's been proven to kill acne-causing bacteria and supports reproductive health, magnesium to support my body's insulin absorption and cortisol levels, and Vitex, which is the master herb for cycle regulation according to a kind and helpful employee at the Vitamin Shoppe.

My naturopath appointment went well. She ran some tests and found I was also deficient in potassium, oxytocin (a.k.a "the love hormone"), and a few other important minerals, so I've been having more banana and date smoothies (dates have more potassium than bananas btw) and making it a point to show/accept more affection. This even includes those times when the dog wants to cuddle. 

Soon after I made these changes, Olivia of Organic Olivia posted a video about how she used supplements to help regulate her hormones. She mentions how L-Lysine has been like a miracle drug in natural form for her, so I've started taking that recently as well. The plan is to see how my body responds, and add or remove supplements accordingly.

Present Day

Have I noticed a difference? Yes, definitely. My mood is much better, I'm less stressed about day-to-day responsibilities, my appetite is no longer insatiable, and my sex drive is back like Marty McFly (hollaaaaa). Unfortunately my hair thinning issues will take time to reverse, hopefully the JCBO I bought will help with that (the lavender scent is heavenly).

It's been about a month and a half, and my first cycle was 34 days long. Not too bad, but technically it's still irregular, making it more difficult to follow any of the Fertility-Based Awareness Method (FABMs) trackers out there (this one's my favorite right now, and I'll probably use this one when I'm actually ready to conceive). Cleaning up the diet and making it a point to get active is obviously important and kinda obvious, but I still feel obligated to mention it. I also feel it's important to make room in your diet for the things you enjoy, while still prioritizing the things keep your body operating at its best. I have upped my vegetable intake significantly but will still enjoy a glass of wine or a brew tasting on the weekends - tasting is the operative word here.

So there we have it. My natural and artificial hormonal journey thus far. I know this was a long post, but I really did it for me, and you, your mama and your cousins too!

I never thought there'd be a day where I'd be talking about my periods and sex drive on this blog, but I know how "not alone" I felt while reading other women's journeys (right now, I'm loving Kenya's TTC posts), so I thought I'd share my own. If you made it here to the end, don't leave me hanging! Please feel free to share your thoughts, comments, suggestions, and/or questions below.

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