Non-hormonal Birth Control – Pros and Cons

Non-hormonal Birth Control - Pros and Cons

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Hormonal birth control pills have been popular for a long time because of their consistency and simplicity of use. However, the hormonal pills can sometimes worsen acne or exacerbate other conditions such as migraines, high blood pressure, and blood-clotting disorders. They can also interfere with menstrual periods and induce mood swings. Many women opt for hormone-free birth control as they are highly reliable and have fewer side effects. If you wish to learn how these methods work, continue reading the article.

What Is Non-hormonal Birth Control?

In the simplest terms, non-hormonal birth control is a method that does not interfere with women’s hormones to act as a contraceptive. Hormonal contraceptive pills work by releasing small amounts of estrogen and progestin into the body to stop pregnancy. They perform this action in many ways, such as preventing ovulation or making the cervical mucus thicker to prevent sperm from entering or affecting the uterine lining and making it difficult for the fertilized egg to implant.

Non-hormonal birth control doesn’t use any hormones that directly stop pregnancy; instead, it uses various methods to physically prevent the sperm from reaching the egg, preventing fertilization. The methods involve using physical barriers such as condoms, a cervical cap, diaphragm, or sponge that stops sperm from entering the uterus, and spermicides comprising a chemical formula that kills the sperm. Other methods involve using Intra-Uterine Devices and other natural family planning methods that work with the body’s natural rhythm to prevent conception.

How to Find the Right Birth Control for You?

Choosing the right birth control methods depends on several factors you need to go over with your partner. While hormonal pills are your choice, the other methods involve the role of your partner. Here is how you can go about choosing the best non-hormonal birth control for you:

  • Affordability and the cost of the birth control method – some are cheaper than others
  • Effectiveness of the birth control method – not all are equally effective or last long
  • Requirement of a prescription vs. over-the-counter contraceptive
  • Level of protection offered against sexually transmitted diseases
  • Effectiveness when used perfectly vs. when used typically
  • Side effects of the method
  • Ease of use of the method and agreeability between the two partners
  • Involvement of a medical professional or procedure in the method implementation

Pros of Non-hormonal Birth Control Methods

Here are some of the advantages of non-hormonal birth control:

  • Most of them can be used instantly or occasionally when birth control is necessary
  • For women who are breastfeeding or have medical conditions, birth control without hormones is better as it does not interfere with the body’s natural hormones
  • Many of these methods are inexpensive and available over-the-counter
  • Some can be bought without a prescription and even taken on vacations
  • They do not disturb the natural reproductive cycles of women
  • Little to almost no side effects as compared to the hormonal method

Cons of Non-hormonal Birth Control Methods

These are some of the downsides of non-hormonal birth control methods:

  • Except for the copper IUD, all the other methods require careful implementation to be consistently effective. When misused, they have a higher rate of failure.
  • Some of these methods cannot be used when women are on their periods
  • Some women may not like some methods involving placing devices in the vaginal cavity
  • Using diaphragms and condoms interfere with sexual spontaneity making it to be disliked by some
  • Contraceptives, such as IUDs, are best only when placed by medical professionals

Different Types of Non-hormonal Birth Control Options

There are several birth control options available to all, such as:

1. Condoms 

Using condoms is the most popular type of birth control method used worldwide. When used correctly, condoms are about 82 percent effective in preventing pregnancies. Along with acting as a barrier to the passage of sperm, condoms also protect against sexually transmitted diseases and infections. What makes them popular is that they are cheap and given out for free in many state hospitals.

Condoms are available for both men and women. They work by blocking the physical entry of semen into the vaginal tract. The male condom needs to be rolled over the penis just before intercourse. Female condoms fit inside the vagina and form a barrier to stop the sperm from entering the uterus. Condoms are made out of different materials and come in various colors, textures, and flavors. Female condoms tend to be slightly more expensive than their male counterpart and are less popular.

2. Spermicides

Spermicides, as the name indicates, are chemicals that are meant to kill sperm cells. They are available in foam, gel, or cream forms and are often used along with other barrier methods to gain higher effectiveness from both methods. When used as the only preventive method, spermicides have an effectiveness of 70 to 80 percent. They are lightly inserted into the vagina before sexual intercourse or smeared onto the barrier before placing it in. Some companies manufacture spermicidal condoms, which guarantee double effectiveness of spermicides and condoms.

Spermicides generally do not have any side effects. However, in rare cases, people might experience some irritation on the skin. Most spermicide brands contain nonoxynol-9, a compound that might make the skin around the genitals more susceptible to HIV infections. People with any such concerns must immediately visit their doctor or the local clinic for advice.

