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Non-Hormonal Birth Control Methods

Effective birth control is a necessity, but many women find the side effects of hormonal birth control unacceptable. Fortunately, there are reliable and effective non-hormonal options, including condoms, diaphragms and intrauterine devices (IUDs). Consider your options when choosing the right contraceptive for your body and lifestyle. Comfort, spontaneity and long-term use can all play into your decision.


Condoms are the most popular non-hormonal birth control choice. Condoms are latex, polyurethane or lambskin sheaths worn on the penis during intercourse. Both latex and polyurethane provide protection against both pregnancy and some sexually transmitted diseases. The condom should be put on before penetration and a new one used every time. Store condoms at room temperature, and avoid keeping them in a pocket or glove box. Check expiration dates before use. Used correctly, every time, condoms are 98 percent effective. Failure rates increase to around 15 percent with typical use. Condoms have no side effects, but if you are sensitive to latex, you should choose a polyurethane condom.

Diaphragms, Sponges and Cervical Caps

Diaphragms, sponges and cervical caps physically block sperm from reaching the uterus. Spermicide is applied to the cap or diaphragm and is included in the sponge. These methods may be inserted into the vagina several hours before intercourse and worn for some time after, allowing for multiple sexual occurrences if desired. Failure rates are rather high, particularly for women who have had children. Perfect use failure rates range from 4 percent to 20 percent for these methods, with actual use failure rates between 16 and 32 percent. Especially if you have been pregnant, you may wish to consider using one of these along with a condom to prevent pregnancy.

Copper IUD

The copper IUD is the only long-term, non-surgical, non-hormonal method of contraception. A small T-shaped device is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. The IUD is good for up to 12 years and is quite effective, with failure rates under 1 percent. The IUD affects the lining of the uterus and the motility of sperm to prevent pregnancy. The copper IUD may cause heavier periods and additional cramping that can be problematic for some women.

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