1. Your cycle
  2. Sex
  3. Birth control

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7 Effective Non-Hormonal Birth Control Options You Can Try (and 1 with a Lower Dose of Hormones)

It is often a subject of confusion for women while switching between various birth control options or choosing the one that suits them best. What are the best non-hormonal birth control options? Learn more in this article!

There are many contraception choices available for women today. These are the most popular:

Barrier methods are the most common type of non-hormonal birth control methods where the sperms are physically prevented from reaching the egg. Many barrier contraceptives can be easily purchased online or over the counter at any local drugstore. There are various types of barrier birth control methods:

Condoms are the most popular type of no-hormone birth control method used globally. In addition to preventing an unwanted pregnancy, they also protect you against sexually transmitted diseases and sexually transmitted infections (STDs and STIs). They are effective, easy to use, cheap, and available everywhere.

Condoms are available for males as well as for females. Male condoms roll onto the penis and prevent the sperms from entering the vagina during sex. These are about 82% effective when used correctly. Male condoms are available in a variety of materials, textures, colors, and flavors. Typically, the cost of a male condom is comparatively low; sometimes they’re even available free of charge at state hospitals.

Female condoms fit inside the vagina to act as a barrier for sperm reaching your uterus. Usually, these are manufactured from nitrile or polyurethane. Female condoms are slightly costlier than the male ones.

Spermicide, as the name suggests, is a chemical that kills sperms. It may be available in foam, gel, or cream form.

Spermicide has an efficiency of 70-80% when used alone and hence should be used correctly along with condoms or any other barrier methods. Even some spermicide condoms are also available on the market.

Usually, spermicide does not have any side effects, but some people may experience skin irritation. The majority of the spermicides contain nonoxynol-9 that may change the skin in and around your genitals making you more prone to contract HIV. Thus if you experience skin irritation, itchiness, redness, burning sensation or have concerns about HIV, you must immediately consult your doctor.

A contraceptive sponge is a plastic foam that is inserted into the vagina before intercourse. It acts as a barrier between the sperm and  the cervix of your uterus. Sponges are designed for a single use and should be used along with a spermicide. These can be inserted in the vagina up to 24 hours before sex. The most important thing you must follow with the use of sponge is that it should be removed at least after 6 hours after sexual intercourse.

Sponges are about 60-80% effective.

You must restrain from using sponge if you face allergy to sulfa drugs, polyurethane or spermicide.

A cervical cap is a prescription-only non-hormonal birth control method consisting of a silicon plug that can be inserted in the vagina before the intercourse. It is reusable, and hence it is critical to check it for any holes or cracks before its use.

The efficiency of cervical caps ranges from 60% to 80%.

A diaphragm is a dome-shaped silicon barrier that is inserted into the vagina before intercourse. It is also reusable, and a keen inspection for the presence of weak points or cracks is mandatory before using it. You can leave it inside the vagina up to 24 hours but keep in mind that it should be removed only after 6 hours of having intercourse.

The diaphragm has an efficiency of 80%, and you may use it along with spermicide as a no-hormone birth control for even better protection against pregnancy. 

A diaphragm usually costs up to $90, and you may check if your insurance covers it. 

If you are looking for long-term birth control options, you may go for intrauterine devices (IUD). These are the reversible form of contraception and available as hormonal birth control method as well as the hormone-free birth control method. The non-hormonal IUD contains copper. A specialized doctor places it inside a woman’s uterus. IUD can be used for up to 10 years. It can also be removed anytime to return yourself to normal fertility. Failure risk with IUDs is less than 1%.

Common birth control side effects associated with IUD include cramps and heavy bleeding, but they may decrease with time.

You may choose surgery (sterilization) as a permanent procedure for birth control without hormones. Depending upon the procedure, the sterilization may or may not require an incision. Sterilization can be performed on a female — it’s called tubal ligation, or on a male — it’s called vasectomy. Most of the methods of female sterilization are effective right away, but there can be a presence of sperms in semen up to 3 months after the vasectomy.  This process is highly effective and has a failure rate of less than 1%.

You should keep in mind that surgery is a permanent birth control option. Have a proper consultation with your doctor before signing up for any surgery.

Another simple hormone-free birth control method is the natural family planning or fertility awareness. You can determine the time of the month when you are potentially fertile (ovulation days) and avoid having sex during this time. This fertility period is usually about 6- 8 days in a cycle.  If you are well aware of your body, you may also track your ovulation days. Fertile days are the days during which the egg is released from the ovary and it reaches the uterus, as well as a couple of days before that. Some of the ways to determine if the woman is ovulating are:

  • Tracking your menstrual cycle. Ovulation takes place approximately 2 weeks before the next menstrual period. 
  • Measuring BBT. Before ovulation, the basal body temperature falls and spikes after the ovulation.
  • Examining your cervical mucus. The quantity and texture of cervical mucus change during ovulation.

Natural family planning involves working “with” your body rather than “against” it. The success rate of this hormone-free birth control method is about 75% and depends upon the couple's experience and effectivity in period track. This method is effective only if a woman can closely monitor her cycle. Using a menstrual period tracking app like Flo may be beneficial for accurate tracking of the ovulation.

Birth control pills contain hormones that prevent you from getting pregnant. They usually contain a combination of estrogen and progesterone. Some of the varieties of birth control pills have lower estrogen than others; they are called low-hormone birth control pills. Generally, lesser hormones are associated with having fewer side effects of birth control pills like headaches, nausea, breast tenderness, etc.

Low-hormone birth control pills have 35 micrograms of estrogen in them or less, which is both effective and safe for women. 

The latest advancement in low hormone contraception methods has led to the introduction of “ultra low-dose” pills that contain 20 micrograms of estrogen or less. These low-dose and ultra low-dose estrogen pills are as effective as higher dose birth control pills, and they come with the lesser risk of side effects. 

Side effects and effectiveness of birth control may vary from person to person, so you should talk to your doctor about your health and habits (like smoking, etc.) before going for a low-hormone birth control option.

You may switch to birth control without hormones if you:

  • Do not require an ongoing birth control or do not have sexual intercourse very frequently.
  • Suffer from side effects of birth control pills.
  • Don’t want to alter the natural cycle of your body.
  • Changed your health insurance and the new policy do not cover hormonal methods.
  • You may use this method as additional protection along with the hormonal methods.
  • Most of the non-hormonal birth control methods are inexpensive.
  • Some options are easily and locally available and do not require a prescription.
  • Most of these methods (except IUD) require consistent use to prevent pregnancy.
  • The failure rates of non-hormonal contraceptive methods except IUD is higher as compared to hormonal birth control options.
  • Many of the methods cannot be used during menstruation.
  • Many women may find placing or leaving birth control devices in their vagina uncomfortable.

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