Natural birth control methods
Did you know that you can avoid pregnancy without using pharmaceutical products? In this section you can find out the basics of the different natural methods of birth control. You can compare their effectiveness and cost to contraceptives. You can read about how your choice of birth control makes a significant difference in your health and even in your relationship.
Would you like to hear other women talk about their experiences with natural birth control and why they chose it? Check out why Mayra and Jorge went from the Pill to natural birth control and how it impacted their relationship! Also, you will hear from several doctors about dangers of hormonal contraceptives you may have never heard of.
Natural methods of birth control or fertility awareness are often confused with the old “rhythm method.” But we’ve come a long way since the “rhythm method” was discovered! In the last 50 years scientific research has helped doctors understand with great precision how to pinpoint the time of a woman’s ovulation even when she has irregular cycles.
Based on this research, methods of “charting your cycle” have been designed that help you know accurately what days you could get pregnant if you have intercourse. It takes only a few minutes daily to know. Charting tracks one or more of the following signs of fertility:
- Mucus: once a month you can feel a wet sensation that usually lasts a few days. A yellowish or clear discharge will appear when you wipe yourself with toilet paper. This discharge is a sign that ovulation is near. The texture and appearance of the mucus will change as ovulation approaches.
- Temperature: If you take your temperature every morning for a month, you will see an abrupt elevation of your body’s temperature after a certain point. That’s one sign that ovulation just happened.
- Cervix position: the cervix is positioned high, open and soft around the time of ovulation and low, closed and firm otherwise. With a bit of guidance you can learn to tell the difference on your own.
- Hormonal production: right around the time of ovulation, two key hormones are produced: luteinizing hormone and estrogen. These can be detected in your urine with a simple at-home test.
Based on these signs, several methods of charting have been developed to meet the specific needs of women:
- Mucus-only methods or ovulation methods are probably the most widely used. They work great for women with a fairly normal production of mucus.
- Sympto-thermal method: this method includes three signs: the mucus, the temperature and the position of the cervix. It works well for women who like the confirmation of more than one sign. It also works best for women who have a regular lifestyle, as the temperature should be taken at the same time every day.
- Sympto-hormonal method: this method helps you detect the production of key fertility hormones with a simple at-home urine test and cross check it with mucus observation.
These effective, highly affordable methods are used all over the world. Read here about the costs and research-based success rates.
Effectiveness and costs
If you have sex, there is no 100-percent sure method to avoid pregnancy. There is always a degree of risk. It can be because of the method itself. For instance, even with perfect use, which is rarely achieved and demanding, condoms still fail 2% of the time. Then there is human error, like not keeping the condoms cool enough, or forgetting to take a pill. “Use effectiveness” for a given method is its rate of pregnancy among real women, who don’t always use the birth control perfectly.
The natural methods of fertility awareness have undergone a number of independent medical studies to test their effectiveness, and they give women as much safety as the Pill. In fact, we can argue that they are more secure because you can always know when you’re at risk when you know how to interpret the information your body provides daily. You can also use the natural methods to help you get pregnant, unlike hormonal contraceptives.
The table below reports the individual effectiveness rates for the most popular of these methods. The data on these evidence-based methods is drawn from the research done by our partners at FACTS, an organization led by healthcare professionals and dedicated to promoting fertility awareness based methods to the medical sector.
We also included an approximate cost as reported by these organizations. Note that some of these costs can be reimbursed by your health insurance. Check with your provider about it.
|Method||Method effectiveness||Use effectiveness||Source||Cost|
|Billings (mucus only)||98.9%||83% to 89.5%||FACTS||Training: $60. No additional cost|
|Creighton (mucus only)||99.8% to 99.5%||83% to 96.8% (1)||FACTS||Training: $200 to $450. Support: $40 a year. (reimbursed by insurance)|
|Sympto-thermal / Couple to Couple League||99.4%||97.8% to 98.4%||FACTS||Training: $99 to $130. No additional cost|
|Marquette method||97.9%||86.2% to 93%||FACTS||http://nfp.marquette.edu/|
|The Pill||99.7%||91%||CDC||Varies from $15 to $50 per cycle, or $180 to $600 per year, plus doctor’s visits|
|Condoms||98%||82%||CDC||$0.50 to $2.50 per condom|
|Vaginal ring (Nuvaring)||99.7%||91%||CDC||$15 to $80 a month|
(1) Creighton’s measure of Use effectiveness was different from other methods’ as intentionality was defined by the couple’s behavior during the fertile window, assuming that the pregnancy was a result of an intention or openness to conceive versus an error in using the method.
Important: Natural methods do NOT protect you against STDs. The ONLY completely reliable protection against STDs is total abstinence from sex outside marriage by both partners. Condoms decrease your risk, but don’t eliminate it completely. A group of sex educators was asked once if they recommended the use of condoms to their students for STD protection. They all raised their hands. Then they were asked who among them would use a condom and have intercourse anyway if their partner had an STD. None of them raised their hand!
These are the some of the benefits of the Natural Womanhood way of life:
- It respects your body. Taking contraceptives has a major impact on your reproductive system. For instance, a number of women who try to achieve pregnancy after taking contraceptives for a long time find that there is a significant delay before their fertility returns.
- It’s good healthcare. Contraceptives may mask important medical issues such as ovarian cysts, PCOS, or endometriosis. These problems can be better detected and more effectively treated if you use a natural approach.
- It takes no risks with your health. Hormonal contraceptives that contain estrogen (most do) have been classified as a class one carcinogen by the World Health Organization. It means that they are included in the same list of cancer-causing substances as arsenic, asbestos and tobacco.
- Natural methods are better for your libido and your sexual relationship. Recent medical studies have also shown that contraceptives decrease a woman’s enjoyment of sex. If you have been pregnant, you may have experienced this difference while you were off contraceptives. Couples using natural methods report having a more fulfilled and intimate sex life.
- It’s free: no messing with insurance and doctors or trips to the drugstore. The only cost is an initial training fee; then you’re set for life.
Sex and intimacy
Natural birth control is proven to have a positive effect on couples’ relationships. Couples using these methods report having a more fulfilled and intimate sex life, and the rate of divorce among couples using Natural Family Planning is under 5%.
The positive effects of natural family planning on couples’ relationships are reported in an article published in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship, based on a study with 678 individuals. The key reasons given on how the method improved their relationship were:
- It deepened their relationship. It created a stronger bond including feeling less selfish and more sensitive to their spouse/partner’s needs, feeling greater love and more understanding of one another.
- It improved their communication: couples became more open to talking about a variety of topics. Discussing sexual intercourse, fertility and starting or adding to a family are integral to using natural family planning successfully.
- It created a shared responsibility: it wasn’t only the woman’s responsibility to avoid pregnancy.
- It increased mutual respect: women reported feeling more respected and less used and feeling greater respect for and pride in their spouse/partner.
- It increased their appreciation for sexuality: periodic abstinence enhanced their anticipation, thus increasing their enjoyment.
Other studies show that couples who use natural family planning have intercourse at least as often as couples using contraception, and that their sex life is more fulfilling.
If you’re not sure how your spouse/partner will respond to this change, we suggest you attend a Natural Womanhood introduction seminar together and give him or her a chance to consider the benefits and open the question for further discussion.
If you haven’t watched the video yet, watch now and find out how a couple’s sexual relationship was impacted by going from hormonal contraceptives to natural birth control.