Most Natural Birth Control Options – Are They a Real Alternative?

There are cases when using the barrier or hormonal contraception is impossible because of certain health issues – latex allergy, hormonal deviations, and intolerance to foreign bodies (IUD). But the need to plan a family and avoid unwanted pregnancy remains.

What should a couple do in case of impossibility to use barrier or chemical contraception? There is a way! Natural birth control or natural contraception.

There are actually two kinds of natural birth control – the group of the rhythm birth control methods and withdrawal method (coitus interruptus).

The Rhythm (Biological) Contraception Method

The rhythm (biological) contraception method is based on abstinence from sexual intercourse in the ovulation (fertile period) or using the other means of contraception during the ovulation period. The contraceptive effect is achieved by the following concepts: ovulation occurs on the 13th -15th day of the menstrual cycle, counting from the first day of the bleeding phase. The numbers are true for the stable and regular mensural cycle (provided that the woman is not suffering from gynecological diseases, and the environmental conditions are favorable), the “life” of the egg lasts 24 hours after ovulation occurred (sperm “lives” in women up to 5 days).

There are four versions of the rhythm method:

  • Calendar (Ogino-Knauss) method
  • Basal temperature method
  • Cervical (Billing) method
  • Sympto-thermal (multicomponent) method.

The contraceptive efficacy (Pearl index) of the mentioned methods is as follows:

  • Calendar – 14-50
  • Temperature – 0.3-6.6
  • Cervical – 6-39.7
  • Sympto-Thermal – 2-16

The numbers indicate the number of pregnancies, that occurred in 100 women, reported using this method as the only contraception method.

Calendar Method


Despite the fact that ovulation generally occurs on the 13th-15th day of an average menstrual cycle and lasts for 24 hours only, there are risk factors that prolong the “dangerous days” period. The calendar method or the method of Ogino-Knauss allows us to calculate the fertile period, based on the duration of menstrual cycles of the past 8-12 months. The beginning of the fertile period is determined by subtracting the number 18 from the shortest cycle, and the end of the fertile period – by subtracting number 11 from the longest cycle, for example, The shortest menstrual cycle = 28 days, the longest menstrual cycle = 30 days, where the beginning of the fertile period = 28-18 = 10 (10th day of the cycle), and the end of the fertile period = 30-11 = 19 (19th day of the cycle).

May be Used:

  • In case there’s no need for effective contraception
  • In a case of inability to use other means of protection against unplanned pregnancy (in a case of a regular menstrual cycle)


  • The need for effective contraception
  • Irregular menstrual cycle


  • Low contraceptive effect (due to individual variations in the ovulation period and a lot of violating factors like stress, illness, overexertion, fatigue, climate change, etc.)
  • Unacceptable for women with irregular menstrual cycles
  • A long period of abstinence (6 to 8 days)
  • Does not eliminate the “fear” of unwanted pregnancy (due to the low efficiency).

Advantages of the Method:

  • Simplicity and accessibility
  • The absence of any side effects, except for unplanned pregnancy

The Basal Body Temperature Method

The basal body temperature method (BBT method) is based on determining the fertile period by measuring the basal temperature of the body. Basal body temperature should be taken rectally throughout the menstrual cycle, each morning at the same time before starting any physical activity (7-10 minutes before getting out of bed). The data should be written down and compared at the end of the cycle. Use the same thermometer (it is better to purchase a special fertility thermometer).

As you may know, during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle the basal temperature is around 36,7 – 36,9 °C. 12-24 hours before ovulation, the temperature decreases (pre-ovulatory decline) to 36,2 – 36,6 °C. Right after ovulation has occurred – the basal temperature will increase by 0.2-0.5°C on average (in most cases it gets to 37 °C or slightly above) and the value stays constant to the end of the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle (hyperthermia effect of progesterone); right before the next menstruation, the temperature decreases again.


However, the ovaries do not ovulate monthly. A couple of cycles in a year may be anovulatory. In case you register more than two anovulatory cycles in a row – you should take hormonal tests and turn to a specialist.

