THE BIRTH CONTROL APP

Despite being a little bias towards the Mirena, a birth control method that has changed my life for the better, I would never dream of telling a woman what to do with her body just because it works for me. I would, however, feel as though I were doing the sisterhood a disservice if I didn’t speak up about something that I felt was leaving women in a vulnerable position.

That something is the Natural Cycles app.

It’s at this point, I’d like to point out that I’m no doctor, but I do have a uterus and am therefore entitled to have an opinion on this. I would also like to note that I don’t have a problem with it being used as a form of family planning with an intent to conceive; this post is in response to it being heralded as queen of contraception on social media, because honestly, the momentum it is gaining on Twitter and Instagram is bringing me out in hives.

My main issue is that I do not believe that endorsing bloggers to promote a particular type of birth control is either good or responsible of the brand. I am all for educating women on the options available and I understand that influencers earn their keep from doing sponsored posts and forming partnerships, but I think it’s careless of companies to ask bloggers to promote something to young audiences that, if used incorrectly or with the wrong body, can change lives. I also think that education, particularly sex education, should remain totally unbias, regardless of where it is coming from.

Not only that, the reliability of the app itself as a method of contraception has been put into question. It uses only temperature and calculations based on your last few periods to decipher whether you are ‘safe’ to have unprotected sex or not. Science aside for a second, that seems a little flaky to me. It might be a good way to practise safe sex on top of other methods of birth control, or to plan pregnancy, but if people have fallen pregnant with hormones pumping through their bodies or pieces of metal wedged in their wombs, then it’s surely even more likely to happen when you’re using nothing but heat to gauge your fertility? After all, all bodies are different and temperature and cycles can be affected by anything, from stress or illness to food allergies and even exercising too much.

My audience is mainly women aged between 25 and 35 years old, so you could assume you’ve got your birth control sussed (if you choose to use it, of course) but it terrifies me to think that there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of young girls, who don’t have access to the same information I did, who are going to be clicking and thinking that Natural Cycles is the only option out there for them. If there are any younger women reading this who are venturing into the wonderful world of contraception for the first time, please know that this app is not the only (if at all) reliable form of contraception out there and that there are other amazing hormonal and non-hormonal options available for you on the NHS.

Please do yourself a favour ladies, and don’t rely on the words of influencers who have been paid to talk about Natural Cycles to make a decision about how you would like to prevent pregnancy. As I’ve said, I think it’s pretty irresponsible of brands to ask them to do it in the first place, I’m not sure it’s wise for influencers to have agreed to do it and I sure as hell don’t think you should base any decisions on what they have to say about it. This isn’t some deal with Miss Papp or Missy Empire; this is your life we’re talking about.

If you want some valuable and impartial advice, make an appointment with your local family planning clinic or GP ASAP. Talk to your mum, colleagues, friends or sisters about their experiences. Google it all you can. Head to the NHS website. Soak up as much information as possible and try out as many methods as you like before settling on the one that’s best for you and your body. That’s really the only way to do it. And who knows? Natural Cycles might be it.

I certainly wouldn’t leave anything to do with my body in the hands of an app and I’m not convinced you should, either.

But of course, that’s entirely up to you.

THE OPINION

Someone once said to me, ‘It must be exhausting having an opinion about everything’, and although I can’t actually remember who said it (no doubt a man), I certainly remember being offended by it.

Women have fought for the right to exercise their vocal chords and share their opinions for years, and I, therefore, feel very strongly about speaking out whenever I like in order to honour the ongoing effort. It comes as no surprise, then, that the comment got my back up, but when I actually came away from the conversation and went about my daily life, throwing a billion ‘I think’, ‘I like’ and ‘I disagrees’ into the world, I became acutely aware of how much time and energy I was wasting on forming opinions about things that actually have no effect on my life whatsoever, whilst noticing that everyone else had fallen into the same habit.

Social media, of course, has played a pivotal role in feeding our new age need to share and seek approval every second of every day (having a blog doesn’t help), and although I think it’s wonderful how many active conversations are now being had online (taking the last general election for example, where young people were more engaged in politics than ever before), I do think Zuckerberg and co. encouraging us to constantly like, share or hide irrelevant fodder every second of every day, is to the detriment of our mental health and maybe even lives.

We spend so much time sparking opinions about inane things, such as what someone had for brunch or the fact an old school friend just got engaged when, if we really gave it a minute, these things don’t really warrant an opinion. It’s a waste of headspace and all it does is pave the way for comparison. However fleeting the thought process may be, it can’t be good for you to make so many judgements calls in just 24 hours?

My issue with voicing so many opinions on a daily basis runs deeper than just this, though. Our generation of opinion sharers are in danger of being only that. We feel as though we’ve done our bit because we’ve shared yet another post by Greenpeace without actually taking action. Without donating money. Or time. I’m worried that people’s social media activity is starting to placate activism. It’s become more about what causes we’re seen to be supporting rather than what efforts we’re actually doing to in order to fire up change.

So let’s put an end to all that.

Don’t be lured into liking or commenting on reams and reams of photos and statuses all day long. Instead, make sure that before you hit like or dislike or comment on something someone’s tagged you in, hold that thumb and think for half a second about whether it’s worth your time. Not only will preserving your opinions and voice online add value to it, you’ll also be amazed at how much time and energy you save, enabling you to focus on the things that really matter. And finally, if you see something you feel strongly about – be it about animal cruelty, sustainability or mental health – do more than just share it on your Facebook feed, because although you’re creating noise, there’s a limit to how far the sound reaches – and there’s a cap on how much of an effect it can have. After all, actions really do speak louder than words.

THE PLUS ONE

If you know me IRL, you’ll know I love to talk, that I live for socialising and admittedly, at times, enjoy being the centre of attention, but there is simply not a chance in hell I would attend an event of any kind (except for a work one) on my Jacobs.

In fact, walking into a room full of people I don’t know without someone on my arm (be it pal or partner) fills me with dread and panic. I find silences and standing alone oh so awkward, filling them at any opportunity and the thought of having to twiddle my thumbs while everyone around me has a good time fills me with fear.

As someone who would happily take a lone ranger under the wing of me and my friends, I’m not sure where this fear that no one in the room would want to talk to me has come from, and why I don’t have enough faith in other people to do the same for me, but tonight, I found myself at a loss for people to attend an event with, and instead of going it alone, I let this fear get the better of me and bailed.

I would secretly love to be the sort of woman who can rock up to events alone and work the room as confidently as when surrounded by my posse, but I’m not convinced even the most confident of women could manage it.

But I’m all for self reflection and improvement, so I’d like to know if I’m wrong.

I’m not talking going alone to a party where you’ll know other guests by the way, I’m talking going alone to a party where you will definitely, 100% know nobody. Is it lame I can’t do it? Should I work on being able to? Or is it simply natural human instinct that I’d like back up.

If I’m alone and you think I should’ve been a bit more brave, then I’m going to add it to my ‘Before 30 Bucket List’ – (eesh, how am I there already?)

If you’re with me, I’ll stop beating myself up about it. Sometimes humans don’t need to be brave, they just need to do what feels right.

(If you were wondering, the event I was supposed to go to before everyone bailed on me was Lauren’s Girl Vs Cancer, #notapityparty – If you would like to support her cause, buy a banging t shirt today.)