I recommend the following methods as safer alternatives to using the birth control pill and other forms of hormonal contraception. These are not all your options but I consider them to be the most practical, up-to-date, and effective.
Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)
This method of contraception is exactly what its name implies: knowing when you are fertile. The egg has a short life span outside of the ovaries, so getting pregnant is not as easy as most of us think: women are only fertile between 6 and 48 hours per cycle. The life span of sperm is longer, which creates a larger window for pregnancy, but still keeps it very manageable (several days). If you have long cycles, your chances of conceiving become much bleaker. The problem is, we are genetically programmed to want to be more sexually active during peak fertility; perhaps this is the reason why teenagers quite often get pregnant the first time they have unprotected sex.
How it works
FAM teaches you to know when your fertile days are by combining three trusted signs: quality of cervical fluid (first discovered by The Billings Ovulation Method), basal body temperature, and cervical position (this one is optional).
What you’ll need
You will only need two tools to thoroughly understand and interpret your cycle and fertility signs.
1. Get your hands on a work that revolutionized the way women control and understand their bodies, “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Weschler.
-Just as effective as most other contraceptive methods (99.6% effective with perfect use).
-There are 0 side effects or risks to your hormonal, physical and psychological health
-If and when you do decide to be a mother, you have significant control of when you conceive
-If you have a miscarriage or infection you will know about it without ambiguity
-You become completely in tune with your body and reproductive health
-This is the most economical birth control method. After purchasing “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” and a basal body thermometer, you contraceptive expenses are over. Compared to the pill, the savings are significant.
-This method is best for couples as it does not guard against sexually transmuted infections
-You need to track at least 3 cycles to accurately interpret your fertile days
-You need to wake up at a similar time on a regular basis to accurately track your basal body temperature
-You need to either abstain from sex or use a barrier contraceptive method during your fertile days. This can be annoying since couples tend to feel most aroused when the woman is ovulating
Different types of intrauterine devices have been used as far back as 400 B.C., but have had their reputation destroyed for American women in the 1970’s by a plastic model called the Dalkon Shield. This IUD caused numerous problems, resulting in close to half a million lawsuits. Dalkon Shield’s drawback was its string, which consisted of a thick braid encased in a tube. This created a perfect environment for the carrying of infection up into the uterus. Today’s IUDs have a very thin string that cannot hold or carry infection. Such IUDs are not a recent development, they existed during the time of the Dalkon Shield controversy. Women all over Europe and the Soviet Union were already using thin string UIDs with no significant problems, and continue to do so to this day. Backed by years of studies and trials, it is now certain that an IUD does not significantly increase chances of infection or infertility once it has been properly inserted. Although IUDs are back on the rise and work well for most women, they are not risk free and getting one should be a serious decision in your life.
How it works
A copper IUD is inserted through your cervix and into your uterus by a qualified gynecologist. Once properly positioned inside, it acts as a spermicide. Your body interprets your IUD as a foreign object (which it is) and releases white blood cells to fight off the invader. Any sperm encountered along the way is indiscriminately destroyed. The copper part of the IUD is toxic to both sperm and egg. The copper ions infiltrate your cervical fluid, immobilizing sperm and creating a hostile environment for egg implantation.
What you’ll need
1. An appointment with a trusted gynecologist or family doctor
2. The IUD itself. The cost can range from being free to 1,700 dollars, depending on which country you live in and on your health plan
-It’s effective as soon as it’s inserted
-You return to your normal fertile state as soon as the copper IUD is removed
-It’s an incredibly effective form of contraceptive. “While birth control pills fail about 8 percent of the time, less than 1 percent of women with an IUD get pregnant.”
-Appropriate for women of all ages, including teens
-Doesn’t matter if you’ve had kids or not
-Can last for up to 12 years, although we suggest changing you IUD every 8 years to minimize the risk of both normal and tubular pregnancy
-For some women, the IUD can make their period lighter
-The insertion process can cause an infection
-The copper IUD can increase the heaviness of your period and/or severity of cramping, as well as cause amenorrhea (the absence of a period)
-There is a small chance of the IUD slipping out, therefore it’s a good idea to check for its presence by feeling for the string before intercourse
-Does not protect against STIs
-You have to have a doctor remove it. There have been cases where doctors have refused to remove IUDs upon the request of the woman. Be sure you have a trusted doctor before you peruse this option to make sure you are still in charge of your own body
-There is a very small chance of injury to the uterus (perforation) during the insertion of the IUD
-In the rare case that pregnancy does occur while using an IUD, you run a large risk of it being ectopic. A fertilized egg developing in a fallopian tube (or anywhere else outside the uterine cavity) can be life threatening if not removed. All sexually active women on the IUD should be aware of ectopic pregnancy symptoms. At the start, symptoms are the same as a regular pregnancy, but as it progresses, you may feel significant sharp pain in your pelvic region, have heavy vaginal bleeding, experience pain during intercourse, dizziness, and more. If you have any of these symptoms while using an IUD, stress your concerns to your gynecologist or family doctor and get checked out
A new “frameless” IUD has recently been developed. It was designed based on the fact that every uterus is different and therefore an IUD needs to be flexible enough to fit each unique shape and size. Because Gynefix is much smaller than other IUDs, it does not cause heavier blood flow or pain, and runs less risk of expulsion, which makes it more effective against pregnancy. For more details, check out the Gynefix information page. So far the only unique drawback of this IUD is that it’s difficult to find a clinic that has the device and a doctor traine to insert it.
