• Nonhormonal birth control prevents pregnancy without affecting your hormones.
  • The types of nonhormonal birth control include copper IUDs, barrier methods, spermicide, and natural family planning.
  • The best birth control for you is one that fits your health needs, personal preferences, and lifestyle.

Nonhormonal birth control reduces the risk of an unwanted pregnancy without the use of hormones. It comes in a variety of forms, such as:

  • barrier methods (like condoms)
  • natural family planning
  • spermicide
  • birth control gel

Both nonhormonal birth control and hormonal contraception (like the pill and the patch) come with their own risks and benefits. Some health conditions or lifestyle factors may make nonhormonal birth control a better option for some people, and vice versa.

What type of birth control you use is ultimately a personal choice. But understanding the nonhormonal options available to you, as well as how they compare with hormonal birth control, can help you feel more confident in your decision.

Keep reading to learn more about nonhormonal birth control, its risks and benefits, and how to find the best contraception for your needs.

Nonhormonal birth control is any contraceptive method that doesn’t alter your body’s natural hormones. Instead, it uses other strategies to prevent a pregnancy.

Barrier methods are among the most common types of nonhormonal birth control. They work by blocking the sperm from reaching the uterus. Barrier methods include:

  • condoms
  • diaphragms
  • sponges
  • cervical caps

Other nonhormonal birth control methods prevent pregnancy by killing sperm or making the environment of the vagina or uterus hostile toward sperm. This category includes options like:

  • copper intrauterine devices (IUDs)
  • spermicide
  • contraceptive gel (Phexxi)

Some people use behavioral changes as a type of nonhormonal birth control. This includes things like:

  • abstinence
  • avoiding penis-in-vagina sex
  • pull-out method, or withdrawal (removing the penis from the vagina before ejaculation)
  • rhythm method (in which you skip penis-in-vagina sex or use backup contraception on the most fertile days of your cycle)

You can often use more than one type of nonhormonal birth control at the same time to further reduce your risk of a pregnancy.

If you’re looking for a permanent way to prevent a pregnancy, you can also consider surgery, such as a vasectomy or abdominal, laparoscopic, or hysteroscopic sterilization.

No matter which option you choose, there are risks and benefits involved. Some methods can be more effective than others, while certain types can cause unwanted side effects. You may also need a prescription for some types of nonhormonal birth control.

Connect with a doctor to discuss the pros and cons of various types of birth control.

There’s no single best birth control — nonhormonal or otherwise — for everyone.

Finding the best birth control for you involves understanding the risks and benefits each type, as well as figuring out if it fits your lifestyle and personal preferences.

Looking at the effectiveness of each type of nonhormonal birth control can help you narrow down your options.

Avoiding penis-in-vagina sex is the only guaranteed way to prevent a pregnancy. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean abstinence is your only option. Other nonhormonal birth control methods also work really well when used properly.

Here’s a breakdown of the effectiveness rates of nonhormonal birth control, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other sources:

  • Copper IUD: more than 99 percent
  • Diaphragm with spermicide: 88 percent
  • Contraceptive gel: 86 percent effective with typical use, per the manufacturer
  • Male condom: 82 percent
  • Female condom: 79 percent
  • Withdrawal: 78 percent
  • Cervical cap with spermicide: 77 percent to 83 percent
  • Sponge with spermicide: 76 percent to 88 percent
  • Sponge alone: 76 percent to 88 percent
  • Fertility-awareness methods (like rhythm): 76 percent
  • Spermicide alone: 72 percent

You may be able to increase the effectiveness of some types of nonhormonal birth control by using them exactly as directed by a healthcare professional or using multiple methods at the same time.

That said, effectiveness is just one of many factors to consider when choosing a birth control. Some types, such as spermicide, can cause certain side effects that you may want to avoid.

You may also want to think about how a given type of birth control fits into your lifestyle. A copper IUD, for example, offers protection from pregnancy for up to 10 years after it’s inserted, which could make it a compelling option for someone who wants long-term protection without any active involvement.

Condoms, on the other hand, must be used every time you have penis-in-vagina sex to prevent pregnancy. However, you can stop using them at any point if you wish to try to get pregnant.

Most types of nonhormonal birth control don’t prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you’re looking for that protection, you may want to consider using condoms, either on their own or in addition to another method.

Overall, the “best” nonhormonal birth control is one that not only meets your needs and preferences, but also a method you feel confident about using.

Nonhormonal birth control can come with a variety of benefits beyond lowering the risk of pregnancy during penis-in-vagina sex.

Nonhormonal birth control can have fewer side effects than hormonal birth control. This may be an advantage to people with some health conditions or other sensitivities. It’s safe for people who smoke, too.

Individual types of nonhormonal birth control have certain advantages, as well.

Condoms, for example, are the only contraception that can protect against STIs and they’re available over-the-counter at many stores. Copper IUDs can prevent against pregnancy for a decade. And birth control gel can be used discreetly in the moment, without active participation from a partner.

However, keep in mind that certain nonhormonal birth control methods can come with their own risks and side effects. For example, spermicide could increase the risk of a urinary tract infection (UTI), while a copper IUD can cause irregular and heavy bleeding. You may wish to discuss these risks with a doctor.

Ultimately, the benefits and risks of nonhormonal birth control depend on exactly what you’re looking for and which type you choose to use.

There’s no birth control that is “healthier” than all others. The right birth control for you and your health will vary based on your:

  • age
  • preexisting conditions
  • medical history
  • lifestyle
  • preferences

For example, if you have sex with multiple partners or partners you don’t know as well, the “healthiest” birth control method for you might be a condom because it can also protect against STIs.

If you have a blood clotting condition or you’re a smoker, the “healthiest” birth control for you could be a nonhormonal one.

However, if you live with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS), or have irregular, heavy periods, certain hormonal birth control methods might be better for you because they can ease symptoms and regulate your menstrual cycle.

If you’re looking for a highly effective birth control method that will last a long time, IUDs or implants might be your best bet.

And if you don’t want to rely on a partner to use condoms, you might want to consider options that don’t require their participation, such as contraceptive gels or the pill.

Remember: Choosing a birth control (hormonal or nonhormonal) is a personal decision that requires a close look at how each method works and the advantages and risks involved.

A doctor can help you take various factors into account, such as your health and lifestyle, as you narrow down which birth control might be most beneficial for you.

Nonhormonal birth control reduces the likelihood of an unwanted pregnancy without affecting your hormones. It may be worth considering if you’re concerned about the side effects of hormonal birth control.

There are lots of birth control options available. Which one will work best for you depends on your lifestyle, health, and personal preferences. Keep in mind that some nonhormonal birth control comes with certain risks and may not be right for everyone.

Connect with a doctor to learn more about contraception and figure out the option that best fits your needs.