non hormonal birth control

Your Guide to Non-Hormonal Birth Control

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?

Coitus Interruptus

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.

Family Planning

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

Whole9-non-hormonal-birth-control-options-1Remember, 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.)

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  1. jj says

    I would love to see a later article on the pros & cons of various permanent/surgical options. (Right now we’re waiting to see if a second baby is in the cards, but I want to put the kibosh on that after I turn 40 in a couple years.)

  2. Erica says

    As a fellow human sexuality professional/educator and Whole 9 fan, I am really pleased to see this article. Thank you.

  3. says

    This is SUCH a timely post for me – a friend sent this to me after I literally just asked her about her experiences with some low-hormone doses yesterday. I decided to take a break from the pill (while of course using other methods) at the end of February for a couple of reasons, and I don’t think I want to go back on hormonal birth control – I know not necessarily everyone will be affected the same way, but after it’s started to wear off, the amount of difference it makes for me is HUGE and kind of scary. It wasn’t just affecting the “usual” things like my sex drive and to some extent weight gain/loss, but aspects of my personality, my mood, appetite, urge to exercise, productivity…and I had no idea it was affecting any of these things because I’d been on it since I was 17, almost seven years straight. After my experience, I definitely think it’s a good thing for women to know their options. Thank you!

  4. Karen says

    The Paraguard Copper-T IUD is an EXCELLENT form of birth control, one I have used for almost 20 years (obviously not the same one, lol – they have to be replaced every 5-7 years). If you have insurance, it covers all or part of the cost. The IUD is pretty much foolproof. The only thing you have to be careful about is infection – if you are not in a committed relationship (i.e., have more than one sexual partner), use condoms as well. And, when you’re ready to start a family, you can get pregnant immediately after removal (subject to your own biology, of course).

  5. says

    Hi Cristin, we chose to focus on non-hormonal, non-surgical options for this particular post but there is a wealth of information on the internet about surgical options such as vasectomy and tubal ligation.

  6. NT says

    This has been something I have been struggling with for a LONG time. When I first was married, I tried all types of hormonal birth control – only to feel horrible each and every time. I became depressed, was anxious/irritable, and gained QUITE a few pounds. Not the way I wanted to start my marriage! Workouts suffered… it was awful. Women who do NOT want hormonal birth control in your life – you aren’t alone!

    About a year ago, after much research – I went ahead with the Copper IUD. Unfortunately, like so many other women – I had complications with it. The IUD can move “out of place” and for me, about 6 months after insertion – it ended up sticking into the side of my uterus. It was extremely painful.. and expensive! Believe me, I wanted this to work SO BAD – but the more I began talking to friends and family members, I realized that almost ALL who had had the IUD had complications with it as well. My close friend had the shifting problem as well and it ended up causing a small tear in her uterine lining. Both my mom and my aunt had issues as well and had to get them removed.

    I am not trying to scare anyone away from this – but just know that with it comes a risk. I did a lot of research and thought “oh that’s not going to happen to me!” But, sigh…. it did.

    I wish there was a more “fool proof” birth control out there like the IUD, but, it’s life! Thanks Whole9 for posting this – I wish I would have stopped trying hormonal birth control sooner! The important thing is that there ARE other options out there… and something WILL work for you!

  7. DeAnne says

    About a year after I was married, I lost access to free Pills and then I read Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler (there is a newer edition out now). It was like a revelation, actually understanding all the things going on in my body. It was empowering, and also made me very angry about the information I had gotten before (kinda they same feeling you get when you hear a PopTart commercial pretend that it’s “part of a healthy breakfast!”). As the title says, I really felt like I could control my fertility myself instead of it being some random thing that happened to me or under the control of doctors and drug companies.

    I recommend all ladies out there read it, even if you’re not considering NFP. And if you are, the author gives all sorts of options for all sorts of situations – you do not have to have a regular 28 day cycle (as it says on the chart). I never have had the textbook cycle, and in a few months it’ll be 20 years and no unwanted pregnancies (and 4 that were wanted) since I went off the pill.

  8. Michele, MD (OB/GYN) says

    I am a practicing ob/gyn (Paleo Physician) and I love this post! Although hormonal contraception is great for many, it is not for everyone. This is a concise post on available options…there is one other option for permanent birth control….it’s called Essure…check it out!

