The 5 Best Types of Natural Birth Control

natural birth controlHad enough of the side effects of hormonal birth control?

You do have other options.

Here are my top 5 picks for the best methods of non-hormonal natural birth control.

💮

Fertility Awareness Methods

Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) works because, as a woman, you are fertile for only six days per cycle. To avoid pregnancy, you must simply determine which days you are fertile and then abstain from vaginal intercourse or use a barrier method. It’s surprisingly easy to do.

FAM is scientific because it uses the objective sign of body temperature, cervical fluid, or cervix changes (or all three). It’s different from the rhythm method which is an old style of FAM that relies solely on dates on a calendar.

The simplest type of fertility awareness method is the Daysy Fertility Monitor, which is a computer that measures your body temperature and does all the calculations for you. It’s a certified medical device that undergoes independent quality testing every year. It has undergone some controversy with regard to the most recent scientific study backing up its efficacy claim.

You can also do FAM manually on paper or with the assistance of an app. To do that, you’ll need to be trained in FAM. For more information, see Toni Weschler’s book Taking Charge of Your Fertility or Fertility Friday’s post 23 Fertility Awareness websites you should know about. (I recently met Lisa from Fertility Friday at our New York Hack Your Cycle event.)

Find a fertility awareness method educator at the Association of Fertility Awareness Professionals.

Condoms

Worldwide, male condoms are the most popular form of birth control, and it’s easy to understand why. Condoms are simple, effective, and protect against sexually transmitted disease.

If comfort is an issue, then please ask your partner to visit myONE Perfect Fit and find a condom that fits. You could also look at Hex Condoms which use a new hexagon technology for a more comfortable fit.

Caya diaphragm

Caya is a new one-size-fits-all diaphragm. It’s made of silicone rather than the latex of the old-style diaphragms and does not need to be fitted by your doctor.

You can buy Caya directly online or by prescription from your local pharmacist.

Femcap cervical cap

The cervical cap is similar to a diaphragm but smaller. It shaped like a little sailor’s cap and fits around your cervix.

Femcap comes in three different sizes and is used with a non-toxic gel. It’s available in some countries without a prescription, but in the U.S., it must be fitted and prescribed by a doctor. Visit Femcap.com.

Copper IUD

The good thing about the copper IUD is that it does not suppress ovulation or alter hormones. In that way, it’s different from the hormonal IUD which is not supposed to suppress ovulation but still does.

Some women love the copper IUD, and it has the highest rate of user satisfaction of any method. It’s also effective as emergency contraception.

Unfortunately, the copper IUD does have some downsides which I discuss in the blog post The Pros and Cons of the Copper IUD.

What is your experience with natural birth control?

Dr Lara Briden

57 thoughts on “The 5 Best Types of Natural Birth Control”

  1. I am in need of help! For 8 years, I successfully used only condoms to prevent pregnancy. Then I had my two children and used FAM successfully for 7 years. However, I am experiencing lots of anxiety regarding potential pregnancy after having 3 friends get pregnant using FAM. So we are back to condoms. I still worry about the small failure rate.
    I definitely DO NOT want hormonal birth control. I also definitely DO NOT want another baby. Can a cervical cap be used in conjunction with condoms? Is medical sterilization a better natural option? I need maxiumum possible protection.

  2. Have you heard of the blog PreschoolBirthControl dot com? It’s written by a preschool teacher and she says working in a preschool is the most natural form of birth control haha

  3. I use a method of natural birth control called the Marquette Method. It uses the Clearblue fertility monitor to track when ovulation occurs and has sets of rules and guidelines for those wishing to avoid pregnancy. I love that is is all natural and more objective then me checking my cervical mucus. I would love to see more people talking about using fertility monitors such as the Clearblue one to avoid pregnancy also.

  4. I have a hard time using my Caya because the spermicide made from lactic acid is expensive and lasts so few months, as well as the time calculation needed to remove is a recipe for disaster for me as the doctors I told about that method said that it was extremely ineffective of course I assume to peddle pharmaceuticals. My partner does not trust it, so I will forever be deprived of natural sex without a condom because he also doesn’t trust FAM to be able to ejaculate with 0% risk. I believe I am strong enough to not let this problem deteriorate our marriage, but nothing is certain. I was told by daysy that it is not a birth control method. I do not wake at the same time everyday, How do you feel about temp drop? Would the machine doing some of the work for the individual be beneficial for less user error? Sincerely, child free forever, but yet to be allowed to be sterilized.

