15 Non-Hormonal Birth Control Methods

Birth control.

Does your mind instinctively imagine a small plastic compact lined with small pills or maybe it’s a patch, injection or flexible ring that incorporates some sort of hormone that miraculously affects the body to regulate fertility? 

Hormonal birth control options are extremely effective and popular – you may even be using one right now – but perhaps you would like to learn about options that don’t include estrogen and/or progestin hormones.

This could be for many reasons. You may be attempting to lower the effects you are currently experiencing with a hormonal method such as weight fluctuation to depression or perhaps more serious effects such as liver damage or blood clots.

Perhaps you are trying to reduce the overall amount of hormone exposure in your life.

Or you may simply want to be aware of the options offered.

You’ll be interested to know that there are many non-hormonal options readily available, inexpensive and highly effective.

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Before proceeding to list the options – I would like to note that, above all, there is no one-size-fits-all birth control option. I know many women who have chosen a hormonal fertility control method and are very satisfied. That doesn’t mean they are wrong or they are making a terrible choice. I encourage every woman to make the choice that meets their own personal needs and wants.  

No matter what you personally choose, birth control allows women control and choice over their own sexual heath which pretty damn awesome.


IUD
Paragard Copper Intrauterine Device


How it works:
Paragard is a T-shaped non hormonal copper device inserted into the uterus by your doctor. The IUD works by interfering with the movement of the sperm inside the uterus and prevents it from joining an egg.  Sperm die within the uterus before they can fertilize the egg.

RIP sperm.


Success rate:
The copper IUD is more than 99% effective and prevents pregnancy for over a decade.


Pros:
Using a copper IUD is effective, reversible, and won't impact a woman's naturally occurring hormones.

This particular IUD can last up to 12 years before needing replaced. It might also protect against endometrial cancer.

This method is ideal for women who do not desire a pregnancy for an extended period of time. It also lends the convenience of not having to do anything on an ongoing basis.

No component of ParaGard contains latex for those that are concerned with allergies.

It can be used during breastfeeding.

Cons:
Using an IUD can increase the amount of bleeding a woman experiences during her period and may increase menstrual cramping.

Prescription is needed.

The common myth that they can cause infertility has not found merit. However, inserting an IUD while you have an STD could increase your chance of infertility.


The Sponge
The Today Sponge


How it works:
The sole brand available in the U.S. is The Today Sponge which is a plastic foam sponge that contains spermicide. The sponge covers the cervix while continuously releasing spermicide.

The sponge was removed from the U.S. market in 1994 due to manufacturing issues but finally re-introduced in Canada in March 2003 and in the U.S. in September 2005.

There is a polyester loop string located on the outer surface to assist in the removal of the sponge.  The sponge can be left in place for 24 hours, with no limit of how many times you can have sex during that time frame. However, for the spermicide to be effective, the sponge must be left in place for 6 hours after sex before it is removed.


Success rate:
Among women who have never given birth, the sponge is 91% effective and for those who have had children the sponge is about 80% effective.


Pros:
You can buy the sponge over the counter or even online. No prescription need.

You can also have sex as many times as you like during the first 24 hours of wearing it.

It can be used during breastfeeding.


Cons:
The sponge is somewhat costly (compared to condoms at least); a package of three can cost about $15 over the counter.

It can also be challenging to insert. Also women who use contraceptive sponges may have a risk of yeast infection and urinary tract infection if they are more prone to them to begin with.

A woman should be comfortable touching herself in order to insert and remove this barrier method correctly.



Male Condom
Trojan, Durex, Lifestyles, Crown


How it works:
Male condoms prevent sperm from entering the vagina via barrier method to reduce the probability of pregnancy and spreading sexually transmitted diseases.

Condoms are most often made from latex, but some are made from other materials such as polyurethane, polyisoprene, or lamb intestine.


Success rate:
If used correctly, condoms can be up to 98% effective against pregnancy.

As for lambskin condoms, they are generally effective as a contraceptive by blocking sperm, it has been presumed that they are likely less effective than latex in preventing the transmission of agents that cause STDs, because of pores in the material - however, no data exists that either confirms or denies this.


