Young women are often not given options for natural birth control. They opt for BCPs because they’re easily available and convenient and they’re not aware of the the health risks.Here are some effective options for natural family planning that prevent pregnancy without damaging your health.
• Male condoms: Condoms have a 98 percent effectiveness rate when used correctly. A water-based lubricant will increase the effectiveness; do not use an oil-based lubricant, however, as they break the latex.
• Female condoms: These thin, soft polyurethane pouches fitted inside the vagina before sex are 95 percent effective. Female condoms are less likely to tear than male condoms.
• Diaphragm: A diaphragm is a soft latex or silicone dome that’s inserted into the vagina before sex. It must be initially fitted by a doctor. When used correctly with spermicidal jellies, it’s 92 to 98 percent effective.
• Cervical cap: This heavy rubber cap fits tightly against the cervix and can be left in place for 48 hours. Like the diaphragm, a doctor must fit the cap. Proper fitting enhances the effectiveness above 91 percent.
• Cervical sponges: The sponge, made of polyurethane foam, is moistened with water and inserted into the vagina prior to sex. It works as a barrier between sperm and the cervix, both trapping and absorbing sperm and releasing a spermicide to kill them. It can be left in for up to 24 hours at a time. When used correctly, the sponge is about 89-91 percent effective.
• Calendar Method: The woman avoids sex during the week the she is ovulating. This technique works best when a woman’s menstrual cycle is very regular. However, it may not work very well for couples who use it as the sole means of contraception, as its success rate is only around 75 percent. You can boost its effectiveness by combining it with the temperature and mucus methods described below.
• The Basal Body Temperature Method: This is a way to pinpoint the day of ovulation so that sex can be avoided for a few days before and after. It involves taking your basal body temperature (your temperature upon first waking) each morning with an accurate “basal” thermometer, and noting the rise in temperature that occurs after ovulation. This method works best in women who have regular monthly cycles.
Following your basal body temperatures enables you to become so aware of ovulation that when you’re ready to have your family you can better plan your pregnancy. I used this method myself when
I was in medical school and I was able to later choose a convenient time to have my pregnancy!
Be aware that illness or lack of sleep can change your body temperature and make this method unreliable by itself, but when it is combined with the mucus method, it can be an accurate way of assessing fertility. The two methods combined can have a success rate as high as 98 percent.
• The Mucus Method: This involves tracking changes in the amount and texture of vaginal discharge, that reflect rising levels of estrogen in your body. For the first few days after your period, there is often no discharge, but there will be a cloudy, tacky mucus as estrogen starts to rise. When the discharge starts to increase in volume and becomes clear and stringy, ovulation is near. A return to the tacky, cloudy mucus or no discharge means that ovulation has passed.
I realize the convenience of birth control pills is what makes them so popular. However, my advice to women is to seriously evaluate the risks versus benefits before taking any type of birth control pills. A bit of planning on your part is well worth the health risks you’ll avoid.
1. Outliving Your Ovaries by Dr. Marina Johnson. While I initially wrote this book for menopausal women, I also included chapters for young women that included a section on natural birth control.
2. Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement and Reproductive Health by Toni Weschler
3. Honoring Our Cycles: A Natural Family Planning Workbook by Katie Singer