      • Thanks for the suggestion. I donated years ago to get a spot for my husband, but sadly I have heard no news. He still says he would try it, but they may disqualify him for having a varicocele as it’s not uncommon of sponsors. At a clinical trial for permanent female version, fembloc sterilization, I failed to screen correctly because of a slight arcuate uterus, although I am still a candidate for the procedure when it comes to market surprisingly. I am curious if you have heard of gynefix? It’s about 2K for us to fly to Belgium so I may have the IUD inserted, I going to have to save for quite a while. Thanks for the tips on FAM.

        • Yes, I mention Gynefix in my book as a potentially much better IUD. Would be nice if it would become available in the States. I think someone else just commented about Gynefix somewhere on my blog. (saying that it’s not yet available in the US)

    • Also, FAM is pretty reliable, if you do it right. Not 100% (no of birth control is), but close. It’s most reliable post-ovulation. In other words, once you have ovulated (certain you ovulated), you can be confident that you cannot become pregnant for the rest of that cycle.

  5. We just came across your post Lara.
    We thought we would mention that when we stopped the pill, we used lambskin condoms through to menopause. We found the lambskin safe and satisfying. The only possible hitch is that they do not have a reservoir tip to collect the cum and you need to leave a space at the head. But easily managed.

    Terry

  6. Hi Lara,
    Thanks so much for being such a great resource! I have had the Copper IUD for over a year now and am very happy with it – but it’s true my menstrual flow has increased dramatically.

    I didn’t realize how bad it was until I recently started using the diva cup, there are two days of my period each cycle where I have to change it 3-4 times a day! (60-80 ml a day). Granted, it’s only two days and the other 4 days are normal, just changing the cup once or twice a day. But, should I be worried? Any advice on how to combat this or would it be best to remove the IUD?

    Thank you!!

  7. Has anyone heard of Natazia (USA) or Qlaira (Europe)? Instead of using the synthetic hormones found in all other birth control pills, Natazia/Qlaira uses bioidentical hormones from plants. I have tried everything from Ortho Evra, to Mirena, to Nuvaring and I had problems with every single form of birth control that used artificial hormones.

    On Natazia/Qlaira I have had no weight gain, no crazy mood swings, no hair thinning, and no real side effects like the other birth controls gave me. Very pleased with Natazia/Qlaira.

  8. Hi Lara, love this post as I’ve been hormone free for about 5 years now. I’m utterly loving Natural Cycles (only European medical board certified app based contraceptive to be just as effective as the pill when used correctly) but I don’t see it mentioned here. It’s cheaper than Daysy upfront and uses a standard CE certified thermometer. Any thoughts?

  9. Seems you would get the efficacy of the least effective thing used. So, using barrier methods = barrier method rates, at best. Considering there would be focused use during the fertile time and the studies are done over entire cycles, I wonder if the efficacy rates go down even more?

    I think it is helpful to know what needs to be done to achieve the high efficacy rates. What are the study designs for the high efficacy rates? Do the apps do studies with people actually using them? I have only seen FAM studies using abstinence and app studies that plug in data instead of following real users.

    I have had too many approach me and say FAMs don’t work (they are pregnant) and you don’t have to ask too many questions to realize they didn’t realize they needed to do more to use it effectively. Sadly, they then think the science does not work.

    • I really appreciate you chiming in on this Jill. And yes, you’re correct: “It’s the efficacy of the least effective thing used.” Which is probably something I should have emphasized in the FAM section of my new book. FAM is great at predicting fertile days, but then there still are those fertile days to contend with.

  10. Hello! I’ve finally decided to go off hormonal BC(Yaz) after almost 9 years due to possible depression and gradual hair loss. I’m looking into condoms and Daysy Monitor as alternatives.

    My main concern is last time I had bloodwork done off birth control my LH:FSH ratio was flipped (2:1) and total testosterone was high (free was normal). I’ve heard having a higher LH could mean you don’t ovulate well. Is there a natural way to get this ratio 1:1 and improve ovulation once I go off the pill? Exercise, diet? I really want to focus on getting my body, hormones, hair on the right track. Any insight you could provide would be great – thank you!!

