Natural Birth Control Methods You Can Use
If you’re averse to using hormonal contraceptives, you’ll want to know about “natural” birth control options that are currently available, their methods of use, and the disadvantages associated with their use.
Besides, you should note that these methods do not guarantee a 100% chance that you’ll avoid pregnancy.
The methods below will only work if you and your partner are committed to following a specific one. This said your partner will need to be informed too.
Fertility Awareness or Natural Family Planning
This is my favorite method and the one that my spouse and I are currently using.
No devices are involved and you just have to track your natural cycles. This method is free/low-cost, safe, and effective when you use it properly.
If you’re planning to use the fertility awareness method, you’ll have to learn how to predict your most fertile days, so that you’ll avoid having intercourse on those days.
Although it might sound straightforward, it’s not always easy to determine your fertile days. Plus, this method won’t work if you have irregular cycles.
There are basically three categories of fertility awareness methods: symptom-based, calendar-based, and breastfeeding/lactational amenorrhea methods.
In this method, you track your natural symptoms of fertility. Several changes occur in your body during your cycle, including the consistency of your cervical mucus, position of your cervix, and variation of your basal body temperature.
Throughout your cycles, the appearance and consistency of your cervical mucus will vary, from dry or sticky, to creamy, liquid-like, or slippery like egg white, then dry and sticky again.
During your most fertile period, your cervical mucus will look and feel like raw egg white. Conversely, during your non-fertile periods, your cervical mucus will have a whitish (cream white) color.
In addition, it will be very thick, making it difficult for spermatozoa to swim through to the uterus and fallopian tubes.
The Billings Ovulation Method™, developed by Drs John and Evelym Billings, and the Creighton Model FertilityCare™ System are both forms of natural family planning that use cervical mucus to identify a woman’s fertile period.
Some women are comfortable using only cervical mucus to determine their most fertile days, whereas some prefer to use this method in conjunction with other methods such as temping (measuring basal body temperature).
Like your cervical mucus, your cervical position changes during your cycles. During menstruation, your cervix is low and open to allow for blood to be expelled into your vagina.
Your cervix feels like the tip of your nose at this time of your cycle. After menstruation, the cervix closes, but is still low and hard.
At around ovulation, the cervix becomes softer and rises to the far end of the vagina, and during ovulation, it opens, allowing spermatozoa a passage to swim into the uterine cavity. During this period, your cervix feel like your lips.
In some cases, you might not be able to feel your cervix because it has risen so high to the top of the vagina. Your cervix is also softest during this period and it might blend in with the vaginal walls, giving the impression that it has disappeared. It is best to have intercourse during this time.
After ovulation, the cervix falls lower in the vagina and assumes a hard consistency again (like the tip of your nose). It will also close up tightly, hampering the entrance of sperm into the uterine cavity.
The video below shows you how to monitor your cervical position.
Basal Body Temperature
This method is also free and is based on the length of your previous menstrual cycles. Some women might find this strategy cumbersome because it requires that you track your period for at least six months before you start. In addition, it is not a 100% sure way of avoiding pregnancy.
After tracking your period for six to 12 months, you’ll need do use this information to predict when you’re fertile. To make the task a little easier, a formula was developed to help you with the math:
- Identify your shortest cycle and subtract 18 from the number of days in that cycle.
- Add the difference (number of days) after your period. That is day 1 of your fertile period.
- Identify your longest cycle and subtract 11 from the number of days in that cycle.
- Add the difference (number of days) after your period. That is the last day of your fertile period.
You should avoid having intercourse on or between the first and last days of your fertile period.
Some apps have been developed to help you track your periods, with most of them being free to download. For this method to be effective, you’ll have to be diligent in tracking your periods.
However, other factors beyond your control might make it difficult for you to achieve the best results. For example, it is common for us to have cycles with varying lengths.
Conditions such as thyroid disease, eating disorders, hard workouts, excessive weight loss or gain, and drug abuse can affect the length of your cycles, making them irregular.
This method requires that you breastfeed exclusively for at least six months after delivery, and during this period, you should not have had your period. Note that pumping is not considered in this method, and you should breastfeed at least every four hours during the day and every six hours at night.
Like other contraception methods, this is not 100% effective. Note that you can ovulate before getting your period, so there’s still a risk of you getting period while breastfeeding. However, it is 98% effective if you meet all of the criteria above.
This was my favorite method when I was nursing my kids. Since my cycles were relatively irregular while I was breastfeeding, I needed to use this method since it didn’t require that I use hormonal contraceptives.
This method uses tools such as an ovulation predictor kit (OPK) or fertility monitor to help you track your fertility and might require a bit of investment, especially if you’re considering advanced digital devices or monitors.
These tools/devices work by detecting the presence of reproductive hormones in your blood or urine, and you do not in any way have to take any medication or hormones when you’re using this method.
If you’re wondering how an OPK is different from a fertility monitor, you can read more in this post, which also describes types of OPKs (urine- and and saliva-based) and fertility monitors ( urine-, perspiration-, and saliva-based) as well as recommended products to help you track your fertility.
Some advocates of natural birth control support the use of herbs to avoid pregnancy. However, there’s very little evidence to support the use of these herbs for contraception. Furthermore, the US Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of these herbs.
Herbs that are used for birth control include wild carrot (also known as Queen Anne’s lace), blue cohosh, gossypol (for the male partner), neem, castor bean, and evodia.
Given that some of these herbs are potentially toxic and can interact with some medications, it is best to consult your doctor if you plan to take any of them.
Natural birth control is ideal if you’re looking for alternatives to a hormonal birth control method.
However, natural birth control methods have their cons and to achieve the best results, you need to involve your partner and be committed to following a method.
Finally, no birth control method is 100% effective except abstinence!