Natural Birth Control Methods

Birth control can be a controversial topic, but it’s an important one to discuss when it comes to our overall health.

baby comp machine

For years, I took birth control pills, unaware of the toll they might have been taking on my body. I had only heard positive things about birth control pills from my doctor, who encouraged me to take them whether I was sexually active or not.

When I became more interested in studying health and nutrition, I was disturbed to hear some of the down sides that can also come along with taking the Pill. Had I been more informed, I may not have chosen this option in the first place!

First, let’s discuss how the Pill works.

When you take birth control pills, you impose synthetic hormones on your natural cycle.

Many birth control pills contain high levels of estrogen that effectively convince your pituitary gland that you are pregnant (this explains some of the side effects of the drugs) and that you don’t need to ovulate. Because your body thinks you are pregnant, the uterine lining thickens. Once you start the placebo pills, however, your estrogen level drops suddenly, and your body menstruates “normally.”

This abnormal cycle is what millions of women experience every month, and yet few doctors discuss the consequences of taking these prescriptions for year after year.

Some physical and emotional changes take place that are permanent while you stay on the pill. Many of these changes occur as your body’s response to synthetic estrogen.

These changes include:

  • Larger breasts
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Reduced or increased acne
  • Slight nausea
  • Emotional sensitivity right before your period
  • Mood swings throughout your cycle
  • Irregular bleeding or spotting
  • Breast tenderness
  • Decreased libido

And even scarier than the “mild” side effects are the serious health risks that accompany birth control pills. These include:

  • Increased risk of cervical and breast cancers
  • Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Migraines
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Gall bladder disease
  • Infertility
  • Benign liver tumors
  • Decreased bone density
  • Yeast overgrowth and infection
  • Increased risk of blood clotting

[source]

Needless to say, after learning more about the real effects of birth control pills on my body, I was anxious to ditch them as soon as possible.

And that’s exactly what I did when I got married in 2009. This was the catalyst that led me to search for an effective, more natural form of birth control, so that my husband and I could postpone starting a family until we were good and ready.

To get started, I read the popular book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility Book

This book gave me a thorough introduction to reproductive health (a must read for all women!) as well as my first understanding of the Fertility Awareness Method. The Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is a systematic way for tracking your monthly cycle, using your basal body temperature and cervical mucous as your guide. When used correctly, it has a similar effectiveness as the birth control pill.

Tracking your basal body temperature consistently each morning is a crucial step to using the FAM system effectively. You must take your body temperature before sitting up and leaving your bed– which means you need to keep your basal thermometer right next to your bed and consistently take your temperature before getting up to use the bathroom. It’s also important that you have had at least 4 hours of consistent sleep before taking your basal body temperature to get an accurate reading, which makes this method difficult for any mothers with young children.

While a basal thermometer is a cheap birth control tool, setting an alarm right next to my bed and remembering to take my temperature, as well as charting my results each month, was a challenge for me. The thermometer would beep loudly every 5-10 seconds, letting me know that it was still working, but after nearly 60 seconds of consistent beeping, it was also becoming quite annoying each morning while laying next to my sleeping husband. I found that I couldn’t become consistent with this method, until I committed to a better piece of technology: The Baby Comp.

baby comp machine

I grappled with this decision for months, because the Baby Comp is a pricey piece of equipment. However, I’ve owned it for over 2 years, and it’s already paid for itself, taking into consideration how much I used to spend on my monthly birth control pills. (It also comes with a 10-year warranty, so I’ll never have to buy one again.) It is an alarm clock, a basal thermometer, and a charting computer all in one handy travel-size gadget. The alarm gently wakes you (the beeps start softly then grow louder if you don’t wake up) and all you have to do is reach over, hit a button and put a thermometer in your mouth until it beeps at you once more to remove it. That’s it!

As the Baby Comp gets to know you, it will give you an increasing number of “green light” days– meaning you will not risk pregnancy on these particular days. It gives you a “yellow light” on days when your ovulation window is approaching, and “red light” days when you are primed for conceiving. Even better, when used consistently, the Baby Comp will give you a “boy” light or a “girl” light during your ovulation period, letting you know which days you are more likely to conceive one gender over the other. (Keeping in mind that gender swaying is not always 100% accurate.)

