Chances are, you’re already aware of animal products in food, clothing, and cleaning products. But have you taken a second to examine your medicine cabinet or your bedside table?
Animal products can be found lurking in the most unexpected places, and while you may be horrified to find out that cow’s are being exploited to bring you your birth controls pills and condoms, there’s hope! There are sustainable, ethically-sound birth control methods designed with the friendly vegan in mind.
They Put What in What?
Vegans are, obviously, avoiding products that are derived from animals in any way, shape, or form. Many birth control pills violate this by using lactose as a filler product. Lactose works to lightly sweeten the aftertaste of a pill and to create a substantial enough product for your body to work with.
If it’s not a cow byproduct, it might be from a horse. The popular oral contraceptive Premarin uses estrogen compounds extracted from pregnant mare’s urine. The estrogen produced by mares is similar enough to human estrogen to get the same reactions. Conveniently for us, though not for the horses, it’s also produced in a much larger quantity.
Sadly, it’s not enough to find birth control product free of Premarin or lactose. Alternatives that don’t contain animal products are still tested on animals, which is arguably more objectionable than collecting milk or urine. This means that NuvaRing, IUDs, Depo-Provera and the implant are all out.
What about condoms, though? Even if the rubber industry faces its share of sustainability issues, it seems like condoms should be a safe alternative to hormonal birth control methods.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Many condom manufacturers utilize casein during production to ensure that the final product is smooth. Casein is a protein found in mammalian milk, and it makes up around 80 percent of the protein in cow’s milk. That’s an automatic strike against most condoms, as well as dental dams and other barrier methods that utilize latex.
Isn’t There a Better Way?
So what’s a vegan to do? If oral contraceptives, IUDs, the implant, and vaginal rings are out, what’s left?
Unfortunately, not much. But there are some options.
Vegan-approved condoms are casein-free and manufactured from ethically sourced rubber. Effectiveness is comparable to traditional condoms, and this is the only vegan-friendly birth control that also protects from STIs.
There are several companies to choose from, including Glyde, Sir Richard’s, Sustain, Lovability, and Einhorn. The price point is generally a little above traditional condoms, but with sustainability becoming more mainstream, it’s slowly getting easier and cheaper to purchase vegan-friendly condoms.
Natural Family Planning
Natural family planning provides a wonderful avenue for learning more about your body and it’s natural cycles. With this method, you track basal body temperature and vaginal mucous consistency to determine when a woman is fertile and abstain (or use a vegan condom) during those times.
Natural family planning is 99 percent effective when used correctly and consistently. There are phone apps designed to keep you on track, store your information, and make sure that your stats are taken consistently.
The final option, if you are absolutely certain that your don’t want rugrats someday, is sterilization.
For women, this generally comes in the form of tubal ligation or tubal implants.
Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure that cuts, blocks, or ties off the fallopian tubes. It is generally performed laparoscopically and no birth control is needed following the procedure. Potential complications include infection, pelvic pain, and bleeding.
With tubal implants, a small, spring-like device is inserted into each fallopian tube and scar tissue grows around it, effectively blocking the passage. The procedure is non-surgical, though additional birth control is needed for up to three months while the scar tissue is forming. Complications of tubal implants range from mild pelvic discomfort to puncture of abdominal organs by the implants.
For men, sterilization comes in the form of a vasectomy, wherein the the tubes that transport sperm are cut and tied off so that sperm is no longer included in ejaculate. The procedure is performed in an outpatient setting, and complications may include bruising and swelling.
How Do I Choose?
Ultimately, what you do with your body is your choice.
Consult with your doctor to decide what’s best for your lifestyle, and definitely alert your practitioner if you intend to stop taking any current medication. As always, the sustainable option is the best option, but not if it impacts your health.
Have you had any experience with any of the contraceptives listed in this article? Let your fellow vegans know in the comments down below (if it’s not too personal, that is).