Contraception tools aren’t always vegan. Here is everything you’ve ever wanted to know about vegan contraceptives.
Veganism is impacting many industries, and the contraceptive industry is no exception. But what makes regular contraceptives non-vegan?
Other than the fact that many contraceptives are testing on animals for approval; when it comes to hormonal contraceptives. Many contain animal ingredients or the hormones sourced are from animals.
Many barrier methods of contraception are either made from non-vegan materials or contain spermicide. This is a contraceptive substance that kills sperm or prevents them from moving but is unnatural.
Typical spermicide contains the Nonoxynol-9. It’s known to irritate the vagina, which can increase the risk for HIV and STIs. And has the same chemical makeup as harsh cleaning products.
However, there are vegan alternatives that either don’t include animal products or use synthetic hormones instead. Vegan spermicides like ContraGel Green Contraceptive Gel, a gel made for barrier contraceptives, are non-toxic and free from the chemical.
Here are some popular vegan and non-vegan contraceptive methods.
Did you know that not all condoms are vegan?
They start from latex — which is an all-natural rubber — but then it goes downhill after that; one reason being that some condoms are made from animal proteins such as casein.
Casein is a protein drawn from the milk of a goat or cow; it is used to soften the latex to make it more comfortable to use. As the protein is directly taken from a mammal, it is not considering vegan. Regular condoms are also testing on animals as they are a medical device and must pass ‘rigorous testing’ to be certified.
Some condoms are also made from lambskin — these are known as natural condoms. And many standard condoms come lubricated for easy use and are made from an enzyme called lactoperoxidase, derived from dairy or beeswax, a substance derived from honeybees (side note: bees are very important); all not considered vegan.
Regular condoms are also not that great for the environment
Why? For starters, due to their contribution to landfill. In 2009, Slate writer Nina Rastogi estimated that the total mass of used condoms is an average weight of 1,365 tonnes. Latex itself is biodegradable, but the additives used in them prevent the condom from breaking down, causing them to pile and pile up.
Some condoms are also made from polyurethane, which is a type of plastic, thus making it non-biodegradable. Although this is not directly related to veganism, many people switching to the lifestyle for environmental purposes, so this would be a turn off for some people.
Chemicals are also used to make conventional condoms and the lubricant as well such as benzocaine and lidocaine (local anaesthetics), glycerine (a humectant), dyes and fragrances and spermicide (what kills the sperm), which are not pure or organic. So, if you want more of a natural sex life, regular condoms are not it.
What are vegan condoms made from?
With typical condoms being non-vegan, non-biodegradable, and filling with chemicals, how can you have a sustainable and ‘vegan’ sex life?
This is where vegan condoms come in.
Made from biodegradable natural latex derived from the rubber tree. Vegan condoms contain no products or by-products from animals. And are free from chemicals mentioning before, with some using either no chemicals or vegan alternatives.
Instead of casein, vegan condoms provide plant-based substitutes. Such as thistle extract to soften the rubber, and many are cruelty-free as well. Meaning that no animals were harmed during the process of manufacture. And instead of lubricant made from animal products, vegan condoms contain a water-based lubricant that is paraben-free.
Are vegan condoms cruelty-free certified?
To make sure that you are buying the right contraceptive, all vegan condoms come with a certified logo on the label as 100% vegan and cruelty-free by companies such as PETA, The Vegan Society or The Vegan Action Foundation. Many vegan condoms are also certified as Fair Trade, meaning that the rubber used was ethically sourcing and is certifying as non-GMO, meaning that they are not genetically modifying.
The benefits of vegan condoms
Not only do vegan condoms have the main advantages mentioning above, but when used correctly, they are also 98% effective in preventing pregnancy and STIs – just like standard condoms.
The fact that they are chemical-free reaps many benefits as they are not only safer for vaginas (no chemicals mean no issues for down there), but they also have a better taste as the flavours are natural and are more pleasurable as they are not drying and it allegedly feels as if you are not wearing one when in use.
