Natural Birth Control Methods

Natural birth control methods include specific actions that people can naturally do to help prevent unintended pregnancy. Natural methods are some of the oldest forms of contraception available. Natural birth control often does not cost anything and usually has no side effects.

If you choose a natural birth control method, in order to be effective, you must be committed to this decision. These methods require discipline and self-control. It is also helpful that you are in a stable relationship where you and your partner can openly talk and cooperate with one another.



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Abstinence is defined as not having any type of sexual intercourse or sex play with a partner. It is the only birth control method that is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted diseases. Choosing abstinence is your decision, but in order for it to work in a relationship, both you and your partner must agree to stay abstinent. Sometimes, it is difficult to practice abstinence. If you have specific reasons for this choice, you may find it easier to stick to.



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Withdrawal is a behavioral action where a man pulls his penis out of the vagina before he ejaculates. This may not be as reliable a natural birth control method for two reasons. A male ejects pre-ejaculate fluid when he is aroused. In some men, this fluid may contain sperm. These sperm are released into the vagina since his penis is still inside and it only takes one sperm to fertilize an egg.

The withdrawal method also relies on complete self-control. You must have an exact sense of timing to withdraw your penis in time.


Fertility Awareness Methods

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Fertility awareness methods require a woman to monitor her body to determine when she is most fertile. You then avoid having unprotected sex around the time of ovulation. This natural birth control method involves paying attention to different body changes (such as basal body temperature or cervical mucus) and recording them to predict when you will ovulate.

To be successful, you need to be willing to record and chart your fertility signs. Then, you (and your partner) must agree to not have sex (or to use backup birth control) when you ovulate, and for five days beforehand, as sperm can live in the female reproductive tract for up to five days.

Fertility awareness methods include the Billings Method, the Symptothermal Method, and the Standard Days Method. You can also take advantage of Fertility iPhone Apps to help you track your body's changes. Books like Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control can be helpful in explaining how to practice natural family planning.



Couple in bed, laughing

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Outercourse is any type of sexual play without sexual intercourse. This includes kissing, erotic massage, manual stimulation (with one’s hands), masturbation, rubbing against each other, oral sex, fantasy, anal sex, and/or using sex toys. This natural method may not fully protect against STD’s because there may be skin-to-skin contact or the exchange of bodily fluids. The use of dental dams or condoms may help decrease your risk of getting an STD during these activities.


Continuous Breastfeeding (Lactational Amenorrhea Method)

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Continuous breastfeeding (lactational amenorrhea method) can postpone ovulation for up to six months after giving birth. This natural birth control method works because the hormone required to stimulate milk production prevents the release of the hormone that triggers ovulation.

You should not rely on this method for more than six months or if you have gotten your period since giving birth. The lactational amenorrhea method is only effective you feed your baby at least every four hours during the day and every six hours at night with both breasts.

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  1. U.S. Department of Human Services. Abstinence. Updated May 21, 2019. 

  2. Kovavisarach E, Lorthanawanich S, Muangsamran P. Presence of sperm in pre-ejaculatory fluid of healthy males. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand = Chotmaihet thangphaet. 2016;99 Suppl 2:S38-41. 

  3. Michigan Medicine. University of Michigan. Fertility awareness. Updated September 5, 2018. 

  4. Planned Parenthood. How effective are abstinence and outercourse?

  5. U.S. Department of Human Services. Lactational amenorrhea method (LAM). Updated May 19, 2019.