  9. says

    Michele, thank you so much. And I appreciate the heads-up on Essure. I am not familiar with the procedure. I’ll look into it and perhaps we can add it to the table.

  10. says

    Thanks to all for the supportive comments, especially professionals like Erica and Dr. Michele.

    This is a subject of great interest for me, since I went off the pill about 10 years ago in favor of the ParaGard (Copper-T IUD). The first doctor I spoke with about my options refused to consider an IUD, as I’d never given birth. I found another doctor fast. My next GYN was far more open to listening to my concerns and offering alternatives. The IUD has been a godsend for me – it was easy to insert, I experienced few side effects, and it has provided me with an effortless form of effective BC that I haven’t had to worry about at all.

    I’m sorry for those who have had bad experiences with various methods – there are downsides to just about everything, unfortunately. But knowing you DO have options, and learning about other methods if yours just isn’t working, is such a comfort.


  11. Amy says

    I’m having trouble with this – which I didn’t expect being that I went off of hormonal birth control over 2 years ago (right before I got married) and am ALL for it. My only issue is that with NFP you listed that a CON is that you must have a 28 day cycle. That is not true. NFP uses your temperature, mucus patterns and cervical position… these still change with hormone levels regardless if your cycle is 28 days or 60 or 43. Before I “ate paleo” I had very sporadic cycles ranging from 28 days (happened 1 time in highschool) to 92 days and everywhere in between and was still able to use NFP. Now that I am more regular, I still don’t have a 28 day cycle but still know when I’m ovulating and when I have ovulated. I used “the pill” because the common thought out there about NFP says the same thing as this chart, that you have to have a 28 day cycle to use it effectively. I just want to spread the word that that is not accurate information. With a non-28 day cycle and with irregular cycles, you can still use NFP. I should also add, the rest of the cons under that section are pretty accurate but if you don’t want to use hormones or devices (condoms included), NFP is worth it. Also pretty cool to know my body so well – any day of the week :)

  12. says

    I am one of those rare types for whom children have NEVER been part of my life plan and never will bill. However, in my long-term relationships, the responsibility for ensuring none of my soldiers end up placing a flag on ovum beach has generally fallen to my partner and typically in the form of hormonal birth control. The wider I have read, and the deeper I have dived down the ancestral health rabbit hole, the less well this approach has sat with me. Especially when seeing first-hand the effects the OCP was having on a partner’s health. So the decision was made recently to have a vasectomy. I know there is some hesitancy in the paleo/primal community regarding potential issues with vasectomy and the likes of autoimmune diseases. But I undertook a thorough review of the available literature and just could not find much of an issue. When reading the literature on this issue (or any other health-related issue for that matter), you need to keep in mind that for your average 40-something male, there are MANY confounding factors. We are generally not dealing with a bunch of hunter-gatherer types who have just been snipped!

    Satisfied that the risk:benefit ratio was firmly weighted in my favour, I had a very easy and painless procedure (yes – the forums are full of people saying they had issues, but again, ask what the confounding factors might be… why might an individual have an extreme inflammatory response and the associated pain? Is this risk the same for those who eat a low-inflammation diet and live a low-inflammation lifestyle??). I required no ice and no pain relief and was back to my normal activities within 48h. Several months down the track and it has been one of the best decisions I have made. There have been no side effects, issues, pain, and everything is, err, fully functional.

    If couples want a more permanent solution, particularly “paleo couples”, I’d strongly recommend consideration of vasectomy as an option.

    I wrote more here for those who are interested…

  13. Em says

    I agree with Amy, you don’t need a 28 day cycle for NFP.

    Loved the rest of the article. Thanks again Whole9! :D

  14. Sarena says

    I have used several of the aforementioned options over the years. Firstly, I used a “sponge” years ago. Then I switched to a cervical cap of some sort that is also no longer available. After that came a non hormonal IUD which I had severalyears and HATED due to spottng, cramping and general discomfrt. Now I use a diagrahm which isnt terrible in and of itself but I am seriously sensitive to the spermicide and constantly break out from it.

    For vaious reasns, I had no choice and had to look into non hormonal issues including initially a family history of breast cancer and then a personal experience with breast cancer that was both estrogen and progesterone sensitive. As I am currently peri menopausal, I need to use something but have a horrible time with any choice. It is very frustrating to say the least

  15. Susie says

    Wanted to add that lamb skin condoms are an amazing alternative to latex, if you just want to prevent pregnancy and not STDs. They allow heat transfer and are truly not noticeable, unlike latex.

