Non-hormonal contraceptive methods

One of the most popular types of contraception is the pill. While this may be a convenient method of preventing pregnancy, some women experience unpleasant side effects from taking hormones and may wish to explore other options. 

What types of non-hormonal contraception are there?

There are a few different options to choose from if you’re looking to prevent pregnancy without using hormones. 


Condoms are the only contraceptive which protect you from STIs. They are easy to use and you can pick them up for free from sexual health clinics, college campuses and family planning clinics. You can also buy them from shops and pharmacies. 

Female condoms are available which are used inside the vagina to cover the cervix. They also protect you from STIs but they are generally less effective, with an efficiency rate of 95%. 

Diaphragm or cap

A diaphragm is a small, dome shaped device which is inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix. This stops sperm from being able to enter. A cap works in the same way but it’s a smaller size. You need to apply spermicide to a diaphragm to make sure it’s effective. This is a type of contraceptive gel which kills off sperm. 

Contraceptive sponge

The sponge is made from soft, squishy plastic and is inserted into the vagina to block sperm from being able to get through to the uterus. It’s generally less effective than the diaphragm, cap or condoms but some women prefer it and find it comfortable to use. 


The IUD (intrauterine device) is often referred to as the copper coil. It’s a long-term reversible method of contraception and is highly effective. It’s a small t-shaped device made from plastic and copper and sits just inside the womb. The copper is essentially toxic to sperm. Once inserted, the IUD lasts for 10 years. 

Natural family planning

This involves using nothing at all, instead of tracking your cycle to find out when you are and aren’t fertile. This can be tricky to learn and you’ll usually need to monitor your cycle for several months before relying on it. Your local family planning clinic can advise you on how to go about it. 

How effective is each method? 

When your choosing a contraceptive, you’ll need to take into account how effective it is. Some women may use more than one type, such as a diaphragm and condom to ensure they are protected from STIs while women in a long term relationship may rely on an IUD. 

  • Condoms: 98%- occasionally condoms can break or slip off. If this happens, you may be at risk of pregnancy
  • Diaphragm: 92-96%- it needs to be inserted correctly and left in up to 6 hours after sex
  • Sponge: 76%- there’s a higher chance of getting pregnant with the sponge so it’s not recommended if you do not want to start a family
  • IUD: 99+%- the IUD is one of the most effective types of contraception. There is a small chance of it being expelled in the first 6 weeks so you need to check it regularly 
  • Natural family planning: 99%- if used correctly and methodically, there is only a 1% chance of getting pregnant


NHS > Your Contraceptive Guide


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