Pros:
Condoms are pretty simple to use, easy to get, and cheap.

They prevent STDs.

Condoms are widely available without a prescription at many drug and grocery stores. They come in different sizes, textures, flavors and colors, and spermicidal condoms are also available.

It can be used during breastfeeding.

No prescription need.


Cons:
They might dull sensation and interrupt intercourse. However, lambskin may provide a more "natural" sensation.

Some women or men may be allergic to latex, a material used in some condoms.

Male and female condoms should not be used together because the latex could tear.



Female Condom
Femidom


How it works:
The female condom (or femidom) is placed inside the vagina and collects semen when a man ejaculates via barrier method to reduce the probability of pregnancy and spreading sexually transmitted diseases.


Success rate:
If used correctly, only five out of 100 women will become pregnant (95% effective).


Pros:
This method protects against STDs.

The female condom is a great method for women because it gives them control and choice over their own sexual health; women can protect themselves when their partner does not want to use a male condom; female condoms may provide enhanced sensation for men as compared to male condoms.

They also come pre-lubricated with a non-spermicidal, silicone based lubricant.

No prescription need.


Cons:
It could slip into the vagina during intercourse, reduce feeling slightly, or cause some noise, much like the male condom.

Inserting the female condom is a skill that has to be learned and female condoms can be significantly more expensive than male condoms (upwards of 2 or 3 times the cost).

It can be a turn off to some users because the outer ring remains visible outside the vagina during sex.

A woman should be comfortable touching herself in order to insert and remove this barrier method correctly.




Diaphragm
Koro-Flex, Koromex, Ortho-Diaphragm

How it works:
The diaphragm is a dome shaped, rubber, flexible rimmed cup which is fitted by your doctor.

Before sex, a woman inserts the diaphragm creating a barrier to sperm.  For added protection, about a tablespoon of spermicide is used on the inside of the diaphragm in case an adventurous sperm makes it over the rim.

If a diaphragm is fitter correctly, a woman should not feel the diaphragm and should be able to wear it comfortably.  Your partner may feel the latex of the diaphragm but it should not cause discomfort.  The diaphragm may be inserted up to 6 hours before sex and it may be left in place for 24 hours after sex.

Success rate:
Of women who always use the diaphragm correctly, six out of 100 become pregnant (94%).

Spermicide cream/gel/jelly is recommended to increase effectiveness.


Pros:
It usually cannot be felt by your partner and can be inserted hours before sex which means there is no interruption during foreplay and sex. 

It can be used during breastfeeding, it is immediately effective and reversible.

Cons:
A diaphragm requires a fitting by your doctor (possibly even refitting).

It requires a prescription.

It should not be used during your period and can be difficult to insert-which you have to do each time you have sex.

A diaphragm may be pushed out of place by some penis sizes, heavy thrusting, and certain sexual positions.

A woman should be comfortable touching herself in order to insert and remove this barrier method correctly.


Cervical Cap
FemCap

How it works:
A cervical cap is a silicone cup inserted into the vagina to prevent pregnancy which can last up to two years.

FemCap is the only brand of cervical cap available in the United States today. It comes in 3 sizes and must be fit by a health care provider.



Success rate:
Of women who have never given birth, 14 out of 100 will become pregnant (86% effective). For those who have given vaginal birth, 29 out of 100 will become pregnant (71% effective).

Like the diaphragm, you should use spermicide cream/gel/jelly to increase effectiveness.


Pros:
It works similar to a diaphragm, and for $60-75, a cervical cap will last up to two years.  It usually cannot be felt by your partner and can be inserted before sex which means there is no interruption during sex. 

It can be used during breastfeeding, it is immediately effective and reversible.

Some say it is easier to remove compared to the diaphragm.

Cons:
Similar drawbacks as the diaphragm: it cannot be used during your period, might be a bit challenging to insert and does not protect against STDs.

It requires a prescription.