    Also, there are some NFP tools that actually test hormone levels (like LH) to predict ovulation. Ovulens is a product that uses saliva, and there are ovulation predictor pee sticks. Charting with BBT tells you *after* you’ve ovulated and helps you see your pattern, but it’s your other symptoms like checking CM that really predict ovulation. I think NFP fails a lot because women rest on their rhythm, knowing that they always ovulate on day 14 or 16 or whatever, then it’s that one month they ovulate early that gets them. I think NFPis great for trying to get pregnant, but not great as a sole method of birth control (if you’re serious about it).

    The bummer part of the picture is that our bodies REALLY want us to get pregnant (if we’re healthy). Orgasm can stimulate early, opportunistic ovulation. My mom got pregnant with my older brother with an IUD inserted, me while on the pill, my little twin brothers with NFP, and my little sister with a condom (broke).

  16. Carie says

    I saw my Dr. today! She is totally open to ParaGard. She also gave me info about Essure. Essure is permanent, which is alright with me. She is looking at my insurance to determine which would be cheaper. I would love an opinion from Erin and/or Melissa regarding Essure, if you have one. I am somewhat torn between the two. I am also going to look into vasectomy for him. Like I said, we are open to any of the options. We don’t want any more kids so it comes down to which is better and cost.



  17. says

    Thank you all again for your stories and feedback. We hope the the article and table have been helpful.

    For those of you commenting about the necessity of a 28-day cycle for NFP, we will be modifying the table to reflect the discrepancy.

    And for Carrie and others of you who would like more information of Essure, we contacted the ever-helpful Dr. Michelle Blackwell an OB/GYN in Houston, TX to get the low-down. Here is what she had to say:

    “[Essure] is one of those procedures that truly has changed modern sterilization. Prior to its introduction, the only way to achieve permanent sterilization in a woman was either a tubal ligation at the time of cesarean section, post partum tubal ligations (made through about an inch long incision under the belly button) or laparoscopic tubal ligation.

    The Essure is only intended for those women who are 100% sure they are done! There is no reversal of this procedure. The only way to achieve pregnancy after it would be in vitro fertilization. It is performed in the office, under either local anesthesia or sometimes with IV sedation. No incisions. Basically, a small camera is introduced into the uterine cavity and these small coils are inserted into each fallopian tube. It literally takes about 5 minutes! No down time. go back to work the next day, no post op pain! Very low complication rate. You are supposed to be on some form of backup birth control (usually involving hormones…although I have some patients I have allowed to use just condoms) for 3 mos while your body forms a barrier around these coils. Then a special x-ray is done while shooting dye through the tubes to confirm that they are completely blocked. The wonderful thing is that in the clinical trials, with correct placement and confirmation, there have been no reported pregnancies! “

  18. says

    I had issues with the copper IUD (ParaGard). I had bad experiences with hormonal BC, the IUD seemed like a perfect solution, my midwives encouraged it, and I knew women who were happy with it. Shortly after getting it put in, I experienced increased systemic inflammation and anxiety, both of which have been linked to higher copper levels. I wish I had known about those potential side effects in advance, as I knew I was at risk for anxiety problems. Chris Kresser mentioned something about effects of high copper levels in a podcast, but that was the only place I heard about it until I started doing some searches on systemic inflammation, anxiety, and copper. I had it taken out about a month ago and got much stricter about avoiding nuts and seed oils and have seen reduced inflammation. Just wanted to put that out there as a potential negative. I’m not sure how widespread it is but I’m probably not a unique snowflake.

  19. Mika says

    Thank you for this article. I have just finished treatment for breast cancer (Her2 positive, not hormone driven) and my oncologist still does not want me on any type of hormones – which I agree with! I am 38, came out of chemopause, have 3 children and do not want anymore. I can’t stand condoms and always got pregnant when we tried so I need a very effective method. In researching the IUD, which appears to be the easiest procedure, I have been concerned about the number of people that seem to have complications….and are the strings noticeable at all during intercourse?

    Essure looks interesting as I was going to talk to my OBGYN about a possible ablation as well. I don’t have time to be down a couple weeks due to a tubal and I don’t know what they (doctor and insurance) would agree to do anyway. However, I do seem to get whatever I want after having cancer, LOL!

