Believe it or not, most forms of birth control are not vegan. That's right: there are animal bits all up in your naughty bits. A while back I did a Q&A video that talked about sex and how your sex drive can be significantly increased by a healthy vegan diet. But of course the logical outcome of an increased sex drive is…well…sex. And the logical outcome of sex is…hopefully you know this…babies! But what if you’re newly vegan and all hot and bothered but don’t want to procreate, just practice? Well, you will need some form of birth control. So what's a vegan to do?
There are two elements to the un-vegan nature of birth control. First is that most if not all methods have been tested on animals. And second is that many birth control methods actually contain animal products. So I’m going to walk you through some of the common methods and offer some humane alternatives.
Condoms and Other Barrier Methods
The most common barrier method is condoms. Condoms are non-vegan on both counts: they are both tested on animals and they contain animal products, specifically casein, the primary protein present in coagulated or curdled milk and cheese. Just what you want all over your naughty parts, right? This also includes other barrier methods like dental dams and latex diaphragms. Luckily, there are vegan barrier options. There are actually several vegan condom and dental dam brands available today that are casein and animal-testing free, as well as silicone diaphragms. (See the bottom of the post for resources.)
One very vegan-friendly option is the FemCap, a small cap that fits over the cervix. The disadvantages of the FemCap are the it has to be inserted before sexual arousal, so you kind of have to see it coming and be prepared, though penciling in your romantic trysts kind of kills the mood. Also, it has to be used in conjunction with a spermicidal gel, many of which are tested on animals, chock full of hormones and cause irritation. But there are vegan, hormone-free spermicidal gels available. (See the bottom of the post for resources.)
Oral Contraceptives and Other Hormonal Options
Again, this one is a twofer. Every medication created currently has to go through animal trials, at least in the United States, despite the fact that animal testing has been proven time and again to not only be inaccurate but also dangerous for humans in its false predictions. You can watch my multi-video series all about animal testing for more information on that. Aside from the testing element, many birth control pills contain lactose as an ingredient, another dairy derivative. Back in the day and perhaps still with some products, some of the hormones in birth control, namely Premarin, were made from dehydrated horse urine. This may still be the case with menopausal medications. yes…horse pee. Aren’t we a resourceful species?
An additional ethical element of birth control pills and other hormonal methods is that these hormones are excreted in women’s urine and find their way to our waters where there have been documented adverse effects on marine life, demasculinizing male animals and creating intersexed individuals, thus interfering with natural reproduction and population balance. This is a worldwide issue as we all share water and the European Union was the first to seriously consider mandating the removal of Ethinyl Estradiol, or EE2, from the waste water. The problem is this is a very complex and costly process.
In addition to the environmental destruction of hormonal birth control methods, there is your own health to consider. The pill has been linked to serious increased incidences of breast and cervical cancers, as well as risks of heart attack and stroke, high blood pressure, blood clotting, and more. Some birth control patches also contain animal-derived ingredients but from what I was able to find, the Ortho-Evra brand does not, though it is a medication so it has been through animal testing.
Intra-Uterine Devices (IUDs)
IUDs come in two forms, hormonal and non-hormonal. They are small T-shaped objects implanted in the uterus. While the hormonal sources of any birth control aren’t crystal clear, the non-hormonal copper IUD is animal-free. However, both forms of IUDs have been through animal testing.
There are sterilization procedures available for both men and women. Unfortunately, with our society as it is, these surgical procedures were at some point tested on animals. However, unlike pharmaceuticals, they don’t require repeat testing. Men can very easily get a vasectomy in an out-patient procedure and women can have either a surgical tubal ligation or a non-surgical fallopian tube implantation, called the essure. The way it works is little metal corkscrews are inserted into the fallopian tubes accessed through the cervix and the body walls off around them, thus preventing eggs from reaching the uterus. This is also an outpatient procedure done under twilight anesthesia. Unlike a vasectomy and some forms of tubal ligation, the essure is permanent, so be sure that you don’t want any children.
These are, of course, the most vegan of all birth control methods but also, in many cases, the most unreliable. Within this category are things like natural family planning, the rhythm method, fertility monitors, and abstinence. Using a fertility monitor with your natural family planning is probably the best bet if you’re going this route. There are a number of different monitors available and they help you to use your body’s natural cues to know when you are fertile. Of course this means you must abstain from sex during those fertile times and there is never a 100 percent guarantee, though that goes for any method outside of properly-performed sterilization.
So that’s my rundown of the most common birth control methods and some alternatives. I hope you found this informative and hopefully all the facts and figures didn’t kill the mood.
I’d love to hear from you. If you’re vegan or vegan-curious and sexually active and not wanting babies at the moment, and don't think that me asking this is completely inappropriate and an invasion of your privacy, let me know what method you use. Have you had any negative experiences with certain birth control methods? Let me know in the comments!
Kimono Condoms (specialty thin, high-sensation condoms)
ContraGel natural, vegan alternative to spermicidal gel
YES water based lubricant
Cyclotest fertility monitor
LadyComp fertility monitor
Vegan-Love.com awesome site with all kinds of good stuff
Ethical Family Planning the sister site of vegan-love.com with lots of info on fertility-awareness methods
Fertility-Tracking Methods from Planned Parenthood
Water Pollution Caused By Birth Control Poses Dilemma by Wynne Parry