In the past couple years, the Pill has received increased scrutiny—and Millennial women have been taking note. Last fall, British Vogue stated that “younger women are turning away from the Pill in droves,” with more than a 13 percent decline in users from 2005 to 2015.
And that’s not because there’s been a sudden uptick in motherhood.
Yet despite the steep drop in consumers, just ask your friends: Most women who want to avoid pregnancy do indeed take the Pill—for all kinds of reasons. Possibly because they still don’t realize that there are other options, possibly because they believe that fertility awareness-based methods are inaccurate, or possibly because they just prefer the ease of the Pill, despite various reported side effects, from depression to blood clots.
But for women who do make the jump to fertility awareness-based methods (FABMs), it’s not suddenly all sunshine. As one woman, Kim, explains, “I am happy with the health benefits of [FABMs] over hormonal birth control…but I didn’t realize going into it just how much work it would be.” After all, understanding your own menstrual cycle does require ample amount of diligence, especially on the up front. Plus, it might even involve some abstinence at first. But for most of the women we talked to, having a deeper understanding of their bodies was worth the initial inconvenience.
In fact, for many women, the worst part about FABMs is the peer pressure.
So we asked more than thirty women what it was like to chart their fertility, while everyone else was still taking the Pill. Their comments were telling, with reactions ranging from intrigue to straight-up rudeness.
Here’s what they said:
Were people critical of your decision to chart?
“A lot of people suggested methods other than birth control. ie: condoms, IUD. I was told I would have 20 kids or that it was sad I couldn’t have sex with my husband whenever I wanted.” —Meghan
“They made me feel like I was being irresponsible.” —Tori
“I definitely felt like they didn’t believe that charting would work as a way of family planning and expected me to have four or five children as a result by now.” —Claire
“I definitely got lots of negative feedback or more along the lines of, ‘Oh, that’s….quaint.’ Many friends confused charting with the rhythm method and most others simply think it’s along the lines of silly ‘at-home’ remedies that don’t actually work.” —Ashley
“Friends made bets on how soon I would end up pregnant. This made me feel like they didn’t think it was possible, that I couldn’t handle the challenge. That I would either mess up charting or I wouldn’t have the willpower.”
“Yes, a lot of my friends were worried that I would have unplanned pregnancies and that charting was not the smart move and would not be good enough for my family planning. This made me feel as though there are so many people uneducated about charting, and the benefits and positives that understanding your body can do for you.” —Alex
“They assured me I would get pregnant or that it would never work. . . . A few friends have [since] inquired, especially now that they see that it works . . .” —Dallas
Did anyone change their mind based on your experience not taking the Pill?
“I got a lot of surprise from my friends who took the Pill. Many of them were unaware that anything other than artificial contraception could successfully avoid pregnancy. I avoided pregnancy for a year after getting married, and my friends on birth control were shocked I wasn’t using other methods.” —Kim
“Some of those women began to ask me questions about charting my cycle and were interested to see that our cycle is fascinatingly intricate. A few of my friends approached me and asked me to teach them the basics of charting. Though some of those women continue to use the Pill, I was able to provide a different option for them.” —Alex
“I don’t think minds were changed, but curiosity struck in a few. Especially when they started to attempt having children and needed help knowing when they ovulated.” —Meghan
“A good friend of mine has expressed her dislike of the side effects of all the methods she has used (the Pill, IUDs, etc) and interest in more natural ways. [She] has asked many questions over the years. I think she is very interested and intrigued by it but is hesitant about the success rate. Seeing me successfully avoid when I wanted to and then achieve exactly when I wanted to has made her a bit more interested. I think she is waiting to see if I get pregnant again right away (I’m three weeks postpartum).” —D’Arby
“My friends (male AND female) all seem generally intrigued by our use of [FABMs] and ask questions, act like it sounds so much better than [hormonal birth control], but then never do anything different.” —Regina
“. . . over time, they’ve seen that this works for me, and also that it helps me to understand my body and my health, and so they’ve become a lot more accepting of it as a serious option.