  20. Penny says

    I am very stressed out and am considering tubal ligation. Im 99% sure I dont want to have children again (Im 40, with two beautiful children) but I feel uneasy about making such a permanent decision. Dont want to do hormones, and miscalculated my ovulation date ONE TIME and ended up pregnant. I ended the pregnancy and I am devastated and feel really irresponsible for not having a more reliable method.

    But nothing seems right. Ive read all of these reviews about the IUD and most are not good. And dont be fooled by Essure because if you go on the forums there are a lot of unhappy women out there who are having it removed.

    I have a history of endometriosis, ovarian cysts, cancer in the family, AND a hormone hormones and IUDs dont seem ideal for me. Im so frustrated and afraid to have sex now w/ my partner because I cant afford another mistake. :(

  21. says

    Hi everyone-Just getting started here and couldn’t resist putting my two cents worth in. I specialize in Gynecology and Functional Medicine in Houston, Texas.
    There are few non-hormonal options for birth control for women. The Paraguard IUD is one of my favorites as it has no hormones. You have to be in a monogamous relationship because it can carry bacteria into the uterus and fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease. However, I’ve seen many women use it over the years and love it. It’s also cost effective, lasting 10 years for much less than birth control pills.
    I don’t recommend Bilateral Tubal Ligation to my patients as I’ve seen so many women over the years with hormonal issues post-tubal. Now we actually have “Post-Tubal Ligation Syndrome” and doctors advertising a “reversal process” for this syndrome. Wrong! Damage is done!
    Barrier methods such as diaphragm and condoms (with spermicide, of course!) are also options. However, these tend to be undesirable for many due to mess or lack of spontaneity.
    I don’t recommend Essure either as there is something about implanting a polyester insert into your fallopian tubes that you then have to follow with a hysterosalpingogram (invasive procedure) and x-ray that just doesn’t sound right…….
    Penny-you think you have hormone troubles now….don’t consider a tubal.
    My recommendation is that if you’ve birthed two beautiful children, you ask your partner to make the sacrifice of having a vasectomy. You are not the only one responsible here!
    See someone about your hormone imbalance-it sounds as though you are very estrogen dominant.
    With truth and in health,

  22. Jessica says

    I am at the end of my rope with birth control options! The psychological ramifications of hormonal bc pills are horrible for me. I had a copper IUD for close to two years (put up with excruciating, heavy, 10+ day periods) and STILL got pregnant (in a healthy marriage but still terrible timing). I am hoping some sort of NFP works for me.

    I am on a bit of a crusade to let women and their partners know that the copper IUD isn’t exactly the savior many gynecologists and women’s health professionals make it out to be!

  23. Meg says

    Just a quick note. I went off of birth control about 6 years ago and have been using the basal-sympto-thermal method since with great effectiveness. I feel about 1,000 times better. Taking Charge of Your Fertility was a great guide in starting this.

    However, I also had a period of near-psychosis when I stopped it: I was suicidally-depressed, paranoid, hallucinatory, the whole nine yards. It started about a month after I went off, and it lasted for 5 months. I now have a friend going through an identical situation. It’s terrifying and weird and, after reading up on this online, way more common than people realize. I was on the pill about 9 years when I went off; she had only been on it for 5 years.

    So, although I think going off of BC is one of the best things I did, and NFP works great for me, but I think going through the withdrawal under a health care professional’s guidance is pretty important for the segment of the population that’s prone to drastic hormonal mood upsets. Since it’s hard to tell if that’s you before you go off, I think it’s good to bring it up with your doctor, then keep an eye on yourself. If you start to have any odd symptoms, get in to talk to someone immediately. Some people have no issue whatsoever with going off, but it seems common enough (and was terrifying enough) that I want to bring it up.

    I’m not a doctor, but I’ve had good luck with vitamin B complex pills (incl. B6 and B12) and fish oil pills (and option for non-vegetarians) in somewhat moderating the mood swings.

  24. says

    @Meg, thank you for sharing your experience. I’m so sorry you went through that. As we’ve mentioned, everyone reacts differently to hormonal birth control and it is good to be aware of other’s experiences.

