I’d automatically chosen the pill, like millions of women, and I was fortunate enough to get on with it perfectly well.
I would have continued with it, despite the slightly increased risk, but then a friend suggested fertility awareness as contraception.
I thought it sounded a bit fringe, not like a serious method at all.
It also felt irresponsible. We were both working in the NHS, in public health, we knew how risk worked. Shouldn't we "walk the talk"?
So I borrowed my friend's book, bought a thermometer, asked her some questions and spoke to my husband. Fortunately he was happy to go along with it.
I was nervous. It was all down to me whether it worked or not. Where was the nice reassuring drug packaging and the instructions from a doctor and pharmacist? The only official-looking gadget I had was a thermometer – not exactly high-tech!
And yet I thought, nothing ventured, nothing gained – it might not be the glossiest method but the book and my friend were convincing. We decided to go ahead.
So I took the momentous step and…didn’t feel that different. I did notice my hair falling out, a fairly common side effect of coming off the pill. This eventually stopped, but I didn't just stick with fertility awareness for the sake of my hair.
The main reason I continued was that fertility awareness worked! I was able to avoid pregnancy and then plan pregnancy – just like it said in the book! Science!
And I was able to avoid all the hassle of doctor appointments. And I got the wonderful “I am the queen of my fertility” feeling from being able to recognise the signs that ovulation had occurred. And the smugness of saving money for the NHS, and being eco, and having a method that could be used in the event of a zombie apocalypse – all that.
When I did visit the doctor (for something else) I was surprised to get a bemused smile when I asked him about the impact of crossing time zones on my waking temperature.
He said “You probably know more about this than I do”.
What? I thought, this is all down to me? Don’t doctors get taught this stuff at medical school? [note to doctors - read this fpa leaflet & give it to your patients]
It was an alarming moment, but I'm glad my doctor trusted me to get on with it and didn’t give me a lecture about how irresponsible I was being – which is what many women have to endure.
So on I went, using the method to help me get pregnant when the time came, and following the LAM rules when I was breastfeeding. Again, I was slightly nervous, but I took "the more you feed the better it works" message to heart, and it worked, again!
Since training with Fertility UK in 2011, I have helped many women to use the method successfully. I also continue to learn about all aspects of fertility awareness and contraception, and I continue to speak out about the need for fertility awareness to become a routine option rather than a routinely dismissed one. This is a privilege and a pleasure - and all thanks to the 1995 pill scare, a borrowed book and a chat with a friend.