One of my passions in life is making sure you have all the information you need to make the best decisions for your health. And, I’ve been shouting from the rooftops about the pros and cons of hormonal birth control for years and years!
So, I’ve decided it’s time to revisit this topic to give you a comprehensive, all-options-included post on how to avoid pregnancy.
I’ve broken down each of the contraceptive methods into categories and listed the main pros and cons for each type.
Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (or FABMs) are non-medication based methods of contraception (or conception!). They involve observing the signs and symptoms our bodies give us, showing us when we are fertile or not. FABMs can be broken down into two general categories.
Sympto-Thermal Method (STM): STM involves monitoring your temperature and cervical fluids daily.
With the information you collect, you can tell when your fertile window opens and when it closes. This allows you to either abstain or use further contraception (such as condoms) when you’re fertile to avoid pregnancy. The great thing about this method is with perfect use, it’s 99.6% effective at preventing pregnancy. What’s not to love?
If you need a bit more help understanding your cervical fluids and mapping your cycle, my Debunking Ovulation Masterclass explains exactly how to monitor the signs your body gives you.
For some women, learning this method can be intensive and complex and that’s where my favourite piece of hormonal tech comes in – the Daysy. At 99.3% effective at preventing pregnancy, all this little device requires from you is taking your temperature, and it does the rest! Have a read here to see my thoughts on the Daysy.
Calendar/Rhythm Method: this is the best known, but least effective natural method of birth control.
Through your own calculations, or using one of many ‘period tracking apps’ available, you can get an estimate of your fertile days based on your past cycles. While this method can be incredibly simple, especially with the help of an app, its accuracy isn’t great, generally sitting at about 75%.
If you have irregular cycles it can be fairly useless and not a solid means of pregnancy prevention.
Oral contraceptive pills
The most widely known contraceptive is the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP).
COCPs contain synthetic versions of the hormones that rule our menstrual cycles, as I explained in this post, although there are versions with bio-identical hormones too.
The benefits of the pill regularly shared by doctors are that it prevents pregnancy (which it does, at around 95%, depending on the specific medication), and it’s also used to treat a whole host of other conditions like heavy bleeding, acne, PCOS and endometriosis, just to name a few.
The downsides? I’ve talked quite a bit about these, including what happens without ovulation, bone density conditions, hair loss, compromised gut health, blood clots… the list goes on. While some women find the pill is the best solution for their particular situation, or they don’t experience any side-effects, it’s important to me that I do my best to fully inform you about what happens in your body when you take the pill.
The other oral pill is often called the mini pill, as it only contains a synthetic progestin. While it only has one of the hormones, it often comes with all the side effects of the combined pill.
Implants and injections
There are two types of injections and implants – hormonal and non-hormonal.
The benefit of these options is that they don’t require daily management – they are ‘set and forget’ contraceptive methods, which is great for the stressed or time-poor.
The IUD, in particular, is regarded as being over 99.5% effective at preventing pregnancy, so that can make it seem very appealing. However, like any hormonal intervention, there are side effects.
I’ve spoken before about the stories I receive from readers about their experiences with the Mirena, and even the non-hormonal copper IUD comes with side effects (though is probably the lesser of a handful of ‘evils’ here). If you held me down and forced me to speak to which is the ‘best’ of these options, I’d advocate for the copper IUD.
Barrier methods, from the condom to cervical caps and diaphragms work on the principle that if the sperm and the egg can’t physically meet, there can’t be any pregnancy. Sounds simple, right?
While these options tend to be the least effective options, sitting at around 75%, depending on the option used, they do come with a handful of other benefits.
No other contraceptive option protects against STDs, which is incredibly important to remember if you’re not in a long-term, safe relationship.
In addition, barrier methods can be combined with any of the other methods mentioned above, increasing your chance of preventing pregnancy. For example, use a condom with a sympto-thermal method and you’re getting very close to 100% protection against pregnancy.
The final ‘barrier method’ is abstinence! Abstinence doesn’t have to mean never having sex, of course, it can simply mean abstaining from unprotected heterosexual penetrative sex during your fertile window.
Abstinence, when practised properly, is the only method which can 100% prevent both pregnancy and STDs.
Withdrawal is also a relatively effective form of pregnancy prevention and considered around 96% effective when practised properly.
There’s one rule (besides your partner being ready to withdraw before ejaculation): if you were to have sex again after ejaculation, it’s important your partner urinates in between for this method to be effective.
Find out more about your birth control options
So many readers tell me they don’t feel like there were presented with all of their contraceptive options when asking their doctors. I hope this list has given you a wider range of options to consider.
It’s my mission to empower women to make the best choice for them, and in this case, knowledge truly is power.
If you’re keen to dig really deep and get more info on contraceptive method pros and cons with expert advice, I’ve teamed up with my favourite holistic gynaecologist Dr Shawn Tassone to create an extra special resource that covers all of this and more.
Think of it as his opinion, my opinion and then everything else that’s in-between.
Titled Contraception Deception, the pre-sale is now available and the release is just weeks away. Get on it and reserve your copy to be the first to get in and amongst it!
Meanwhile, if you want to find out more about how to monitor your signs of ovulation to prevent pregnancy, Debunking Ovulation is your best guide to understanding your body better.
I maintain that understanding your body and your menstrual cycle is such a gift. Once you know your own rhythm and fertile times, you can never not know!