7 Types of Birth Control Without Estrogen
Not only are our birth control needs individual, but they also change throughout our fertile lifetimes. With this in mind, we've put together a list of seven birth control options without the hormone estrogen. Whether you can’t or don’t want to use estrogen, or are looking to go entirely hormone-free, read on to discover our list of 7 types of birth control without estrogen…
What is estrogen?
In simple terms, estrogen is one of the main female sex hormones. It’s responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle and is an important player during the first half of the menstrual cycle in the lead-up to ovulation. By taking synthetic estrogen, it’s possible to alter the menstrual cycle and stop ovulation from happening - that’s how a number of contraceptive options, such as the combined birth control pill, prevent pregnancy.
Why consider a birth control option without estrogen?
There are several reasons why you might want to consider a birth control option that doesn’t contain synthetic estrogen. For some it’s a medical decision, as birth control containing estrogen isn’t recommended for women who are:
- Over 35 and smoke
- Very overweight
- Using certain medications
- Affected by medical conditions such as problems with circulation
- Prone to migraine with aura (get symptoms, such as vision changes, before a headache)
For others, the decision to choose birth control without estrogen might be because of unwanted hormonal birth control side effects, or may be a lifestyle change motivated by the desire to go completely hormone-free.
Whatever the reason, if you’re considering switching birth control methods, it’s worth having a frank discussion with your doctor about your contraceptive options to find the best method for you. In the meantime, check out some of the options you might want to consider:
1. The mini pill (progestogen-only pill)
Unlike the more commonly prescribed combined pill, the mini pill only contains the hormone progesterone. The mini pill must be taken every day and there’s no break between pill packets. An advantage of the mini pill is that it’s non-invasive and you can start and stop when you’re ready.
The mini pill is usually available with a prescription, but can now be purchased over the counter in some UK pharmacies. The mini pill is 93% effective with typical use and more than 99% effective with perfect use.
A type of long-acting contraception, IUD stands for intrauterine device - these are small plastic or metal objects that are inserted into the uterus. There are two types of IUD, the hormonal IUD (only containing progesterone), and the hormone-free copper IUD. IUDs can be a useful option for those who want a long-term birth control option that they don’t want to think about every single day.
IUDs are highly effective at preventing pregnancy, in fact, they are more than 99% effective as there is very little work required from the individual user. Once fitted IUDs can prevent pregnancy for as long as ten years before they must be removed or swapped out for a new one.
3. The implant
The implant works in a similar way to the hormonal IUD, releasing a dose of the progesterone hormone over a long period of time. However, the implant doesn’t sit in the uterus. Instead, it’s inserted under the skin in the upper arm by a doctor or nurse.
The implant can be used for up to three years before it should be removed or swapped out for a new one by a healthcare professional. The implant is also more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
4. Injection/birth control shot
The birth control shot (or injection) also contains the hormone progesterone. It requires more work than the implant or the IUD, but doesn’t require you to think about it every single day, as the shot is used around every twelve weeks.
The injection is given in fleshy parts of the body such as the buttocks, thighs, upper arms, or abdomen. It’s usually administered by a healthcare professional, but in some cases, you might be able to do it yourself at home. The shot is 96% effective with typical use and more than 99% effective with perfect use.
Condoms are a hormone-free option that can be used as and when you need them. This barrier method can also prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections and is an over-the-counter birth control method you can find in most supermarkets, pharmacies, and drugstores, or you can also order condoms online.
Condoms are easy to get hold of and great for wider protection, but if you’re relying on condoms as your only form of birth control, they are something you’ll have to think about every time you have sex. Condoms are 87% effective with typical use and 98% with perfect use.
6. The calendar method
Another option is the calendar method, a fertility awareness-based method of birth control (known as FABM). It’s hormone-free and involves counting cycle days to work out when you’re most likely to be fertile. It’s then up to you and your partner to then either abstain from sex or use another method of protection on fertile days.
The calendar method may not be a suitable option for those with short or irregular cycles, and it does also require a six-month monitoring period before it can be used as birth control. With perfect use, the calendar method is 91% effective and with typical use, it’s between 75% and 88% effective.
7. Natural Cycles birth control app
Like the calendar method, Natural Cycles is completely hormone-free. However, there are a few important differences. Firstly, Natural Cycles doesn't work by counting cycle days. Instead, users take their temperature each morning and input it into the Natural Cycles app, this tracks basal body temperature data and identifies ovulation day. By identifying temperature shifts the app can learn the pattern of your unique cycle. The app gives you a daily fertility status: on green days you’re not fertile, but on red days you must either abstain from sex or use protection.
Unlike the calendar method, Natural Cycles does not require a monitoring period, although the app will likely give you more red (fertile) days at the start until it gets to know you. With perfect use, Natural Cycles is 98% effective and it’s 93% effective with typical use.
Find the best birth control for you
Thanks for checking out our list of types of birth control without estrogen! We’ve only touched on some of the methods available and how they work, so if you’re serious about switching birth control, it’s always worth discussing your options in full with your doctor. In the meantime, why not find out if Natural Cycles could be an option for you?