The disadvantages of vegan condoms
1. Latex-free vegan condoms don’t exist yet
However, with great benefits come some disadvantages that cannot be ignored, with the main issue being that many people are allergic to latex. For those who have a latex or rubber allergy, they will have to resort to latex-free condoms made from plastic or lambskin, and unfortunately, latex-free vegan condoms are not on the market. Well, not yet maybe.
2. You can’t use oil-based lubricants with vegan condoms
Also, as vegan condoms are latex-based. You cannot use oil-based lubricants as they can cause the material to split or break.
3. Vegan condoms only exist for men, at the moment
Another disadvantage being that the vegan condoms mentioned are male condoms. There are no vegan female condoms on the market. Being that the female condom is the only STI and pregnancy preventative that women have control over, the fact that there is not a vegan option is not that great to hear. However, because vegan condoms are new to the market, it might take time for companies to produce female alternatives; so hopefully, we might be seeing them in the future.
4. Vegan condoms cost more
Vegan condoms being relatively new also means. That their prices are quite high comparing to standard condoms. But, as the vegan lifestyle is slowly rising, the demand might increase for them as well, which would, in turn, decrease their prices. So, we have to play the waiting game.
Although we are now seeing them on the shelves, as well as online more frequently, there are a lot of companies who manufacture the vegan condom, and they are surprisingly widely available.
Here’s where you can buy vegan condoms
Companies such as Hans, Glyde, Lelo and even Pasante all tick the vegan, environmental and all-natural boxes for their vegan condoms. Hanx condoms can be bought from Boots in the United Kingdom for £12.99 for a pack of 10. While on the other side of the world. Lelo condoms can be found from Target. In the United States for $28.39 for a pack of 36.
So, overall, vegan condoms sound like a great way to have a positive effect on the environment, your body, and your sex life. Whether you would like to switch is entirely up to you, but it is great to know your options, and there is no harm in experimenting.
Diaphragms and cervical caps
Diaphragms and cervical caps are circular domes inserted into the vagina before intercourse. They cover the cervix to prevent sperm from getting into the womb and fertilising the egg. Although they are quite similar, the diaphragm covers the cervix and the area around it, while the cap fits into the cervix itself. Spermicide is requiring to kill the sperm and makes it effective at preventing pregnancy.
While some diaphragms and caps are made with latex. Which is made from natural rubber, ingredients like casein. A protein derived from goat or cow’s milk or enzymes made from beeswax. Are adding to soften the rubber and increase comfort. However, some diaphragms and caps are made with silicone that does not contain any animal-derived products and, when paired with vegan spermicide, make for great vegan contraception methods.
When used correctly, both these vegan contraceptives are 92-96% effective and have no serious health risks. It also allows women to be in control of their contraception, and you only have to think about it when you’re going to have sex. They can also be inserting up to three hours prior, and you have to leave them in place for at least six hours after intercourse.
However, like many contraceptives, there are disadvantages to the diaphragm and cap; if misused, they aren’t as effective in preventing pregnancies. They do not have STI protection, and there’s a higher chance of contracting one if you have multiple sexual partners. It’s also quite complicating to use at first; it can cause bladder infections for some women. And if you’re allergic to latex, the diaphragm or cap are not for you.
Although most women can use these two vegan contraceptives, they might not be suitable if you have an unusually shaped or positioned cervix, or if you can’t reach it. And if you have weakened vaginal muscles — mostly a result of giving birth — you may not be able to hold a diaphragm in place. You also shouldn’t use a diaphragm or a cervical cap if you have had the following: toxic shock syndrome, urinary tract infections or vaginal infection; but you can use it once the infection clears up.
Intra-Uterine Device (IUD)
The Intra-Uterine Device (IUD), not to be confused with Intrauterine System (IUS), is a small T-shaped plastic device with a copper coil that gets inserted into a woman’s womb for up to 10 years. It releases copper into your system which alters the cervical mucus, making it hard for the sperm to reach the egg and survive; and it can prevent a fertilised egg from implanting itself.