A woman should be comfortable touching herself in order to insert and remove this barrier method correctly.

The cervical cap must stay in place six hours after sex.



Spermicide
Conceptrol, Encare, Emko, Delfen Foam

How it works:
Spermicides are chemicals that kill sperm or stop them from moving, which you insert deep into the vagina right before sex.

It can be used along with other forms of birth control.

There are many different forms available including creams, film, foams, gels, and suppositories. Instructions on how to use a specific spermicide are provided in the box or can be obtained from your health care provider.

Spermicides are more effective if they are used with another barrier method.

Success rate:
When used alone, studies suggest that six to 26 percent of women will become pregnant (74% effective).

Even if you don't use another method along with spermicide, your chance of getting pregnant is much less than if you use no birth control at all.

Effectiveness generally decreases after one hour.

Pros:
Super easy to get and a rather inexpensive form of birth control that a woman can control.

Available without a prescription.

It can be inserted by a partner as part of foreplay.


Cons:
It is ideal to use spermicide along with another form of contraception.

If not used exactly as directed, spermicides may not form a good barrier over the cervix which, of course, may make the spermicide less effective.

Some women tend to complain that spermicides are messy or that they leak from their vaginas.

Spermicide may cause irritation to the penis or vagina.

Most spermicides contain nonoxynol-9 which carry certain risks. If it is used many times a day, or by people at risk for HIV, it may irritate tissue and increase the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

The use of spermicide can make oral sex unpleasant for some partners. Additionally, continued use of spermicide can disrupt the vaginal lining.



Surgical Sterilization
Tubal ligation, Essure

How it works:
By sealing the fallopian tubes, surgical sterilization permanently prevents an egg from getting to the uterus.

Closing the tubes can be done in several ways. One way is by tying and cutting the tubes - this is termed tubal ligation. The fallopian tubes also can be sealed using an instrument with an electrical current. They also can be closed with clamps or rings.

In some cases, a small piece of the tube is removed.

In other cases, tiny inserts are put in the tubes. Tissue grows around them and blocks the tubes. The brand name for this type of sterilization is Essure. 

Success rate:
Sterilization is nearly 100 percent effective.

For every 1,000 women who have Essure, fewer than 3 will become pregnant.

For every 1,000 women who have traditional incision methods, about 5 will become pregnant.

Most kinds of sterilization for women are effective right away. But it takes about three months before Essure is effective.


Pros:
It allows a woman to enjoy sex without worrying about pregnancy.

Many women and men report that they have more sexual pleasure because they don't have to think about unwanted pregnancy anymore.

Most women still have normal periods.

Cons:
You might change your mind, plus it requires surgery.

Most women can be sterilized safely. But like any medical procedure, there are risks. One possible risk is that the tubes may reconnect by themselves - but this is rare.

When women get pregnant after being sterilized, about 1 out of 3 has a pregnancy that develops in a fallopian tube (ectopic pregnancy) which is serious and may be life threatening.

You should consider any possible life changes, such as divorce, remarriage, or death of children.



Vasectomy

How it works:
While this is technically birth control for men, if you're in a committed long-term relationship you might consider it.

During a vasectomy, a health care provider closes or blocks the tubes that carry sperm, making it impossible for sperm to travel out of the testes and make a woman pregnant.

To get a bit more technical, a vasectomy blocks each vas deferens and keeps sperm out of the seminal fluid. The sperm are absorbed by the body instead of being ejaculated. Without sperm, the "cum" (ejaculate) cannot cause pregnancy.

Average cost is $350 to $1,000.

Success rate:

Pros:
It lasts for life, and is less intrusive than female sterilization.

It also may be possible to reverse, although men should not count on that.

Cons:
You or he might change your mind.

It is not immediately effective because sperm remains beyond the blocked tubes for about 3 months. A simple test is performed - semen analysis - after 3 months to confirm there are no more sperm remaining.

Very rarely, tubes grow back together again and pregnancy may occur. This happens in about 1 out of 1,000 cases (this happened to a coworker of mine!).

