I’ve seen a few queries over the last week about contraceptive options for vegans. So I did a bit of digging and came up with a few ideas. As with any medication, contraceptives will be tested on animals, so not truly vegan. To make matters worse, most contraceptive pills contain lactose. In fact, I couldn’t find one that didn’t contain animal products. So, I’ve looked at alternatives to a traditional ‘pill’.
This is the most natural of all methods of contraception, using knowledge of your own body and menstrual cycles in order to predict when you will be fertile, and so when to avoid sexual intercourse. It’s a bit more complicated than it sounds, but you can find more information on the NHS website
- Although condoms are generally made from latex, they often contain animal products in the form of casein, as well as non-vegan chemicals. There are brands that sell vegan condoms including Glyde and Sir Richard’s Condom Company
- The cap is a small silicone cup that a woman inserts into the vagina, so it sits over the cervix (the neck of the womb), just before having sex. This stops sperm from entering the womb. As it needs to be used with spermicide (to kill any sperm lingering around the cervix), you’ll need to make sure you source a vegan version of this.
- The diaphragm is similar to the cap in that it is inserted into the vagina just before sex, stopping sperm from entering the womb, but is larger and can’t be worn for as long as a cap. Again, it needs to be used with a (vegan) spermicide.
So, I mentioned that the pill usually contains lactose or other animal ingredients, including the hormones themselves being sourced from animals. But there are other ways to take synthetic hormones (i.e. not from animals), some invasive in the form of an injection/implant/coil, but others not so invasive.
- Evra Patch – this is a sticky patch that contains the same hormones as the combined pill (oestrogen and progesterone), but delivers them through the skin rather than a tablet. It is quite similar to the nicotine patch. A new patch is put on every week for 3 weeks, and in the 4th week you take a break and have a ‘period’.
- NuvaRing – this is a slim plastic ring that sits inside the vagina for 3 weeks, releasing the same hormones as the combined pill and the Evra patch. As with these other methods, a week long break is taken when you will experience a small bleed.
- Nexplanon – this is a small plastic implant, about the size of a hairpin, that sits under the skin on the inside of your arm. It releases just one of the hormones used for contraception – progesterone – which stops you from producing eggs, and makes the cervix difficult for sperm to get through. It’s often a good option for women who are not able to take oestrogens (your doctor will inform you if you cannot take oestrogens). It can remain in your arm providing contraceptive cover for up to 3 years.
- Depo-Provera – this is an injection of the hormone progesterone (see above), usually into one of the buttocks. Its effects last for 12 weeks. Again, it is useful for women who can’t take oestrogens.
- Mirena coil – this is a small plastic device that sits inside the womb and releases progesterone, therefore having similar effects as described above, but perhaps with less side effects due to it working directly on the womb. It is inserted by slightly stretching the cervix and pushing it through . It is easier and less painful to insert in women who have given birth. A Mirena coil can stay in the womb for up to 5 years before it needs to be changed.
The copper coil is similar to the Mirena which I described above, however it doesn’t release any hormones. It is actually made from plastic and copper, and is also inserted through your cervix after it is stretched. The copper makes the environment in the womb hostile for sperm and eggs to live in. The presence of the device can also stop a fertilised egg from implanting into the lining of the womb. Some coils can stay in for up to 5 years, however there are 10 year coils too.
So, there are lots of options for vegan friendly contraception. If you are unsure which one will suit you, or whether you are able to use any of them, them please speak to your local family planning clinic, or to your GP.
Thanks for reading,
The Vegan Doctor