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Home / Contraception / Alternatives to the contraceptive pill

Alternatives to the contraceptive pill

Other methods of hormonal contraception

As many as 150 million women Trusted source United Nations Government Source Go to source take the contraceptive pill globally, making it the fourth most popular method of birth control.

However, for it to work you have to remember to take your pill every day. This applies to both the combined pill and the mini pill.

For many women, remembering to take this daily pill can be a struggle. It can cause worry and stress if you know that you’re forgetful.

Several hormonal options can ensure protection for up to weeks, months or even years. You can also choose to rely on non-hormonal options. Keep reading to learn about the alternatives to the contraceptive pill.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 24-04-2024

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Pack of Evra® transdermal 9 patches
Evra Patch 4.7 (106 Reviews)
  • Just as effective as 'the pill'
  • Used for three weeks (one patch per week) followed by a 1 week break
  • Can help regulate periods and reduce period pain
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Box of 3 sachets of NuvaRing 0.120 mg/0.015 mg ethinylestradiol/etonogestrel
NuvaRing 4.9 (31 Reviews)
  • 99% effective contraceptive
  • Easy to insert
  • No need for daily pills
More Info

What are the different types of contraception?

There are two main types of contraception, hormonal and non-hormonal.

Hormonal contraception prevents pregnancy by changing the way your natural hormones work. There are two main types:

  • combined contraceptives, containing synthetic versions of oestrogen and progesterone (e.g. the combined pill)
  • progesterone-only contraceptives (e.g the mini pill)

Non-hormonal contraceptives include things like condoms as well as tracking your cycle and avoiding intercourse when you’re most fertile. These methods don’t have any impact on your natural hormones but can be less reliable.

Hormonal contraceptives

Several different types of birth control contain hormones, such as:

  • the combined pill
  • the mini pill
  • the contraceptive patch
  • the contraceptive ring

There are also hormonal contraceptives known as LARCs (long-acting reversible contraceptives). These include:

  • the intrauterine system (IUS)
  • the contraceptive injection
  • the contraceptive implant
An infographic showing hormonal and non-hormonal contraceptives

LARCs protect you for longer periods compared to the pill, patch or ring. They can offer protection for multiple months or years.

Non-hormonal contraceptives

Methods of non-hormonal birth control include:

  • condoms - both external (male) and internal (female)
  • cervical caps
  • diaphragms
  • spermicides (cream, gel or foam)

These are sometimes referred to as barrier methods because they create a barrier between the semen and the cervix. This means that sperm cannot enter the woman’s uterus.

Another form of non-hormonal contraception involves tracking your menstrual cycle. By avoiding intercourse on days that you’re ovulating, you can naturally prevent pregnancy without using barrier methods.

Why opt for an alternative to the pill?

While all types of contraceptive pills are 99.9% effective when used correctly, they can be easy to forget - which can make your sex life more stressful than it needs to be.

For some women, an alternative to the pill may be a good idea if:

  • you find it stressful having to remember to bring your medication on overnight trips or holidays
  • you don’t want to take pills every day, or you find it difficult to take them correctly
  • taking oral tablets affects your stomach
  • you’ve been on the pill for a while and want to try a different form of contraception
  • you’re planning to stay on birth control long-term and want to commit to a longer-lasting form of contraception

Luckily, there are many available alternatives to choose from if you don’t want to be on the pill.

What are some hormonal contraception alternatives?

The following list will explain all of the existing hormonal contraception alternatives to the pill.

The ring

The contraceptive ring, commonly known under the brand name NuvaRing, is inserted into the vagina once every 3 weeks.

After 3 weeks it is removed for one further week. This allows for a withdrawal bleed.

Pros Cons
  • Only needs to be inserted once a month
  • Offers 99% effective protection against pregnancy
  • Easy to insert/remove
  • Doesn’t affect sexual intercourse
  • The ring can fall out, interrupting the cycle of hormones
  • Long-term supplies must be refrigerated
  • May cause discomfort in some women

It contains synthetic (man-made) versions of oestrogen and progesterone. Because of this, it prevents pregnancy in the same way as the combined pill. It also offers the same benefits (a lighter period, less cramps, a regular cycle).

When used correctly, the contraceptive ring is 99.7% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Want to try the contraceptive ring?

Click here

The patch

The contraceptive patch (also known as the Evra patch) also works in the same way as the combined pill. However, instead of taking the hormones orally, your body absorbs them through a patch.

