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Types of Non-Invasive Birth Control

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to choosing a birth control method. We all have different priorities when it comes to what we want. For some of us it’s important to find a method that isn’t invasive - but what does this actually mean? In this post, we’re going to look specifically at what invasiveness is and what it means when it comes to birth control. We’ll take a look at the least invasive birth control methods out there and some non-invasive ones too!

What is invasive birth control?

If something is invasive it’s defined as ‘cutting into or putting something into the body'. When it comes to birth control this seems obviously applicable to a few methods, such as IUDs and implants: afterall, these are devices that sit permanently in the body and need to be inserted and removed by a healthcare professional. 

There aren’t any permanent birth control options without surgery - since both male and female sterilization require you to go under the knife, these are both arguably invasive birth control methods.

Keep in mind that invasiveness may mean different things to different people - so what about some other methods, let’s take a look at the birth control pill for starters.

How invasive is the pill? 

This depends on how you see it. You take a pill orally so it goes in your body, but it doesn’t permanently stay in your body like a device does. Saying that when you stop taking the pill it can take a while for the hormones to completely leave your body. 

These hormones can also cause some unpleasant side effects associated with hormonal birth control such as mood changes and a decrease in sex drive. The pill is 93% effective at preventing pregnancy with typical use.

Want to learn more about birth control effectiveness, including how it’s measured and the differences between typical and perfect use? Check out our post on birth control effectiveness.

How invasive is the vaginal ring?

The vaginal ring or NuvaRing is a piece of plastic containing hormones that you can insert into the vagina yourself at home. The ring sits in the vagina where it releases the hormones gradually into your body. Every three weeks the ring should be removed and swapped out for a new one. The ring is 93% effective with typical use.

This method is less invasive than having a surgical procedure, and you’re in control of when you insert and remove the ring, but since it’s a physical object that sits in the body - we still think it’s a bit invasive! 

How invasive are barrier methods?

There’s a selection of barrier methods out there. These work by creating a physical barrier that stops sperm cells and the female egg cell from meeting. The most common type of barrier method is the male or external condom. This is worn on the penis before it’s inserted into the vagina. Different barrier methods have different effectiveness levels. The male condom is 87% effective with typical use.

There are also other barrier methods that are worn inside the vagina such as the cap, diaphragm and internal condom. Some people may consider these methods a bit invasive since they sit inside the body - if only for a temporary period. However, unlike hormonal birth control, once they’re removed they’re gone! Unless you have a latex allergy, you’re unlikely to have any side effects of using these types of birth control.

Keep in mind that if you want to use a diaphragm or a cervical cap, you’ll need to visit a healthcare professional to be fitted for one of these as they come in different sizes. Unlike condoms, these types of barrier methods also require a prescription to use. 

What about creams and gels? 

Some barrier methods are recommended to be used with spermicide to boost their effectiveness. This is a type of gel or cream that’s inserted inside the vagina before sex. These contain a chemical that stops sperm from swimming, making it harder for them to travel through the female reproductive system. 

There’s also a newer gel on the market called Phexxi. This doesn’t need to be used with a diaphragm or cap (although you can choose to use it with another birth control method if you want. Phexxi is non-hormonal, so it shouldn’t have any long-term effects on your body or cycle, but it does have some reported side effects after use such as vaginal burning or itching, and it’s not recommended for those with recurring urinary tract infections. Phexxi is 86% effective with typical use.

Are these types of creams and gels invasive? Perhaps a little, but no more than barrier methods. You need to put them in the body before sex, but you shouldn’t feel their effects in the longer term.

Non-invasive birth control methods

If those methods mentioned above still sound a bit too invasive for your liking, maybe you’re wondering what is available when it comes to non-invasive birth control options. Let’s take a look at some more methods…

Fertility awareness-based methods

Also known as natural family planning, fertility awareness-based methods (FABMs) are a type of natural, non-invasive birth control. They work by either counting cycle days or by monitoring fertility indicators such as cervical mucus or basal body temperature. Since they don’t involve putting anything in your body to prevent pregnancy, it’s safe to say these methods are a type of non-invasive contraception. 

There are a bunch of different types of FABMs, including the Rhythm Method, the Standard Days method and the Symptothermal Method. It’s worth pointing out that these methods require dedication to use. A three to six month monitoring period is also required before you can rely on these methods as your primary birth control and they do require daily work for continued use. With typical use the Standard Days Method is 88% effective.

Natural Cycles

Created by Swedish physicist, Elina Berglund, Natural Cycles takes the science of the basal body temperature method and pairs it with an algorithm that learns the pattern of your cycle. The result is the world’s first FDA cleared birth control app. 

Natural Cycles is a non-hormonal, non-invasive birth control method, and unlike traditional FABMs, it doesn’t require a monitoring period before you can start using it to prevent pregnancy, it’s also tailored to your unique cycle and works for those with irregular periods. Natural Cycles is 93% effective with typical use.

The pull out method

There’s nothing invasive about using the pull out method (also known as withdrawal). It doesn’t require any equipment, hormones or fertility monitoring to use. As the name suggests, this method works by simply removing the penis from the vagina before ejaculation.

While the pull-out method is easily available and free to use, it’s also one of the least effective birth control methods out there - with typical use it’s 80% effective. Even if your partner pulls out in time, there’s still a risk of pregnancy as semen is still present in pre-ejaculate. It may be as non-invasive as they come, but we don’t recommend relying on withdrawal as your primary birth control option. 

Your body, your choice

Ultimately, all birth control methods have pros and cons when it comes to how you use them. In the end it’s up to you to decide what’s most important. While the most invasive methods often tend to be the most effective methods, if you can’t stand the thought of a device sitting inside your body, or you’re prone to getting nasty side effects, these options may not be right for you! 

We recommend talking to your healthcare professional about your full range of options before switching contraception, but it’s still a great idea to get to know all your options now. If you’re thinking about trying Natural Cycles, non-hormonal, non-invasive birth control, why not find out if it’s right for you today?

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Written By

Jennifer Gray

Jennifer Gray is an award-winning writer with more than five years’ experience covering reproductive topics ranging from birth control to planning pregnancy. She is passionate about providing women with accurate information grounded in science they can use to take charge of their own health - while also dispelling myths that exist within the field of women’s health. She holds a Master of Science from the University of Edinburgh and currently lives in Ireland.

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

Scientifically Reviewed

Jack Pearson

Dr. Jack Pearson is a previously HCPC registered Embryologist with a PhD in reproductive medicine. Prior to joining Natural Cycles leading Medical Affairs, he worked for more than 10 years in a clinical setting working at some of the busiest fertility clinics in the UK. Today he spends most of his time working with experts at the world’s leading institutions to carry out important research with the vision to further the field of female health. He earned his PhD from the University of Sheffield specializing in Sperm Metabolism and currently lives in London.

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