Over the years we have fielded many questions about non-hormonal birth control. Today we will address this issue in a special post by Erin Handley. Erin’s experience in reproductive health includes outreach and education with Planned Parenthood, teaching an undergraduate college course in Human Sexuality, and evaluation of a contraceptive choices tool kit for her master’s thesis. Additionally, she is co-author on several reproductive health research articles accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals.
You Have Options
If we say “birth control” what pops into your head? (Men, you might be inclined to stop reading right now, but real men read articles about birth control…just sayin’.)
Do you automatically conjure up an image of a little pink plastic compact filled with a circle of tiny pop-out pills? Or maybe a monthly shot, a flesh-colored patch, or clear flexible ring comes to mind. Most likely your notion of birth control includes some sort of hormone that, when in contact with the systems of your body, magically allows you to manage how many children you conceive and when.
But how many of you specifically think about the non-hormonal options that are out there? Did you even know that those existed, how they’re used, or if they’re even effective?
Let us stop right here – because we want to make something very clear from the get-go. This is NOT an anti-hormonal-birth-control rant. The following information should not be used to argue that non-hormonal birth control is better for everyone than hormonal birth control. If you take one thing away from this post, it should be that there is not one perfect birth control method that meets the needs, wants, personality, physical make-up, expectations, and goals of all people. Why the heck do you think there are SO MANY options out there anyway?
No, the purpose of the information presented here is exactly the opposite. We want you to realize that you do have options. Because if you’re not happy with your birth control method then you’re likely to stop using it, or use it sporadically or ineffectively. And if you stop using your birth control effectively and you’re still having sex, then you’re likely to get pregnant. And if you get pregnant when you’re not ready for it, then it’s within reason that you’ll have a whole lot of other things to worry about than what kind of birth control method to use. And we care about your WHOLE health here at Whole9 – including the health of your potentially pregnant body and your future beef-butter-and-kale-eating babies.
So, let’s say, hypothetically, that you are fully aware of all of the hormonal birth control options out there. Maybe you’re even using one right now. (They’re the most popular and most advertised contraceptive methods, so that would make sense.) But perhaps you’re in the market for something that doesn’t include the hormones estrogen or progestin. Maybe you are trying to eliminate hormones from your food and life, maybe you don’t like how the hormones make you feel, maybe you’re not good at taking a pill every day, or maybe you’ve just been using the same method for so dang long you think that trying something new might benefit you in unknown ways.
Regardless, now you’re wondering, “What are my next steps?”
Well, first – and likely most important – DO NOT stop using your current method of birth control. Prematurely stopping your contraception before you are 100% ready to switch can leave you vulnerable to an unplanned pregnancy. I can not tell you how many times I would see girls and women come in to the clinic where I worked asking for a pregnancy test merely a month or so after changing their method. Different hormonal birth control options take different amounts of time to leave your system. How quickly or slowly this happens also depends on your body type and your genetics. So, please, be mindful of the gap.
Next, peruse the table below. We have listed the non-hormonal, non-surgical birth control options currently available in the U.S., how they are used, and their effectiveness. Maybe you’ll see one you’re interested in. Research it more. Ask your health care provider about it. Think about how much time you spend researching the quality, source, and effects of the food you eat – and apply that same verve to your contraception.
Lastly, make a decision – but know that it does not have to be final. Just like with your Whole30 program, you may need to black box your birth control options. Only you can know what method is best for YOU. Just because your best friend LOVES the copper IUD does not mean it is going to be your end-all-be-all. The only way to know is to research it, try it, give it a few months or so, and then if it’s not for you, make a switch and try something new.
Your Non-Hormonal Birth Control Options
Remember, correctly using a birth control method that fits your needs can be as important to your health as eating real food. Educate yourself and be responsible for your own well-being… isn’t that why you stopped by the Whole9 in the first place?
We’ve compiled the non-hormonal, non-surgical birth control options available in the U.S. into this comparative table. We’ve also given you some additional resources at the end, to help you review which options may be appropriate for you.
We encourage you to print this table and take it to your health care provider’s office, to help guide productive discussion if and when you are ready to pursue a non-hormonal birth control method.
Postscript: It’s Plan B, Not Plan A
In the case of an emergency, it’s nice to have back up. No method (except true abstinence) is failsafe. Condoms occasionally break, you may forget to take your pill one morning, or you find you’ve miscounted your ovulation cycle… in instances like these, you have one more option.
You may have heard of emergency contraception before - commonly known as “the morning-after pill” or PlanB – which is a dose of hormones that can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex. What most people don’t know is that there is also a non-hormonal emergency contraceptive option. The ParaGard copper-t IUD can be inserted into the uterus 5 days or 120 hours after unprotected sex. This method of emergency contraception may be on the expensive side, but it can be up to 99.9% effective.
Your questions, thoughts, or sharing of your own experiences are always welcome in comments.
Best in health,
Whole9 (Dallas, Melissa, Erin, and Robin.)