The answer to this question varies based on your personal family goals and your individual body — but moms who have already made their choice can provide some insights to help you find a solution that works for your life.
We asked the Mothering community to tell us what methods are working for them and here is a breakdown of the three most popular choices.
Natural Family Planning
Natural Family Planning or NFP is by far the most recommended method of birth control in the Mothering community.
NFP is a rejection of artificial contraception in favor of utilizing the natural times of fertility and infertility in a woman’s cycle to achieve or avoid pregnancy. Many women use a simplified form of this method and do not even realize they are utilizing NFP. By simply paying attention to your cycles and recognizing the changes in your body each month you can avoid sex, or use other methods of birth control such as condoms, directly before and during ovulation. For others, tracking their cycles is more detailed and often involves using monitors to ensure accuracy.
Many women like this method because it can be used for both avoiding and achieving pregnancy. You may, for instance, be trying to avoid another child for several more years and use NFP to stay on track, but find it just as easy to use the same methods to help you conceive when you are ready.
Members pointed out that there are some special considerations for those interested in trying Natural Family Planning:
You need to be willing to pay attention to your cycles and, depending on your goals and body, this can take a fair bit of time and effort.
You need to be willing to control your libido during times of fertility — NFP won’t work if you don’t work with it.
NFP works best for many women when combined with the use of charts, monitors and other tools — but for some it can be as simple as paying attention to your body’s rhythm.
Some women find that because NFP involves some abstinence, though the use of another form of birth control during certain times of the month may be helpful when abstinence is not possible.
For more more information on Natural Family Planning, the different methods of use and tips for getting started check out our helpful article on the topic.
Here are some product recommendations from the Mothering community that can be used to aid NFP.
I received my Lady-Comp as a wedding gift and have used it for both contraception and conception. Even with my some-what irregular cycles it has been completely safe for me.
The Lady-Comp encompasses the values of NFP, but does all the work for you. The alarm wakes you up and reminds you to take your temperature then calculates and stores all of your data. You get a green light on days you’re infertile, a red light on days of high fertility, and a yellow on days that there may be a slight chance of getting pregnant. With its hi-tech internal computer it literally learns your cycle and can predict your fertility a few days in advance (so you can skip a day here or there). Read more.
My husband and I purchased this monitor just before we got married, and have used it (against its recommendation) to prevent pregnancy, as well as to get pregnant. We have had great success, so far- we were able to keep from conceiving when we were not wanting to, and the first time we tried to get pregnant, we did. Our son is now 7 mo!
The monitor will tell you when your fertility signs are “low” “high” and “peak”. If you want to conceive, having intercourse on the high and peak days will likely accomplish this. For preventing, you have to be a little more conservative- we usually used condoms during high days and most often abstained during peak days. But after your peak, you can be pretty confident that you will not conceive. Read more.
This thermometer is very accurate, and I love the AccuBeep feature which tells you that you have the thermometer positioned correctly and also when it is done. The beep can be a little loud when taking your temp orally, but it is easy to cover the speaker with a finger. The volume of the beep is perfect when temping vaginally. I can easily hear the beep through the sheets and blankets, but it is not loud enough to disturb my husband. The display lights up when you turn it on, and when you press the button. Read more.
The use of condoms was the second most commonly used method of birth control mentioned when we asked members for suggestions. Our moms said that while this solution may seem simple, it worked for them because it did not require any long term commitments and was a safe, natural and relatively inexpensive option.
Some tips and reminders when using condoms:
If you plan to use condoms for your main form of birth control make sure you keep some on hand! Privacy is rare enough for most parents, nobody wants to waste precious time running to the store at the last minute.
Condoms are effective only when used properly. If you haven’t used them in a while make sure you familiarize yourself with proper usage before counting on them as your only form of birth control.
While some partners feel condoms are uncomfortable or reduce sensitivity, condoms so come in different sizes, materials and sensitivity levels. Try a few kinds to find what works.
If you feel uncomfortable counting on condoms only, try using them in combination with Natural Family Planning or withdrawal.
Intrauterine Device: ParaGard or Mirena
ParaGard and Mirena are both intrauterine devices that are popular with Mothering moms for their ease of use and general effectiveness. And while both systems work similarly, there are major differences to consider.
claims to be more than 99% effective for up to 5 years
releases a synthetic form of progesterone (levonorgestrel) into your uterus to prevent pregnancy: partially prevents ovulation, thickens cervical mucas to prevent the entrance of sperm into the uterus and thins the uterine lining to prevent a fertizlized egg from attaching
uses a very low dose of hormones compared to oral contraceptives
will affect your normal menstrual cycle
once removed, may continue to prevent pregnancy for weeks or months
can cause pelvic infections
is considered safe for breastfeeding in most cases
claims to be more than 99% effective for up to 10 years
is made of copper and contains no hormones: disrupts sperm and the uterine lining to prevent pregnancy
may increase bleeding during your normal cycle but does not disrupt the cycle on a hormonal level
conception is possible almost immediately after removal
can cause pelvic infections and uterine perforation
is safe for breastfeeding
If you are trying to avoid hormones and plan to conceive another child quickly after removal, ParaGard may be a better solution than Mirena. Overall, if you are interested in an IUD the best option will come down to your personal needs. Both are generally covered under insurance. You can find more information on Mirena and ParaGard on their websites or from your doctor.