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Are There Herbal Options for Birth Control?

Herbal treatments have been used for centuries to help treat a range of conditions, and even though the remedies are promoted as natural, many have drug-like effects. Additionally, many herbal treatments have not yet received FDA approval, so always consult your healthcare provider before starting any type of treatment plan.

While these herbal options have been around for centuries, they were often used due to a lack of other birth control options and were not known to have high efficacy rates. Because modern birth control methods have efficacy rates ranging from 95% to 99% with proper use, herbal methods are no longer considered reliable options for family planning.

What Are the Herbal Options for Birth Control?

Throughout history, women have used various herbs for birth control depending on the desired effects. If they didn’t want to have children or were done having children, they might have opted for herbal remedies that promote sterility. Other herbal options make embryo implantation difficult, while some help induce a period.

Herbal Options for Sterility

Women have used various herbs throughout history to promote sterility. Some of the most common options for this purpose include:

  • Stoneseed root: Women of the Dakota tribe often used this herb. They would prepare it in a drink by steeping the root in cold water for several hours and consume it once a day for six months.
  • Thistles: Thistles are an option for those looking to sterilize themselves temporarily instead of permanently. The women of the Quinault Indian Nation often boiled thistles in water to create a tea.
  • Jack-in-the-pulpit root: Hopi women would steep this root in cold water and consume it for months to become sterile. This root is not considered to be as effective as stoneseed.

Herbal Options to Prevent Implantation

There are also herbal options that prevent pregnancy by making implantation of the embryo more difficult. Some herbal options women have used to hinder implantation include:

  • Queen Anne’s lace: This herb is also referred to as wild carrot seed and was first used in India to prevent pregnancy. You must take the seeds for seven days after having unprotected sex to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting.
  • Smartweed: This herb is a leaf found all over the world that works like plant byproducts such as rutin and gallic acid to prevent implantation.

Herbal Options That Can Trigger Your Period

There are also herbs that trigger a period, causing the uterine lining to shed so it can’t sustain a pregnancy. These include:

  • Ginger root: Ginger root is considered one of the most effective herbal remedies for triggering your period. It can be mixed in powdered form with boiling water to make a tea, but has to be consumed several times a day for five days for it to be effective.
  • Vitamin C: Taking high doses of vitamin C has been known to trigger periods but can also lead to loose bowels.

Does Herbal Birth Control Have Any Side Effects?

As with any type of medical remedy, herbal birth control methods can produce a number of side effects, such as:

  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea.
  • Rash or itching.
  • Lowered blood pressure.
  • Sedation if combined with other medications.
  • Sunlight sensitivity.
  • Kidney irritation or inflammation.

Risk Factors to Consider Before Trying an Herbal Option

Herbal remedies should always be approached with caution, especially if you have any of the following risk factors:

  • You are taking prescription or over-the-counter medications that might interact with herbal treatment.
  • You are already pregnant or currently breastfeeding.
  • You are expected to be put under anesthesia in the near future.
  • You are under the age of 18 or over the age of 65.

Other Natural Birth Control Methods

If you’re not interested in these herbal birth control methods but still want to find a natural form of birth control, there are other options. Unlike hormonal birth control and barrier methods, these options are not as effective at preventing pregnancy but work for many women when followed correctly.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding can work as a natural birth control method, with only one in 50 women conceiving when they have given birth within the previous six months, are breastfeeding exclusively, and have yet to have a period. After six months of breastfeeding, you might want to talk to your healthcare provider about taking progestin-only birth control pills to help maintain your milk supply while preventing an unwanted pregnancy.

Natural Family Planning

This method can take a lot of work to master but has been highly effective for women who have regular cycles. To perform natural family planning, chart your cycles so you can predict the exact time when you ovulate each month. Avoid having sex five days before ovulation occurs to lower the risk of sperm meeting and fertilizing one of your eggs. To chart properly, you will need to track changes in your cervical mucus and basal body temperature. It is important to note that if your cycle is irregular, this method will be less effective.

If you are unsure which birth control methods will best suit your needs, contact one of our Nurx™ medical providers. They can walk you through the pros and cons of each option based on your health history and help you find the right solution for your pregnancy prevention needs.

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