Condoms have a very rich history. Check out this video to get all the facts:
How They work
Condoms are a barrier method, meaning they prevent sperm from entering inside the female. They are usually made from latex or polyurethan, but natural ones made from animal intestines can still be purchased
What you’ll need
1. To purchase a box of condoms from any drugstore. If you’re a student, you can usually acquire condoms for free on your campus
-Latex and polyurethan condoms protect against most STIs
-They are 98% effective if used correctly
-Condoms are a hassle free, accessible, quick, and reliable form of contraception
-Condoms come in many shapes, sizes, and varieties, creating an opportunity to exercise your imagination in bed
-As long as the condom stays in tact during intercourse, and it was not tampered with them ahead of time, you don’t have to worry about any risk of pregnancy. With other methods you always have a small chance of a surprise pregnancy
-Do not protect against syphilis, genital warts or herpes
-Can be costly in the long term
-Condoms do break, especially if they are old
-Although most condoms come lubricated, additional lubrication is often needed
-Condoms can reduce intimacy and the emotional benefits of sex. There are anti-depressant and immunological agents in semen and genital secretions that act to improve mood and reduce chances of depression and suicide. These are of course blocked when using a condom
-We are told that condoms don’t reduce pleasure (and for good reason) but many couples find that using a condom impedes pleasure for both parties. Condoms are the ideal contraception for casual sex, but can be bothersome in long term, committed relationships. This is especially true if the male partner is circumcised. Having made this point, we want to stress that this is not a reason to practice unsafe sex, especially when you have multiple partners as you will risk pregnancy and STIs
The female condom is basically and inverted, large version of the male condom. Instead of covering the penis, it lines the inside of the vagina. If you use it to cover the outside of your vagina, it can offer protection against all STIs. The drawbacks of this contraceptive method is that it’s more difficult to insert, can bunch up during sex, and because the penis can slip between the condom and vaginal wall, it’s less effective than its male counterpart (95%).
The Diaphragm With Spermicide
I had a difficult time choosing between suggesting a diaphragm, cervical cup, or the new and improved FemCap, but upon finding this study, I decided to stick with the more reliable diaphragm. If you find the diaphragm does not suit you, explore the other two options mentioned above as they may offer you a better fit.
Like most other contraceptive methods, diaphragm-like devices have been in use for thousands of years. A more modern take on the device was designed in America in the 1860’s and went by the coy name of a “womb veil.” By 1940, it became the most popular form of contraception, and stayed that way until the rise of the IUD and birth control pill. You can get a latex rubber diaphragm which only lasts 2 years, or a silicone one, which can last up to 10 years.
How it works
The diaphragm is an internal barrier method. Before insertion, spermicide is applied to the rim to improve effectiveness. Then it’s fitted inside the vaginal canal in a way that covers the cervix and allows it to block sperm from traveling any further.
What you’ll need
1. An appointment with a trusted gynaecologist or family doctor in order to get fitted for a diaphragm
2. The diaphragm itself. The cost can range from $30.00 to $50.00 dollars, depending on which country you live in and on your health plan
3. Spermicide. Available over the counter for around $15.00 dollars a bottle
-It’s effective as soon as it’s properly inserted
-It can be inserted several hours prior to intercourse
-The diaphragm is about 97% effective with correct use and spermicide
-Becuase the diaphragm covers the cervix, it helps reduce the chance of some STIs
Drawbacks & Risks
-You need to keep it in place for 6-8 hours after intercourse
-If you are having sex multiple times within a short period of time, it is recommended to reapply spermicide
-Some women are irritated by spermicides. Luckily, there are natural spermicides available
-The risk of urinary-tract infection goes up in women using the diaphragm
-Forgetting to remove your diaphragm for over 24 hours can result in toxic shock syndrome
-Your diaphragm must be resized if you gain or lose 10 pounds or more
-Not suitable for women who very recently gave birth
-Oil-based products cannot be used with latex diaphragms
-Some spermicides (specifically nonoxynol-9) increase the chance of yeast infection and vaginosis
-Some well-endowed men report being able to feel the diaphragm during intercourse, which runs the risk of pushing it out of position
-There can be a learning curve for inserting the diaphragm correctly
-Cannot be used during menstruation
-Requires maintenance (washing after every use and checking for holes)
Pulling-out has been stigmatized as an unreliable method of contraception, yet recent studies are combating this notion. Despite popular belief, there are no sperm in pre-ejaculate fluid. The risk comes from pre-cum being contaminated with left over sperm trapped in the urethra. But this is only a risk if the male masturbated or had sex 48 hours or less before intercourse with you, without urinating in-between (urine kills any sperm left over in the urethra). Several studies from the Guttmacher Institute have declared the withdrawal method 96% effective if done correctly. Having said that, we only recommend this method to devoted couples, and encourage its use paired with another contraceptive method such as FAM.
How it Works
The male partner judges when he will ejaculate, pulling out of the vagina instead of ejaculating inside, thus preventing sperm from entering the female
What you’ll need
1. Will power from the male
2. Trust from the female
-This method is free
-Zero risks to your health of well-being
-A good last resort precaution when other contraception is not available
-A great way to increase effectiveness of other contraceptive methods through combination
-Does not protect against STIs
-Gives up contraception control to the male partner
-Requires will power from the male partner in a moment of passion which can be risky