Non-hormonal Birth Control Methods
Medically reviewed on Jun 25, 2015 by L. Anderson, PharmD.
Birth Control Options For Women Who Cannot Or Prefer Not To Take Hormones
Some women cannot use hormones because of health reasons, breastfeeding, side effects or a host of other reasons. Some women prefer to avoid hormones in general. Still, other women may only need occasional pregnancy protection and prefer not to use a full-time birth control method. There are many other birth control options that do not contain hormones, that are effective is used correctly, and that are affordable.
Barrier methods, such as the condom, sponge, cervical cap, or diaphragm, spermicide, the copper IUD, and natural family planning are all hormone-free methods of birth control. However, it is important that women review the effectiveness rates of these birth control methods and discuss with their healthcare provider which might be best for their personal situation. In general, spermicide should always be used with a condom or diaphragm to increase its effectiveness.
A male latex condom is the best way to protect against any form of sexually transmitted disease (STD), including HIV and AIDS. A male latex condom or female condom should be used in combination with any other birth control option (pill, patch, shot) if protection against STDs is needed.
- can be used intermittently if the need for birth control is only occasional
- for women who cannot use hormones for medical, breastfeeding, or other reasons, barrier methods, such as the cervical cap, condom, diaphragm, contraceptive sponge, spermicide, copper IUD are all hormone-free methods
- many methods are inexpensive, but may not be covered by insurance because they are over-the-counter (OTC)
- some methods are easily accessible without a prescription at retail stores, and are easily transportable
- except for the copper IUD, these methods require diligent and consistent use to prevent pregnancy
- except for the copper IUD, these methods may be associated higher failure rates when compared to birth control pills or other hormonal birth control options
- some methods cannot be used during menstruation
- some women may not like placing or leaving devices in the vaginal canal
- some methods may interfere with sexual spontaneity
Common Side Effects
- Non-hormonal barrier method birth control has few side effects, although there may be some side effects with the copper IUD
- some women or men may have irritation, dryness, or allergies associated with devices placed in vaginal canal, such as the condom, cervical cap, diaphragm, contraceptive sponge or spermicides. If side effects occur with use, contact your healthcare provider.
Serious Side Effects
- serious side effects are rare with the Non-hormonal barrier method of birth control
- serious side effects with the copper IUD may include: pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), uterine perforation, ectopic pregnancy, and IUD expulsion. Discuss these side effects with your healthcare provider.
Other warnings and side effects may occur with the use of birth control. It is important to review the specific consumer information for the birth control of choice and discuss any questions or concerns with your healthcare provider. Tell your healthcare provider about all other medications you take, including prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin and herbal supplements.
Non-hormonal Birth Control Options
|Generic Name||Brand Name||Description|
|Cervical Cap||FemCap||Barrier method; flexible cap placed over cervix; must be fitted and prescribed by a health care provider; used with spermicide; cap must stay in place 6 hours after intercourse, but do not leave in vagina for more than 48 hours; do not use during menstrual period due to higher risk for toxic shock syndrome; may cause vaginal irritation; cost $60-$80 per cap; 15-30% failure rate; does not protect against STDs|
|Condom (male)||Available without a prescription at retail stores and pharmacies||Barrier method; prevents sperm from entering the uterus; made of latex; protects against STDs if used correctly; 15-20% failure rate; to increase effectiveness rate use with spermicide; may cause irritation; inexpensive; not covered by insurance (OTC); do not use with female condom due to chance for condom tearing|
|Condom (female)||Available without a prescription at retail stores and pharmacies||Barrier method; thin lining that goes into vagina to protect uterus from sperm; can place up to 8 hours prior to sex; can protect against STDs if used correctly; made of polyurethane and synthetic latex; 20% failure rate; may cause irritation, burning, rash; do not use with a male condom due to chance for condom tearing|
|Diaphragm||KoroFlex, Ortho-Diaphragm||Barrier method; silicone cup placed over cervix prior to sex; must be fitted and prescribed by a health care provider; used with spermicide; must remain in place 6 hours after intercourse; use additional spermicide if have intercourse again or more than 6 hours after diaphragm originally inserted; do not leave the diaphragm in place for more than 24 hours; costs $15-$75, can last up to 2 years; 6-12% failure rate; may cause vaginal irritation; does not protect against STDs|
|Contraceptive Sponge||Today Sponge||Barrier/spermicide method; do not use if sulfite allergy; foam-like vaginal insert embedded with spermicide (nonoxynol-9); wet with small amount of water prior to use; may insert up until 24 hours before sex; sponge must remain in place for at least 6 hours after last intercourse; do not leave in place longer than 30 hours; $15-$20 for package of 3 sponges; 9-16% failure rate (may be higher if previous pregnancy); do not use during menstrual period due to higher risk for toxic shock syndrome; may cause irritation; does not protect against STDs|
|Spermicide||Examples: Encare Vaginal Inserts, Gynol II, Conceptrol; available without a prescription at retail stores/ pharmacies; most spermicides contain nonoxynol-9||Spermicidal creams, jellies, foams, films, vaginal suppositories contain nonoxynol-9, a chemical that kills sperm. Sperm cell membrane ruptures, and sperm is unable to fertilize the egg. Spermicides are inserted into the vagina shortly before intercourse; may cause irritation; to increase effectiveness should always use with a condom or diaphragm; cost $5-$20 for multi-pack; failure rate 15-30%; may be irritating; not covered by insurance (OTC); does not protect against STDs|
|Intrauterine Device (copper)||Paragard; must be prescribed and inserted by a health care provider;||Non-hormonal IUD; inserted by healthcare provider within 7 days of menses onset; replace after 10 years; common side effects include longer and heavier periods or spotting; these may subside after 2 to 3 months; serious side effects may include pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), uterine perforation, and IUD expulsion. If a period is missed, promptly be evaluated for pregnancy; do not use in pregnancy, PID, postpregnancy or postabortion uterine infection in the past 3 months; cancer of the uterus or cervix; infection in the cervix; Wilson's disease; <1% failure rate; does not protect against STDs|
|Natural Family Planning||not applicable||Must avoid sex when fertile/ovulating; must monitor bodily changes such as cervical mucous changes, body temperature; high rate of failure, 20% failure rate; involves no hormones or devices; inexpensive; does not protect against STDs|