Are you looking for effective, natural birth control methods?
Want some options and alternatives to the pill?
The hormonal birth control pill has been revered as one of the greatest scientific achievements of the 20th century.
Although it has benefits, after more than half a century of use, we’re now learning more about the real impact the pill has on our bodies.
There are many problems with the pill, and include:
- Endocrine (hormone) disruption
- Female sexual dysfunction
- Mood swings
- Masking of the symptoms of serious reproductive health problems
- Many more short and long term health concerns.
You might be thinking, ‘But I really need the pill for x y z’.
It’s true the pill can be prescribed to treat a variety of conditions, such as acne, PMS, PMDD, painful menstrual cramps and, of course, to prevent pregnancy.
You might even have asked your care providers about alternatives to the pill. They probably told you the pill was the best treatment for many problems and one of the most effective forms of birth control.
Perhaps the pill is the easiest course of action in many cases. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other effective alternatives available.
Natural Birth Control Options
Since it first hit the market in the 1960s, the pill has been a popular choice for pregnancy prevention.
The pill has 91-99% effectiveness in preventing pregnancy.
The stated range is due to typical use (how most consumers actually use the pill) and clinical use (prescribed use).
The pill is effective and simple; it’s no wonder it quickly became a popular choice.
Unfortunately, it also has its fair share of side effects.
Fortunately, there are several non-hormonal options.
Here are 5 natural birth control methods:
#1: Natural Family Planning (NFP) And The Creighton Model
Natural family planning can take a bit of time to master. For this reason, many women quickly adopt other methods of birth control.
However, natural family planning can be quite effective and free of side effects. There are also many resources available to help couples with this method.
A popular natural family planning method is the Creighton Model System. This method is taught by certified instructors, which means couples have guidance as they learn to navigate their cycles and signs of fertility.
This method requires abstinence during fertile periods, if you’re opposed to using barrier methods in that window.
When couples learn this method with a certified instructor, and follow all the directions, the Creighton method is 98% effective against unplanned pregnancies.
An advantage of using any type of NFP, with charting, is that you can learn more about your menstrual cycle and fertility. If you want to conceive, you’ll be aware of which days it’s most likely to happen.
If you’re concerned about any reproductive health issues (e.g. endometriosis, PCOS, thyroid problems, etc.) charting can help you pinpoint signs and symptoms. This will make it easier for your doctor or midwife to assist you in treating or managing these conditions.
If you want to learn more about natural family planning options, Taking Charge of Your Fertility is an excellent read.
#2: Barrier Birth Control Methods – Condoms And Diaphragms
For some committed couples, the thought of using barrier methods is unpleasant. However, unlike hormonal birth control methods, they don’t interfere with your hormones and your reproductive system.
Some couples use NFP methods for most of the month and utilise barriers just on their fertile days, rather than abstain during the fertile period.
Condoms are quite effective. When used properly, they’re about 97% effective.
Diaphragms are slightly less effective, but still provide excellent protection. In combination with spermicide, they’re 94% effective.
For anyone not in a monogamous, committed relationship, condoms are an important part of reproductive health. As well as preventing pregnancy, condoms – provided they are used correctly – play a major role in reducing the risk of contracting STDs and STIs.
#3: Non-Hormonal IUDs
Because they are used internally, intrauterine devices still carry some potential risks. Non-hormonal copper IUDs have less impact on hormones.
For someone who wants long-term contraception, this option can be used for 5-10 years, depending on the specific device chosen. An IUD offers 99% protection against pregnancy. Although it can be used for many years, it can also be removed at any time, should you wish to conceive.
Condoms, diaphragms and NFP are very effective when used correctly. However, they are subject to user error which is why effectiveness can vary. When used exactly as directed, these three methods are 94-99% effective. When user error is added, they’re around 90% effective.
The advantage of a non-hormonal IUD is there’s less risk of user error. If you are committed to proper use of the other methods, they’re excellent options. However, if you are concerned about user error and pregnancy, an IUD can be a great option.