      • Thank you! I’m reading through the book now. I have the New Chapter Zinc Food Complex and was going to start this in preparation of going off the pill next week and possibly peony and licorice if my LH:FSH ratio doesn’t improve when I get my bloodwork in 3 months. However, the last blood test I’ve had my zinc was 76 mcg/dL which was above the normal lower limit of 60 mcg/dL, so it doesn’t appear I’m low in zinc. Do you ever recommend zinc if someone isn’t below normal range? Thanks again! Enjoying reading the book.

  11. I very much appreciate this post Dr. Lara! You are the reason I decided to go the Copper IUD route, and I have been very happy with it. I feel so much better knowing I’m doing something more “natural” (I support the way you use the term) method. I’ll never go back to synthetic birth control and that’s thanks to you.

    It has made me prone to BV (my gyno mentioned this could be a side effect, though it’s fairly infrequent thankfully), any suggestions for that?

    Looking forward to your new book!

  12. Creighton Fertility Care is a great option and what I’ve been able to use during the breastfeeding stage without a cycle. I find Creighton simpler & more straightforward than sympto-thermal.

    • Yes, you can’t use the temperature sign during breastfeeding/non cycling because there is only a thermal shift when a woman is cycling. Sympto-Thermal methods use mucus-only when there is no cycle, too.

      I think I like the temperature sign for added information about my health as well as a “cross-check” to mucus when charting. I think in the age of auto-immune diseases, hormonal imbalances, etc. some women find two signs helpful.

  13. The only actual natural form of birth control is the first you listed…FAM…it is the only one that follows the natural cycle of your body to help you avoid or achieve pregnancy. The others you mentioned are not natural, but rather man made barriers that promote casual and often irresponsible intercourse with pleasure at the center, rather than the beauty of the possibility of life.

  14. Thank you for making people aware of the non-hormonal iud. I went to my PCP and asked about it and she said there was no such thing anymore and made me an appointment to get the depo shot. I knew better from my research, cancelled my depo appointment, went to my OB and got the paragard. It has been nothing but a blessing for me for over 2 years now.

  15. My husband & I have successfully used the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP (taught by CCL) for over 24 years now to both prevent & achieve pregnancy. In fact, we learned it while I was post-partum with our first child, & used it while working rotating shifts & straight nights, breastfeeding, etc. I was initially attracted to it because I don’t like putting anything foreign in my body, whether devices or hormones/drugs. But I quickly came to appreciate how much I like understanding what is going on in my body. It is very empowering! Now we are using it to navigate perimenopause, & so far, so good!

  16. I discovered the Symptothermal Method at 26 and gladly dropped all hormonal methods. Also, using this method helped me during my perimenopause. We planned our 3 children with it. Although I breastfed all 3 I had not heard of the Lactational Amenorrhea Method until much later. Do you have any information about LAM in your new book? It is the first time I read about natural methods including a description of barrier methods. Not sure it is a good fit. I will definitely buy your book when it comes out!

  17. I’m Not sure why a condom or a copper IUD would be considered ‘natural’. My husband and I use Creighton Method. We’ve practiced it for 7 years now and it’s the most natural way to space out pregnancies. What’s even more amazing is that when we let our bodies do what they are naturally suppose to we are in tune with own self. During ovulation my husband can sense when I am ovulating without even having to look at my readings. We either DTD or abstain. This gives couples the opportunity to be romantic or intimate on a whole other level. Date nights, spending quality time together, flirting. They all build up the anticipation of the actual act of intimacy for the green light.

  18. My husband and I have total faith in The Couple to Couple League International’s Sympto-Thermal method! It helped us postpone pregnancy for a year and 2 months after we married, and then helped us conceive our little girl! I am 13 months postpartum now, and it has helped us postpone pregnancy again. 😊

  19. I’m using the sympto-thermal method and love it! I’ve never been more sure of my own body and all that goes on with it more than I am now.
    With it, I’ve learned more about my body as to when I’m fertile/infertile and when I become pregnant, I don’t have to wait until a pregnancy test to know!
    Another bonus, I just need a sheet of paper and being aware of my body to make it work.

