Birth Control Options That Are Non-Hormonal

Birth control is important for women across the globe, and it has a complicated history. Margaret Sanger opened the first American birth control clinic in 1916 (the predecessor for our modern-day Planned Parenthood), and after many more people fought the good fight along the way, American women have had legal access to oral contraceptives since the mid-1960s (per Planned Parenthood).

As described by the Cleveland Clinic, birth control pills and other forms of hormone-based contraceptives (like the patch or the ring) prevent pregnancy by introducing hormones to a woman's body in order to stop ovulation. Hormonal birth control has been paramount in giving women control over their own bodies and futures, and has long been considered safe and effective in preventing pregnancy. That doesn't mean it comes without the risk of side effects, however, and for that reason, some women are looking to move towards non-hormonal forms of birth control instead.

Why the shift?

A study published in Genus reported that the number of Dutch women using oral contraceptives as their form of birth control has declined in recent years. Between 2012 and 2017, the percentage of women using birth control pills saw a significant drop, from 64% to 53%. ABC suggests that this is, in part, because of women's ongoing apprehension about the side effects that often come with taking the pill.

When speaking with ABC, psychiatrist Jayashri Kulkarni expresses concern that the amount of women who experience depression as a result of the pill is wildly underestimated. In support of this, JAMA Psychiatry published a study reporting that women who took the pill were slightly more likely to need prescription antidepressants.

Additionally, the National Cancer Institute published a recent report stating that research consistently indicates that the risk of both cervical and breast cancer may be increased in women using oral contraceptives. When it comes to cervical cancer, the risk seems to grow the longer a woman stays on the pill.

Hormone-free birth control options

Maybe you find some of these statistics concerning, or maybe you're just on a quest for a more natural lifestyle, but whatever your reasoning, if you're in the market for hormone-free birth control, you have a few options.

Condoms are always a good choice for protection against pregnancy, and have the added bonus of being able to prevent STDs. If you have a reaction to latex, fear not! There are plenty of brands that create latex-free condoms.

Planned Parenthood also suggests diaphragms, cervical caps, and sponges. These are barriers placed deep in the vagina that keep sperm from reaching the cervix. Because these are forms of birth control that require maintenance every time you're about to engage in intercourse, they may not be the best option for everyone.

In that case, Planned Parenthood recommends inquiring about a copper intrauterine device (IUD). IUDs are long-acting devices placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. While many IUDs use hormones to prevent pregnancy, those made of copper rely on the fact that sperm has an adverse reaction to copper and will not move towards the uterus when a copper IUD is in place. Ask your doctor about which option of non-hormonal birth control is best for you.