Things to know about natural birth control methods

People who can not or do not want to use hormonal birth control to avoid conception can utilize natural birth control. There are a variety of natural birth control options available, but some are less effective than hormonal contraception.

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Birth control, often known as contraception, refers to a variety of procedures, medications, and technologies used to prevent undesired pregnancy. People looking for birth control have a range of options.

Barrier contraception prevents sperm from reaching the female egg, preventing conception. Hormonal birth control works by preventing the generation of hormones that can lead to pregnancy.

Barrier contraception can be used by someone who employs natural birth control methods like tracking ovulation and taking basal temperature measurements.

The various natural birth control methods are discussed in this page, as well as how they operate and how effective they are.

Overview

Natural birth control, often known as fertility awareness, is a way of preventing conception that does not include the use of devices or hormone modification. To anticipate ovulation, people track things like menstruation, cervical mucus, and basal temperature.

The ovary releases an egg during ovulation, which is a hormone-driven process. The person menstruates if the sperm does not fertilize the egg or if pregnancy does not occur.

The fertile window for a woman begins 5 days before ovulation. People who use contraception of any kind should be aware that sperm can survive for 2–5 days in the female reproductive tract.

A person may abstain from sex or use barrier contraception, such as a condom, throughout the ovulation period or reproductive window. Barrier birth control is hormone-free and can help prevent unintended pregnancies during a woman’s most fertile period.

People can use a calendar or an online calculator to track their ovulation cycles, such as the ovulation calculator from the Office on Women’s Health.

People who use fertility awareness approaches, on the other hand, may have a higher risk of unintended pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), traditional fertility awareness approaches have a 2–23% failure rate. This indicates that up to 23 out of every 100 people who use this approach become pregnant each year.

Advantages and disadvantages

Before deciding to utilize natural birth control techniques, it’s a good idea to weigh the benefits and drawbacks.

Before deciding to utilize natural birth control techniques, it’s a good idea to consider the advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages

  • The majority of natural birth control options are free.
  • Devices that calculate ovulation windows are available for purchase.
  • Natural birth control has no effect on the amount of hormones produced by the body.
  • Birth control devices and prescriptions do not require a doctor’s appointment.
  • Natural birth control does not cause the same adverse effects as hormonal birth control, such as headaches and nausea.

Disadvantages

  • Natural birth control might have a failure rate of up to 23%.
  • This method’s efficacy is contingent on a person’s willingness and capacity to precisely document their menstrual cycles in order to determine an expected ovulation window.
  • People who have irregular or missing periods may find it difficult to track their fertility and may need to adopt a different method of contraception.
  • During their ovulation window, people will have to either avoid vaginal sex or utilize another kind of birth control.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are not protected by natural birth control.

Options

A person can pick from a variety of natural birth control methods. In addition, some businesses may market goods that help people track their fertility.

However, according to the CDC, traditional natural birth control methods are only 77 percent effective at preventing unintended pregnancy. To improve the effectiveness of this kind of contraception, people may want to consider utilizing supplementary birth control methods, such as condoms.

Basal body temperature method

This method needs a person to take their temperature every day when they first wake up with a basal thermometer. People should check that an oral or digital thermometer measures in tenths of a degree Fahrenheit (°F) when measuring basal body temperature.

Ovulation is marked by a prolonged temperature increase of roughly 0.5°F. Although a person with a longer or shorter cycle may experience the temperature spike on different days, ovulation normally occurs around day 14 of a 28-day period.

To reduce the risk of an unintended pregnancy, people should use another type of contraception or refrain from vaginal sex during ovulation.

Apart from ovulation, there are other things that might affect a person’s basal body temperature, including:

  • jet lag
  • illness
  • smoking
  • stress
  • drinking alcohol

People can also buy ovulation tracking and charting kits from firms that sell them. Natural Cycles, for example, offers a fertility tracking smart app that allows people to enter data such as basal body temperature. People can also purchase a basal thermometer from the company to get more precise data.

Ovulation prediction kits

These tests look for the presence of luteinizing hormone (LH) in the urine to see if a woman is ovulating.

To determine when a person is most likely ovulating, most ovulation prediction kits detect an LH surge. Others check estrogen levels, which rise right before ovulation.

Cervical mucus method

To determine ovulation, this approach evaluates the volume and quality of cervical mucus.

Cervical mucus can be checked in a variety of methods. Before urinating, wipe the vaginal area with white toilet paper and observe the color and texture of the discharge. Another option is to check the color and texture of the discharge in your underwear or by inserting clean fingers into the vaginal canal.

The chart below lists the many sorts of discharges that a person can expect throughout the month.

