3 Best Non-Hormonal And Low Hormone Birth Control Methods

In this week’s Sex IDK column, Emma McGowan,
certified sex educator and writer, answers your questions about
finding and using
non-hormonal birth control methods
that aren’t condoms.

Q: What are the best
non-hormonal birth control methods
that are not condoms for
people who can’t take hormonal birth control due to health

When it comes to birth control, it seems like an increasing
number of people are switching or looking to switch to a
non-hormonal method. I took the plunge myself six years ago, when I
decided to stop taking the Pill and see what happened. (Spoiler
alert: Still have never been pregnant.) So Im so happy to share
some methods!

Before we jump into those
non-hormonal BC methods
, I want to take a minute and say I have
no shade for hormonal birth control. The Pill was a great option
for me for the first decade that I was having penis-in-vagina sex,
but I chose to stop taking it mostly out of curiosity about how my
body and sex life might change without it. Other people choose to

take the Pill not even for contraceptive reasons
, but to help
regulate difficult periods or illnesses like endometriosis and
polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Also, every persons body is different and will have different
reactions to different contraceptive options. While one person
might have super heavy cramping with a copper IUD, for example,
another might not notice anything at all after the first couple
months. More options means more people taking control of their own
destiny and Im all about that.

It should be noted that condoms are the only birth control
method that
protect you from getting sexually transmitted infections
, though they can’t protect against all STIs. So if
you’re not monogamous, keeping condoms around in addition to these
other forms of birth control can prevent both pregnancy and

On that note, here are three awesome non-hormonal (and low
hormone more on that later) options for birth control.


1. Copper IUD

The copper IUD which is sold under the brand name Paragard is
one of the
most effective forms of birth control
out there and it doesnt
contain even one hormone. The
IUD is a t-shaped, one-inch long object
thats inserted into the
uterus through the cervix. Once its in there, the Paragard is
effective for up to 12 years.

While hormonal birth control methods prevent pregnancy by
blocking ovulation, the copper IUD doesnt do anything to ovulation,
but the copper is toxic to sperm and eggs meaning, sperm won’t swim
towards your eggs, thereby preventing pregnancy. But dont freak out
when you read toxic! Its totally safe for you, as long as you dont
have a rare condition called
Wilsons Disease

So those are the pros its a set-it-and-forget birth control
method that lasts for a decade and doesnt have any hormones. The
cons, however, arent insignificant. A lot of people who use copper
IUDs report
heavier bleeding and cramping during their periods
. That can
make the Paragard untenable for some people, while others think
that the pros outweigh the cons.

2. Hormonal IUD

Now, I know you asked for non-hormonal birth control methods and
the heading of this section very clearly says hormonal IUD,
but bear with me for a second, and Ill explain.

While most hormonal birth control methods including the Pill,
the patch, and the implant put hormones throughout your entire
body, the hormonal IUD has a very small dose of hormones,
and theyre localized only in your reproductive organs. In
fact, when researchers tested blood in other parts of the bodies of
hormonal IUD users, the levels
of hormone were so low
that they were basically undetectable.
As a result, a hormonal IUD can still be option, even for people
who have had bad reactions or who have medical conditions that
prevent them from taking other forms of hormonal birth control.

The hormonal IUD is sold under four brand names: Mirena, Skyla,
Liletta, and Kyleena. They last for three to five years, depending
on the brand, and are one of the best long-acting reversible
contraceptive (LARC) options that we currently have.

3. Diaphragm

And now we get to the non-condom barrier method the diaphragm!
The diaphragm is an old school birth control method that I,
have used for years
. Its a shallow silicone cup that you
slather with spermicide before inserting it into the vagina, where
it sits behind the pubic bone. After you have PIV sex, you have to
leave it in for six hours to make sure the spermicide does it job.
Then you take it out, wash it, and youre good to go.

You need a prescription to get a traditional diaphragm, because
the doctor has to fit you for it, but theres also a new
diaphragm called Caya
that doesnt require a fitting.

But while IUDs are great because you dont have to think about
them like at all diaphragms take considerably more work, and have a
much higher margin of user error. Theyre 94%
effective with perfect use
and 88% effective with typical use,
according to the birth control experts over at Bedsider.

So while its not the most effective birth control
methods, it is one of the least intrusive, and you only have to
deal with it when youre about to have PIV intercourse, having PIV
intercourse, and recently had intercourse. For people who dont want
to user a hormonal birth control method and dont want to go through
the pain of an IUD or just dont need a method thats that
long-acting, a diaphragm can be a great choice.

I think its great that we now have so many options including
hormonal birth control to help us control when and if we get
pregnant. Its especially cool because, when I was a teenager, it
often felt like the only option was the Pill. So hats off to
more contraceptive choices! Hats off to having the power to decide
if and when we want to have babies! In other words: Thanks, birth

Read more from Bustle’s ‘Sex IDK‘ column:

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3 Best Non-Hormonal And Low Hormone Birth Control Methods