Therefore, the day of the pre-ovulatory decline is the beginning of the fertile phase, which lasts up to 5 days, considering the life cycle of an egg and the sperm vitality.

May be used:

  • In case there’s no need for effective contraception
  • In a case of inability to use other means of protection against unplanned pregnancy (in a case of a regular menstrual cycle)


  • The need for effective contraception
  • Irregular menstrual cycle


  • Low contraceptive effect
  • Difficulties of interpretation of the basal temperature data and the tolerance of the temperature curve at the presence of the disturbing factors, such as common cold and other diseases, stress, sleep disorders, night work
  • The need for daily measurement of basal body temperature
  • Long period of abstinence
  • The “fear” of unwanted pregnancy

Advantages of the Method:

  • Simplicity
  • The absence of any side effects and the consequences
  • The possibility to determine the most probable days of conception at planning a pregnancy

Cervical Method

The cervical method (Billing method) is based on the nature of cervical mucus changes throughout the menstrual cycle under the influence of estrogens. During the pre-ovulatory period, mucus becomes clear, transparent, viscous, copious (under the influence of estrogen peak), and looks like the white of the raw egg.

This period is accompanied by a mucous discharge from the vagina and humid vulva. On the other days of the cycle, the cervical mucus is produced in small amounts, has a whitish or yellowish hue; the vulva is dry. Ovulation usually occurs 24 hours after the abundant light mucus disappears, and the fertile period lasts four days more (considering the tolerance in a time of ovulation and viability of an egg and sperm).


Recommendations for the use of the Billing method:

  1. Daily monitoring of changes in humidity and the nature of the vulva and vaginal discharge
  2. Refraining from sexual activity (or using another method of contraception) throughout four days after the disappearance of the light mucus


  • Low contraceptive effect
  • A long period of abstinence
  • The individual characteristics of changes of the properties of cervical mucus
  • Inability to use the method in cervicitis and colitis
  • Difficulties in assessing the nature of the mucous secretions after applying the spermicides
  • The presence of the “fear” of unwanted pregnancy

Advantages of the method:

  • Simplicity
  • The absence of any side effects.

The symptom-thermal (multi-component) method combines the control of basal body temperature, cervical mucus nature changes, the calendar method data, and a number of subjective symptoms (ovulatory pain, spotting in the middle of the menstrual cycle). The method is complex for the development and interpretation of the data, its effectiveness is low.

Thus, we have described the four natural methods of birth control, which are aimed to protect you from unwanted pregnancy at the given efficiency. There’s one more method to describe – the “male” method.

Withdrawal method (coitus interruptus, interrupted intercourse). The method is based on the extraction of the penis from the vagina before ejaculation. Contraceptive effectiveness – 15-30 pregnancies per 100 women. The prevalence of the method is about 28%, particularly in Catholic countries.


  • Low contraceptive effect
  • Violation of orgasm in men
  • Neurosis and impotence development
  • It does not remove the “fear” of unwanted pregnancy.)
  • The complexity of the application

Nature has designed a human body in order so it could conceive and bear a fetus until the delivery day. That is why sex is a part of the pleasures that people are chasing. However, abstinence is the only birth control method with the Pearl Index of 0, which means it’s 100% effective.

Interesting Fact

Based on the calendar method, the Austrian gynecologist Maria HengstBerger, developed the so-called “contraceptive necklace” or “cycle beads” for women from third world countries that do not have the money to buy contraceptives. This necklace consists of beads, painted in different colors, where the number of beads corresponds with the average cycle duration in necklaces bearer.

The first 3-5 beads are painted red and indicate the bleeding phase. In the middle of necklaces, the beads are blue (symbolizing water, fertility), designating the days when you should abstain from sex. All other beads are painted yellow ( “the dry time”) and represent the infertile period of the cycle. There’s a small rubber ring on the necklace, which should be moved to the next bead daily. Thus, a woman can determine her phase of the cycle and adjust their sex life.

It is also a great number of applications for cell phones and PCs to help you calculate the fertility days of the menstrual period on the basis of the previous cycles.