When inserted correctly, they are more than 99% effective and can be taken out at any time, unless you are pregnant. The IUD is vegan-friendly as they contain no products derived from animals.
The IUS, by contrast, is a hormonal implant that contains progestin which could be derived from animals, making them non-vegan.
There are some negatives of the IUD that cannot be ignoring. Such as your periods may be heavier, more prolonged and painful. Although they can improve over a few months.
As they are not a barrier method, they cannot help you against STIs. With the IUD also comes with some uncommon risks such as you may have a pelvic infection after fitting, you might have vaginal bleeding and thrush, or your body might reject the device. There are also infrequent risks such as they might damage your womb, or you may experience an ectopic pregnancy.
Some also consider IUDs as non-vegan as they are testing on animals. So if you are into animal rights, then this may not be for you.
There are three vegan contraceptive injections: Depo-Provera, Noristerat and Sayana Press. Depo-Provera and Noiserat have been confirmed to be free of animal products; however, all injections are tested on animals.
The injection releases progestogen into your bloodstream to prevent pregnancy and last for 13 weeks – Noisterat lasts for eight weeks. The hormone prevents the egg from releasing each month, thickens the cervical mucus. And thins the womb’s lining so even if an egg get fertilizing. It will not be able to implant itself. You also have to go to your nearest clinic to have the injection administered.
This vegan contraceptive is over 99% effective and allows you to not regularly think about your birth control; and if you cannot take oestrogen-based contraception, this method is for you.
The contraceptive also remains unaffected by other medications and could reduce heavy, painful periods and premenstrual symptoms. However, your periods might change and become irregular after stopping the injections, and it may take up to one year before you can try conceiving.
Side-effects also include headaches, mood swings, breast tenderness and irregular bleeding, and the injection does not protect you against STIs. Sporadic cases also include risk of infection on the application site.
Depo-Provera can also affect your natural oestrogen levels, which can cause your bones to thin. However, there is no risk of your bones breaking, and once you have stopped using it, the bone will replace itself.
The vegan contraceptive patch is precisely what the name says it is. It is a small patch which you stick onto your body that releases hormones through your skin and into your bloodstream to prevent pregnancy.
This method releases oestrogen and progestogen (same as the combined contraceptive pill). Preventing the egg from being released every month. This also thickens the cervical mucus and thins the womb lining so a fertilised egg cannot implant itself. The patch lasts for seven days. And must be changed every week.
In the UK, the patch’s brand is called Evra, and they have been confirmed to be vegan as they are free from animals products.
The patch holds some benefits such as they are more than 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. You only have to change it once a week. Requires no attention once placed and can make your periods lighter, regular and less painful.
Other advantages include that they may help with premenstrual symptoms. And reduce the risk of ovarian, womb and bowel cancer. And may reduce the risk of fibroids, ovarian cysts and non-cancerous breast disease.
Cons include the patch does not prevent STIs and can irritate the application site with itching and soreness. There are temporary side effects such as headaches, mood swings, nausea and breast tenderness. However, these usually settle down after a few months.
The contraceptive can also affect your periods negatively. Such as bleeding between periods (which is common). And some medication can make the patch less effective. There is also a small risk of developing a blood clot as well. You also have to remember to change the patch every week, which can be tedious for some.
However, if you are not a fan of the birth controls mentioning above. The most chemical-free, animal-free, organic method of contraception is by using natural methods.
This is by following the fertility awareness method, where you are aware of when you are fertile and when you are not. There are many methods in tracking your fertility; one way involves tracking your menstrual cycle to find patterns and estimate your ovulation time. However, this method is the least reliable on its own and should be avoided. If your period is shorter than 26 days or longer than 32.
One way focuses on tracking your basal body temperature using a basal thermometer — your temperature rises over ovulation. Another method consists of monitoring your cervical mucus by its colour, thickness and heat — your mucus becomes thinner, slippery and stretchy when you ovulate; it does take practice.
