Birth Control and Fertility Awareness
Access to safe, effective, and affordable contraception is essential to our health, well-being, and even economic success. Yet all too often, good information can be hard to find. And decisions made by distant policymakers—some well-intentioned, others not so much—can get in the way. The following fact sheets and articles touch on the health information and policy advocacy knowledge you need to make good choices for your health while becoming a smart activist for contraceptive access.
On May 22, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new contraceptive method, “Phexxi,” expanding the number of non-hormonal, on-demand options available to users who can become pregnant. Made by Evofem Biosciences (and previously known as Amphora), Phexxi is a contraceptive in gel form that can be used instead of traditional spermicides.
LARCs are reversible birth control methods (e.g. IUDs and implants) that are highly effective in preventing pregnancy, last for an extended period of time, and once inserted, work without user action. The NWHN advocates for the elimination of financial, regulatory, and social barriers that prevent people from getting LARCs. But we also caution that aggressive promotion of LARCs—or of any method—infringes on reproductive autonomy, and can’t be separated from the broader context of reproductive coercion.
Learn more about the history of reproductive coercion, the NWHN’s current and historical work, our joint Statement of Principles with SisterSong, and our resources for activists, co-created with the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH).
In August 2018, Natural Cycles became the first smartphone application (“app”) for contraception cleared by the FDA. Natural Cycles is a high-tech version of the classic rhythm method (also called natural family planning or the fertility awareness method) in which users track their ovulation cycles in order to avoid pregnancy. It is one of several dozen fertility apps available for download in the US that uses personal health information uploaded by users to predict days on which it is and isn’t safe to have unprotected sex.
Learn more about how the app works—and why it might not be a good choice for most people.
Natural Cycles is the first smartphone application (“app”) for contraception cleared by the FDA but that doesn’t mean it’s effective—or safe.
Learn more about the role politics may have played in expediting the FDA’s clearance, lingering questions about the app’s true effectiveness, and why users’ most sensitive personal information could be at risk.
Fake clinic “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs) are aggressively pushing the Catholic Church-approved FEMM app (Fertility Education and Medical Management), a fertility tracking app promoted as an alternative to hormonal birth control that is backed by opponents of reproductive rights and health care. FEMM app users upload information about their sex lives, periods, and mental health, risking that their most sensitive information will be weaponized against them by the anti-abortion zealots behind the app.
Learn more about app’s ideological backers—and how they’re using taxpayer money to spread FEMM.
Emergency contraception (EC)—including the “morning-after pill”—are forms of birth control intended to prevent pregnancy up to five days after unprotected sex.
Learn more about the kinds of emergency birth control available, how they work, where to get them, and what to know before you go.
Combined hormonal contraception (CHC) methods are birth control methods containing the hormones estrogen and progestin. Tens of millions of people safely use CHCs—including birth control pills, patches, and vaginal rings—to help space births and prevent unintended pregnancy. But not every method carries the same amount of risk.
Learn more about the relative risk of blood clots and signs to look out for.
Depo-Provera (also known as “the shot”) is a long-lasting contraceptive hormone. Women who use Depo experience a loss of bone mineral density, which may put them at higher risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures later in life.
Learn more about the potential risks associated with the birth control shot.
Advocating for yourself in the provider’s office is a crucial part of ensuring that you get the best care for you. No one knows your body as well as you do, so you’re the best person to evaluate and make decisions on your behalf.
Learn more about the resources and skills that will help you communicate your medical, reproductive, and contraceptive needs.
If you are taking hormonal birth control, your period isn’t really a period. And that’s good news for people who want to skip their monthly bleeding cycle. Doctors say it’s just as healthy to skip your “period” each month as it is to have it.
The birth control implant is a small, thin rod the size of a matchstick inserted via incision under the skin in your upper arm. An intrauterine device (IUDs) is a small device inserted into the uterus through your cervical opening (no incision required). Both devices work by slowly releasing hormones to prevent pregnancy.