Contraceptives come to the aid of couples who aren’t ready to have kids. A common option is the birth control pill, which is more than 99% effective when used correctly (1). But not all women prefer the pill as it affects their natural reproductive cycle and could result in several side effects. Non-hormonal birth control measures, therefore, are ideal to avoid an unwanted pregnancy without affecting your hormones.
In this MomJunction post, we tell you about the different non-hormonal contraceptives, their advantages, disadvantages, and side effects too.
What Are Non-hormonal Birth Control Measures?
Non-hormonal methods can prevent pregnancy without affecting the hormones or natural reproductive cycles. While hormonal birth control methods prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs, non-hormonal contraceptives keep the sperm from meeting the eggs for fertilization (1).
Non-hormonal birth control measures have fewer side effects, won’t affect the natural cycles, and act as a backup for the usual hormonal contraceptive (2). Keep reading to know more about these options.
What Are The Various Non-hormonal Birth Control Methods?
Here are some of the most used non-hormonal contraceptives.
1. Male condom
- When used correctly, it is 98% effective.
- A condom should be used during sexual intercourse. A single condom can be used only once, and cannot be reused.
- A male condom is readily available in sexual health clinics, pharmacies, and family planning clinics.
- It is inexpensive and can be purchased over the counter, without a prescription.
- The most common type of male condoms is latex condoms. Other options include natural skin condoms, silicon rubber, and polyurethane condoms.
- None of the oil-based products (Vaseline, lotion, massage oil, or moisturizer) should be used with the condom, as they might tear or damage it. Instead, you may use any water-based lubricant.
- Latex condoms can protect against STDs, but other types of male condoms may not.
2. Female condom
- It is 95% effective when used correctly.
- A female condom is packed with a lubricant and is available at most drugstores.
- It is flexible and has to be placed at the closed end in the vagina, thereby covering the cervix. The ring stays outside and covers the outer genitals or the labia. A female condom can be placed about eight hours before sex.
- One condom should be used only once.
- It is available at drugstores and is not very expensive.
- It is easy to use and protects against STDs.
Spermicides contain chemical agents (mainly Nonoxynol-9) that kill the sperms. They are available in various forms, including a gel, film, cream, tablet, or melting suppository.
- The spermicide should be put inside the vagina an hour before sex and left for about six to eight hours after the intercourse.
- It is also used along with other contraceptives such as the cervical cap or a diaphragm.
- Consult your doctor before using this non-hormonal birth control method. Also, don’t use it when you are taking any vaginal medication.
- It doesn’t offer protection against STDs.
- It can be obtained from drugstores and requires no prescription.
4. Cervical cap
It is a thimble-shaped cup made of soft, thin silicone. This non-hormonal contraceptive covers the cervix to prevent the sperm from entering the uterus for fertilization (5).
- It is around 92 to 96% effective when used correctly. It is more effective for women who have no children than those who do.
- It is available in different sizes and should be used when you have sex. The cup should be in place for about six hours or more after intercourse. But do not leave it inside the vagina for more than 30 hours in all.
- It should be used with a gel, such as a spermicide, to prevent pregnancy, but it doesn’t protect against STDs.
- Prescription is required for a cervical cap, which can cost as high as $275 (including the cost of the cervical cap and doctor’s examination) or nothing if your health insurance covers it. The spermicide is priced between $5 and $15 (6).
- Don’t use the cervical cap while you are on your periods or when you are taking any vaginal medication. There could be chances of infection or other health risks. Also, don’t use it if you are sensitive to chemicals in the spermicide or latex.
It is a soft and flexible shallow cup that has jelly or spermicidal cream inside. This vaginal barrier is placed over the cervix to keep the sperm from reaching the uterus (5).
- It is around 92 to 96% effective when used correctly.
- Doctor’s consultation and prescription are necessary to buy and use this non-hormonal birth control measure.
- Vaginal creams and oil-based lubricants should not be used with the diaphragm as they can damage the latex.
- It should be inserted before intercourse and has to be left for about six hours, but not more than 24 hours, after sex.
- It doesn’t protect against STDs.
- The cost of this contraceptive can be zero (if your insurance covers it) or up to $250 (including the cost of diaphragm and doctor’s examination). It could cost you another $5 to 15 for the spermicide (7).
6. Contraceptive sponge
This soft, pillow-shaped sponge has a spermicide (Nonoxynol-9) that kills the sperm. It should be moistened before inserting into the vagina (8).
- It should be placed in the vagina, over the cervix.
- The sponge should be kept for at least six hours after the sex, and about 24 hours in all.
