Non-hormonal contraceptives

Last updated:

Reviewed by:

Dr Bryony Henderson

, Lead GP at Livi

Medically reviewed

Contraceptives help prevent unwanted pregnancies. As an alternative to hormonal contraception, there are several non-hormonal methods of contraception available. Here’s more information to help you understand the options.

Reversible methods

Barrier methods are hormone-free contraceptives that prevent pregnancy by stopping sperm from reaching the uterus.

Male condoms

A condom is rolled onto the penis before intercourse and the sperm is collected in the condom. You can use condoms together with other contraceptives for increased protection. They can help protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 

Success rate: 98% effective at preventing pregnancy, but they do sometimes split or come off so, in real terms, they are about 83% effective.

Female condoms

A female condom looks like a large male condom and is inserted into the vagina before intercourse. It can be inserted several hours before intercourse and does not slip off, even if the penis becomes flacid. Female condoms also provide good protection against STIs.

Success rate: about 79% effective as it’s possible for the man to put his penis between the condom and the vaginal wall, and it’s possible for them to come off during sex.


A diaphragm is a rubber cup, filled with a gel to kill sperm, that’s inserted into the vagina. It’s designed to cover the cervix (the neck of the womb). It can be inserted anytime before intercourse and must remain in place for 6 hours afterwards. You can use these together with other contraceptives for increased protection. A nurse or doctor can advise on the right size for you. 

Copper coil (IUD) 

The copper coil (IUD) is a small T-shaped plastic and copper device. The copper in the device stops sperm and eggs from surviving in the uterus. 

It does require a small procedure to fit it but this can be done by your GP or a family planning clinic. A speculum is inserted so that the vagina is opened up before the device is gently pushed into the uterus. Strings hang down into the uterus and this helps the device be removed when it is needed. It can also be useful to learn how to check these strings so that you can be sure that the device is still present. 

The IUD is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. It’s effective as soon as it’s inserted and lasts for 5-10 years. Fertility returns to normal as soon as it is removed.

Irreversible methods


Sterilisation is a procedure that can be carried out in women and men to permanently prevent pregnancy. It should be considered both permanent and irreversible. 

In female sterilisation, the fallopian tubes are blocked or sealed with clips to stop the egg from reaching sperm. This surgery takes place under general anaesthetic and uses keyhole surgery to reach the tubes. 

Male sterilisation is carried out under local anaesthetic and involves blocking the tube that carries sperm. It can take a few months for sperm already in the tubes to clear and does require two negative sperm tests to ensure that the procedure was a success. 

Read more:
Contraception and methods of contraception
Contraceptives with hormones
Natural family planning
Emergency methods of contraception

How Livi can help

  • Advice on switching to a new contraceptive method

  • A video appointment to renew your oral contraceptive prescription. A Livi doctor can write you repeat prescriptions through your GP practice for up to 12 months if you’re already on the pill.

Last updated:
Reviewed by:
Dr Bryony Henderson, Lead GP at Livi