If you've been disappointed with hormonal birth control pills, patches, or implants that seem to send you into an emotional tailspin or cause you to gain weight, you may be wondering whether you're stuck using condoms for the foreseeable future. And for those for whom a surprise pregnancy would be catastrophic, the reported high failure rates from "typical use" of some barrier methods may have you considering abstinence. Fortunately, there are now several non-hormonal contraceptives and birth control methods that can provide you with just as much protection as hormonal birth control bills. Read on to learn more about intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other non-hormonal birth control choices to determine whether one of these is right for you.
One type of intrauterine device utilizes a low dose of hormones to inhibit ovulation, while remaining stationed in the uterus to prevent any implantation that could occur. However, copper IUDs emit no hormones and are more than 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. While these IUDs are generally easiest to insert for women who have already had at least one child (and whose cervixes are softer), they can be safely inserted for those who have never been pregnant, and even those who have never had sex. Once your IUD has been placed, you'll only need to inspect it periodically by checking for the two strings hanging just outside your cervix. As long as these strings are in place, your IUD is doing its job.
Because an IUD doesn't provide you with any protection against sexually transmitted diseases, you'll want to use a second barrier method (like a condom) if having sex with a new partner or someone who may not be monogamous.
Natural family planning (NFP)
If you have regular menstrual periods on a predictable cycle and are with a disease-free partner, NFP may be all you need to avoid pregnancy. Often referred to as the "rhythm method," NFP requires you to monitor your menstrual cycle and ensure you avoid sex (or use a backup birth control method) on the days you're ovulating. Contrary to popular belief, there are only a few days each month during which a woman can get pregnant -- and if no sperm are present in the vagina during this time, pregnancy can easily be avoided.
With the advent of technology has come several smartphone and web-based apps that can help you track your morning temperature, cervical mucus consistency, and other signs that should be able to pinpoint your time of ovulation nearly to the hour.