*Note: If you’re not interested in the gender prediction aspect, the Lady Comp is a much cheaper option for fertility monitoring.

As our family planning window got closer, my husband and I used the Baby Comp exclusively as our form of birth control for months, and we didn’t get pregnant until we actively tried to conceive. I’m also convinced that this little gadget allowed us to conceive much faster than expected! The average couple takes 6 months to get pregnant, even if they are fertile and time everything right, so it’s nice to have this additional support when you’re anxious to start a family.

It can take a lot of patience and understanding to get a grasp on the Fertility Awareness Method, so I wouldn’t recommend it for those who are strictly looking to avoid pregnancy– though, I would recommend it for any couple that is aiming to get pregnant in the future, as it’s very helpful in narrowing down the ovulation window!

Other hormone-free forms of birth control include:

Condoms & Diaphragms: 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. Diaphragms, which must be fitted by a doctor, act as a barrier to sperm. When used correctly with spermicidal jellies, they are 92 to 98 percent effective. [source] For a latex-free condom, try natural lambskin condoms.

The Pull-Out Method: The man withdraws his penis from the woman’s vagina before he ejaculates. This doesn’t always work; even before ejaculation, the penis releases small amounts of semen that can contain sperm, so this is only 60 to 80 percent successful at preventing pregnancy. [source]*When used in combination with the FAM system, avoiding intercourse during the fertile window, the effectiveness of this method will increase.

Reader Feedback: Any other methods that I missed? Anyone else willing to share their experience using the Baby Comp? I’d love to hear if it has worked for anyone! (We’ll know soon enough ourselves…)

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Comments

Joanna

My husband and I used the Paraguard IUD, it is hormone free. I had it for about two years but I am 6 months pregnant (surprise!) So I’m not sure I should recommend it.

    Megan

    Oh, boy! Congrats on the pregnancy!

AbiKale

I used TCYC and got pregnant within three months. They have a great app for iPad as well.

Heather

Love this post! I had no idea about natural birth control methods until I was introduced to TCOYF. I ended up using the book to try and get pregnant and conceived on my first try, I will definitely be using the book to prevent pregnancy after this child is born and until we are ready for another one. Thanks for sharing this post and the great products too!

Leslie

Yes! This is the book that started it for me. I, too, ditched the pill right around the time I got married. It’s a very touchy/sensitive subject but I’ve recommended this book to many people so that they can make the best choice. The bonus of getting off the pill and using the method in FAM is that you get to know your body so much better. You understand why you feel like you do and what’s happening inside. 🙂

    Megan

    Agreed! I’ve given that book to some of my very close girlfriends, too. It’s so helpful in understanding your body, whether you want to get pregnant or not!

lauren

How does the ladycomp and fertility method work if your periods are super irregular, and your partner is a “hot sleeper”? I feel like I’m always warmer than normal because his body temp. is high at night, and I went on birth control to regulate my periods…I actually used to hardly get them at all. I’m on the nuvaring now and would LOVE to be free from it.

    Megan

    It took me nearly a year and a half for my cycle to regulate after getting off the Pill (I was on it for 10+ years), so the Baby Comp took a lot of time to get to know me– it gave us very few “green light” days, and many more “yellow light” days. That’s when I’d recommend using an additional non-hormonal birth control method, like condoms, as back-up, until you have been off the hormonal birth control long enough for your cycle to regulate. I wouldn’t worry about your partner affecting your temperature, as long as you’re consistent with taking it at the same time each morning.

    Once I realized that the “regular periods” I was experiencing from the Pill were not a true period at all, not to mention all the confusion it was adding to my reproductive system, I didn’t mind being irregular after getting off of it. At least I knew I was really ovulating when I finally did get my period!

    Best of luck to you!