#4: Pull Out Method – ‘Pull And Pray’
This method of birth control is often laughed at as being a very risky choice. Based on research, it is comparable with other forms of birth control.
The risk, however, comes into play because of human error. It can be quite difficult for some to be diligent about pulling out at the right moment.
A 2009 study published in Contraception wrote:
“If the male partner withdraws before ejaculation every time a couple has vaginal intercourse, about 4% of couples will become pregnant over the course of a year. However, more realistic estimates of typical use indicate that about 18% of couples will become pregnant in a year using withdrawal. These rates are only slightly less effective than male condoms, which have perfect- and typical-use failure rates of 2% and 17%, respectively.
If one is using other methods, such as NFP, this practice might reduce the risk of pregnancy. If a couple isn’t open to the possibility of a pregnancy, this may not be the best form given the higher chance of not using the method correctly”.
#5: Permanent Sterilisation – Vasectomy And Tubal Ligation
If you’re certain you’re finished having biological children, or there’s a medical contraindication to having a future pregnancy, then a vasectomy or tubal ligation offers permanent and highly effective birth control.
Unlike the methods described above, these options have side effects related to surgery as well as ongoing effects. However, they don’t have an impact on hormones in the same way as hormonal birth control does.
These methods should only be used when you want permanent birth control. Although they can potentially be reversed, there’s no guarantee of success. Neither is it guaranteed a future pregnancy could be achieved.
A vasectomy offers 98-99% protection against pregnancy. A tubal ligation is 95-99% effective against pregnancy. Having a uterine ablation at the time of a tubal ligation offers additional protection.
Alternatives To Hormonal Birth Control For Health Problems
Do you suffer from endometriosis, PCOS, acne, or other hormonal problems?
Have you been told hormonal birth control is your only option for managing these conditions?
The birth control pill, hormonal IUDs, and other hormonal forms of birth control have been pushed as the most effective treatment for hormonal problems. In fact, they simply mask symptoms and do not treat the underlying causes. They also come with significant possible side effects.
Here are 4 hormonal conditions and alternative methods for treating them:
#1: Irregular Menstrual Cycle
Some women have irregular cycles. They’re often told that birth control pills can help regulate their cycle.
Although the pill will give most women 28-day ‘cycles’, it actually does the opposite of creating a regular cycle.
The pill works by providing you with 21 days of hormones to suppress ovulation. You then have 7 days of sugar or placebo pills. Women experience menstrual-like bleeding during those 7 days. This is due to hormonal withdrawal, however, and is not an actual menstrual cycle.
Irregular cycles should be evaluated, to find out whether they are genuinely irregular or fall within the realm of typical variations.
Conditions like endometriosis don’t sleep while you’re on the pill; they keep working away silently in your body.
Read more about endometriosis here.
Charting your cycle, using the Creighton model or other NFP methods, can help you pinpoint any irregularities.
The first part of your cycle, known as the follicular phase, can vary by several days and still be a completely normal cycle.
The luteal phase – the days following ovulation and leading up to bleeding – is the part of your cycle that needs to be within a certain range. If it isn’t, there are several ways to regulate your cycle without suppressing ovulation with the pill.
You can learn more about your cycle by reading the 5-star rated, #1 fertility book on Amazon: Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, the book mentioned earlier.
Here are some alternatives for regulating your cycle:
- Chart, using the Creighton Model, and work with a Creighton doctor to help regulate your hormones naturally
- Work with a naturopath to regulate your cycles, using supplements such as Vitex
- Acupuncture, acupressure and other forms of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have been shown to help regulate cycles and improve fertility
- Be evaluated and, if necessary, treated for PCOS, endometriosis, thyroid conditions and other health concerns
- Reduce your stress levels; practise yoga, or try meditation, journalling, prayer, etc.