  25. Angela says

    Hi, i’m 28 and I’ve been on Trinessa since after my baby was born {5 months} and i’m not so sure that i like it. I feel like i’m always in a bad mood, tired, really hungry, and sometimes really depressed. I feel like maybe i already had some of this going on before but now i really feel like i have no control over myself. i’m fighting constantly with my Fiance and everything around me irritates me. We live with his parents and they are great people, but somehow i can’t help but feel negative towards them. I just don’t feel happy. I need other options of birth control. Even though i do love my daughter and feel that she is my reason for being we cant have another oops if you know what i mean. I wish i had more energy and was happier. The IUD sounds expensive and my insurance has expired…so what next?

  26. says

    @Angela, if you no longer have insurance I would suggest checking out Planned Parenthood. They work on a sliding scale and are incredibly knowledgable about birth control methods that are available right now. They will also be able to give you a lot more information about the IUD, including possible option for getting it at a reduced cost.

  27. Christina says

    As far as the copper IUD goes it is a great choice for some, NOT for all. I would say you will have to see how your body reacts. It sounds perfect, lasts up to 10 years, no hormones etc. After 3 months of my body adjusting to it I initially had low problems with it. Normally I experienced a 5 day period before insertion, after insertion was 9-10 days. I definitely felt heavier cramping and bleeding during cycles. Nearly two years later I have an appointment to get it removed thankfully soon. I recently have had my periods lasting 15 to 16 days for 3 months in a row. Horrible cramping off and on all month long. I did feel higher anxiety due to the copper as well. Also the strings DID bother my husband and we had to avoid some positions. All problems I was willing to accept for a practically fool proof, no maintenance required, no hormone option. But the excessive half of the month bleeding and all month cramping was just too much. I would love to be one of those that had very few side effects. Fact is, I’m not so now back to square one. I always forget to take the pill, I’m very sensitive to hormones regardless, so far I don’t like the Nuva ring, going to try the patch.

  28. Lisa says

    I had an IUD inserted and my husband felt the “strings” and literally refused to have sex with me until I got it removed. I was hoping for the best because I have melasma from BC pills but it didn’t work out. Now I’m trying to find something else. I’m 30 with 1 child, I don’t want any more, but my husband does.

  29. Whittney says

    What about concerns about copper toxicity with the copper IUD’s? We’ve been practicing FAM for 10+ years with great success. The thought of an inserted device is enough to send me running!

  30. Judy donahue says

    Include information on which methods are possible abortifacients. This is important to many women and men. The IUD, and Plan B can eliminate a fertilized egg or prevent it from implanting, if it’s there. Science says human life begins at conception, and many women and men believe it. Even with the pill, there is a slight chance of pregnancy (1 in 3years), will act as abortifacient and not allow a new human to develop. Women need to be well informed.

  31. Rebe says

    I just wanted to add that NFP/FAM methods *do* work for those with irregular cycles if you are using one of the mucus methods (Creighton, Billings) or one that incorporates mucus (a sympto-thermal method). Whenever your body ovulate, it will give off signs that you can learn to read……as long as you are tracking your fertility signs daily, you’ll catch the fertile signs whether it happens on day 10, 14 or 30 of your cycle. You can then plan accordingly (depending upon whether you want to get pregnant or avoid pregnancy). Creighton has the added benefit of being linked to a system that can help with cycle issues and/or infertility since the signs that our body gives us can really help to monitor reproductive health.

  32. Drew says

    I second the comments regarding the fact that the copper IUD may be a good choice for some, but not all. In an effort to get off hormonal birth control, I chose the copper IUD. Sex was horribly painful for the 7 months I had it and unfortunately, I was one of the rare folks who got a severe pelvic infection from it and, consequently, had my fertility ruined. Statstically, it doesn’t happen that often, but if someone gave me the choice between the potential of ruining my fertility or taking the hormonal birth control I had had zero problems with for a decade, I’d have chosen the hormones 100 percent of the time.

  33. Renae says

    I like others have suffered on hormonal birth control. I was on it for 3 years after I got married and it was the worst decision of my life. I tried various brands and never was happy. One made me so dizzy I could barely stand up straight. All of the other pill forms lead to terrible anxiety, that led to a terrible year of recovering from antidepressants (that I only took a short period of time). After reading Meg’s post above, I wonder if some of my terrible mental issues were exacerbated by the withdrawal of the hormones now also. But the good news is I’m finally drug free, and that combined with crossfit and paleo I’m finally me again.

