the different types and what to know before you choose the best solution for you and your body
Dr Jess says: As both a natural doctor and a woman, choosing the right form of contraception for myself was a challenge. Personally, I’m not a fan of synthetic hormones, but for others they may be the right choice and can be supported by incorporating some important herbs and supplements into your diet and lifestyle.
When it comes to contraception, everyone’s individual choice is different. Some may choose a more fallible, yet more natural form of contraception, while others prefer to leave it to their partner or are simply happy to go with whatever their doctor recommends.
But making the right choice for you begins by knowing all the information to make that choice. And contraception can be a minefield. Our members section features a comprehensive guide to all kinds of contraception, with detailed information on each kind and the pros, cons and the associated health risks. This empowers everyone to make the right choices, armed with the best, impartial information.
contraception works in a few different ways. It either:
- Prevents an egg from being released, making pregnancy impossible
- Prevents the sperm from reaching the egg to fertilise it
- Prevents the egg and sperm fertilising if they do meet
Women are at their most fertile mid-cycle, throughout the time from their first menstrual period, to their last one at menopause, which usually occurs when a woman is in her late forties or fifties. However, as men and women both age, the quality of their sperm and eggs deteriorate, making a full term pregnancy less likely (but certainly not impossible).
Of course, this makes pregnancy sound like a simple case of timing, but there are many who find planned pregnancy a challenge. The Natural Doctors’ hormone and sexual health zone explores this emotional and challenging topic in more detail.
If you do not wish to get pregnant there are two types of contraception to consider:
Non-hormonal: These forms of contraception may work through timing, by making sure that penetrative, vaginal sex does not happen around the time of ovulation. Other non-hormonal contraception may employ a barrier that blocks the ability of the sperm to either enter into the vaginal canal or the womb, or prevents the egg from implanting. Spermicides work by immobilising any sperm that manage to get through that barrier and preventing it from moving.
Hormonal: These work by preventing the release of the egg, thickening the cervical mucus (making it harder for the sperm to enter the womb), or by thinning the lining of the womb to prevent implantation. Some forms of hormonal contraception work in a few of these ways simultaneously.
which is best for me?
Of course, besides condoms, the majority of contraception is down to the woman and the choices she makes. While science continues to develop more male-led forms of contraception, it is primarily the female partner who dictates the contraception they use with their partner(s).
There are pros and cons to each form of contraception. You may have read recently that some women are now campaigning to suggest that women are routinely offered some form of painkiller or local anaesthetic before an IUS or IUD is fitted. However, if these are fitted correctly at a clinic that routinely uses anaesthetic gel and has practitioners who are experienced, it is a painless experience and can be a fantastic form of hormone-free contraception.
There are some women who experience hormonal symptoms and find huge relief from taking hormonal contraceptives, while for others, they experience completely the opposite, and find that taking synthetic hormones throws their natural balance out completely and causes them significant issues.
If you are using contraceptives because of hormonal symptoms, consider whether it may be the right time to work on the underlying root causes, rather than using artificial hormones with potential health risks. The Natural Doctors has a comprehensive guide to each individual form of contraception, from pills to implants and more. We also discuss female hormones and natural ways to rebalance and reset them in our hormone toolkit.
Of course, we are still waiting for the advent of a male contraceptive besides the condom that is not only reliable, but that men themselves can be trusted to take and use diligently!
Taking hormonal contraceptives carries some risks, and for people there may be additional contraindications that prevent them from considering them as an option. For many, it is about weighing up the risk of any potential issues and complications versus the risk of an unwanted pregnancy.
For others there may be a latex allergy, spermicide allergy or other issue that prevents barrier contraception from being a straightforward and viable option, although many latex-free and hypoallergenic products are being developed all the time and in fact, even techniques like planning intercourse outside of ovulation is now supported by ever more accurate apps and tools.
This is why finding and working with a healthcare provider who can fully explain the options that are most suitable for you, and any potential side effects and disadvantages.
If you do go down the hormonal contraceptive route, then it is worth also seeking advice from a natural or functional medicine specialist, who can advise you on how to manage your hormones, balance any symptoms and discuss how to ensure your health remains optimised. The Natural Doctors’ members enjoy access to The Hub, where a wide range of herbs, vitamins, minerals and other hormone-supporting natural products are covered in detail.
If you would like to know more about contraceptives, please check out our more comprehensive article here on all the hormonal and non-hormonal options for both women and men.