11 Non-Hormonal Contraceptive Methods
The Debrief: Sick of pill bloat and basically filling your body with hormones every month? Here are 11 alternative methods of contraception that don’t involve hormones
The pill is a magnificent thing. Not many things have been called the greatest scientific invention of the 20th Century and contributed to the social and sexual freedom of women in a time when such a thing did not exist. But while we’re all happy it was invented, there are some downsides: it doesn’t protect against STIs, it has been linked to increased risk of health conditions such as thrombosis, and it can cause weight gain, breast tenderness and mood swings.
Luckily we live in a world – and more specifically, a country – where there are other ways to avoid an unplanned pregnancy. ‘Hormonal methods – such as the pill or implant – are not for everyone, but there are a number of non-hormonal options that can prevent unplanned pregnancy, some more effective than others,’ explains Vix Proctor from Marie Stopes UK. ‘Trying to abstain from sex, for example, generally has a higher failure rate than condoms. As with any decision about your sexual health, it’s important to weigh up all the facts before making a decision, and to seek advice if you’re unsure.’
Heres a (non-exhaustive) list of non-hormonal options of contraceptives available if you’re thinking of switching your method…
1. Male Condom
Despite many options, the classic condom is still most common form of contraception for men, women and anyone looking to avoid an awkward trip to a STI clinic. As well as for making adult balloons, condoms are used for vaginal, oral and anal sex and made out of latex and synthetic materials. There are no health risks (unless you are allergic) and they are readily available and even free in some areas, but they can split.
Success rate: 98%*
2. Female Condom
While the male condom may be common, there’s also the female version for those who prefer taking control. It is a pouch that’s fitted (for up to eight hours, if you’re planning ahead) inside the vagina before sex and prevents sperm from entering. Some women have trouble using it correctly, but when it is used properly its failure rate is 5%. However it can simply be pushed further into the vagina and, like the male alternative, splitting is a risk.
Success rate: 95%
3. The Intrauterine Device
Better known as the coil, the IUD is a small and plastic copper fitted by a nurse or GP into the womb. It prevents sperm from meeting the egg and the main advantage is that once placed, it can stay there for up to ten years. There are a few downsides: it doesn’t protect against STIs, periods may be heavier for the first few months and some women can contract an infection.
Success rate: 99%
4. The Sponge
Seinfeld fans will be familiar with Elaine’s love of the sponge and the phrase ‘sponge worthy’, but this is not a common form of contraception in the UK. As the name suggests it is a small round device containing spermicide (more on that later) that when placed over the cervix kills sperm. But it is less effective than other methods and can cause yeast infections.
Success rate: 89-91%
5. The Cervical Cap
Another cervix-based option is the silicone cap (can also be known as Lea contraceptive) that uses spermicide to prevent sperm from entering. Its effectiveness is relative to whether women have had children or not and when used incorrectly the failure rate skyrockets. Learning how to insert it correctly can take time, so don’t use as a last-minute option.
Success rate: 92-96%
The diaphragm is very similar to the cervical cap, but the latter is smaller and can be left in place for longer. It also does nothing to prevent STIs and is not suitable for women sensitive to chemicals.
Success rate: 92-96%
Although best known for being used in conjunction with other forms of contraception (the cap, diaphragm and sponge, for example), spermicide chemicals can be used alone, too. It can be a gel, foam, film, suppository or tablet, but it does not protect against STIs and effectiveness can decrease after an hour.
Success rate: 70-80% when used alone, 97% when using with a condom
8. Natural Family Planning
If you’re one of the lucky ones who has a regular, 28-day period and prefers not to insert chemicals, latex and copper into the body, natural family planning may be an option. However sex may need to be avoided at certain times of the cycle to be safe, and some even use condoms just in case.
Success rate: 99% – if used correctly.
9. Lea contraceptive device
It is a hormone-free cup-shaped device made of medical grade silicone rubber. This method of birth control is inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix and block sperm during sexual intercourse. It is a washable and reusable form of barrier method, which can be reused for six months. Unlike other barrier contraceptive methods, Lea’s shield is provided in one size. Therefore, there is no need to be fitted for every woman’s anatomy like with diaphragms. It also has a valve in centre, which does not allow sperm to enter the cervix but lets the cervical mucus through. Be warned, though: it has a fairly high failure rate compared to other barrier methods.
Success rate: 84%
10. Tubal Ligation
Basically the female vasectomy, in which the fallopian tubes are clipped to seal them. This is a permanent method with no serious side effects, but there is a small risk of ectopic pregnancy and has a failure rate of 1%. If you want children in the future, this one is not for you.
Success rate: 99.5%
Whether you call it dry humping, grinding, heavy petting or outercourse, this will pretty much rule out any chance of pregnancy unless the sperm magically finds a way in. Maria Stopes notes that it is good for getting to know each other’s bodies, but unless you plan to have a no-sex relationship, it isn’t a long-term solution.
Success rate: nearly 100%. Providing you do it right.
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*success rates only if methods are used correctly
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