Pros Cons
  • A new patch only needs to be placed on the body once per week
  • Hormones are absorbed through the skin, so your gut won’t be affected
  • Vomiting/diarrhoea won’t reduce effectiveness (unlike the pill)
  • The patch may not be effective for women who weigh 200 lbs (90 kg) or more
  • There is potential for skin irritation to occur
  • The patch could fall off, disrupting your hormones

The patch is placed onto clean, dry skin at the start of each week. You do this for 3 consecutive weeks before wearing no patch for one more week. During this time you’ll have a withdrawal period.

Common places to apply the patch include:

  • your upper torso
  • the outside of your upper arm
  • your tummy
  • your bottom

Want to try the contraceptive patch?

Click here

The injection

Another option for hormonal contraception is a type of injection. You can receive this injection at a clinic or purchase a self-injection called Sayana Press.

A female doctor wearing gloves preparing an injection.

The injection provides 13 weeks of protection against pregnancy. It works by stopping ovulation (the part of your cycle where your ovaries release an egg) and contains a synthetic version of progesterone.

When you stop taking the injection, it can take some time before your fertility returns to normal. Keep this in mind if you are planning on having children in the near future.

The implant

The implant is a small plastic rod (about 4 cm) that’s inserted into your upper arm, just beneath the skin. It slowly releases hormones into your body without a need for oral pills.

A doctor holding the contraceptive implant with a pair of medical tweezers

Unlike the ring and patch, the implant only releases progesterone. It works to prevent pregnancy in the same way as the mini pill.

Once inserted, the implant can work effectively for up to 3 years. After this time has passed, it will need to be removed and replaced with a new one (if desired).

The intrauterine system (IUS)

The IUS (intrauterine system) is a small, T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus. It works by preventing sperm from reaching an egg and by releasing progesterone (which causes changes to the cervical mucus).

You can also opt for the copper intrauterine device (IUD) which doesn’t release any hormones.

A doctor holding an intrauterine system.

Both the IUD and IUS can stay in your body for up to 5 years. They are very effective forms of long-term contraception.

What about non-hormonal contraception options?

To prevent pregnancy, you can also rely on the following non-hormonal options:

  • barrier methods (male and female condoms)
  • tracking your cycle and avoiding intercourse during fertile periods

Please note that these forms of contraception can be less reliable. However, barrier methods should always be used with new partners as they are the only way of preventing the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Contraception comparison table

The following table outlines all available methods of contraception, along with a description and their duration of use.

Type of contraception Description Duration of use Effectiveness
Oral contraceptive pills The combined pill or mini pill is taken once daily. Daily 91-99%
Contraceptive patch The patch is applied once a week for 3 weeks, followed by a patch-free week. Weekly 91-99%
Contraceptive ring The ring is inserted and worn for 3 weeks. It is then removed for a week. Monthly 91-99%
Contraceptive injection Hormones are administered via injection once every 13 weeks. Every 3 months 94-99%
Contraceptive implant This is a small rod inserted under the skin of the upper arm. Up to 3 years >99%
Copper intrauterine device (IUD) A copper T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus. Up to 10 years >99%
Intrauterine system (IUS) A hormonal, T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus. 3-5 years >99%
Condoms (male and female) Effectively works to prevent sperm from entering the vagina. Used during sex 85-98%
Cervical caps and diaphragms Inserted before sex, can be removed 6-24h afterwards. Used during sex 71-88%
Spermicides Applied deeply inside the vagina at least one hour before engaging in sex. Used during sex 71-82%
Tracking your cycle Involves daily tracking of your menstrual cycle and avoiding sex when fertile. Ongoing 76-88%

Can I buy alternative contraceptives online?

Yes, you can purchase the contraceptive ring or patch online here at euroClinix.

Simply answer our online questionnaire to complete your consultation. This will then be reviewed by one of our registered doctors who will issue you a prescription if you have taken this treatment before. If you have never used the contraceptive ring or patch, you will need to consult with your GP first.

Once approved, your package will be sent straight to your door with free delivery and in discreet packaging.

Further reading

Which contraceptive pill is best for me?

Which contraceptive pill is best for me?

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
Is the pull-out method effective?

Is the pull-out method effective?

Reviewed by Dr. Plauto Filho
Can you still use hormonal contraception in your 40s?

Can you still use hormonal contraception in your 40s?

Reviewed by Dr. Plauto Filho
What if I miss a pill?

What if I miss a pill?

Reviewed by Dr. Plauto Filho
How to start a new contraceptive

How to start a new contraceptive

Reviewed by Dr. Plauto Filho
Acne: How effective is the contraceptive pill?

Acne: How effective is the contraceptive pill?

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
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