In April last year I wrote about the rise of natural family planning in the West, and its application to family planning aid in developing countries.  It is not the unreliable method many people assume, but in fact encompasses a range of highly researched methods, many with their own apps and devices which are making them increasingly user friendly.

It is interesting to note that this month Vogue magazine, an icon of fashion since 1892, seems to have picked up on the trend with an article in its November 2017 edition entitled “Why Millennial Women Are Rejecting The Pill”:

Some half a century after its launch, cracks are beginning to appear in the image of the contraceptive pill. But why are more and more women turning away from it? Lottie Winter finds out in this piece first published in Vogue's November 2017 issue.

Ms Winter writes:

In fact, younger women are turning away from the pill in droves – an NHS study found that the number of women in contact with sexual and reproductive health services who used user-dependent contraception, including the pill, had dropped by more than 13 per cent between 2005 and 2015. It's hardly surprising: a quick Google search chums up some alarming reports, from articles on possible links between the pill and cancer to claims that are outright bizarre, such as “contraceptive pills flushed down the toilet are turning fish transgender”.

And that's not even to mention the everyday side effects that many women reportedly experience: mood swings, bloating and weight gain top a long list. In an age where we're all obsessed with health and wellbeing, young women simply don't want to settle for so many symptoms. “I decided to go vegan a few years ago as I found myself increasingly aware of what I was putting in my body,” says Abbie, a 26-year-old radio presenter. “At the same time, I was still taking the pill and it started to feel incongruent with my new lifestyle. It was only apt that I started looking for an alternative method of contraception.” Small wonder so many women are rejecting the pill in an emerging cultural backlash against hormonal contraceptives in general to try to reclaim autonomy over their bodies.

The article goes on to cite studies linking the pill and depression and doctors that have an attitude of contraception ‘at all costs’, despite the side effects patients cite:

“The reality of modern medicine is that pharmaceutical companies have to have an economic incentive to research new products,” says Dr Jane Dickson, vice-president of the faculty of sexual and reproductive healthcare at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. “Bio-identical hormones are far, far more expensive than synthetic versions and, unlike during the menopause, when only a small amount is needed to replace the body's natural levels, contraception requires much higher doses to effectively put the reproductive organs to sleep.”

A grassroots movement, therefore, seemed inevitable; as at so many points in history, if women want change, they're not going to get help from the top. 

An opinion piece in The Guardian today also picks up on the increasing fertility app trend, albeit in a more tongue in cheek way, and comments that using natural family planning as an alternative to the pill facilitates more intimate conversations about women’s health “and the assumption of more collective responsibility for the nature and timing of sexual intimacy”.

Natural family planning has increased in popularity in part also because it is so helpful to women wanting to get pregnant because they can know with great accuracy when they are most fertile. 

It seems the popularity of natural family planning only continues to increase for women in the West.  Therefore, we should increase our respect for the rights of women in developing countries to also choose more natural, cheaper, drug free alternative to pills – and realise that in fact many already successfully do.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...