Wondering how to prevent pregnancy reliably and safely, without using birth control pills? This article will cover some of the most time-tested natural birth control methods that are also now backed up by science. In addition, we’re taking a look at some risks associated with the leading way to currently prevent pregnancy: birth control pills.
What’s Wrong with Birth Control Pills?
About 70 percent of all women at some point turn to non-permanent, non-invasive hormonal methods of birth control — especially birth control pills. Still, the dangers of birth control pills include possible side effects like: cystic acne, anxiety or moodiness, breast tenderness, weight gain, or for some, difficulty getting pregnant after stopping the pill. It’s so surprise that many women are looking for natural birth control methods instead. For women who wish to avoid unnecessary medical procedures, including those who consider one day having a natural child birth, this is especially true.
Although there’s a lot of ongoing controversy regarding the pros and cons of using birth control pills, and every woman reacts somewhat differently, evidence suggests the effects of these hormonal medications can include both serious and minor reactions. Birth control side effects are common and may include:
- Higher risk of breast cancer
- Increased risk of blood clotting, heart attack and stroke
- Migraines (including new cases or worsening of symptoms)
- Gallbladder symptoms and disease
- Increased blood pressure
- Weight gain or changes in appetite
- Mood changes, including mood swings, increased anxiety or symptoms of depression
- Nausea, irregular bleeding or spotting between periods
- Rarely, benign liver tumors
- Breast tenderness or swelling
One of the risks of birth control pills (synthetic hormonal contraception) is that these medications impede the normal functioning of a woman’s ovaries, thereby interfering with their beneficial effects. Birth control pills fool a woman’s body into thinking she’s already pregnant by continuously raising levels of certain hormones, especially estrogen.
This can have a negative impact on healthy bone production and maintenance, possibly contributing to significant bone loss among many other disorders. Evidence suggests that women who are the greatest risk of developing these problems are those who: older than 35, smoke, are overweight, have a family history of disorders tied to hormonal complications, and who have other health problems — like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart or vascular disease, or blood cholesterol and triglyceride abnormalities.
In most cases, the lower the dose of synthetic hormones used, the fewer side effects that occur. However, even if a woman experiences no obvious side effects when taking the pill, synthetic hormones can still take a silent toll on a woman’s body that may show up many years later, including difficulty becoming pregnant. This isn’t always the case, and studies suggest that birth control pills are not a significant risk factor for infertility, but many women report missing signs of hormonal problems in their younger years due to masking them by taking the pill, only to find out years down the road that they had an untreated problem.
9 Natural Birth Control Methods that Work (When Used Correctly)
There are many safe and effective forms of natural birth control (natural contraceptives) to consider, including:
1. Male condoms: At around a 98 percent effectiveness rate when used correctly, they are nearly as effective as taking the pill. However, sometimes they are not used properly, which lowers their effectiveness (the same can be said for female condoms).
2. Female condoms: While these are not as familiar to most people, female condoms are 95 percent effective and are less likely to tear than male condoms. A female condom consists of a small pouch that fits inside the vagina before sex.
3. Natural family planning/fertility awareness: This is a great method for helping women track their natural cycles, identify times of fertility, treat PMS symptoms and evaluate the effects of stress on hormones/menstrual cycle. More details on how to use this method are described below.
4. Temperature method: This is a way to pinpoint the day of ovulation so that sex can be avoided for a few days before and after peak ovulation days. The temperature method involves taking your basal body temperature (your temperature upon first waking up in the morning) each morning with an accurate “basal” thermometer. Then, you note the rise in temperature that occurs after ovulation takes place.
Ovulation causes a slight, but noticeable rise in body temperature which can be tracked over time. When you measure your temperature every morning, you can learn to evaluate data over several months to recognize your own fertility pattern. This helps you figure out which days to avoid sex. Temperature method is most reliable when combined with the mucus method; the two methods combined can have a success rate as high as 98 percent. Alone, the temperature method is about 75 percent effective.
5. Diaphragms: These must be fitted by a doctor and are about 88 to 94 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. They are thin, soft rubber rings that are inserted into the upper part of the vagina to cover the cervix and act as a barrier to sperm. They last for about 2 years unused, and cost about $70.
6. Cervical cap: This is a heavy rubber cap that fits tightly over the cervix. It must be put into place by a doctor and can be left in place for 48 hours. These have a 85 to 91 percent effectiveness rate depending on how carefully it’s used.
7 Lady Comp: Lady Comp is a type of fertility monitor that’s been used in Europe for nearly 30 years. According to the official Lady Comp website, this monitor is an “intelligent, non-invasive, natural method of contraception … it’s a next-generation fertility monitor that learns, analyses and indicates ovulation, fertile and non-fertile days with 99.3 percent premium accuracy, which is free of invasive hormones and side effects.” There are several monitors available depending on your budget and needs. Most tell you whether you’re fertile by displaying a red light on your “fertile days” and a green light during your infertile phase, allowing you to predict your peak-ovulation days.
8. Mucus method: This involves tracking changes in the amount and texture of vaginal discharge, which reflect rising levels of estrogen in the body. For the first few days after your period, there is often no discharge, but there will be a cloudy, tacky mucus as estrogen starts to rise. When the discharge starts to increase in volume and becomes clear and stringy, ovulation is near. A return to the tacky, cloudy mucus or no discharge means that ovulation has passed. This method can work very well (about 90 percent effectively) when used by women with regular cycles, however it’s not a good match for those who have irregular periods, frequent vaginal infections or irregular mucus, who have recently given birth, or who have taken emergency contraceptives recently (like Plan B).
9. Calendar method: This is a term for practicing abstention from sex during the week the woman is ovulating. This technique works best when a woman’s menstrual cycle is very regular. The calendar method doesn’t work very well for couples who use it by itself (about a 75 percent success rate), but it can be effective when combined with the temperature and mucus methods (more on this type of “rhythm method” is described below).