Decreased sexual desire or an inability to have an erection occurs in 4 out of 1,000 cases. The most likely cause is emotional - there is no physical cause for sexual dysfunction associated with vasectomy.


Breastfeeding
Lactational Amenorrhea Method


How it works:
Breastfeeding can be used as birth control when, after giving birth, a woman breastfeeds her baby exclusively. That means the baby does not drink anything besides breast milk. The act of breastfeeding naturally changes a woman's hormones so that she does not become pregnant.

It can be highly effective for six months after delivery or until her period returns.


Success rate:
Effectiveness ranges from 98-99 percent.

Pros:
This method is free and no prescription required.

It reduces bleeding after delivery and is immediately effective.

Breastfeeding has many health advantages for the baby: (1) It decreases the likelihood of infection from germs in water or formula (2) increases body contact and enhances comfort for the child and bonding between mother and child (3) passes on some of the mother's antibodies to protect the baby from certain infections (4) protects against the development of allergies and may protect against the development of asthma (5) provides the best nutrition available

Cons:
Some women find it hard to exclusively breastfeed and not use any formula at all. If formula is given to the baby, the woman has a chance of getting pregnant again.

Breastfeeding may make a woman feel like her breasts are less sexual.


Lea's Shield

How it works:
One of the newer forms of non hormonal birth control, Lea's Shield is an oval device similar to a diaphragm made of silicon rubber and includes a loop which helps in removal.  The shield covers the cervix and is only made in one size so there is no fitting required.

The Lea's Shield is not held in place by the cervix (like the cap) or pubic bone (like the diaphragm) but rather by the vaginal wall. The size of the cervix and the length of the vagina do not play a role, thus the device does not need to be "fitted" by a doctor.

Lea's Shield is inserted much like a tampon. You simply squeeze the shield and push it as far as it will comfortably go. When inserted properly, you should not be able to feel it.

The shield has a flexible ring, which can be used to help with removal.

In the United States, this method is by prescription only.

Lea's Shield is usually used with a spermicide and must be left in place for eight hours after sex.

Success rate:


Pros:
Lea's Shield is composed entirely of medical-grade silicone rubber and thus it is non-allergenic.

The device is one-size-fits-all, washable, and reusable up to 6 months.

You can insert Lea's Shield anytime prior to sex (just place spermicide around the ring of the shield and push it into place). You can leave the shield in place for up to 40 hours after insertion.

It can be used during breastfeeding.

It is among the most inexpensive forms of birth control, costing about $65 per shield.

There is no interruption of foreplay - it can be inserted hours ahead of time.

Cons:
Similar drawbacks as the diaphragm: it cannot be used during your period and does not protect against STDs.

It also requires a prescription.

A woman should be comfortable touching herself in order to insert and remove this barrier method correctly.



Withdrawal
Pull Out Method

How it works:
A man who uses withdrawal will pull himself out of the vagina before ejaculation - the moment when semen spurts out. (skeet-skeet, sorry, I couldn’t help myself here)

This method may be the world's oldest way to practice birth control. About 35 million couples worldwide still rely on the withdrawal method.

Success rate:
With typical use, withdrawal is 73% effective. If used correctly and consistently withdrawal is 96% effective.

Withdrawal is not very effective because it is difficult to perform consistently and the pre-ejaculatory fluid may carry sperm into the vagina.

Withdrawal does not protect against STDs.

Pros:
Anyone can use withdrawal safely - there are no side effects.

No prescription is necessary.

It is free!

Cons:
Even if a man pulls out in time, pregnancy can still happen. Some experts believe that pre-ejaculate can pick up enough sperm left in the urethra from a previous ejaculation to cause pregnancy.

Couples who have great self-control, experience, and trust may use the pull out method more effectively.

This method is not recommended for teens and sexually inexperienced men because it takes lots of experience before a man can be sure to know when he's going to ejaculate



Fertility Awareness
Rhythm Method, Calendar Method, Natural Family Planning 

How it works:
Fertility awareness-based methods (FAMs) are ways to track ovulation (the release of a women’s egg) in order to prevent pregnancy.