    I tried the copper IUD after that, really wanting it to work. The insertion was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life. The ongoing pain for the next few days was not fun, and I had to scale back at crossfit. After a few weeks, they did an ultrasound to see it had slipped out of placed and had to be removed. I still think they may have screwed up with my insurance, but long story short, I was out over $500. The IUD makes me very nervous, because it loses effectiveness if it moves out of place, but that can be hard to tell without an ultrasound – and who has one of those at home? The strings can be hard to feel, and can mislead people.

    My husband finally said to stop messing with my body, and I learned NFP from Couple to Couple League. Like all of the other above have said, the beauty of NFP is that you don’t have to have a perfect cycle – and this method will actually help you to understand why that may be. And for people who WANT children, this method will help with conception. I don’t use it alone, and still back up with other of the non-hormonal methods on the chart, but I never trusted the pill either. I’m so happy to be getting my life back, regrowing my hair, not worrying constantly, and understanding all the little things that happen in my body. It’s only been a year, but I’m used to taking my temperature every morning now. Some friends don’t understand my choice, but I don’t care because I’m so happy I no longer have to pop pills in the morning. Goodluck to all of the other people out there who are sick of hormonal birth control, I hope that when you get off of it, you can get your health back also!

    Whole9 – please update your otherwise very good pdf. NFP is a good 1st line protection method, even for people who don’t have perfect cycles.

  34. Megan says

    As many others have commented, your information on NFP/FAM is still not corrected and is very misleading. You have lumped together many different kinds of “natural family planning” which really doesn’t provide an accurate representation. The chart basically equates Cycle Beads (old fashioned rhythm method) with scientifically researched methods such as Creighton, Billings, etc.

    I would be more than happy to help you update this chart with more accurate information and sources. I think this could be a valuable resource to many in the community. It’s usually pretty easy to find information about “mainstream” birth control options, but not so much for more natural options. Please provide accurate information! Let me know if you’d be willing to accept my (free) help in updating this chart.

  35. Ali says

    Hi Everyone,

    I am currently looking for a non-hormonal and non-IUD birth control. I had the ParaGard for 2.5 years and unfortunately got pregnant – I thought I was being incredibly responsible but now, I do not think that the ParaGard is as effective as it claims to be. When I spoke to my doctor – her response was – oh well this does occasionally happen. I could not believe it!

    For some reason I just am terrified to only use NFP…I feel as though I am definitely responsible enough to monitor my body but the chances of something going wrong seem so high.

    I guess I am thinking the best option is the ParaGard with NFP as well. This would provide double protection – although now that I am researching the ParaGard…AGAIN the possibility of it migrating and perforating the uterus is a growing concern for me. Does anyone know the statistics on this?

    On a final note – Ladies please understand that the ParaGard can fail – I would greatly urge anyone choosing the ParaGard to take additional precautions.

  36. Megan says

    According to this website “The rate of perforation in randomized trials of the ParaGard T 380A has been 1 in 1,360.” They do cite their source for that statistic, but note that these studies were carried out in 1983 and 1984. I haven’t found any more recent data, but that gives you an idea (perforation is even rarer than pregnancy).

    I understand being afraid of NFP, but the chances of something going wrong really aren’t that high. Refusing to follow the rules of course increases the chance of pregnancy, but with correct use, effectiveness is upwards of 98 or 99% with perfect use (really varies by model and which rules are used). If you really need to avoid pregnancy, having an instructor is highly recommended. And if you want the greatest security, it will require abstinence during fertile times. Many people practice FAM (fertility awareness method) meaning that they use barriers (condoms, spermicide, etc) during the fertile times rather than abstaining. This essentially takes the effectiveness down to the rate of the barrier.

    Also, I really don’t think you could use NFP in conjunction with the Paragard. According to their pamphlet: “Ideas about how ParaGard® works include preventing sperm from reaching the
    egg, preventing sperm from fertilizing the egg, and preventing the egg from attaching
    (implanting) in the uterus. ParaGard® does not stop your ovaries from making an egg
    (ovulating) each month.”

    The part about preventing the sperm from reaching the egg implies (and I’ve seen suggested elsewhere that this is true) that it alters (generally thickens) cervical mucus. Every NFP method I am aware of uses mucus as a key sign, so it would be awfully difficult to get accurate observations. I won’t even get into “ideas about how ParaGard works” but just suffice it to say that not actually know the mechanism of action of something I put in my body doesn’t work for me.

    Just to add, ALL birth control options (other than complete abstinence) can fail. Less than 1% always seems like a small chance until you are that statistic. The whole point of sex is reproduction and our bodies are pretty darn good at that, even when we try to stop them.

