Contraceptives while Backpacking the World

A pregnancy would put a bump in the road – literally.  Babies can be great, but they don’t really fit our nomadic lifestyle.  I’ve always had difficulty in finding the best way to stay baby free while traveling.  As a woman, there is more to birth control than just preventing pregnancy.  I also want to regulate my period, and eliminate cramps.

Travelers also have to worry how their insurance will cover their contraceptives, and how will they choose a method for a long trip abroad. Another hindrance is the shelf life of certain forms and the packability in their bags.

You already have your whole trip and many other things to plan and worry about.  This is important, but you do not want to think about it. I get it!

Here are some options for contraceptives while backpacking that may be best for you, your partner and your long-term travel plans.

Thankfully, because of recent changes in US health care, most insurances will cover these contraceptives completely.  If you are without insurance, Planned Parenthood offers low-cost options.

On safari in the serengeti

Options for Contraceptives while Backpacking the World


IUD


The IUD is a small T-shaped device inserted into the uterus. It’s almost as effective as having your tubes tied but is 100% reversible. There are two options in the US – copper and hormonal.  

  • Paraguard is a copper IUD and lasts from 10-12 years. But as it contains no hormones you may still get your period regularly.
  • Mirena is a hormonal IUD that last 5 years. Because progestin is released every month your period may diminish over time.  

Cons:

  • IUD’s can have a very hefty initially pricetag ($0-$1200).
  • You may like to get a period every month for reassurance. The Mirena may eliminate them.
  • Some women report a very painful insertion. Personally, I chose a day of agony for 5 years of being worry free.
Uganda

Implant Rod


This is a small rod that is inserted under your skin into the inner part of your upper arm.  It’s extremely effective and last 3 years.  Like the Mirena, the Rod releases progestin into your body.  Once it is inserted, there is no maintenance for the 3 years.

Cons:

  • This can also be a very expensive upfront option ($0-$800).
  • Irregular bleeding
  • Some women report having undesirable hormonal side effects.

The Pill


The pill is always a safe reliable method as long as you trust yourself to stay on top of your pills while traveling.  You know exactly when you will be getting your period, and this method is pretty cost effective.  Options like Seasonique let you have your period every three months which may be a great option for an extended trip

Cons:

  • It may be tough to get an abundant number of packs before you leave home.  So this could be a problem if you are on an extended trip.   
  • Constantly worrying about taking your pill, may mess up menstrual flow while country and time zone hopping

Condoms


Old Fashion. Cheap. Accessible in most countries. 

Cons

  • If you don’t know this blog post is not for you.

Personally, I went with the Mirena. I do not have to worry about pregnancy for five years, and the thought of eliminating my period while traveling was music to my ear.  We all know what an inconvenience our monthly visitor is, and getting my period at the top of Everest is something I do not want to deal with.

I am not a health expert and every woman’s body is different.  These options are what I did my research on before I picked a method that worked for me for contraceptives while backpacking!  Consult with your gynecologist about long term travel plans and birth control.

Think you may need some health coverage on the road? Check out Heymondo Travel Insurance to help keep you safe when you’re abroad! 

About Natasha Alden

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years, across 7 continents, experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.

2 thoughts on “Contraceptives while Backpacking the World”

  1. When they were first married, my partner and I invited my brother and our new sister in law on a long back country trek.

    She was new to the whole thing so I ended up having a long conversation with her about her cycle and birth control.

    That is how I found out she was not on the pill and was using a diaphragm for birth control. Anything that has to be washed daily with soap and air dried is not very practical for camping, but whatever. My partner and I were trying to conceive at the time, so the whole idea of spending ten days with someone who was fertile and trying NOT to get pregnant was more than a little annoying.

    Trekking is about getting back to nature, right? So her birth control somehow “fell out” of her pack before we started the trail. Oops!

    There’s not a lot of privacy when it’s just the four of you camping and bedding down a few feet apart. Even though she was trying to whisper, we heard the whole story our first night about how she couldn’t find her birth control and they “couldn’t risk it” because it was “a bad time.”

    Of course I knew that week was perfect timing for her to get pregnant.

    My partner and I made no attempt to hide how much fun we were having trying for a baby just a few feet away while she was whispering about birth control. It was summer and the fire was still glowing, so they got quite a view, too.

    I guess baby making really is contagious because her “we can’t” went to “it’s really risky” to “please be careful” to … much more enthusiastic responses.

    We both conceived on that trek!

  2. I definitely agree that family planning is part of a successful expedition that a novice may take for granted but something I would never leave to chance.

    Soon after they were married we invited my brother and new sister in law on a backcountry trek just the four of us.

    She was new to it and had lots of questions for me including birth control. She had heard the whole bears and menstrual blood thing so I ended up having a discussion about her cycle and birth control. I explained the bear thing was just a myth but that having your period on the trail was no fun.

    My first recommendation was just to skip her placebo pill week but then she explained that she wasn’t on the pill and was using a diaphragm.

    Birth control that you have to wash with soap and air dry seemed like a terrible idea with no running water, so I suggested we could go at the end of her cycle so they could skip using birth control. She said something about PMS. I then suggested just pulling out, but I got a no on that too because she “always” uses protection and “no way” was she risking it. Something about grad school and being too young to be a mom at 22. Whatever.

    Well, there was no way we were going to leave behind a week’s supply of condoms discarded on the trail. Besides, at the time my partner and I were trying to conceive, and why shouldn’t our kid have a cousin the same age?

    So I lightened her pack by finding her diaphragm and ditching it in a trash can at the trail head.

    There’s not a lot of privacy camping backcountry so the very first night we heard the whole story as she whispered to my brother about how she couldn’t find her protection.

    My partner and I weren’t very modest about our efforts at baby making and gave them a show worthy of a porno while she was trying to convince him that they couldn’t have sex.

    Knowing where she was in her cycle and listening to her resistance slip bit by bit as we screwed very loudly just a few feet away was . . . Interesting. She went from “no, we can’t” to “wait, what are you doing” to “no way am I getting pregnant ” to “umph” to “mmmm” to …. He never said a word and just did his part to help her hormones kick in and get the better of her willpower and judgment.

    The next morning we woke them up with our out in the open sex show, and soon he was very enthusiastically continuing what they had started last night, with much less “dialogue” from her than the night before.

    I suggested a zero day that turned into 48 hours of nonstop sex.

    So that was a different sort of family planning than what she probably had in mind, but it was really romantic both trying to conceive at the same time. We both conceived our first on that trek!

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