FAMs work by keeping sperm out of the vagina in the days near ovulation, when a woman is most fertile and most likely to become pregnant.

There are a variety of ways to determine the days where a woman is most likely to get pregnant from unprotected sex: Temperature Method, Cervical Mucus Method, Calendar Method, Standard Days Method are a few.

To prevent pregnancy, women can abstain from vaginal intercourse on their fertile days or they may enjoy other kinds of foreplay instead of intercourse on their fertile days.

Success rate:
With typical use, Natural Family Planning is 80% effective. If used correctly, consistently, and all of the time, Natural Family Planning can be 98% effective.

Pros:
Cost is relatively small.

These methods are safe and can be stopped easily to plan a pregnancy.

Calendars, thermometers, and charts are easy to get.

Medication or a prescription is not needed.

Can be used during breastfeeding.

Cons:
How well fertility awareness-based methods work depends on both partners. That's why it is important for both to learn about the methods and support each other in their use.

Best for women who have regular twenty eight day cycles and can carefully monitor her fertility on a daily basis.

Fertility awareness-based methods may not work well if you take medicine that may affect reading the signs of these methods.



Abstinence
Just say no


How it works:
Abstinence is refraining from sexual activity.  

Success rate:
Used continuously, this method is 100% effective at preventing pregnancy and STDs.

Pros:
Abstinence is one of the safest ways to prevent pregnancy - there are no side effects.

It is free and prevents STDs

Cons:
People may find it difficult to abstain for long periods of time – becoming quite frisky.

This method will work best for those who choose it for religious or cultural reasons.



Outercourse



How it works:
For some people, outercourse is any sexual interaction without vaginal intercourse. For others, it is foreplay with no penetration at all - oral, anal, or vaginal such as stimulating each other with hands or rubbing.

It allows a couple to be more intimate and even have an orgasm with one another without having sex.


Success rate:
This method is nearly 100% effective at preventing pregnancy and STDs.


Pros:
Outercourse is simple, convenient and free.

It can help people better understand their bodies

This can be used when no other birth control methods are available.

Cons:
Both partners may let outercourse lead to intercourse without being ready to protect themselves against pregnancy.

People may find it difficult to abstain for long periods of time.




The above information has links throughout and the majority of information can be found at the following links:




13 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post! I've had some negative side effects from the hormone birth control in the past but I don't think fertility awareness can continue to be our long term method so this was a great resource! Visiting from the Pistachio Project :)

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  2. Thank you for this post! VCF has been effective but I did not know about Lea's Shield and may be looking into that. I do not believe in hormonal birth control. Visiting from ReInventing Lolli.

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  3. I LOVE my baby comp! (In case you were looking for an alternative) It's like family planning but the little computer does everything for you.

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  4. Thanks for the list! I would be interested in the IUD at this time in my life, but http://www.christiancontraception.com/iud.php stated my reservations well: "The IUD prevents both fertilization and implantation, but generally does not prevent ovulation. Most medical organizations define pregnancy as beginning with implantation. By this definition the IUD is still considered contraception. However, life begins when fertilization occurs, so many Christians would consider the IUD an unacceptable method of birth control as it poses a risk to pre-born life, i.e. the potential to cause a very early abortion."

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  5. We've used pull out successfully now for years. The thought that Cooper's fluid (pre-ejaculation) would contain sperm would only really be a concern if the guy hasn't gone pee or anything between sessions, which would be somewhat uncommon and again easily remedied by flushing out the pipes before round 2.
    We also have used FAM pretty well and LOVE this book for info- http://www.tcoyf.com/ So glad to see such an exhaustive of choices for BC beyond hormones. So many people seem to think their ONLY options are various forms of injecting themselves with hormones (pill, mini-pill, Implanon,ring, patch, IUD, etc.)- um yeah that's not exactly huge variety of choice. That's like a restaurant saying they offer a variety of vegetables but then it's only fries, mashed potatoes, potatoes au gratin, chips, or baked potato. Same freaking thing- just served up in a different form:/