ColorTextureMeaning
During menstruationdisguised by blood flownot applicableless likely to be more fertile
Directly after menstruationno mucusno mucusmay be fertile, depending on cycle length
Before ovulationyellow, white, or cloudysticky or tackymay be more fertile
Right before and during ovulationclear or looks like egg whitesslippery and stretchymost likely to be fertile
After ovulationno mucus, or cloudy mucusnone, or stickyless likely to be fertile

Rhythmic technique or calendar

This method involves calculating the most fertile times of the month by charting the menstrual cycle. A calendar or menstrual cycle app, such as Flo, can be used to automatically estimate ovulation after entering menstruation data.

To determine a person’s ovulation window, Planned Parenthood suggests using the following formula:

  1. Find the shortest tracked cycle.
  2. Subtract 18 days from the total number of days in that cycle.
  3. Use this number to count from the start – including day 1 – of the current cycle and mark that day. This is the start of a person’s ovulation window.

To have a better knowledge of when they ovulate, people should track at least 3–6 cycles. This strategy is less likely to work if a person’s cycles are normally shorter than 27 days.

Withdrawal method

The withdrawal method, also known as pulling out, is removing the penis from the vaginal opening before ejaculation.

This approach has a 4% failure rate when used perfectly. However, this approach is only 78 percent efficient in most cases. In a year, about one out of every five people will become pregnant using this approach. Because pre-ejaculate, the fluid that comes out of the penis just before ejaculation, contains sperm, this procedure has such a high failure rate.

Breastfeeding or lactation amenorrhea

Breastfeeding people can use this approach to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

This approach is only suited for people who match all three of the following criteria, according to the CDC.

  1. Those who are not menstruating — amenorrhea.
  2. Those who are exclusively or almost exclusively breastfeeding.
  3. Those who have given birth no more than 6 months previously.

According to the CDC, this is a temporary method of birth control. If a person does not fit one of the above conditions, they should use an alternative approach.

Outercourse

Any sexual action that does not include vaginal sex or allowing semen into the vagina is considered outercourse.

Some examples of outercourse are as follows:

  • using sex toys
  • dry humping or grinding
  • kissing
  • mutual masturbation

This approach, however, does not protect against all STIs. An STI can be passed from one person to another through skin-to-skin contact.

Hormonal vs. natural birth control

Individuals may wish to see a healthcare practitioner before deciding on a method of birth control to explore the effectiveness and acceptability of various choices.

Natural birth control, male condoms, and the pill, a prevalent form of hormonal birth control, are all described in the table below.

EffectivenessSide effectsSTI protectionAvailabilityCost
Natural birth control77–98% effectivenonenonewidely availablenone
Male condoms85–98% effectivenonehelps prevent STIswidely availablearound $1 each condom
The pill91–99% effective• mood swings
• nausea
• breast tenderness
• headaches
nonewidely available$0–$50 per month

Learn more about the different types of birth control.

FAQ

The following are some frequently asked questions concerning natural birth control.

Who should consider about nonhormonal, natural birth control?

Natural birth control is an option for anyone who wants to avoid an unintended pregnancy without utilizing a hormonal type of contraception.

However, a person may desire to speak with a healthcare expert about the various types of contraception available to ensure that they are selecting the best option for them.

What are the most effective natural birth control methods?

According to the CDC, all natural birth control methods, also known as fertility awareness methods, are successful in 77–98% of cases.

If a person wishes to make natural birth control more effective, they should consider using an alternative kind of contraception, such as male or female condoms.

What can I use instead of birth control?

If a person does not want to get pregnant and does not want to take birth control, they should avoid sexual behavior that involves vaginal sex or where semen might enter the vagina.

Conclusion

Natural birth control, also known as fertility awareness approaches, reduces the risk of unintended pregnancy by employing techniques such as basal body temperature, the rhythm method, and the withdrawal method. These techniques can assist in predicting a person’s ovulation window, which is the time when a person is most likely to become pregnant following vaginal sex.

Natural birth control, on the other hand, isn’t as effective as most hormonal and barrier techniques. To lower the odds of an unintended pregnancy, a person who employs fertility awareness methods may want to use another nonhormonal type of contraception, such as condoms.

Sources:

  • https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/abstinence-and-outercourse
  • https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/index.htm
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441996
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/natural-birth-control
  • https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/condom/how-effective-are-condoms
  • https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/how-effective-contraception
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK546661
  • https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/fertility-awareness/whats-calendar-method-fams
  • https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/fertility-awareness/whats-cervical-mucus-method-fams
  • https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/fertility-awareness/whats-temperature-method-fams