  37. Buttercup says

    Back when I was searching for a natural method of BC I found sown thing called ladycomp. It’s a simple thermometer and computer that tracks your morning basal temps and lets you know with a green, yellow or red light where you are in your cycle. It even blinks red the day you are ovulating. I purchased mine from canada. It’s pricey but if used as described works as effective as hormonal BC and also teaches you so much about your body and your cycle. I’ve been using it 10 years and never had so much as a pregnancy scare.

  38. says

    For the first time in my life, I am finally on a hormone concoction that works for me. But for five years, I’ve been tortured by all the symptoms in the book—off and on, of varying degrees. (Don’t even get me started on the Depo or Nuvaring. Ugh.)

    I’m stoked to be on a pill that finally works with my body, but I still appreciate this article. Messing with hormones is tricky business. Thanks for the info!

  39. Paula says

    April of last year I had a Mirena IUD removed (inserted for heavy periods) because I was told I was in Menopause. I had been period free a year prior to that. 21 days into my Whole30 and I start spotting. Had Ultrasound done and everything is normal. Dr said she will continue to monitor and take further action if it continues. I was a grain and dairy junkie prior to Whole30. I have not seen any discussions anywhere regarding this possibility and this is the only forum that has come close. Any thoughts?

  40. Kim Cunningham says

    I was wondering if the low dose pill for helping pre-menopause symptoms attracts any advice? I had the Merena removed as my hair stated falling out and thinning. 18 months later I am dealing with significant mood swings diagnosed as menopausal symptoms.

    I have been paleo for over two years other than chocolate, half and half in my coffee and the odd tast of something naughty….. Oh, and wine!

    Thanks for any alternative options….

  41. Mary says

    Hi! My name is Mary and I have a question: My sister just started a birth control pill that was recommended to her by a nurse friend. I’m not sure what it is (I’ll have to ask her later) but apparently it is safer because it does not use hormones and simply causes the eggs to slide out of your system so they cannot be fertilized. Does anyone know what this is? And if it is truly non-hormonal?

  42. Lindsay says

    Hi Whole 9 Community-
    I am 24 years old and have been paleo for more than three years. I eat our staples of coconut, avocado or nuts as a fat source daily. I got the copper IUD about three months ago. This was after extensive search of birth control options that were close to 100% and hormone free. I talked to my great doctor about this IUD option and she thought this was my best option to stay consistent with my “natural” ways. \

    About two months ago I began having diarrhea about 3-10 times a day. I haven’t traveled internationally, or drank from a stream. I know it can’t be my diet cause I am living with my brother right now who is doing a whole365. I got a stool test that said it wasn’t a parasite and then a colonoscopy that said it was colitis.

    The Dr explained to me they really don’t know what causes colitis. They prescribed medicine that “might” heal it but I really don’t like a maybe idea. I did the math after my colonoscopy to the month difference between the insertion and the beginning of the diarrhea and realized they were pretty close together. That is when I did some research on copper toxicity and read about symptoms (diarrhea is not one of them but a deficiency in digestive enzymes is) and foods that copper are in. Avocado, coconut, and nuts.

    I think what has happened is I was eating so many foods with a lot of copper in it my body was totally rejecting it which is what caused the diarrhea. The chronic diarrhea then caused the colitis. Which has worsened the diarrhea. I have recently taken out the IUD and am reducing my high intake of foods with copper. If this is copper toxicity I didn’t want symptoms to get worse like manic depression, fatigue and years of recovery sometimes. If this doesn’t heal the chronic diarrhea I will probably result to taking the medicine for colitis.

    I wanted to post this to see if there is some chance another women is going through this. I know when considering the IUD I thought for sure it was my best option. I hadn’t had any problems with bad cramping, longer period or even feeling the strings during intercourse.

    With us as paleo women we do take in a lot food with high amounts of copper. So, after you get your IUD and weird symptoms come up you aren’t use to consider copper toxicity, and always listen to your body.

  43. cptacek says

    You say this:
    Erin @Whole9 says
    May 24, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Thank you all again for your stories and feedback. We hope the the article and table have been helpful.

    For those of you commenting about the necessity of a 28-day cycle for NFP, we will be modifying the table to reflect the discrepancy.

    Yet today, Aug 11, it is still there:
    Must have a regular monthly cycle