#2: Eliminating Or Reducing Painful Menstrual Cramps Or Chronic Pelvic Pain
Suppressing your natural cycle might reduce or eliminate pain, but it doesn’t cure the underlying problems. Left untreated, conditions like PCOS and endometriosis can progress, causing serious health and fertility concerns.
If you are prescribed the pill to treat pain, it’s important to find the underlying cause of your pain. Working with a women’s health specialist or a chronic pelvic pain specialist can help you reach a proper diagnosis. A local doctor or GP is often not specialised enough to diagnose and treat these gynaecological conditions.
Reaching a proper diagnosis is the first step in treating chronic pelvic pain or severe menstrual cramping.
When you have a proper diagnosis, and you are working with your specialist and a good naturopath, you can consider the following:
- A low inflammation diet. Overall bodily inflammation can aggravate many conditions, such as endometriosis. A healthy whole foods diet, low in sugar, refined grains and artificial hormones (especially in meat and dairy) can be helpful in reducing pain
- Working with a pelvic physiotherapist or osteopath can greatly reduce pain associated with the menstrual cycle
- Acupuncture and other types of TCM can help regulate the cycle, improve blood flow, reduce pain and improve overall system function
- If you are diagnosed with endometriosis, the best long-term treatment is an excision surgery to remove endometriosis tissue, followed by ongoing, non-surgical treatment to deal with the root cause
- Many women diagnosed with PCOS find following a diabetic friendly diet helps control blood sugar and PCOS symptoms. Some also find the medication metformin helpful in controlling sugars. Addressing any underlying lifestyle issues might also be useful in managing the root cause. In severe cases, an ovarian wedge resection – a surgical procedure – might help.
Although many women prefer to avoid medication, you can weigh up the benefits and risks of using 21 days of hormonal contraception and 1-5 days of NSAID pain relievers. This might help while you are in the process of finding longer term treatment for your pain. Be aware that ongoing use of NSAID may cause problems with ovulation.
#3: Chronic Acne
Acne seems to be hormone related. It makes sense, therefore, that healthcare providers prescribe the pill to help treat it. However, as with the other conditions, treating acne with the pill often masks the real underlying causes.
Other ways to treat acne:
- Eat a diet aimed at reducing overall inflammation in the body
- Use a food diary, an elimination diet or a re-challenge diet. Tests for food allergies or sensitivities might help you pinpoint a trigger for your acne
- Address any sources of stress in your life. Find a good therapist, take up yoga, meditation or mindfulness, to help reduce stress
- Use natural hygiene products, or soaps designed for sensitive skin. Avoid using oil based products on the skin. Some find these tips helpful for dealing with adult acne.
#4: Premenstrual Syndrome and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
Women suffering from PMS and PMDD that affect their ability to function properly on the days leading up to their cycle starting have quite a challenge. It is difficult to feel as though you are unable to control your emotions while also dealing with bloating, fatigue and other physical symptoms.
PMS and PMDD can also have an impact on relationships, work, and emotional health. It is important to treat these conditions, but there are alternative methods you can use, without relying on the pill.
Some treatments are:
- The Creighton or other methods and treatments that help regulate your cycle and balance your hormones. They might also eliminate or reduce PMS and PMDD symptoms
- Acupuncture and other TCM
- A healthy whole foods diet, low in hormones, can help reduce endocrine disruptor exposure, which can affect your endocrine system and hormone levels
- Testing for food allergies or sensitivities can determine whether you have any food related triggers that are causing overall body inflammation
- Work with a therapist, to help with coping techniques
- Yoga, journalling, prayer and meditation, to help reduce stress levels and cope with symptoms
- A full evaluation with your healthcare provider. This will rule out or treat any underlying mental health concerns
Read our article to find out more about PMS.
The pill might seem like a ‘cure all’ for female related health concerns.
Unfortunately, it isn’t without risk and, in many cases, it simply masks the real symptoms of health problems and doesn’t actually cure them.
It’s important for women to be aware of all their options, so they can make a genuinely informed decision about their family planning, healthcare and mental wellness.