The contraceptive pill has long been touted as one of the most popular and effective methods of birth control in the United States. But what they often don't tell us about is the long list of side effects associated with hormonal birth control. Some of the commonly found side effects include mood changes, weight gain, nausea and even loss of libido. The good news is there are several non-hormonal, non-invasive options out there.
Many people are familiar with the Seinfeld episode where Elaine tries to determine if her date is "Sponge-worthy." The Today Sponge was a popular form of sponge birth control in the 1990's, until it was taken off the market due to manufacturing problems. This popular sponge birth control is back on the market today in the United States, and there are other brands available over the Internet. All brands of sponge birth control are available without a prescription.
Sponge birth control is a soft disk-shaped device made from polyurethane foam that fits over the opening the cervix to block and absorb semen. It contains the spermicide nonoxynol-9, which it releases slowly over 24 hours. Therefore, you can insert the sponge up to 24 hours before having intercourse, so you don't have to worry about ruining the moment. You're also protected for the full 24 hours, no need to remove and insert a new sponge. You do have to leave sponge birth control in place for 6 hours after intercourse to reduce the risk of pregnancy.
The effectiveness of sponge birth control, like all methods, varies depending on how carefully it is used. Its effectiveness is also influenced by whether or not you've ever give birth. For a woman who has never given birth and uses it perfectly (following all instructions exactly), it is 91% effective. With typical use in women who have never given birth, it is 84% effective, further highlighting the importance of following the directions. For women who have given birth, it is 80% effective with perfect use and 68% effective with typical use.
Another non-hormonal option is the condom female. This method not only protects from pregnancy, it also helps protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Like the sponge, the condom female is available without prescription. It resembles an inside-out male condom and is inserted into the vagina before intercourse. A new condom female must be used with every act of intercourse. With perfect use, the condom female is 95% effective. With typical use, it is 79% effective.
If going to the doctor is not a problem, then you might consider the non-hormonal barrier methods of the diaphragm, cervical cap and cervical shield. All 3 methods work similarly in that they cover the cervix to prevent sperm from entering the uterus. They should be used in conjunction with spermicide to increase effectiveness.
The diaphragm is a dome-shaped latex cup that fits over the cervix. Your physician will need to examine you and fit you with the appropriate sized diaphragm for use. The diaphragm should be inserted before intercourse and must be left in for at least 6 hours after intercourse, but no more than 24 hours. With perfect use, the diaphragm is 94% effective. With typical use, it is 84% effective.
A cervical cap is a thimble shaped silicone cup that fits snugly over the cervix. It is smaller than the diaphragm and includes a strap for easier removal. Like the diaphragm, you must be fitted for a cervical cap. It should be inserted before intercourse and left in for at least 6 hours afterward, but can be left in up to 48 hours. Due to its smaller size, the efficacy of the cervical cap varies based on whether or not a woman has given birth. For women who have not given birth, it is 86% effective with typical use. For women who have given birth, it is 71% effective with typical use.
Finally, the cervical shield is a dome-shaped silicone disc that has a one-way valve that creates suction and helps it hold against the cervix. The cervical shield only comes in one size, but still requires a prescription. Like the diaphragm and the cervical cap, the cervical shield needs to be inserted before intercourse. It should be left in for at least 8 hours after intercourse, but no more than 48 hours. It is 85% effective with typical use.
Choosing a method of birth control is very personal. Things to consider are how it will work with your lifestyle, how much effort you are willing to put into using it and whether you also want protection from sexually transmitted diseases. Whatever you decide, be confident that there are options just as effective as the pill, without all of the hormonal side effects.