Birth Control 101: Your Guide to Non-Hormonal Birth Control
No matter what you might read online, there’s no universal “best” birth control. Maybe you want to take a daily pill to ward off pregnancy, or you’d rather baby-proof your uterus with a birth control shot. And if you’re not so hot on hormonal BC, non-hormonal birth control options exist, too.
From tried-and-true condoms to fertility trackers, the kind of birth control you use is your choice. Whether you’re researching your options or trying BC for the first time, here’s everything you need to know about non-hormonal birth control.
What Is Non-Hormonal Birth Control?
Non-hormonal birth control is any contraceptive method that doesn’t alter your body’s natural hormonal balance.
Instead of changing your body’s chemistry, non-hormonal birth control typically prevents pregnancy by forming a physical barrier that prevents sperm from entering the uterus or creating a hostile environment for sperm.
Is Non-Hormonal Birth Control Better?
The short answer? It depends. There are multiple reasons why you might choose a hormonal method, like if you want to skip your period entirely, clear your skin, or make cramps less intense. But not every woman benefits from hormones, and some may prefer non-hormonal options.
At the end of the day, the best birth control option is unique to each individual. Birth control should be a choice that you make with your doctor based on your personal preferences, requirements, and goals.
Hormonal vs. Non-Hormonal Birth Control
In a nutshell, hormonal birth control changes the body’s chemistry. Depending on the hormones used, it might prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs, thicken mucus to prevent sperm from reaching an egg, or thin the lining of the uterus to prevent implantation.
If you want your birth control to be “on” all the time, hormonal birth control might be the best option. Hormonal BC can provide some other benefits beyond protection, like clear skin, less intense mood swings, and much-needed cramp relief.
But hormones are tricky, and you really can’t know how your body will react until you try. There are some potential side effects that come with hormonal birth control, like breast tenderness, bloating, mood changes, and lower libido—and not everyone wants to deal with that. If you want to skip the side effects, talk to your doctor about non-hormonal options.
Benefits of Non-Hormonal Birth Control
Non-hormonal birth control comes with fewer side effects than hormonal birth control. As a result, non-hormonal BC may be a better option for women with health conditions, those who smoke, or women who don’t want the side effects that come with hormonal birth control.
Individual types of non-hormonal birth control come with their own advantages, too. For example, condoms are the only method that protects against most STDs and STIs. Copper IUDs can prevent pregnancy for a decade. And you can use gels discreetly during a hook-up.
Like any method, non-hormonal birth control comes with its own set of risks and side effects. If you’re trying to switch up your BC, your doctor can help you choose the best option.
Types of Non-Hormonal Birth Control
The type of birth control you use is 100% your choice. To help you make the right decision, here’s a basic guide to some common non-hormonal birth control methods.
Non-Hormonal Birth Control IUDs
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are t-shaped plastic devices that stop an egg from implanting in your uterus. Some IUDs release hormones into the uterus, while non-hormonal IUDs use copper coil filament, which releases chemicals that act as a contraception.
Why choose an IUD? They’re a long-term solution that can prevent pregnancy immediately (and for up to 10 years). They don’t mess with your fertility, and you won’t have to remember to pop a pill every day. The downside? They may come with a higher upfront cost and some women find them uncomfortable. There are also a few health risks, like higher risk for infections and the rare risk of ectopic pregnancy.
Cervical Caps and Diaphragms
Diaphragms are dome-shaped devices that fit into the vagina and over the cervix, while caps need to be put on the cervix directly.
Both methods can be placed before sex so they don’t interrupt the moment (but you’ll need extra spermicide for maximum effectiveness). That said, you shouldn’t use diaphragms or caps during your period, so you’ll need an alternative method during that time.
Natural family planning, or fertility awareness methods, use apps to monitor fertility signs. They can be effective with perfect use, but you’ll need to track your fertility signs consistently throughout the month. This usually means tracking your daily temperature, cervical fluids, and menstrual symptoms.
External and Internal Condoms
External (male) condoms are probably the most common non-hormonal birth control option out there. They’re a good option if you’re hooking up with new people, as they protect against many STDs and STIs. But they’re not perfect, and they can rip or slip off during sex.
Like their counterparts, internal (female) condoms also protect against STIs and pregnancy. But if they’re not used properly, they can slip off or get pushed up into the vagina. If this happens, you might need emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy.
Maybe you’ve never noticed it, but spermicide is lurking on the shelves in most drugstores. This old-school contraceptive is a gel or cream that slows down sperm so it can’t reach an egg. It’s usually combined with another method, like internal condoms or cervical caps. You can also use it on its own, but it won’t be as effective.
Vaginal gels work similar to spermicide, but some vaginal gels require a prescription. For example, non-hormonal birth control Phexxi maintains a normal vaginal pH to lower sperm mobility. When sperm can’t swim, it lowers the risk of them reaching the egg.
Even if you don’t have any condoms in your drawer, you can still enjoy a mind-blowing orgasm with non-penetrative sex. Not sure where to start? Try mutual masturbation.
Mutual masturbation—touching yourself while your partner watches (and touches themselves, too)—can instantly spice up your bedroom play. To make it even hotter, grab your favorite vibrator and show your partner how you like to use it.
Your Body, Your Choice
Whether you’re stocking up on condoms or abstaining from PIV sex altogether, don’t forget to schedule some much-needed time for self-pleasure.
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