One of the benefits of natural birth control is you won’t have to pay a lot of money compared to traditional contraceptives. It’s also better for the environment and safe to use. There are no side effects, and there’s no need for added chemicals or preservatives.
Natural birth control allows you to get to know your body more. However, the fertility method is something that requires exercise and can be useful for couples that do this consistently — it is not something you can do now and then.
If you really want to avoid pregnancy, you can always go for permanent sterilisation. This involves having surgery to permanently prevent pregnancy by blocking, sealing or removing the fallopian tube to prevent the egg from reaching the sperm and becoming fertilised. This could be viewing as vegan, because. It does not require anything at the cost of an animal.
A tubal occlusion procedure consists of making a small cut near the belly button (laparoscopy) or pubic hairline (a mini-laparotomy), allowing the surgeon access to the fallopian tubes. Either rings or clips are used to block the tubes. Or they would be tied, cut or a small piece would be removed. Another method involves removing the tubes if blocking them does not work. Men can also go for a vasectomy, where the tubes that carry the sperm are cut or sealed to stop the sperm from releasing.
Permanent sterilisation is more than 99% effective in preventing pregnancy, with the surgery being effective almost immediately. You will never have to think about birth control methods and it doesn’t affect your hormone levels. However, like any surgery, there is a small risk of complications like internal bleeding, infection or organ damage.
In rare cases, the operation might not work, and the fallopian tubes can rejoin and make you fertile again. And if you do get pregnant afterwards, there is an increased risk of an ectopic pregnancy. Another drawback is that a laparoscopy does not protect against STIs, so a barrier contraceptive, like a condom or femidom, will be required.
One thing to keep in mind is that permanent sterilisation, like its name, is permanent. The surgery, unlike a vasectomy, is hard to reverse so if you’re going for it, there’s no turning back. That’s why it’s essential to consider all of your options and know. What you’re getting yourself into before going down the surgical route.
The pill is an oral contraceptive that comes in two forms. It either contains artificial hormones oestrogen and progesterone, or only progestogen. Both prevent the sperm from reaching the egg. Or prevent the egg from being released.
Unfortunately, birth control is not vegan. This is because both pills contain lactose, which is derived from cow’s milk, so the medication can break down in the stomach to release the medicine. Some oral pills may contain magnesium stearate, which can come from pork, chicken, beef, fish, butter, and milk. Some hormonal pills may contain Premarin, obtained from pregnant horses’ urine.
And while there is a plant-based synthetic alternative hormone called Cenestin, it’s tested on animals.
The Nexplanon is a small plastic rod that is placed under your skin in the upper arm. It releases progestogen into your bloodstream to prevent pregnancy. This prevents the egg from releasing during ovulation. It also thickens the mucus and thins the lining of the womb.
It is not entirely clear whether the implant is vegan. As there is no official confirmation. And the progestogen used could be deriving from animals. It can be safe to say that Nexplanon is not vegan.
The Nuva Ring is also a hormonal contraceptive method; a small plastic ring that is placing in the vagina. It releases doses of oestrogen and progestogen into the bloodstream to prevent the egg from releasing. The ring also thickens the cervical mucus and thins the lining of the womb.
There is no official ruling of whether the Nuva ring is vegan or not. As the ring is hormonal, the oestrogen and progestogen are most likely derived from animals.
The contraceptive sponge is a barrier method that prevents sperm from entering the uterus. It’s a soft disk-shape, and it contains spermicide, which will block or kill the sperm. You insert the sponge into the vagina. So it can cover the cervix, and there is a strap to remove it. Although the sponge is unavailable in the UK, some countries do sell it.
The vaginal sponge is made from polyurethane foam — also known as memory foam — which is vegan as it is artificial and no animals are harmed in its production. However, the spermicide it contains is not natural. As it’s made from standard Nonoxynol-9.
For more such guides, check out our Ultimate Guide for veganism.