Sarah

Crazy, I also got married in 2009 and have been charting ever since. I’d never taken BC though so I can’t compare, but we’ve been happy these past four years with our results. At this point we’ve always been pregnancy avoiders. I’m assuming before buying the Baby Comp you used traditional charts. Did you feel like after switching to the Baby Comp it gave you more green light days than when you were using paper charts? I think one of the reasons we haven’t gotten pregnant is because we’ve been super safe, but we would like to increase our “safe” days.

Thanks in advance for any feedback!

    Megan

    Yes, I did do the traditional charts first, but I wasn’t as confident with giving us that many green light days because it was difficult to take my temperature exactly at the same time every morning. (Scared of human error with the snooze alarm!)

    The Baby Comp definitely gave us more green light days than I previously had after getting to know me– within six months it only gave us one yellow light day on either side of the red light days, so there wasn’t too much room for error.

Emmalyn

You didn’t mention diaphragms. Is there any reason you kept them out of the list? Right now I’m in the pill but it’s not right for my body. I’ve been looking into other solutions and this was a really helpful article! Thanks Megan!

    Megan

    I didn’t use the term diaphragm, but I intended for those to fall into the “Male & Female Condom” category. Perhaps I should edit the terminology to make that more clear, though. 🙂

AF

THank you for this post. I’ve been off of birth control pills for years (because of the health affects), and have used condoms since but want to use something else. Since my husband and I got married, I’ve been searching for other non-hormonal methods that are still effective. It seems like a diaphragm/cap would be a good choice, but you have to use a spermicide with them (which I’m not willing to do b/c of the chemicals). I’m very interested in FAM but worried about the effectiveness. Do you know where I can find more information about how effective it is as a birth control method? Do you know if the ovulation sticks that you can get at a drugstore work? Thank you!

    Megan

    There have been a few studies that compare the effectiveness of natural family planning method to birth control pills, with both of them having similar levels of effectiveness when used correctly. You can read the results from one of the studies here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6375261.stm

    I’ve never tried the ovulation sticks, since I was confident that the Baby Comp was determining my ovulation correctly.

Jen

Megan, you said your period took about a year and half to regulate, can you tell me more about that? I went off the pill nearly two years ago (June 2011, shortly before I got married)and started tracking my temperature and mucus, etc, after thirteen long years of being on the pill, and my period still is not completely normal! I generally ovulate too late (say, day 25) and my luteal phase is too short (say, 9 to 11 days). It has certainly gotten much, MUCH better and more regular, as it took nearly three months to get a period when I first when off the pill, but I know it’s still not optimal, and I’d like to get pregnant in a few months! I’ll be seeing an OBGYN soon, but I have a feeling they’re going to tell me to take drugs or something, which is not what I want to do.

    Megan

    Jen– I’m planning another post soon on how I prepared for pregnancy and regulating my cycle, so that should help answer your questions. It should be up sometime next week! So exciting that you’ll be thinking about babies soon, too! 🙂

      Jen

      Awesome! I’m really looking forward to read it. And yes, thinking about babies is so exciting!

Lisa

I was on birth control to “regulate” my periods for 16+ years, and I’m so sad that I wasn’t researching more at the time. There are NO studies that track the long term effects beyond 6 years. Scary! I also believe birth control can increase miscarriages, because no dr. (I’ve been to) will really tell you that you shouldn’t try to conceive within 12-18 months of stopping the pill for fear of potential birth defects. I ended up with estrogen poisoning from my years of taking fake hormones.
Thanks for the book resource; I hope to have a family one day soon, and be healthy enough to enjoy my young ones!

Sarah

Paraguard IUD. I had one for 10 years (its lifetime) between baby 1 and 2. I LOVED it. After we had #3, I had another Paraguard put in. They are highly effective and really are easy on the body (outside of heavier periods).
But…women do need to be careful that they don’t get a Mirena IUS, the 5 year one – it is full of hormones.

Xiann

I’ve been using FAM since 2006 both for avoiding conception and conceiving, and have found it very effective. If you are interested in charting for health and fertility check out fertilitycare.org. When I started charting my mucous I discovered other health problems that I have since cured with diet changes – but the problems would have been ongoing had I not been charting! I learned so much about my health and the way my body works. I would recommend learning Fertility Awareness to every woman, even if you are not going to use it for birth control. I think it should be taught in school health class. Women should not be kept in the dark about how their bodies work!

