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 physical side effects. However, it is important to note that some of these methods may have high failure rates which may lead to unintended pregnancies.

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% effective in preventing pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 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 person with a penis pulls their penis out of the vagina before ejaculating. This may not be a reliable natural birth control method since some people eject pre-ejaculate fluid which may contain sperm when they are aroused. These sperm are released into the vagina since the 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. This method is only 78% effective as birth control. About 22 out of 100 people who use withdrawal get pregnant every year — that’s about 1 in 5.


Fertility Awareness Methods

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Fertility awareness methods require you to monitor your body to determine when you're most fertile. You then avoid having condomless 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 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 help explain how to practice natural family planning.

Fertility awareness methods are only 76% to 88% effective: that means 12 to 24 out of 100 couples who use these methods will still get pregnant each year.



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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 STIs because there may be skin-to-skin contact or the exchange of bodily fluids. The use of dental dams or externa or internal condoms may help decrease your risk of getting an STI 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 if you feed your baby at least every four hours during the day and every six hours at night with both breasts.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Human Services. Abstinence.

  2. Kovavisarach E, Lorthanawanich S, Muangsamran P. Presence of sperm in pre-ejaculatory fluid of healthy males. J Med Assoc Thai. 2016;99(Suppl 2):S38-S41. 

  3. Michigan Medicine. University of Michigan. Fertility awareness.

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

  5. U.S. Department of Human Services. Lactational amenorrhea method (LAM).

By Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC
Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC, is a published author, college professor, and mental health consultant with over 15 years of counseling experience.