There are many different methods of birth control and a doctor can help you choose the best option for you based on your medical history. Many people use hormonal birth control (pills, patches, rings, and more), but this article will specifically go over non-hormonal birth control options.
What is non-hormonal birth control?
Non-hormonal birth control contains no hormones and relies on other ways to protect against pregnancy, whereas hormonal birth control contains small amounts of estrogen and/or progestin hormones.
There are several reasons why someone might choose to try non-hormonal birth control. Some people experience side effects on hormonal birth control, or your doctor may strongly advise you not to use hormonal birth control for certain medical conditions.
Below are examples of non-hormonal birth control options. A few of them not only help to prevent pregnancy, but also help reduce your risk of STIs.
External condoms that are meant to put on a penis, are easy to find in stores or online, and some clinics offer them for free. The typical failure rate is 13%. The failure rate refers to the chances someone will become pregnant while using a certain type of contraceptive.
External condoms can also be used on sex toys to help prevent spreading STIs and bacterial infections. You need to change condoms each time you change from vaginal to anal or oral use. Remember to wash your toys after every use.
Internal condoms are another great option to prevent pregnancy and STIs. They can be bought in drugstores or online (and we also offer them!) Internal condoms can be inserted into the vagina up to eight hours before sexual intercourse. You can find out how to use it correctly here. The typical failure rate is 21%.
Spermicide is a chemical you put into your vagina to paralyze sperm. You can buy spermicide over the counter in a variety of forms, including gels, foams or suppositories (which are inserted into the vagina to dissolve). Spermicide works best when used in conjunction with another method. You’ll read more about these methods as we go down the list of options. Spermicide has around a 20% failure rate. It is recommended that you use it with other products to increase its effectiveness.
A diaphragm is a saucer-shaped silicon cup that you put into your vagina to block semen from entering the uterus. You will need to be fitted for one by a doctor. Diaphragms do not have the benefit of preventing STIs and also have a higher chance of a vaginal infection or urinary tract infection. You’ll also need to use spermicide with it. The failure rate is 17%.
Similar to a diaphragm, you will need to be fitted by a doctor to use a cervical cap. The cervical cap is a hat-shaped piece of silicone that you put over your cervix to keep sperm out of the uterus and you use it along with spermicide. The failure rate is 17%.
Similar to the cervical cap and diaphragm, the sponge blocks sperm from entering the uterus. It’s a foam that already contains spermicide and you can buy it without a prescription. The typical failure rate is 14% for people who have never had a baby and 27% for people who have had a baby.
There are several kinds of IUDs, but the copper IUD is the only one that is non-hormonal. You will need to have a doctor insert it. There is a T-shaped plastic piece wrapped in copper, which is toxic to sperm. You can read more about copper and hormonal IUD options here.
IUDs are a very effective birth control method and prevent pregnancy more than 99% of the time. The IUD can remain inside your body for up to 10 years and if you decide you do want to become pregnant, you can have a doctor remove it.
Phexxi is a gel that is applied with an applicator to the vagina immediately before (or up to 1 hour before) intercourse. The applicator is similar to using a tampon. The gel affects the pH level of the vagina to make it so that sperm cannot survive. The gel will not work if applied after intercourse. You can read more about Phexxi here.
Natural family planning requires you to have very regular menstrual cycles, and dedicated time to monitor your body and keep careful records. This method involves tracking your body temperature, vaginal discharge, and fertile days, and sometimes taking ovulation tests. Failure rates for this method vary from 2-23%. You can read more on fertility awareness here.
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