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Barrier contraception methods

All barrier contraception methods prevent sperm penetration into uterus and made impossible the fertilization. Barrier contraception is short-term temporary type of contraception. Barrier methods of contraception are used only when you have sexual intercourse. Different types of barrier contraception have different effectiveness. Most popular barrier contraception methods are diaphragm, cervical cap, condoms (male, female), spermicidal foam, sponges and contraceptive films. Only condoms (male or female) are able to prevent also sexually transmitted infections.

Barrier contraception methods – advantages

  • Safe for future fertility (no interventions into hormonal status),
  • Can be used only at the time of sexual contact (convenient for women who don’t have permanent partner),
  • Have no influence at general health (vascular system, blood pressure, diabetes, regularly used medications, etc.),
  • Cheap and available without prescription,
  • Condoms (male and female) prevent sexually transmitted infections.

Barrier contraception methods – disadvantages

  • Both partners should be patient enough for using barrier contraception just before having contact,
  • Failure rates of barrier contraception methods are higher than other modern methods of contraception (besides condoms),
  • Some couples don’t feel comfortable while using local contraception – they feel interrupted during foreplay,
  • Allergy to latex make impossible to use condoms.

Barrier contraception methods – diaphragm

Barrier contraception methods

Diaphragm is soft, flexible, dome-shaped latex cup which is inserted into the vagina before sexual contacts. Diaphragm closes the entrance of cervix preventing sperm to enter into uterus. Women should be able to insert vaginal diaphragm properly. Diaphragm should be covered on both sides with spermicidal products in order to form tight seal with vaginal walls. Diaphragm should be inserted no more than 4 hours prior to intercourse and after contact the diaphragm should be left in place for at least 6-8 hours following intercourse. Left diaphragm for longer than 24 hours can be dangerous (increasing chances of toxic shock syndrome).

Effectiveness of diaphragm combined with spermicides (correctly inserted) is high up to 81-82%. Health experts noted increased risk of urinary tract infections with diaphragm use. It can be explained by diaphragm increased pressure on urethra or spermicide irritation (inflammation).

Diaphragm size should be identified by health provider and should be checked every few years. Diaphragm doesn’t prevent transmission of sexually transmitted infections.

Barrier contraception methods – cervical cap

Cervical cap is latex or silicone rubber small (about 3 cm) thimble-shaped dome which can cover cervix. It is kind of mini-diaphragm which fits directly over the cervix. It is recommended to use cervical cap with spermicides. Cervical cup also prevent spermatozoids to enter into cervix and uterus. Effectiveness of cervical cap combined with spermicides (correctly inserted) is high up to 80%.

Women should learn a special technique of cervical cap gentle insertion into vagina (positioned over cervix). Cervical cap can be inserted maximum 8 hours prior to intercourse and can be left in vagina up to 48 hours.

Cervical cap size should be identified by medical staff and should be checked every few years. Cervical cap doesn’t prevent transmission of sexually transmitted infections.

Barrier contraception methods – condoms (male, female)

Condoms are very popular and widely spread method of contraception. Male condoms are more popular than female condoms. Male condom is thin sheath that is worn over the penis before intercourse. Modern male condoms are made from different materials including latex, rubber, plastic polyurethane and animal tissue. Market is full of different types of condoms – various sizes, colors, styles, thicknesses and taste with or without lubricants. Male condom is a barrier between sperm and vagina. Condom should be removed from vagina immediately after ejaculation. Male condom is not reusable.

The effectiveness of male condoms is high up to 90%. It is important to select condom properly and to wear condom correctly – see next articles “How to wear condom correctly” and “How to choose condom”.

Male condoms protect from sexually transmitted infections including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Female condom is a cylindrical vaginal pouch made of soft polyurethane with a ring at either end. Female condom should be inserted into vagina (covering whole vagina) – open end of female condom remains on outside of vagina. Female condom also should be removed immediately after intercourse. The effectiveness of female condoms is estimated up to 85%.

Some women mention allergic reaction or irritation after use of female condom (reaction to chemical polyurethane). Female condom can be inserted 8 hours before intercourse.

Female condoms protect from sexually transmitted infections including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Barrier contraception methods – spermicides

Spermicides kill spermatozoids which can enter into cervix. Spermicides should be inserted into vagina prior to intercourse. Market is full of different types of spermicides – jellies, creams, foams, films and suppositories. Main active ingredient of spermicides is Nonoxynol-9 (chemical similar to detergents that kills spermatozoids). The effectiveness of spermicides is vary from 70 to 90%.

After insertion spermicides melt and cover vagina and vaginal walls providing chemical barrier between sperm and cervix. It is recommended to use spermicides 15 minutes before intercourse in order to bind with vaginal moisture and liquefy. Douching should be avoided for at least 8 hours after the last intercourse. In general, each type of spermicide has specific method of use and instructions should be investigated in advance.

Spermicides don’t protect from sexually transmitted infections.

Barrier contraception methods – sponges

Contraceptive sponge sponge is a doughnut-shaped ring of polyurethane foam. It also contains Nonoxynol-9 (chemical contraceptive). Contraceptive sponge should be inserted into vagina before intercourse and it can provide contraceptive effect during following 24 hours. It is recommended to keep sponge in vagina during following 6 hours after sexual contact (providing maximum contraceptive effect). At the same time, sponge shouldn’t be left in vagina more than 30 hours because of increased risks of toxic shock syndrome.

The effectiveness of contraceptive sponge can be high up to 75-80%. According to health experts, some women should experience irritation and allergic reactions from Nonoxynol-9.

Barrier contraception methods – contraceptive films

Vaginal contraceptive film is super thin small wafer-like chemical sheet which should be placed in vagina closing the cervix. Contraceptive film contains chemicals (Nonoxynol-9) that destroy sperm (preventing possible fertilization). While in vagina, film dissolves after contact with vaginal fluids. Vaginal film should be inserted at least 15 minutes before sexual intercourse.

The effectiveness of contraceptive film is high up to 74-80%. Some women could develop allergic reaction or skin irritation after use of contraceptive films. Contraceptive film cannot protect from sexually transmitted infections.


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