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  6. I feel like I'm taking crazy pills reading this blog. Especially on the "Breastfeeding" as a form of contraception section. Do more in-depth research, i.e. Webmd and not a blog someone who probably got knocked up in high school wrote. Why did I just say that? Because breastfeeding is NOT an effective form of birth control. In fact, in the 4-6 weeks after child birth you are THE MOST FERTILE and MOST LIKELY to get pregnant! (dumbass) So if you want your child to have a sibling, then by all means breastfeed and don't pull out in the 4-6weeks after childbirth (once you've been cleared by your Doctor).

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    1. Planned Parenthood discusses the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) as means of protection, I felt it worthy of mentioning to those that were curious about natural means of birth control.

      I would suggest reading more on this topic as it seems you lack some vital awareness on this method of contraceptive.

      http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control/breastfeeding-4219.htm

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    2. Also... most people aren't having sex 4 weeks after childbirth. JUST SAYING. ;)

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    3. I was also shocked that breastfeeding was used on this blog as an example of birth control that is 98%-99% effective. With many women it can be effective, but it is not effective for a lot of women. I highly doubt the statistics given here on it's effectiveness are correct.

      I know it isn't effectve for everyone, because I became pregnant while I was breasfeeding my baby, and I wasn't supplementing with formula or feeding the baby any solid foods yet. Also, I have 4 children already, and with every child, I breastfeed, and I started having periods and ovulating the very first month after I stopped my childbirth bleeding. I also have had two miscarriages, and I started my period and started ovulating the very next month. I have had several different friends and family members that became pregnant between 1-5 months after having a baby, and they were exclusively breadtfeeding too.

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    4. I think this method is effective if you breastfeed exclusively, and you have had more than one child (so you are better aware of how your personal body reacts to breastfeeding) and you have used ovulation kits or went to the doctor to see if you have started ovulating yet.

      If you only have one child, and you breastfeed that child, and believe you are incapible of ovulating, and then get pregnant right away you will probably not be aware if you do become pregnant until the second trimester. I say this because, if you get pregnant, you won't get your period, and you'll assume you haven't gotten it because you were breastfeeding. You will probably have tender breasts, and a few other signs of pregnancy that you will assume are symptoms caused by breastfeeding (because these side effects can be natural side effects of breastfeeding too).

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    5. So, breastfeeding alone as a form of birth control isn't something that should be encouraged as an effective form of birth control for most women, because it is only reliable for women that don't ovulate during breastfeeding. But, many women still ovulate while breastfeeding. Most likely, you wont know if you are one of the women this form of birth control works for, unless you attempt to use it and it fails.

      So, basically, this method should only be used by women that have more than one child, and know that they are the ones that don't ovulate while breastfeeding. And our bodies change all the time, so what might have worked at one time for a person, might not work at another time, since our bodies change in how much hormones they produce and when they release them as we age.

      Also, part of the effectiveness of this method probably depends on how often the child nurses and how much the milk the child takes in. If that is the case, this method may not work well once the child also starts eating solid food, or if the child uses formula occassionally, or the child goes through phases where he or she isn't as hungry as usual (which is normal for all infants and toddlers).

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  7. I enthusiastically appreciate your effort for sharing this post on non hormonal birth control options which is been a very sensitive topic, which includes all effective & popular birth control options.

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  8. I feel like you should update the Breastfeeding and NFP sections. There are different NFP methods, all with their own success rates, and they differ greatly from the traditional Rhythm Method. You can learn more about fertility awareness methods from Natural Womanhood, and FACTS.

    Also, concerning breastfeeding, have you ever heard of the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding? They were studied and put together by doctors after Sheila Kippley's writings on natural child spacing through breastfeeding, and can be a nice option for those women who want to naturally space their children, enjoy the gentle/natural parenting lifestyle, and have a bigger family.

    As a woman who uses and teaches the Sympto-Thermal Method of fertility awareness, it is so important to me that this info is shared. Thank you for allowing me to comment!

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