Amanda

Thank you so much for this post. I have had the Mirena IUD for a year and a half. We have really changed our lifestyle and outlook on things over the past year but birth control has been one of the things I’ve been stumped about. I’ve been married 7 years and didn’t want to rely on condoms. I’ve never heard of Lady Comp before. It’s definitely something I’m considering now in addition to reading the suggested book. Perfect timing on this post. Thanks again!

Lisa

Though it doesn’t top your great offering here, I’ve used a cervical cap effectively for nineteen years. I personally don’t use spermicide with it either, but that’s my own choice. I know it’s not for everyone, but if you are good with menstrual cups (i.e. Diva, Lunette, etc), the chances are better this would work for you.

The key is not to wait until the last minute as the vaginal canal lengthens with stimulation, which puts the cervix further out of reach for correct placement.

Lulu

Hi Meghan, I have a question about the Pull-Out Method. I learned in school that it is an ineffective method, because the man will ejeculate sooner than he can pull it out, and that the sperms will remain regardless of pulling out or not. What’s your opinion on this? Thank you.

    Megan

    Yes, that’s why the Pull-Out method is only considered to be 60-80% effective. If you’re seriously looking to avoid pregnancy, that would not be the ideal choice.

jessica

Hi Megan, I hope you can help me with this question. My husband and I got married in November 2011 and I chose the Paraguard iud for our birth control. The positives slightly outweigh the negatives for us at least, but lately I have been considering using the FAM. Do you think I could learn the FAM before having my iud taken out? Or does the iud cause any changes that make the FAM inaccurate in any way? I chose Paraguard because there were no hormones, but I don’t know of any other way the copper could skew any observations using FAM. Do you know or can you direct me to any resources? Thanks so much!

    Megan

    Since I haven’t used the copped IUD myself, I haven’t done a ton of research on that option. According to this article, it may have an effect on your periods, so I’m not sure if it will affect your success with FAM right away or not. I would always recommend using a back-up method of birth control, like condoms, if you’re seriously trying to avoid pregnancy while learning the FAM method.

Mary

I just ordered the book you recommended. I can’t wait to get it! I’ve been on the NuvaRing for almost 7 years now and I was just thinking that it was time for me to get off of it. My husband and I were married in November 2012 and we are definitely not interested in kids right now. The Ladycomp looks great… kinda pricey, but seems worth it. It’s just too bad that now that my birth control is finally free, I’m probably going to stop using it. Oh well, it’ll be better for me in the long run not to be getting those hormones every month.

Tasha L.

Another important thing to remember is that the pill is also an abortifacient. While its primary purpose is to prevent ovulation, it also does prevent implantation if an egg is fertilized. I believe that life begins at conception, so I can’t feel comfortable taking the pill. Also, an IUD’s primary function is to prevent implantation.

Lee

Thank you for writing this post! This is an important part of healthy living that is not often talked about. I’ve been charting my cycle since before I got married and I love it. I would not go near a birth control pill. Plus, women need to pay more attention to their cycles and “listen” to what their bodies are telling them. So many doctors tell women that long, irregular cycles are “normal” but they are not healthy. “Common” does not equal “normal.” I’d love to read more of your posts about this.

Jordanna

Hello! First off, let me just say that I absolutely love your blog! I just stumbled upon it today and I am already planning on trying some of your recipes. They all look delicious.

As for the post, what are your thoughts on the IUD?

Thanks for your advice!

~Jordanna

Jana

I want to mention nfp.marquette.edu – it uses a fertility monitor (Clear Blue Easy monitor plus test sticks). The website gives a protocol for how to use the monitor to avoid pregnancy. It’s worked better for me than temping because it gives me a 6 hour window everyday for when to test my hormone levels. Plus I take medications that make it difficult to observe cervical fluid. It is a pricier version than temping plus charting cervical fluid. The protocol they have for breastfeeding was especially helpful during that whole period of hormonal uncertainty.

