Can you cycle track on birth control?
Updated: Sep 28
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This is a question I almost never get asked, but have to answer on a weekly basis because there is so much misconception out there about what happens to our menstrual cycle when we’re on hormonal birth control.
Can you track your menstrual cycle while on hormonal birth control? No.
Why? Because you don’t have a menstrual cycle on most hormonal birth control methods. You have a chemically-induced bleed that is triggered by the timing of a pharmaceutical drug.
Menstrual cycles include ovulation, in fact ovulation is the main event of the menstrual cycle. Without ovulation, there is no menstrual cycle.
The issue? You don’t ovulate on most forms of hormonal birth control. No ovulation = no menstrual cycle.
The exception to this rule is the hormonal IUD, which allows some users to continue ovulating. How do you know if you’re one of those IUD users? If you’re getting a regular, predictable period every month then you’ve probably continued to ovulate while on the hormonal IUD. Unfortunately, however, not all users continue to ovulate on the IUD. Without the occurrence of a regular, predictable, monthly period it’s difficult to know if someone has continued to ovulate on the hormonal IUD. Even if ovulation is maintained, it can still be difficult to track IUD cycles using conventional cycle tracking markers of cervical fluid and basal body temperature because the synthetic hormones in the hormonal IUD can mask fertile cervical fluid production and alter temperature readings.
Cycle tracking is a practice that is meant for menstrual cycles. Menstrual cycles involve ovulation. Traditional fertility awareness cycle tracking practices like cervical fluid and temperature tracking are meant to help us identify physical changes that occur in relation to ovulation. Without ovulation, we do not see the same trackable changes and cycles in cervical fluid and temperature that we would see in a true menstrual cycle. Therefore, the practice of fertility awareness cycle tracking does not work when we’re on forms of hormonal birth control that suppress ovulation.
So what can we track while on hormonal birth control?
The good news is that tracking what’s going on in your body is a useful and insightful practice whether we’re on hormonal birth control or not. The catch is that what we track when on hormonal birth control looks different than what we track when we’re not on it.
On hormonal birth control methods that suppress ovulation, we can still keep track of…
> When we bleed each month - the calendar day and the number of days since our first pill in the pack or since insertion of a new contraceptive ring
> What our bleed is like each month - amount, number of days of bleeding, color of blood, spotting, cramping, etc.
> Any pre-bleed symptoms we might experience - breast tenderness, mood swings, acne, cramps, etc
> Symptoms that are new since beginning hormonal birth control (even if they seem unrelated to reproductive health!) - digestive issues, anxiety, depression, acne, weight changes, libido changes, UTI’s or yeast infections, etc.
There’s really no point to tracking cervical fluid because without ovulation you will not notice cyclical changes in cervical fluid. On hormonal birth control users almost always make a very scant amount of thick, clumpy, white or yellow fluid that is stick or tacky in texture. This is unchanging and a result of the synthetic progesterone in most hormonal birth control methods.
There’s also really no point to tracking basal body temperature because our basal body temperature only shifts in our cycle as a result of ovulation. If there is no ovulation, there will be no temperature shift. Temperature tracking on hormonal birth control often looks like a long string of random temperature readings of which we can’t seem to make any sense.
Does that mean that I can’t learn that natural birth control method or how to track for pregnancy achievement if I’m on hormonal birth control?
I’ve worked with many women who decided to stay on hormonal birth control while learning the concepts of cycle tracking for birth control or pregnancy achievement. If you choose to learn the method this way you would be learning it in a conceptual way completing the same homework assignments and practice charts as anyone who wasn’t on hormonal birth control.
The catch is that you won’t be able to apply the method to your own cycle until you transition off of hormonal birth control. It’s only then that you’ll be able to track your cervical fluid and temperature changes, use a cycle tracking chart, and apply what you learned to your own cycle… which honestly, is the most important and most challenging part of using the method.
That’s why I always recommend that folks learn the method while they are no longer on hormonal birth control. You really do get so much more out of it that way. However, that is by no means the only way to learn the method.
Are you interested in learning how to track your cervical fluid and basal body temperature to better understand your menstrual cycle and have better periods, to use as natural birth control, or to get pregnant naturally?
If so, I can show you the way!
Disclaimer: Brandy Oswald, Sauvage Wellness LLC, and her employees are not doctors, nurses, physicians, psychotherapists, or in anyway licensed medical practitioners and information presented here is to serve as an educational resource and not to be interpreted as: (1) medical advice; (2) a 100% effective birth control or pregnancy achievement options or (3) nutrition or health guidelines. By reading this you acknowledge that you understand that as a specialized form of consulting, fertility awareness education is not the same as professional or licensed therapy or medical advice and intervention; and recognize that it is your responsibility to seek such services from a licensed professional. Brandy Oswald is not a medical provider and cannot give medical advice. All information provided by Sauvage Wellness LLC and Brandy Oswald is of a general nature and is intended only for educational purposes to help with your personal health improvement goals and should not be relied on as medical advice. Always consult a physician with any health concerns and prior to changing your diet, lifestyle, supplements, birth control, fitness, or prescription medicine routine. Should you choose to use the information provided by Brandy Oswald it is of your own volition and you recognize that neither Brandy nor Sauvage Wellness LLC is not held liable for any intended or unintended outcomes.
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