Why you can't cycle track on hormonal birth control
Updated: Sep 28
I often hear from women who tell me that they’ve just downloaded my cycle tracking starter guide and are excited to track the changes in their cycle. I LOVE hearing this. I am a huge fan for women everywhere knowing how to track their menstrual cycles.
However, many times women will follow this up by sharing with me that they are on hormonal birth control, and then I have to break the bad news -- you can’t cycle track when you’re on hormonal birth control.
On today’s episode of Menstrual Mastery we’re going to cover…
>> Why you can’t cycle track when you’re on hormonal birth control
>> What you can, and should, keep track of on hormonal birth control
>> The first 3 steps for transitioning off of hormonal birth control and learning how to track your cycle
Okay -- Let’s get right to it… You’re probably over there a little annoyed at me right now thinking WTF Brandy, what do you mean I can’t cycle track when I’m on hormonal birth control?!
I hear you. And, fear not, it’s not because I’m being a hormonal birth control hater. In fact, there’s a really simple, straightforward reason why you can’t cycle track when on hormonal birth control and that’s because…
When you’re on hormonal birth control you don’t have a cycle.
((The only exception that I know of to this is when a woman is on the hormonal IUD and having regular, cyclical periods. For some women the hormonal IUD allows them to continue ovulating. For most, however, the IUD suppresses the cycle so much so that it prevents ovulation.))
You don’t have a cycle on hormonal birth control because of how it works to prevent pregnancy. Hormonal birth control overrides your natural, cyclical hormone production and introduces a flatlined hormonal state to prevent ovulation. Without ovulation, we won’t experience the biphasic temperature pattern of low temps before ovulation and high temps afterwards. Hormonal birth control also takes away the cyclical changes we see in cervical fluid replacing them with thicker cervical fluid that makes sperm mobility more difficult.
Essentially, you can’t use cycle tracking on hormonal birth control because, well, there’s no cycle to track.
Now just because you can’t use cycle tracking on hormonal birth control doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you can and should keep track of when using hormonal birth control.
A few of the things I like clients on hormonal birth control to keep track of are…
>> Bleeding -- If you’re on the pill are you bleeding monthly with the placebo pill week to shed out your uterine lining? If not, it’s time to ask what’s going on. Another bleeding related thing to track is - Are you experiencing spotting or bleeding outside of the placebo pill week? If so, again it’s time to ask what’s going on.
>> Uncomfortable Symptoms, even if they seem unrelated --- Digestion,hair + skin, sex drive, mental health, vaginal health, breast changes… these are all examples of areas of health where symptoms could absolutely be related to hormonal birth control. Some of the most common that I see include --- bloating, constipation, thinning hair, low sex drive, anxiety, depression, yeast infections, and breast swelling.
>> Intuition -- I know it sounds woo-woo, but our intuition is all-knowing. If you have an inner voice that keeps questioning if hormonal birth control is right for you or if it’s causing your symptoms, you owe it to yourself to listen. I don’t know what your inner voice is telling you, but I can share with you a personal story of my intuition being 100% right about my hormonal health…
At age 18, I found a lump in my throat. I could feel it, I could see it, and it freaked me out. I went to several doctors and specialists, had ultrasounds and biopsies done, and everything came back negative. It was just a cyst. Two years went by and the cyst didn’t go away. The doctor’s said everything was fine, but I didn’t feel fine. I didn’t have any physical symptoms. I felt just as I always had, but I had this inner voice that kept telling me something wasn’t right. So, I went to my doctors and told them I wanted to have surgery to have the cyst removed. They looked right back at me and told me it was completely unnecessary and not something they advised I do. I ignored them and got the surgery. They sent the cyst out for testing and a few weeks later at age 20 I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer - cancer of a major hormone producing gland. My intuition knew.
Several years later a similar thing happened when I went to countless doctors after having had 50+ yeast infections and daily panic attacks and told them I think it’s my birth control. They told me straight to my face that that was not possible. A few months later I went off of the birth control pill and within a few months the yeast infections and panic attacks disappeared.
Intuition. Trust it. Track it.
Okay --- let’s talk about what you do if it feels like you’re ready to go off of hormonal birth control -- and how to start cycle tracking…
#1 --- Choose the non-hormonal birth control method you will use while learning how to use the sympto-thermal method of natural birth control. You’ll also need to choose a non-hormonal method even if you have no plans of using the sympto-thermal method. It’s important to note that the nonhormonal copper IUD is not compatible with the sympto-thermal method because it thickens cervical fluid and hides the vital cervical fluid signs that we use in the sympto-thermal method. The most common method choices tend to be condoms, diaphragms, and the pull-out method. I advocate for clients using at least two of these methods at the same time for greater efficacy.
#2 --- Set the date. Literally, get out a pen and write on the calendar when your last day of hormonal birth control will be. Plan ahead of time. Finish out your last birth control pill pack. Schedule your IUD removal. Meet with your doctor. And, be prepared for push-back. Doctors are skilled in hormonal birth control methods and are not taught how to use or teach cycle tracking methods of natural birth control in med school. Therefore, they almost always advocate for using hormonal methods since it’s what they know best. You are 100% allowed to choose that that is not the best path for you. Be prepared to advocate for yourself and your decision.
#3 --- Meet with a fertility awareness instructor. We are the ones trained to use and teach cycle tracking methods of natural birth control. All of the efficacy studies to date on the sympto-thermal method of natural birth control are based on working with a trained instructor. You wouldn’t take the birth control pill or go on the IUD without meeting with a doctor first to discuss symptoms, side effects, best practices, and what to expect… the same goes for using natural birth control, meeting with a fertility awareness instructor should be your first stop.
There you have it -- the inside look at why cycle tracking on hormonal birth control just doesn’t work.
If you’re curious about getting off of hormonal birth control, learning how to track your cycle, and maybe even use cycle tracking as natural birth control, I’ve got something for you today…
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 option or (3) nutrition or health guidelines. By reading this you acknowledge that you understand that as a specialized form of consulting, coaching 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, 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.