5 Natural Birth Control Methods & How They Work

Are you thinking about saying goodbye to hormones and starting fresh with natural birth control? Check out our list of natural contraception, from traditional family planning to birth control apps - we’ll unpack the effectiveness of each method plus give an overview of how they work. Read on to find out more about natural birth control.

Natural birth control illustration showing thermometer, phone, calendar, hand holding cervical mucus, fingers crossed and breastfeeding

1. The pull out method

The first method on our list of natural birth control is pretty retro. The first recorded reference to withdrawal or the pull out method dates back to more than 2,500 years ago, as mentioned in the story of Onan in the Torah and the Bible. Unfortunately, the method hasn’t progressed any further since then: it simply involves removing the penis from the vagina before ejaculation (male orgasm) happens. 

The main drawback of the pull-out method (so to speak), is the fact that semen isn’t just released at ejaculation, but it can also be released during intercourse itself. So even if pulling out is timed perfectly - a challenging act in itself - there is still a risk of pregnancy. 

Effectiveness: With typical use, the pull out method is 80% effective, with perfect use it’s 96% effective.

2. Calendar-based methods

The next natural birth control we’re going to cover is a group of fertility awareness methods known as calendar methods. These approaches involve counting cycle days to work out when you’re most fertile. Before they can be used as birth control, cycle length must be monitored for six cycles. If you have irregular cycles or your cycle length tends to vary - this may not be a suitable option for you. 

There are a couple of different types of calendar methods, called the rhythm method and the standard days method. These calendar methods are what many people think of when they consider natural family planning, in reality, there are a few more options available.

Effectiveness: With typical use, the standard days calendar method is 88% effective and with perfect use it’s 95% effective.

3. The cervical mucus method

Another type of fertility awareness method is the cervical mucus method (also known as the ovulation or Billings method). This involves the daily monitoring of vaginal discharge or cervical mucus to determine fertility. The consistency and color of this mucus changes throughout your cycle - if you’ve been trained in monitoring your mucus you may be able to tell where you are in your cycle and what the risk of pregnancy may be.

While this natural birth control method can teach you lots about your fertility, it can be tricky to use as there are many things that can affect cervical mucus including using lube, having vaginal sex, douching, breastfeeding, and taking some medications.

Effectiveness: With typical use, the cervical mucus method is 77% effective at preventing pregnancy, with perfect use it’s 97% effective.

4. Using breastfeeding as birth control

Did you know you can potentially use breastfeeding to prevent pregnancy for the first six months after your baby is born? This form of natural birth control is known as LAM (lactational amenorrhea). LAM works because the body naturally stops ovulating during this period, and you can’t get pregnant if you’re not ovulating.

Breastfeeding can only be used as a birth control method if it is done exclusively - that means not using formula or other foods alongside breast milk. This form of birth control can only be used for six months or until your period returns, so it is a temporary form of natural birth control.

Effectiveness: If used perfectly, LAM is 98% effective at preventing pregnancy.

5. Using body temperature to prevent pregnancy

Before we complete our list, there’s one last natural birth control method we want to talk about. We’ve looked at calendar counting and mucus tracking, but there is another fertility indicator that’s naturally in-built called basal body temperature. This is the body’s lowest resting temperature which can be measured first thing in the morning when you wake up. 

There is a natural spike in temperature that’s caused by hormones right after ovulation happens. By using basal body temperature measurements you can find your unique ovulation. There is one problem with this approach to finding fertility, and that’s because we’re only fertile on the day of ovulation and for five days before ovulation happens. 

Previously, temperature charting was often used alongside counting calendar days or measuring cervical mucus. You can now put that manual charting and mucus measuring behind you, as there’s an app that will do the hard work for you. Meet Natural Cycles: the world’s first FDA cleared birth control app. 

Natural Cycles is powered by an algorithm that learns the pattern of your unique cycle in order to predict and confirm ovulation. Simply take your temperature most mornings when you wake up and add it to the app. The algorithm then assigns either a red (fertile) day or a green (not fertile) day. On red days you need to abstain from sex or use a condom to prevent pregnancy. 

Effectiveness: Natural Cycles is 93% effective with typical use, and 98% effective with perfect use.

Switching to natural birth control

Thanks for reading our list of natural birth control methods. Finding the right birth control can be a difficult and time-consuming business. It’s important you have access to all the information and choices available to you. Remember contraception is highly individual, what works for your friend might not be right for you. We always recommend talking to your healthcare professional before switching methods.

Thinking of switching to a natural birth control method? There are so many benefits to going hormone-free, including learning more about your body. Take a step towards a hormone-free future and find out if Natural Cycles could work for you today.

Ready to get started?

Jen on the roof terrace at Natural Cycles headquarters.

Written By

Jennifer Gray

A writer with a passion for women’s health, Jennifer Gray has years of experience writing about various reproductive health topics including birth control, planning pregnancy, women’s anatomy, and so much more.

Jack in a suit and tie holding a microphone and giving a presentation.

Scientifically Reviewed

Jack Pearson

With 10 years of experience working in the field of fertility, Jack Pearson is Natural Cycles’ in-house expert. As Medical Affairs Manager, he dedicates his time to conducting groundbreaking research and educating healthcare professionals.

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