- It can be easily placed and removed; however, the instructions are to be followed carefully.
- No prescription is required. It can be purchased from the pharmacy.
- Don’t use a contraceptive sponge when you are on your periods or if you have any infection. Also, don’t use it if you are allergic to spermicide, polyurethane, or sulfa drugs.
- It does not protect against STDs.
7. Intrauterine device (IUD)
It is a small, T-shaped copper tool that is inserted into the uterus. The procedure is performed by a medical professional. This non-hormonal option serves as long-term contraception (5).
- It can be kept for a maximum of 10 years, after which it should be changed.
- It prevents the sperm from meeting the egg and changes the uterine lining so that the fertilized egg doesn’t attach itself.
- IUD should be removed by a medical professional only.
- It doesn’t protect against STDs.
- In case of any side-effects, let the doctor know about it.
8. Surgical sterilization
It is a permanent birth control measure, which means there is no possibility of a child in the future.
- For females, the procedure is called tubal ligation. And for males, it is vasectomy.
- The procedure is performed by a medical professional.
- It doesn’t protect against STDs.
- It requires a doctor’s consultation.
- Both the surgical sterilization procedures (vasectomy and tubal ligation) are effective.
Selecting an option from this extensive list could be confusing. Read further to know more about choosing the right one.
How To Select The Right Non-hormonal Birth Control Option?
The choice of a non-hormonal birth control method depends on certain factors such as:
- Health status
- Personal preferences
- Risk of infections or diseases
- Culture and religion
- The duration of the procedure and how long it is effective
If you and your spouse still find it difficult to decide on a non-hormonal birth control option, you may consult a doctor for advice. Continue reading to know the advantages and disadvantages of using non-hormonal birth control options.
Advantages Of Non-hormonal Birth Control Options
Non-hormonal contraceptives are preferred to hormonal due to the following reasons.
- Most non-hormonal measures that prevent pregnancy can be used in an on-and-off manner.
- These are suitable for couples who do not have sex frequently.
- Women who experience side effects from contraceptive pills can use non-hormonal birth control measures.
- Some non-hormonal methods need no supervision or prescription and are readily available at the stores.
- These methods do not disturb the natural reproductive cycle of a woman.
- These are suitable for women who cannot use any hormonal birth control measures for medical or breastfeeding reasons.
- The non-hormonal contraceptives can be used as a backup for hormonal measures.
Drawbacks Of Non-hormonal Birth Control Options
In some instances, these methods might not be helpful.
- Some of the non-hormonal contraceptives cannot be used when women are on periods, as it may lead to health risks.
- There could be irritation and discomfort when the contraceptives are placed in the vagina.
- When contraceptives do not fit properly, the chances of their effectiveness may decrease.
- Some of the measures may not be accessible without a prescription or medical intervention.
Some people may also experience some side-effects when using some of these birth control methods.
Common side effects such as irritation and allergies due to the use of non-hormonal contraceptives tend to disappear with time. Some serious but rare side effects, such as latex allergy or toxic shock syndrome, could also be experienced. Side-effects of using an IUD include uterine perforation, pelvic inflammatory disease, or ectopic pregnancy.
Next, we answer some commonly asked questions about non-hormonal contraception.
Frequently Answered Questions
1. Will I gain weight using non-hormonal birth control methods?
No. Weight gain is usually a result of using hormonal birth control methods such as birth control pills. There is no evidence suggesting that non-hormonal contraceptives can lead to a sudden gain in weight. However, if you observe weight gain or any side effects after using non-hormonal measures, you may consult a medical professional.
2. What is the safest form of birth control?
Every birth control method has its own pros and cons, depending on various factors. Figure out which option is suitable for your lifestyle and needs, and talk to your doctor if you still have any doubts.
3. Can non-hormonal birth control stop periods?
No, non-hormonal contraceptives do not have any effect on your hormones or natural cycle. These methods are used only to prevent the sperm from getting in contact with the egg for fertilization.
If you want to enjoy sex but do not want to disrupt your natural menstrual cycle to prevent pregnancy, you may use any of the non-hormonal birth control options. These can be used whenever you want, are effective and safe.
What is your take on non-hormonal birth control measures? Let us know about it in the comment section below.
2. Non-hormonal Methods of Contraception; Cornell Health (2017)
3. Which method of contraception suits me?; NHS
4. Contraception Birth Control Methods; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
5. Contraceptive Diaphragm or cap; NHS
6. How do I get a cervical cap?; Plannedparenthood.org
7. How do I get a diaphragm?; Plannedparenthood.org