I swear, almost every day go online and see posts by people struggling with recurrent infections, pH/bacterial imbalances, vaginal dryness/thinning, sexual side effects, etc. related to taking hormonal birth control. I try now and then to offer alternatives but I think we need to have more awareness of this in general.
I know that where I live in the US, hormonal birth control or the copper IUD are the only commonly available or known BC options. All of these can have detrimental side effects or simply not be your preferred thing. It’s hard to feel like condoms are your only option if you don’t want to struggle with recurrent infections, low libido, weight fluctuations, heavy periods etc.
There is a birth control pill called Saheli that works very differently from these options. Instead of adding estrogen or progesterone into the body (which causes a ton of these side effects), it works by a limited effect on your body’s reception of its natural estrogen. It results in a mismatch in timing between ovulation and the creation of the uterine lining, making it so that a fertilized egg cannot implant. It speeds the progress of an egg through the fallopian tubes and slows the creation of the uterine lining.
On Saheli, you still ovulate and your body still functions with something similar to its natural menstrual cycle, which means it has a LOT less side effects. Mostly, the only common side effect is a longer cycle. I took it since I got married in 2018 with no issues. When I stopped, I got pregnant on the first try.
Saheli is not well known or widely available in the US because it has not been investigated by the FDA. Some of you will probably not be interested because of that and that is your prerogative. However, it has been available since the early 90s, researched and widely used in India where it was developed. I do not believe lack of awareness should stop women from being able to access this option if they are interested. I honestly think it is criminal that such a thing exists and hasn’t been considered for release to the western market. Hormonal birth control is known to have such a slew of detrimental side effects, including long-term effects, that the fact it’s widely available and Saheli isn’t is imo just an indication of how little we value women’s health.
If you are interested in trying it, it is available here on MyBody1. It is a pill that you take twice a week for the first 3 months, starting on the first day of your menstrual period, and then once a week thereafter. It’s recommended to use a backup method such as condoms for the first 3 months to allow the pill time to create the timing disconnect in your cycle. Its failure rate is comparable to the hormonal pill.