Non-hormonal Birth Control Methods
Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on Jul 6, 2020.
Birth control options for women who can't use hormones
Although they are popular, not every woman can use, or wants to use, the pill or other hormonal contraceptive for birth control.
- Some women cannot use hormones at all because of health reasons, breastfeeding, side effects or a host of other reasons.
- Some may only need occasional pregnancy protection and prefer not to use a full-time birth control method.
- Certain women prefer to avoid hormones in general based on personal beliefs.
There are several birth control options that do not contain hormones, that are effective if used correctly, and that are usually affordable, or even free.
What is hormone-free birth control?
There are several hormone-free methods of birth control, but their effectiveness can vary widely.
- barrier methods, such as the condom, sponge, cervical cap, or diaphragm
- the copper IUD
- natural family planning (fertility awareness methods or the rhythm method)
Be sure to review the effectiveness rates of these birth control methods (seen in this chart here). Discuss which option might be best for your personal situation with your doctor.
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 other birth control options (i.e., pill, patch, shot, IUD, sponge) if protection against STDs is needed.
Advantages with non-hormonal birth control methods
- Can be used short-term if the need for birth control is only occasional.
- For women who cannot use hormones (for medical, breastfeeding, or other reasons) the barrier methods, such as the cervical cap, condom, diaphragm, contraceptive sponge are available. Spermicide (best used with a condom) and copper IUD are also all hormone-free methods.
- Many methods are inexpensive, but may not be covered by insurance because they are available over-the-counter (OTC).
- Some methods are easily accessible without a prescription at retail stores, and can be packed easily for travel.
Disadvantages with non-hormonal birth control methods
- Except for the copper IUD, these methods require careful and consistent use to prevent pregnancy. They 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, or may find it uncomfortable.
- Certain methods, such as a diaphragm or condom, may interfere with sexual spontaneity.
Side effects with non-hormonal birth control methods
Common side effects
Non-hormonal barrier method birth control has few side effects. The copper IUD can be linked with serious side effects.
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.
More serious side effects
Serious side effects are rare with the non-hormonal barrier method of birth control, like with the condom, diaphragm, or cervical cap; although allergies can rarely occur, especially if latex is present. Toxic shock syndrome may rarely occur with the contraceptive sponge.
Serious side effects with the copper IUD may include: pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), uterine perforation, ectopic pregnancy, and IUD expulsion.
Other warnings and side effects may occur with the use of non-hormonal birth control. It is important to review the specific consumer information for your birth control choice. Discuss these serious side effects 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
|Product||Common Proprietary Names||Description|
|Cervical Cap||Example brand: FemCap||
|Condom (male)||Various options available without a prescription at retail stores and pharmacies.||
|Internal Condoms (also called female condoms but can be used by any gender)||Example brand: FC2 Internal Condom||
|Diaphragm||Example brand: KoroFlex, Ortho-Diaphragm||
|Contraceptive Sponge||Example brand: Today Sponge||
|Spermicide||Brand examples: Encare Vaginal Inserts, Gynol II, Conceptrol; available without a prescription at retail stores / pharmacies.||
|Copper Intrauterine Device (copper T IUD)||ParaGard IUD; must be prescribed and inserted by a health care provider.||
|Natural Family Planning (also called fertility awareness methods)||Not applicable||
Learn More: Permanent Birth Control Methods
- Birth Control Pills
- Birth Control Pills - Periods
- Birth Control Pills and Breakthrough Bleeding
- Birth Control Pills: Benefits, Risks and Side Effects
- Emergency Contraception
- Emergency Contraceptives Available in the U.S.
- Grapefruit and Birth Control Pills: Your Questions Answered
- Hormonal Birth Control (Non-Pill Options)
- Missed taking your birth control pill? Here's what to do next
- Permanent Birth Control
- All About Birth Control Methods. Planned Parenthood. Accessed July 6, 2020 at https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control
- Mayo Clinic Disease Reference. Drugs.com. Accessed July 6, 2020 at https://www.drugs.com/mcd/
- American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG): Birth Control (Contraception): Resource Overview. Accessed July 6, 2020 at https://www.acog.org/Womens-Health/Birth-Control-Contraception#Patient
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Birth Control. Accessed July 6, 2020 at https://www.fda.gov/consumers/free-publications/birth-control
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.