Our culture of women’s health is absolutely dominated by the birth control pill (and a smattering of other hormonal birth control choices). The reasons are simple, really:
1.) It provides effective birth control when used properly without much thought on the part of the user.
2.) It provides a way to “regulate” cycles and make them seem tame, even if it doesn’t (which it never does) fix the underlying hormonal issue.
Because pills and other hormonal birth control offer such a fuss-free womanly experience, it’s no wonder that they are prescribed right and left for anything from keeping babies out of the uterus to making period cramps more mild.
It’s not too hard to take a pill a day (sort of, unless you’re like me who can’t remember to do just about anything on a daily basis), and that’s why it’s so attractive to doctors. Low user error, still gives the semblance of a cycle, and does two things that mean much less to actually deal with when it comes to women’s health.
But what if there was something else that did the same thing?
What if we were able to easily identify when we were fertile and use that information for an effective birth control method? What if we could also use the same damn data that told you when you were fertile and also figure out what’s going on with your hormones and what makes a big impact on them positively or negatively?
We already have the science down pat, and it goes by the name of the sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness. It’s simple to learn and understand (though takes a bit of practice), but what if we turned it into a game — exactly like what everyone already does to kill time?
It started with the apps. There were fertility apps popping up right and left starting a few years ago, and still more come along. Some are good, some not so good. And, of course, they all should accompany a thorough understanding of and education in the sympto-thermal method.
Technology takes over natural birth control, making it simple and convenient and making hormonal birth control sound less attractive.
But now something new is all of a sudden happening. A few months ago I saw an indiegogo campaign for a thermometer that you strapped to your body and would auto-sync with your phone and your favorite charting app (I don’t necessarily trust it because I haven’t seen the science on how the time they take the temperature is better/the same as morning temp, which is what the method is based on currently).
Then, I got an email about a new thermometer created by the team at Kindara called Wink. This thermometer seems to take everything your average charting lady would complain about into account. Does your thermometer feel bad in your mouth? This one is made to be comfortable (The image at the left shows the small size of the piece you put in your mouth and the case it slides into). Annoying beeping in the morning waking up your partner? This one simply vibrates. Don’t want to put your temperature into your phone everyday? No problem, this is synced up via bluetooth. Stupid thermometer taking too long to record an accurate temp? Don’t worry, this one gets an accurate temp in about 20 seconds flat. And of course it puts all of your data directly into your friendly Kindara app (which is now on iOS and android and is one of the better apps out there).
Then, I got a google alert for another thermometer that syncs up with a fertility app. Seriously, same day they are available for pre-order. This one is by OvaTemp and is called ONDO. I love the shape of this one, but you can’t see your temperature outside of your phone, which seems kind of crappy to me, but they say it’s so no one has access to your data but you.
Overall, it’s more expensive and is only for an app on iOS instead of both iOS and android. I also know that the technology put into Wink is extensive, including a more expensive piece that takes your temperature than your average thermometer (which is why it can take your temperature so accurately in such a short amount of time- also why it’s more expensive than your average drug store thermometer).
I think its awesome that there are more companies developing new ways to make charting easier and more convenient for women, on the other hand I want to make sure that the understanding of fertility awareness isn’t lost through overreliance on technology.
Precautions and worries
If you’ve been around here for a bit you know me and my attitude towards apps and technology when it comes to fertility awareness.
If you haven’t, I will sum it up for you: I acknowledge that these technologies can be a good thing that helps a lot of women have an easier time charting. YAY! But, on the other hand, the technologies can sometimes make you feel like that’s all you have to do to really have the method down, which isn’t the case.
First of all, temperatures are definitely the secondary fertility sign to cervical fluid. While temperature is important and does help to interpret charts, know when you ovulated, and start understanding your cycles better overall, cervical fluid always always comes first. But temperature is objective and simple, which is why so many people are drawn to it and tend to focus their interpretation of their charts on it.
I worry that with more technology focusing on temperatures (for obviously reasons) most people will think temperature is the most important piece of fertility awareness. And it’s not.
Second, Women may choose to download an app, get a thermometer, and just “figure it out” which I see failing time and time again in forums and facebook groups I belong to where people ask for advice and generally get advice that isn’t so great (hence the reason I belong to them, but I can only spend so much time on these to help people for free).
The way forward
I see a future where all woman have access to great information about all birth control methods and are able to work closely with a certified fertility awareness educator if they choose to use fertility awareness. When they have that information as their basis of knowledge, they are then able to use these convenience tools so that anything that was difficult for them before becomes easier to incorporate into their routine.
I have many clients who LOVE the apps instead of using a paper chart, and I’m sure I will have many stampeding to buy Wink since it automatically enters in your temperature and time taken into the app.
If it makes your life easier and happier I am all for it, but there is a piece of fertility awareness that is unequivocally you and nothing else. It can’t be taken over by technology, and just wouldn’t be the same if it could. Part of fertility awareness is learning about and appreciating your body. And, even though natural birth control that truly actually works is pretty frickin’ sweet, I really think that’s the best part – and the part you carry with you for the rest of your life. Birth control, getting pregnant, understanding your hormones, and appreciating you body are the sweet “side effects” from fertility awareness. Wherever you go, whatever happens, you’ve got your body.
So bring it, technology. Bring awareness and love to our awesome bodies.