Birth Control Options Without All the Hormones

We understand how frustrating it can be to deal with common hormonal birth control side effects like spotting, decreased libido, nausea, breast tenderness, acne, weight gain, moodiness, and headaches. We’ve compiled a list of hormone-free birth control methods and the pros and cons for each.

Condoms

Condoms are the only form of birth control that protects against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. They are typically made from latex or plastic, but they also come in lambskin varieties to accommodate allergies (though lambskin condoms do not protect against STDs).

There are two types of condoms: traditional external condoms (“male condoms”) or internal “female” condoms. When used correctly every single time you have sex, male condoms are 98% effective. If used perfectly every time, female condoms are 95% effective – though, since they are not always used properly, they are only about 79% effective in real life.

Diaphragms

A diaphragm is a small flexible dome-shaped object. To use it, you fill it with a contraceptive gel or spermicide, then pinch it and push it inside of yourself – as far as it will go. When it unfolds, it will cover your cervix, blocking sperm’s entry. If you use this method, note that the diaphragm must stay in for at least six hours after the act, but it is dangerous to leave it in for longer than 24 hours. You will need to wash it after each use and reinsert it the next time you have sex. When using a diaphragm and spermicide together, the prevention rate ranges from 70% to 99%, accounting for misuse.

Spermicide

Spermicide is most often (and most effectively) used in conjunction with condoms or diaphragms. The substance chemically slows sperm, blocking them from reaching the cervix. This method is easy to use, but about 28% of women who use spermicide alone will get pregnant in the first year of typical use. Spermicide may also increase the risk of STIs (sexually transmitted infections) since it contains irritating ingredients.

Gels

Contraceptive gels are similar to spermicide in that they are inserted just before sex. This typically happens with an applicator similar to a tampon. Contraceptive gels work by changing your pH and making it an unwelcoming environment for sperm cells. This method does not increase the risk of contracting an STI, but it does contain ingredients that can cause urinary tract infections. The effectiveness of contraceptive gel is between 86% and 93%, but that can be increased by pairing it with condoms or diaphragms.

Nonhormonal IUDs

IUDs (intrauterine devices) are some of the most effective forms of birth control (more than 99%). Whether hormonal or nonhormonal, you will need to get the insertion done at your doctor’s office, a process that is quick but can be somewhat painful. Nonhormonal varieties (also called copper IUDs) are T-shaped pieces of flexible plastic with copper around them. The copper causes a reaction that makes it difficult for sperm to survive until reaching the egg. Copper IUDs can cause unpleasant periods for the first few months, but these side effects usually ease up after your body gets used to the device.

Natural Cycles Birth Control App

Natural Cycles is the first FDA-approved birth control app that uses an algorithm based on your body’s temperature and menstrual cycle to detect which days of the month you are most and least likely to get pregnant. The app claims to be 93% effective under typical use and 99% effective when used perfectly.

It’s important to remember that what works for others may not work for you. So be sure to speak with your doctor about the various pros and cons of each type of birth control and decide together which one is best for you.

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