Guest blog: 4 options for hormone-free contraception

22 November 2022

By: Wendy Wielenga

On social media and elsewhere, there is increasing attention to side effects women experience from hormonal contraception. Women are being urged en masse to put aside their pill and get in touch with their "womanhood". That there are many women who notice side effects from hormones in the pill or other hormonal contraception is certainly true. Hormonal contraception can affect your skin, your mood, your libido, your weight and much more. It is therefore important that more attention is paid to hormone-free options. But what then are hormone-free contraceptive methods?

1. Barrier methods: condoms and pessaries

The most well-known and obvious alternative is the (male) condom. This is immediately the only contraceptive that protects against STIs. The female condom and the pessary also fall under the group of barrier devices, literally creating a barrier between sperm and egg. Barrier devices are reasonably reliable in theory, but in practice they are prone to user error. Think, for example, of a torn condom.

2. Natural methods

Natural methods are all ways of understanding your own menstrual cycle in order to track fertile days. On these days you then don't have sex, or use a condom. Cycle computers and cycle apps are on the rise. These are great for learning to recognise your fertile days, but with the aim of getting pregnant. As a contraceptive, they are not very reliable in practice, reliability ranges between 90 and 95%.

3. Copper IUD

Of all hormone-free contraception, the copper IUD is one of the safest with over 99% reliability. Copper paralyses sperm cells, preventing them from reaching the egg. A copper IUD does not cause any side effects on the rest of your body, unlike a hormone IUD. Your cycle remains the same and you will not notice any difference in libido, mood, skin and so on. A copper IUD may, however, make your periods a little heavier, in terms of blood loss and cramps. This does tend to get better 3 to 6 months after insertion. When switching from pill to copper IUD: keep in mind that the pill makes your bleeding less, and the copper IUD can make your bleeding a bit more than without the pill. So this can feel like a bigger difference.

Is a copper IUD suitable for me?

A copper IUD is suitable for women of all ages, whether you have already had children or not. If your periods are already heavy, the IUD may not be the right choice for you. If you are looking for a reliable method without hormones that can also protect you for a long time, discuss the copper IUD with your midwife or GP.

4. Sterilisation

And finally, when your family is complete and you are looking for reliable contraception without hormones, you can of course opt for male or female sterilisation. These methods are very reliable, and basically permanent.

Want to know more about copper coils? Read more at this page.

Wendy Wielenga
Wendy Wielenga, obstetrician and contraception specialist

Wendy Wielenga is an obstetrician and contraception specialist. In 2018, in addition to her work as an obstetrician, she specialised in contraceptive care. Her main motivation is to put good contraceptive care on the map, for all women of any age. In this guest blog, Wendy talks all about hormone-free contraception.