Rachel

I just found your post and have been thinking a lot about birth control. We got pregnant with our first using the pull out method and with our second while I was on the mini pill (they are 18 months apart). My second is now 5 months old and I recently had a copper IUD put in. How natural is a non-hormonal IUD? I do want to eventually switch to FAM but we absolutely can’t afford another baby now and I’m too afraid of another accident (though I love both of our kids to pieces).

Jennifer

I have never used the pill or any birth control methods in my life simple because what I learned of all of them in a required high school sex education and family planning class is that none of them are good for your body as you had mentioned. I feel more comfortable with letting God be in control of this area of my life since I planned on not having sex until married. When my husband and I are done having children than we will explore the natural methods or options or he may have a vascectomy. When I got married I was 33 and we both wanted children right away. For me, breastfeeding keeps me from getting pregnant about 10-12 months post-partum and then I get pregnant again. Here I am 40 yrs old and just got pregnant with my 5th. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with others! I am passionate about women having the pregnancy and birth they want and should have the privilege to enjoy. I have enjoyed two water home births after a C-section in 2006. I delivered my last drug-free in the hospital because he had a high heart rate. I chose of my own free will to decline their offers for a C-section based on the fact that my son’s heartrate was not spiking higher during the labor. I drove 1.5 hrs in labor to the hospital and delivered him 3 hours later on my knees. The best and least painful delivery I have ever had. I think I’ll deliver the rest of my children in this position because of how much easier and pain-free the actual pushing was on my backside. Amen for that!

Mia

It’s important to know that FAM does NOT work when one has reached her perimenopausal years. Please don’t let your readers make that mistake … unless they are happy to have an oops baby!

Jimeen

Megan:

I sent you an e-mail about a week ago and I didn’t receive a response from you. Did you get it?

    Megan

    I’m not sure– I still have over 100 emails from the past week to still get through! I’ll try to respond as quickly as possible. 🙂

Bbhiggins

Congrats on your new baby! Just curious if you used the babycomp to pick the gender of your baby and if so did it work?

Ilyse

If you are serious about not getting pregnant (and really can’t risk getting pregnant) I would not suggest any of the methods except an IUD, or an operation. Like Jennifer, above, I recently had my fifth, at age 40. But unlike Jennifer, i managed to get pregnant while fully nursing my second baby, eight months after her birth. This is not a good form of birth control. In fact, your body is super fertile for the 3-9 months after having a baby! Good luck to everyone, and have fun making babies!

Sarah

Hey Megan, thanks for this post and congrats on your baby boy! I was wondering if you had any other recommendations for books on tracking your cycle. I’m not looking to get pregnant, but I recently just went off the pill and would like to start getting a sense of my cycle once it gets back to normal.

Susanne

My daughter-in-law wants to detox her body from birth control pills. Do you have any resources/recipes?

Erika

Did the gender prediction work?

Heidi

My husband and I bought the lady comp a few months after we first got married because my body was freaking out from the hormones in the Mirena. I am so so so grateful for the lady comp. We have been successfully using it for 6 months now. I got it off the recommnedation from a friend who has used it for over six years, preventing pregnancy and then getting pregnant with their two children (using the gender predictor). I would HIGHLY recommend this to anyone so they are not putting the hormones into their body.

VanillaMacaroon

My husband and I have been using the FAM for almost 3 years now. I find it’s wonderful because my husband is more aware of how my body works than most men usually are. I think it’s a great way for couples to share the whole “family planning experience” from the get go, whether you are ready to conceive or not. It’s not just “my” problem because I should be popping “my” pill every day. When we are ready to conceive and get a positive pregnancy test, his engagement in the matter will have started a long time ago. I know I found it a little overwhelming in the beginning and was scared of human error (just like you Megan) but with time you get to know your body and it just becomes so natural 🙂

Susan Yockey

Thank you for this share. I have not used birth control since my 2nd son. That was 21 yrs ago. I had one of those IUD’s twice and got pregnant. I disliked the side effects of birth control. My husband & I have 4 boys and after our 4th son went to condoms and he faithfully used them.

