In my clinical practice I have treated many cases of women experiencing symptoms that are associated with the hormonal birth control and a condition I call Post-Birth Control Syndrome. These women often share that they had they known of all the side effects these hormones can cause they would have never began them in the first place.
Many women are seeking alternatives to hormonal birth control as they recognize that hormonal contraceptives not only have a slew of side effects, but can also have long term consequences, like in the case of triggering autoimmune disease.
And others are seeking reliable forms of birth control to prevent pregnancy, without suppressing their hormones or altering their body’s function.
4 Alternatives to Hormonal Birth Control
With perfect use, about 2 out of 100 women will become pregnant in the first year when relying on condoms exclusively. With user error (which is more common than you might think) about 18 out of 100 women will become pregnant.
Because the person placing the condom has a lot of influence over the efficacy, I recommend revisiting and little condom 101 and watching this video to make sure you’re using condoms correctly.
Using condoms with Fertility Awareness Method means you’ll only need them about a 6 days out of the month! Remember, condoms serve an important purpose in preventing STIs and HIV so keep that in mind when choosing your method
Generally made from silicone, this dome shaped device that holds spermicide and fits over the cervix. It is reusable and has to be cleaned and stored properly.
With perfect use about 6 out of 100 women will become pregnant in a year, compared to 12 out of 100 with typical use.
Your doctor should discuss properly placement, maintenance, as well as signs to look out for when using the diaphragm.
Women with a history of pelvic inflammatory disease, toxic shock syndrome or recurrent UTIs should consider other options.
Fertility Awareness Method
Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), also known as natural family planning, is a non-hormonal and non-invasive approach to birth control. It is designed to teach you how to predict the signs of ovulation based on the signals your body is providing you.
There are several methods of FAM (you can read more here), but the most effective has been shown to be the Symptothermal Method.
When used correctly, the symptothermal method has been shown to have a first year pregnancy rate of 1.8 per 100 women when used correctly. And interestingly, the same study showed that after 13 cycles the pregnancy rate was only 0.6 per 100 women when there was no unprotected sex in the fertile window. You have to be diligent about this method. When women are not, the pregnancy rate is between 13 and 20 per 100 women.
You can make use of fertility tracking technology, like the Daysy Fertility Monitor, to take all the guess work out of the method.
Note that FAM is not the same as the Rhythm Method, although many women use the term interchangeably. The Rhythm Method is based on the assumption that every cycle is the same and you can predict ovulation of future cycles based on what you've experienced previously. While this might make sense on the surface, it doesn't account for travel, stress, and other factors that can cause a shift in ovulation. FAM is much more scientific in its ability to predict ovulation because it is about your data in real time.
The copper IUD is a small T-shaped device that is placed in the uterus by a gynecologist, midwife, or family doctor at their office. It has about a 0.5-0.8% efficacy rate and doesn’t need to be removed for about 7-10 years.
The side effects with the copper IUD are small, but they are quite serious. On the list is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, which has a 1% risk the first month the device is placed, but an overall risk of 0.1% after that time.
Being less than 25 years of age may be associated with increased risk of expulsion. The average woman’s risk is about 3-5%.
Some women have reported copper toxicity with this form of IUD, although there is no substantial studies to support this. Research is lacking in this area overall, but copper levels can be monitored with a simple blood test if this is a concern.
Many women using the copper IUD experience at least a slight increase in menstrual flow and some will have mild menstrual cramps. Women who already experience painful or heavy periods should consider addressing the root cause of those symptoms and an alternative form of contraceptive.
This method isn’t without risks, so it is best to meet with your doctor to discuss if this is the best option for your contraceptive needs.
Are you thinking about ditching the pill? Grab my free resource guide here.