3. Sponge

A sponge contraceptive is a plastic foam that has to be inserted into the vagina to act as a barrier for the sperm and stop it from entering the cervix. These devices are only meant as single-use and should be used along with a spermicide for maximum effectiveness. Sponges can be inserted into the vagina just before or even 24 hours prior to the intercourse. However, you must remove them within 6 hours of your sexual intercourse.

Some women may find using a sponge uncomfortable and should restrict their use if they have allergies to substances such as spermicides, polyurethane, or sulfa drugs. As contraceptives, sponges are about 60 to 80 percent effective.

4. Diaphragm

Diaphragms are small flexible silicone cups inserted into the vagina to cover up the cervix physically. They are most effective when combined with a spermicide as they tend to kill the sperm that make it around the device. The accuracy of diaphragms varies from 88 to 94 percent when used correctly. However, most of the time, this type of contraceptive fails because of improper use by women.

Before inserting the diaphragm, you must apply the spermicide over it and on the sides for maximum effectiveness. It is ideal to consult a gynecologist before using a diaphragm. When in the proper place, the device is unlikely to be felt by either of the partners. It is effective immediately, and one reusable device will last for about two years.

The downside of using diaphragms is that they need to be removed during menstrual periods and do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases or infections.

5. Copper IUD

Intrauterine devices (IUD) are long-term birth control options that women can look into to ensure a high success rate. IUDs are reversible immediately and are available as both hormonal and non-hormonal types. A popular non-hormonal type is the copper IUD or coil wrapped around a T-shaped plastic and placed inside the uterus. The device creates a toxic environment for the sperm and kills them when entering the uterus and fallopian tubes. It also causes a mild inflammation of the uterus, thus preventing implantation even if an egg gets fertilized.

The copper IUD needs to be inserted by a medical professional and can even work as an emergency contraceptive five days after unprotected sex. Once in place, it can even be used for as long as ten years, and you can return to normal fertility as soon as it is removed. With a success rate of more than 99%, it is the most effective non-hormonal birth control available to women.

6. Calendar Method

The calendar method is one of the oldest forms of birth control, which relies on the awareness of the fertile periods of women. Women who have regular menstrual cycles have highly predictable ovulation days. Therefore by tracking the first days of each period every month, it is possible to predict when ovulation is most likely to occur and abstain from unprotected sex during the days leading up to ovulation, called the fertility window.

The calendar method is only as good as the ability of the woman to predict her fertile days. It does not work in women who have very short menstrual cycles or in women who have irregular menstrual cycles. For increasing the method’s accuracy, other ovulation signs from Natural Family Planning methods, such as measuring the basal body temperature and examining the cervical mucus, can be used to narrow down the fertility window.

7. Cervical Cap

A cervical cap is a small and flexible silicone cup that is similar to a diaphragm but smaller. The device is designed to fit over the cervix and has to be inserted through the vagina by the woman. The cervical cap must be combined with spermicide for greater effectiveness and inserted over the cervix just before intercourse. The same cap can last for two years.

The cervical cap has to be removed during the menstrual periods. While it has a failure rate of about 14 percent in women who have never given birth vaginally, the failure rate is close to 29 percent in women who have given birth vaginally.

8. Vasectomy and Sterilization

Vasectomy and sterilization are highly invasive, effective, and potentially permanent non-hormonal birth control methods. The methods involve blocking the male and female reproductive tracts to prevent pregnancy. In a vasectomy, the vas deferens, which carry sperm, are tied or blocked, while in sterilization, the fallopian tube is blocked from accepting sperm. Since these procedures have a low success rate with reversal, you should not take them lightly.

Common Side Effects With Non-hormonal Birth Control Methods

The non-hormonal birth control methods also come with some side effects that you need to be aware of:

  • Commonly reported side effects include irritation, allergies, or rashes. These are more common in the barrier method because of the material these barriers are made out of.
  • Copper IUDs can have serious side effects, including uterine perforation, ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease, and the expulsion of the IUD.

Do Non-hormonal Birth Control Methods Have Any Effect on Periods?

No, since non-hormonal birth control methods do not interfere with the body’s natural hormones, they do not influence menstrual periods. These methods work by physically stopping the sperm or killing them before they can reach the egg.

Do Non-hormonal Birth Control Methods Cause Weight Gain?

No. Weight gain is an effect that is only seen with hormonal birth control methods. Non-hormonal birth control does not cause weight gain. Even if you experience weight gain while using them, it will have to do with other reasons, and you need to contact your doctor to know more about it.

Non-hormonal birth control methods use physical methods to block the sperm from reaching the egg, leading to fertilization. While some methods, such as using condoms, are fast and suited for the short term, some are long-term and highly effective such as the copper IUDs.

Also Read:

Low Dose Birth Control
How to Use a Birth Control Patch
Chances of Pregnancy on Birth Control

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