- When it comes to birth control, knowing your options is everything.
- While there are lots of non-hormonal methods out there, some are shown to be more effective than others.
If you’re a human with a uterus, chances are you have some questions—and opinions—about birth control. And here’s a big one: What are some non-hormonal methods that are actually effective?
For starters, did you know that there’s actually an FDA-cleared contraception app? (It’s 2019, guys—there really is an app for everything.) But beyond providing users an effective form of non-hormonal birth control—more on that in a minute—Natural Cycles is also an education platform that gets deep into the science of periods and contraception, by way of existing research as well as their own large-scale studies. (This one on period regularity is a can’t-miss.) It’s nice, because any guesswork on our cycles and protection should kind of be out of the question, right?
Let’s get into how the app works, along with a few other non-hormonal birth control methods worth mentioning.
A quick refresher on your cycle
Not to get all 5th-grade Sex Ed on you, but understanding your menstrual cycle is kind of key to how this particular form of natural birth control works. You probably already know that you’re most fertile during the ovulation phase—so basically, every woman has a fertility “window” when she’s most likely to get pregnant. This is typically 6 days long. The tricky part is that every woman’s cycle is unique (and some of us have longer cycles than others), so it might be hard to guess when you’re ovulating. That’s where knowing your basal body temperature can come in handy.
Let’s talk about basal body temperature
Here’s an interesting fact: Your body temperature actually rises slightly after ovulation. This change is subtle, so it’s not the kind of thing that a regular thermometer can pick up—you need a special basal body thermometer to make sure you’re getting a more accurate read. But this can provide some great insight into when you’re ovulating, and which days you’re most and least likely to conceive.
It can be tricky, however, to monitor this all on your own—factors like sleeping in, a hangover or being on medication can all affect our basal body temperatures. That’s where an app like Natural Cycles comes in: It aggregates all these deviations and tells you whether it’s an ideal time to try for a baby or use other forms of protection, depending on your goals. And a study of over 15,000 people using a contraceptive app shows that when used perfectly (ie following the app’s instructions to a T, every single day), it can be successful 98% of the time.
Other non-hormonal methods
Of course, there are other forms of non-hormonal birth control out there that can be used along with the fertility awareness method mentioned above. Condoms are always a good idea, since fertility awareness doesn’t prevent against STIs. (When used perfectly, condoms are effective 98% of the time, and you can use male or female condoms depending on your preferences. It’s worth noting that in real life, however, condoms have a failure rate of about 15%.)
Condoms are a “barrier method,” which means they physically block out sperm—and many other non-hormonal forms of birth control are barrier methods as well. Diaphragms and cervical caps are two options that work in a similar way—you’ll just need to be fitted and prescribed by your doc to ensure that they’re working properly. Both have a real-life accuracy rate of roughly 86-88%.
In the end, it’s always worth checking in with your ob-gyn about which methods might be best for you and your lifestyle. But getting to know your own cycle and fluctuations in fertility is definitely a great start.