I was wondering though my sister is on birth control because she has indometriosis (spelling?) if she does not take them she experiences Extreme pain. She gets her relief from the BC pills this way. Do you kn ow of other natural remedies that would help her.

Suzy

Hi Megan–My husband and I use the Creighton Method. It is super easy and no temperatures required. There is charting and monitoring of cervical mucus–(but never internal)–in fact, I chart in pocket calendar. We are done having children but still of child bearing age. I have used this method for 7 years and I always know my fertility. This method can also help you determine when something is not right. I highly recommend that you and everyone reading this post to look into it. It has been a life changer!! and is soooooooooooo easy!! Thanks! Suzy

Kerryn

It’s interesting to read your comments regarding ‘lubricants’ and ‘spermicidal jellies’. Do you not consider using these to be toxic to your body?

We have been married for 16 years, and had 10 rounds of IVF to successfully have two boys (5 and 2). About a year ago, I stumbled onto your site, and some Paleo and Whole Foods sites. So we’ve both been ‘healthy’ for a year. We also switched from a store bought lube to using coconut oil. We also just accidentally conceived a bub, due in Dec! Nearly everyone I tell says “Oh, it’s cause you stopped thinking about it!”… but I can pretty much guarantee that it’s due to the fact that:
1) We stopped filling our stomachs with chemicals
2) We are a lot healthier
3) We stopped using harmful chemicals in our sex life!

Thoughts/comments – anyone had similar experiences?

Julie

So glad you’re promoting the Fertility Awareness Method! I, too, took the Pill and Nuva Ring for months before realizing the toll that hormonal birth control was taking on my body and my moods. I discovered Taking Charge of Your Fertility and it’s such a wonderful resource.

I use an app I got for free (though I think they’re charging now) called Kindara, which is really easy to use and even has an option to email your charts for feedback. It tells me when I’m still fertile and when I’m not (though I always refer to the rules from Taking Charge of Your Fertility). I have two thermometers which give me almost exactly the same temperature readings. One is a basal thermometer (with the annoying beep that always woke my husband) and the other is just a regular thermometer I had gotten somewhere for my first aid kit. It doesn’t beep, and I prefer using that.

My total birth control costs since switching have probably been less than $30 (the book, the basal thermometer and another book called Honoring Our Cycles, which gave me a briefer overview while I was still learning). This method of birth control is one of the most effective. I’ve been using it for about 1 3/4 years to keep from getting pregnant. We also use condoms a lot to be on the safe side, before and during ovulation.

Gina

Glad you discovered that birth control was bad for you. You never mentioned that it was not only bad for the woman, but it could end the life of unborn babies!!

Diana

I like the article and I am looking online to purchase the baby comp but then it does not seam to be available. Is there any other method for me to obtain this device please. Thanks Diana

Roxy

Hi, I quickly scanned through the comments and i didn’t see one on the counting method. This is the method my husband and i chose and it worked great for me. It is much like checking your temp. but easer. I have an app on my phone that i plug in when i start my period and how long the period lasts. I am fairly consistent so this method works really well. My app will tell me when I have the potential to become pregnant. When i see this I Know we need to use a condom. On the other days I know we don’t have to worry about a condom. This saves a lot of money because we don’t need a condom every time. Plus once we were ready to conceive I was already aware of my body, so our 4th try was a success. I am now 12 weeks pregnant!

Delphine

Hi Megan,

I hope that you are well.
I was wondering if you used baby comp again after you got pregnant and if you did, how it worked for you.
My baby is now two month old and it is recommended to use baby comp again no later than 6 weeks…
However, as you know, the nights are always light and short and it seems that i never have enough hours within the time frame for the temperature to be accurate, Please let me know if you have some advices and/or want to share your experience.
Your help would be very much appreciated.Thanks.

    Megan Gilmore

    No, I haven’t used it again, mostly because I read somewhere that it’s only accurate if you get at least 5 hours of sleep in a row– and that didn’t happen for me for at least a year after I had my baby!

Elie

Hey Megan,
I’d like to ask you about your opinion on another device – daysy (https://www.usa.daysy.me/)? It seems related to the baby comp. It also seems more modern, but I don’t know if it would be as good.

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