  20. I would love to see more info in your blog about the researched and effective methods of NFP/FAM. I use the Marquette method which utilizes the clearblue fertility monitor. It has been a great experience and we are going on 4 years of successful use of nfp

    • Good suggestion, thanks Gillian. It’s a huge topic because there are so many methods. Thanks for sharing your method. Readers will appreciate seeing your story.

      • You’re welcome! Thanks for taking the time to reply! There are only four well-known or “popular” if you will, nfp methods. Creighton, Billings, Sympto-thermal, and Marquette. There are also a couple other less well known methods/combination of methods. I know I would be excited for you to share about those methods more in-depth! Regardless, hopefully we can continue encouraging women to be knowledgeable about their bodies and to be empowered to avoid or achieve pregnancy in natural ways.

  21. Lara, thanks for touching on the desire of many women to avoid artificial hormone methods with their birth control. I think your headline is a tad misleading, however, as I see nothing “natural” about devices you have to insert or barriers that are worn. Maybe it could have been “Quick Survey of the 5 Best Non-hormonal Birth Control Methods”. As for me and my husband, we used the Sympto-Thermal Method through our entire fertile years (I just hit menopause), and had three children. One of the best decisions we made in our marriage.

    • Thanks Ann. Yes, the word “natural” is somewhat open to interpretation in this context. I agree that the sympto-thermal method is the best and the most natural.

      • The word “natural” is highly abused today. In traditional philosophy, it refers to that which is in accord with our nature (human nature). Fertility is in accord with human nature. As we know well here, it’s a sign of health. Absolutely none of these methods that *deliberately obstruct* the main telos, or end goal, of sex (better called the “marital act”), is natural. That end goal is procreation. So even if your condom is made of non-synthetic materials, your condom is never truly natural. It is inherently unnatural.

        As I’m struggling with serious health issues, which justifies avoiding pregnancy, I use the natural method — periodic continence, i.e., abstaining with fertility awareness.

    • I use the Marquette method to avoid pregnancy when I need or want to. It uses the clear Blue Easy fertility monitor and is 99% effective when used with an instructor. It is so easy and no barriers needed.

    • Using barrier devices may not be “natural” but neither is abstaining from sex when you feel most in the mood – around the time when you are fertile!

  22. Hi Lara. I was wondering whether the post pill effects such as acne apply when coming off the progestigin only pill? My skin has seemed to worsen after around 3 months even though there there wouldn’t have been any estrogen withdrawal effects. Thanks!

  23. Thank you so much for putting all of this information together in such an informative article. I was on birth control for more than a decade before trying to conceive my first child. My cycles were extremely long (over 50 days). I hope to successfully use a natural method once I stop breastfeeding. I realize a barrier method is recommended while breastfeeding, but I have never started ovulating until I completely stopped breastfeeding my prior two children at 19 months and nearly three years old. I have only had 3 periods in 8 years (4 pregnancies including one miscarriage and my oldest is seven). My third child is 5 months old.

  24. Hormonal control messes with my mind and I didn’t want to use it for faith reasons either. FAM is working great for us, paired with condoms of course.

  25. Great post. Currently considering my options for when my periods return after breastfeeding. Id love to use the FAM but i get intense pain in the ovary releasing the egg prior to ovulation. Which method is going to work for me? I dont see any except hormonal to turn off ovulation 🙁

    • Also, sorry Lori. A couple more points.
      – You can become pregnant while you’re breastfeeding so you probably need a barrier method now.
      – It’s possible your ovulation pain will not still be a problem. For example, if you’d experienced it when first coming off the pill, there’s no reason to think it will be like that now.

      • thanks for your reply! Ive had it every cycle since coming off the pill 7 years ago. Ive had 2 kids (youngest is 11 months) and yes i had endometriosis diagnosed in 2006 but not sure how much is still there after 2 kids. Ill check out your post. It can be crippling some months so not looking forward to periods returning.

  26. FAM paired with condoms on fertile days is working well for me. If you take the time to learn how to do it correctly and don’t rely on solely one option (I combine temperature and cervical fluid), it’s easy and very effective. I echo the recommendation for Managing Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. Top notch resource I would consider a must-have for anyone using FAM.

  27. Great post Lara. I’ve been using the fertility awareness method for the past four years with the help of an app called Ovuview. Best decision I ever made and so easy and enlightening to know what your body is going through at each phase in your cycle. I highly recommend Toni Weschler’s book Lara linked for learning more about this method – invaluable resource!

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