I always talk about how to get your hormones balanced, but balanced hormones also = fertility. So what if you don’t want to have kids or not any more and you want to avoid synthetic hormones?
What natural contraception options exist? I will only address natural contraception options here with the aim to help find a good alternative to synthetic based hormone products that deprive your body of B-Vitamins, Magnesium and mess up your gut bacteria. I have also seen several clients on synthetic hormones who still struggled with symptoms of low progesterone despite taking synthetic progesterone.
Natural Family Planning Or Fertility Awareness-Based Method
The only thing you need is to buy a basal thermometer and get some education on how to implement it, like this book Taking Charge of Your Fertility and maybe some additional education if you want it. There's thermometers that allow you to directly populate the data in an app for you, so it's actually pretty convenient.
How it works:
The sympto-thermal method seems to be the most effective. This method includes measuring basal body temperature, observing cervical fluid patterns and cervical position throughout the month. This is not only great for knowing when to have sex to get pregnant, but you’ll also know when not to or have protected intercourse to prevent pregnancy.
On top of that, it’s a really great tool that will tell you if you have ovulated and help you know how to balance your hormones and tracking how far you are in perimenopause (we also go over this in our program Perimenopause like a Boss).
Taking your basal temperature can also help detect an under-active thyroid and if your luteal phase is too short.
Natural Family Planning is by far the healthiest of all the birth control options because it allows you to be in control of your own body. All it requires is a basal thermometer, a period tracking app or paper chart to record your cycle information and some guidance on how to start.
Effectiveness: According to Planned Parenthood, of 100 couples who use the sympto-thermal method correctly for one year, 0.4 (fewer than one) will have a pregnancy. That is just as effective as all of the hormonal birth control methods!
Also called the “pull-out method”, it simply means that the penis is being withdrawn from the vagina before ejaculation.
Effectiveness: Shockingly, this method is 96% effective (when used correctly). The number goes down to 78% though if used incorrectly.
It’s crucial that the man pulls out before ejaculation and if you decide to go for round two, he must urinate before doing so to get any remaining sperm out of his urethra.
What about pre-ejaculation? A number of studies have actually found that pre-ejaculate secretions do not contain live sperm. So you don’t need to worry about them.
Hormonal and Copper IUD’s
An IUD is a small T-shaped device that’s inserted into the uterus. There are hormonal and copper IUDs. The copper IUD releases copper which is toxic to live sperm and the hormonal IUD releases progestin or levonorgestrel to prevent ovulation. Go back to my previous article for all the pro’s and cons about IUD’s. I’ll focus on the copper IUD as a natural option here.
The copper IUD is 99.2% effective for up to 12 years.
While this is a long lasting option, it is expensive and there can be quite a few side effects both while you have it in and after it is removed. Women have described tremendously long and painful periods along with very heavy bleeding when using it. Copper is known to increase estrogen uptake that explains the heavy bleeding when using it. On the other hand, many women don’t experience side effects at all. Additionally, there is the chance that the IUD can fall out and can migrate and tear uterine tissue. If this happens it may need to be surgically removed. Interestingly, IUD’s have one of the highest satisfaction and continuation rates.
You often hear about stories where a condom broke, but when used correctly, condoms only have a 2% failure rate. That drops significantly to 18% if used incorrectly.
There’s now a wealth of different materials available
What else you should know:
They’re really not that bad, especially if you’re tracking your cycle and know your fertile days. You’ll only have to use condoms for 5-7 days of the month in that case.
Diaphragm and Femcap or Cervical Cap
A diaphragm is a silicone dome that you place over the cervix before sex. It works by physically blocking sperm from entering the uterus combined with a spermicide that kills the sperm.
Both are not very effective options, the latter even less than the first : if used correctly, it prevents pregnancy 94% of the time but if used incorrectly that drops to 88%. It makes sense to combine it with a condom or the withdrawal method to increase effectiveness.
While the diaphragm has no adverse effects on your health, it can be difficult to insert, can move around during sex and has to be put in right before intercourse which is kind of a mood killer.
Bioidentical progesterone can exactly be used like the mini pill by taking it throughout the month and not only in the second half of your cycle. It has the same effectiveness as the birth control pill and will prevent pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation. However, it may also lower your estrogen levels if you take it throughout the month, so it's not an ideal solution either.
The fertility awareness method still seems to be the best option. I get that swallowing a pill each day may seem easier than tracking your temperature, but in my opinion it's a small prize to pay to stay clear of these synthetic hormones that wreak havoc on your health. Plus, once you get used to doing it each morning, if you think about it, it really just takes 1 minute and the thermometer will populate the data directly in an app for you, so you don't have to fill in any spread sheets.